What is the hierarchy of importance after GPA and MCAT scores?

Oct 31, 2010
184
0
Status
Where do ECs, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and clinical exposure rank in terms of the "hierarchy" of importance in gaining admission to MD schools?
 

TheKDizzle

7+ Year Member
Jan 16, 2011
878
136
Status
Resident [Any Field]
Where do ECs, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and clinical exposure rank in terms of the "hierarchy" of importance in gaining admission to MD schools?
I think different people (including different schools and adcoms) will have varying opinions. Also, ECs and clinical exposure kind of fall under one umbrella category, and I would say that category is the next most important after GPA/MCAT. Then, probably your personal statement and finally your letters of recommendation. Of course, all parts are important to have a successful cycle, but if I had to rank them... :)
 

TheGloaming

5+ Year Member
Sep 14, 2010
469
6
New England
Status
Medical Student
There was a great report done on this. I think it was done through AAMC. It was posted on a couple of threads. It may be a bit hard to find but if you do some searching either on SDN or the AAMC, you should be able to find it.
 

theseeker4

PGY 3
7+ Year Member
Apr 20, 2011
3,502
758
Suburban Detroit, MI
Status
Resident [Any Field]
Where do ECs, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and clinical exposure rank in terms of the "hierarchy" of importance in gaining admission to MD schools?
IMO, LOR's can't help that much (unless they indicate a "connection" in the school) but can hurt you a lot. A LOR that recommends against admitting a student would probably trump all the other stats and activities for most Adcoms.

Personal statement is unlikely to do much to help you or hurt you, unless it is horrible. If you actually have a unique experience/life story to talk about, you could get the adcom's attention, but that is more a function of your actual life than the PS. Just make sure multiple people review and edit it.

Clinical experience is all but required, so meaningful experience is expected. Again, it probably has a greater negative impact on you if you don't have it with a neutral impact if you have the normal activities. Someone with years of experience working full-time in the field probably would have an advantage, but that is out of the question for most traditional applicants (straight from undergrad to med school).

Non-clinical EC's are most likely pretty neutral/expected, unless you do something that is really extraordinary. Tutoring underprivileged students? Leader of your "pre-med" club? Ok, those aren't a big deal. Starting a group that successfully raises funds to provide homes to inner-city single-mothers who have nothing? Adcoms are likely to be wowed by that.

Research can range from make-it-or-break-it, to something they like to see but don't worry about if you don't have. This depends on how much you accomplish with your research, and what school/program you apply to. Research-heavy school? All but required. MD/PhD program? Definitely need meaningful research. MD program in a school that doesn't have such a huge focus on research? Probably will have a good chance even without research if you have strength in other areas. Like the other EC's, what you accomplish has more of a bearing on how much it helps your application than checking the box.

As far as hierarchy, that is very difficult to estimate since it varies so much from adcom to adcom, school to school, and between students depending on their other stats when two applicants are looked at by the same adcom member. I personally would put (after MCAT and GPA) clinical experience > research > everything else, but I am sure there are many exceptions to this, and individual applicants who rearrange the trend.
 

AestheticGod

5+ Year Member
Oct 31, 2011
598
9
Status
Pre-Medical
IMO, LOR's can't help that much (unless they indicate a "connection" in the school) but can hurt you a lot. A LOR that recommends against admitting a student would probably trump all the other stats and activities for most Adcoms.

Personal statement is unlikely to do much to help you or hurt you, unless it is horrible. If you actually have a unique experience/life story to talk about, you could get the adcom's attention, but that is more a function of your actual life than the PS. Just make sure multiple people review and edit it.

Clinical experience is all but required, so meaningful experience is expected. Again, it probably has a greater negative impact on you if you don't have it with a neutral impact if you have the normal activities. Someone with years of experience working full-time in the field probably would have an advantage, but that is out of the question for most traditional applicants (straight from undergrad to med school).

Non-clinical EC's are most likely pretty neutral/expected, unless you do something that is really extraordinary. Tutoring underprivileged students? Leader of your "pre-med" club? Ok, those aren't a big deal. Starting a group that successfully raises funds to provide homes to inner-city single-mothers who have nothing? Adcoms are likely to be wowed by that.

Research can range from make-it-or-break-it, to something they like to see but don't worry about if you don't have. This depends on how much you accomplish with your research, and what school/program you apply to. Research-heavy school? All but required. MD/PhD program? Definitely need meaningful research. MD program in a school that doesn't have such a huge focus on research? Probably will have a good chance even without research if you have strength in other areas. Like the other EC's, what you accomplish has more of a bearing on how much it helps your application than checking the box.

As far as hierarchy, that is very difficult to estimate since it varies so much from adcom to adcom, school to school, and between students depending on their other stats when two applicants are looked at by the same adcom member. I personally would put (after MCAT and GPA) clinical experience > research > everything else, but I am sure there are many exceptions to this, and individual applicants who rearrange the trend.

I don't understand what kind of proff will actually send a LOR that says "Don't accept this student." I mean, if the student and proff doesn't have a good relationship, then he shouldn't even ask him/her.
 

theseeker4

PGY 3
7+ Year Member
Apr 20, 2011
3,502
758
Suburban Detroit, MI
Status
Resident [Any Field]
I don't understand what kind of proff will actually send a LOR that says "Don't accept this student." I mean, if the student and proff doesn't have a good relationship, then he shouldn't even ask him/her.
Oh, I agree, but I have heard of students being burned by this before. Less damaging but still harmful to the student are the "Great student, BUT..." type of letters that are likely more common.
 
Aug 22, 2009
446
1
Status
Medical Student
Where do ECs, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and clinical exposure rank in terms of the "hierarchy" of importance in gaining admission to MD schools?
Disclaimer: I go to one of those top research schools, so obviously it's a skew of things...

From what I have gathered, my own experience, and after talking to others...

#1) Research. Not just working in a lab monkey type of thing. Get like a first author in a well-known journal. BAM. Granted, this is extremely difficult and often a matter of luck...but it compensates for so much. Granted this might be different at other schools...

#2) Public service / volunteering. Not justt working with children nearby. It has to be really well-known. Maybe pioneering a NGO somewhere. Taking a leadership role of a really prominent organization. Things like that.

#3) Just incredibly well-rounded. You are not the top, but near the top in almost every standard category.

To sum it up though: whatever it is you do, do it because you actually care about it and not just for getting in. It'll show, really. I can't empathize it enough. If you do it because you really love it, then...it'll be unique because you'll unlock accomplishments you didn't even know could happen. I know it's cliche but it's true. So that's fuzzy part.

More realistic and practical:take what I just said but make sure you can show it somehow. For example, if you really like um...poetry and write it your free time. That's not going to account for anything. However, going into competitions for medical humanities and winning, well that's one way to show it right? I think people have gravitated towards research because it's one area where the "reward" or the tangible accomplishment can easily be established.


Lastly,to answer your question. Clinical exposure is almost a given. More isn't better, but you just need some. How else do they know you actually know what it's like to be a doctor. PS - 95% of the time it doesn't add much but can hurt you if you go off on a limb they don't like. Exception is if you are just a brilliant writer or...a really, really amazing story. LOR's...they give complexity to your file. Don't underestimate it.
Hope that helps.
 
Last edited: