This is a stressful time of year, with MCAT scores pouring in and AMCAS beginning to take applications for the 2002 class (or claiming to, anyhow). I know that the board has become inundated with "These are my stats, where should I apply and what are my chances?" posts. Some are bragging, some are pleading. They are met with a mix of anger and sympathy. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I've been around this block a few times, and thought I would throw in a few words. If it helps my "street cred" I am now sending in my 3rd application. I have taken the MCAT once and must do so again in August. I've been rejected dozens of times, interviewed a few times, and am currently waitlisted and praying each day! This is a scary process, so I don't blame anybody for wanting some reassurance of their chances or asking some advice. Here's the best advice I can give you. To begin with, the application process is a numbers game. You need good grades and strong MCAT scores to go to medical school. How good? That's easy. A number of sources publish "average" numbers for all school. AAMC, The Princeton Review, etc. Better yet, check the school's website or call their admissions office (they hate it, but who cares? I've still never not been given useful information after calling in and reaching a person. If you're scared, don't leave your name!) and ask for their average GPA and MCAT. If yours are noticeably lower, you need something spectacular in your extracurriculars or life experience to make up for it. If yours are noticeably better, you have more slack and of course better chances. If they are about the same, you have an average chance. Unfortunately, "average" chances are still pretty low. The numbers fluctuate each year, but roughly 1 in 3 medical applicants are accepted to a school in the US every year. So, what schools should you apply to? That depends. This is my suggestion: Apply to every school that you can. Unfortunately, the application process is time consuming, and more importantly, EXPENSIVE. If you have the funding and time to send out applications to all 132 (don't quote me on the exact number) schools and fill out the secondaries, why not? Obviously, most of us don't have that kind of time/money, so you must make some choices. Here's a good way to limit your applications. Pick a number of schools that you think you can apply to. Most people pick around 10-20. Too few limits your chances, too many wastes time and money. Start off by eliminating all state schools that don't accept out of state residents. Trust me, you will NOT go to LSU unless you are from Louisiana! Ever. You can expand this list to include states that _rarely_ take out of staters. You probably won't go to the UC system either. Obviously, if you have strong ties to the state, or an overwhelming desire, take your best shot! Next, be realistic about your chances. Can you get into Harvard or Hopkins? It's like buying a Ferrari. If you really have to ask what it costs, you probably can't afford it. Yes, there are "exceptions" and everybody knows somebody who's cousin got into Stanford with a 2.3 GPA majoring in microbrewery and a 17 on the MCAT. But, for the most part, you know if you are top-10 caliber material. Again, don't be afraid to take risks and go for the long shot. This should have greatly limited your pool of available schools. If you still need to make cuts, you can look at the emphasis of a school. If you are interested in research, there are schools that cater to academic medicine. If you are interested in primary care, there are schools which pride themselves on turning out generalists. Consider location. If you cannot bear to live outside the big city, you may hate living out in the sticks. If you grew up on a farm in Iowa, you may not ever get comfortable in NYC or Boston. If you went to the University of Colorado at Boulder and would rather tear out your own eyes than live in Nebraska, you probably shouldn't apply to Creighton! Sorry, that creeps up every so often...No Buff jokes, please. Once you have a list of schools nailed down, send in your application as early as possible. Obviously, early and poor is not as good as later and polished. There is a tradeoff to be made, so maximize your chances. If you chose to or must take the August MCAT, you are behind the curve of applications, but all is not lost! Write excellent secondary essays, explain to the admissions committee your passions. If you want to have a chance, you must convey what makes you unique, what motivates you to become the sort of physician they are looking for at their school. Interviews are merely an extension of this process. You need to connect with the person across the desk. If you can give them a glimpse of your passion and drive, they will be impressed! I won't go into particulars about either of these steps, but there are plenty of resources for each. Well, if you are still reading this, I apologize for taking up so much of your time! (It beats studying Physics for Kaplan tomorrow) Above all else, remember this: You wouldn't be on this board if medical school wasn't your dream. Don't ever let anybody discount your dreams or dampen your enthusiasm. If you are applying to medical school, good for you! I know how frightening, frustrating and infuriating this process can be. Support helps, and having friends and people to commiserate with is comforting. I wish every one of you the best of luck (right up to the point of taking MY spot!) and hope you become driven medical students and compassionate doctors. Other SDN members can provide great advice, but take it with a grain of salt.