ironhill

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why is it that most top schools have MCAT averages in the low 30s? and yet for people like myself w/upper 20 MCAT scores, these schools are considered reaches? frustrating, isn't it?
 

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ironhill said:
why is it that most top schools have MCAT averages in the low 30s? and yet for people like myself w/upper 20 MCAT scores, these schools are considered reaches? frustrating, isn't it?
Because they have the pick of the litter, the folks they take with more down to earth MCATs tend to have other truly outstanding credentials, attributes. More average people go to more average schools.
 

jackieMD2007

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Well, in the MSAR, they are MEDIANS, which is different than an average. With an average you add up all of the numbers and divide by the number of numbers you had, so you see numbers like 30.5. A median is more like a range, which is why the MSAR shows the upper and lower limits for each score. With a median, 29 or 31 are both equidistant from 30. I have been told that with a strong GPA, a 29 is still a competitive score to apply with, especially if you have good EC's, strong references, etc.
 

WinterLights

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Sometimes it seems like the MCAT isn't really the focus anyway and acceptance is largely random (or at least based on intangibles). That's the only reason I can think of why the top six or seven schools in the country don't have MCAT averages of 40+. In a given application year ~70,000 MCATs are taken. Around 400-500 people will score 40+, which means they could fill up all the top spots. BUT... they don't. GPA, ECs, and being able to BS during an interview must be the real deciding factors...

I dont know if its that simple. Some people may have a 40 MCAT, but a >3.0 gpa. A lot of schools would rather take a 4.0GPA/35MCAT. In fact it is likely that most of the top schools would likely have more people with >3.8/35 MCAT than any combination of XGPA/40 MCAT.
 
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WinterLights

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Me? I wasn't just trying to complain. It seems that even the BEST schools have MCAT averages of 34-36 and medians of 36-38. What does that mean? It means that the people at the BEST schools with the lowest MCAT scores were scoring in the mid to high 20's and they brought the average down (but did not affect the median). I don't mean to be THAT guy, but I attribute some (not all) of that to URM acceptance policies...
OR maybe they are accepting more people with MCAT scores around the average and less people with high MCAT scores. Why does everyone assume that schools accept in a curve like fashion? They don't. AND not every person who scores a 40 on the MCAT has a >3.8 GPA. In fact, it seems like most people with huge MCAT numbers are the ones who are desperately trying to make up for their GPA.
 

Textuality

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Also, many top schools are looking for the future leaders of the field, and to be honest, that doesn't always equate to the people with the highest grades. Just look at President Bush (I know that's not really a good example, I just couldn't resist, please don't hurt me.)

So, maybe after a certain point in statistics (say, a 3.7 and a 34+) to attest to your intellectual capabilities, they start weighing the intangibles a little more heavily. Like how many leadership roles you had in your EC's, how much drive and motivation you showed in your research/clinical pursuits, how much you had to go through to get to where you are (as a show of determination), how well you can sell yourself via the PS and the interview, how well socialized you are...etc. They are trying to feel you out as a potential innovator and leader of medicine, which requires traits other than just academic intellect.

Anyways, that's my theory. :)
 
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WinterLights

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Me? I wasn't just trying to complain. It seems that even the BEST schools have MCAT averages of 34-36 and medians of 36-38. What does that mean? It means that the people at the BEST schools with the lowest MCAT scores were scoring in the mid to high 20's and they brought the average down (but did not affect the median). I don't mean to be THAT guy, but I attribute some (not all) of that to URM acceptance policies...
Where are the statistics/facts? What is the purpose of making a completely unfounded assertion, aside from making yourself sound like a simpleton?
I wonder how many URM's attend the top schools. They probably take up less than 11% of the total seats at any top school. Do you think that every single one of those 11% have MCAT scores far less than the average? Thats what you seem to imply. Do you think that 11% can dramatically bring down averages? Lets assume that a top school has 100 seats. Now assume that 11 of those seats are taken by URMs. Now assume that all of those URMs scored 25 on the MCAT (GPA is irrelevant for this demonstration.) Now assume all of the rest of the 100 seats were given to people based on the following MCAT scores: 20 seats for people with 35 on the MCAT, 20 seats for people scoring 38 on the MCAT, 10 seats for people scoring 34 on the MCAT, 10 for people scoring 33, 10 for people scoring 39, and 9 for people scoring >40. The average MCAT for all of those students ("low scoring URMs" included) would be a 35.5. Without those same "low scoring URMs? 36.74. So we see that even with your asinine assumption, the average would not be affected significantly.
 

WinterLights

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Let's say a school has a median MCAT of 37 and an average of 35, which is typical of highly competitive schools. If they let in 100 people, the person right in the middle (~#50) scored a 37. Since the average is far lower, that means people BELOW 37 scored, on average, farther from the median than people ABOVE 37. In other words, say the median is 37; the MCAT average of people (~50 of them ) ABOVE 37 was probably ~39 (2 pts over median), which means that the MCAT average of people BELOW 37 (~50 of them) was only ~31 (6 pts below median). That is the only way I can think of to explain averages lower than medians... That said, I think med schools let in the same number of high and low score applicants, the low score applicants just bring down the average a lot.
Which school are you referring to in this example?
 

WinterLights

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From Harvard's website (Admissions FAQ): Fifty-four percent are students of color, and nineteen percent of the student body are members of under-represented minority groups.

I said before that URMs were not the only factor, read my post.
What are Harvard's Median and average MCAT scores? If you are going to make that assumption, I would like for you to present the facts so that we can at least have a rational basis for that which we are discussing.
 

Raryn

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Pretty much any top school. Take Harvard. The MSAR reports the median MCAT at Harvard to be 37. Harvard's website reports the following averages:

average GPA: 3.76
average MCAT scores were:
Verbal-11.01
Physical Science-12.09
Biological Science-12.03
Total- 35.13

The math adds up.
Because the MSAR reports the median score of all accepted applicants, NOT matriculated applicants like every other source. The median accepted scores are ALWAYS going to be higher, because the guy with the 4.0/45 might get accepted to 15 schools, but he will only go to one, and will only count for the matriculated average of one school.
 

WinterLights

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Pretty much any top school. Take Harvard. The MSAR reports the median MCAT at Harvard to be 37. Harvard's website reports the following averages:

average GPA: 3.76
average MCAT scores were:
Verbal-11.01
Physical Science-12.09
Biological Science-12.03
Total- 35.13

The math adds up.
:laugh:. Lets say 49 people scored a 32, 22 scored 37, 19 scored 38, 8 scored 39, 2 scored 40, then the average would be around 34.96 and the median would be 37. In such a case, 90% of people would be ~3 points above or below the average. The point of this? You and I do not know how the MCAT scores of matriculants are distributed. We can validate our bias using math, if we pick the right numbers.
 

ChubbyChaser

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ok...from Lizzym, an actual ADCOM member.
She said in a thread some months ago...that most all of the the acceptees are gonna be right around the average with a long right tail, and very few are significantly lower than the average MCAT.

.....a person with a 25 mcat is not gonna be getting into a school with a 35 average.
 

WinterLights

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I understand the theory behind what you're saying, but I don't think there are enough people scoring 40+ and getting a bunch of acceptances to make a difference. Think about it- in a given 12 month period, only ~400-500 MCATs out of more than 70,000 will be scored 40+, and a high MCAT score does NOT guarantee a bunch of acceptances. Another consideration: the MSAR is taking into account data of everyone that gets rejected at a school and had low scores, so I think it balances out.
We need to know how many of those people scoring 40+ have a GPA less >3.8. Making the assumption that all people with a 40+ MCAT are shoo-ins at top schools is not very accurate at all.
 

WinterLights

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ok...from Lizzym, an actual ADCOM member.
She said in a thread some months ago...that most all of the the acceptees are gonna be right around the average with a long right tail, and very few are significantly lower than the average MCAT.

.....a person with a 25 mcat is not gonna be getting into a school with a 35 average.
ChubbyChaser: raking up the pwnage points on SDN noobs :laugh:.
 

WinterLights

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Bottom line is that if a mean is less than an average, regardless of the numbers, then the lower end scores are, on average, farther from the median than the higher end scores. Let's take your example. The people below the median (37) had an average score of 32 (5 pts below median). The people above the median had an average score of 37.8 (0.8 pts above the median). See what I'm trying to say?
I understand perfectly what you are saying. In your example you were basing the above/below averages on (arbitrary) values that you anticipated. Is this any different than what I just did in my example? Not at all. I do not see how distance from the middle score is important.
 

ChubbyChaser

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ChubbyChaser: raking up the pwnage points on SDN noobs :laugh:.
nope...just tired of seeing you guys arguing over futile ASSumptions....;)


schools average mcat=32

Most ppl are gonna have 33s, 32s, and 31s, some with 30s and 29s...not many far below that (probably)...but you are gonna have ppl with 34s, 37s, 40+s.
 
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WinterLights

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I didn't say 40+ MCAT made anybody a "shoo-in". I'll bet that more often than not, 40+ MCAT people have over a 3.8 though...
You are right about more often than not, but that does not take away from the fact that a significant number of 40+ people have GPA's >3.8.
 

Raryn

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I understand the theory behind what you're saying, but I don't think there are enough people scoring 40+ and getting a bunch of acceptances to make a difference. Think about it- in a given 12 month period, only ~400-500 MCATs out of more than 70,000 will be scored 40+, and a high MCAT score does NOT guarantee a bunch of acceptances. Another consideration: the MSAR is taking into account data of everyone that gets rejected at a school and had low scores, so I think it balances out.
Last year 67828 people took the MCAT. Of them, approximately 1085 people scores 38 or above. I'll bet money most of them were pretty succesfull in the process. Hell, we can even look at the people who score above 35, as they skew the process as well. Approximately 4273 people scored above 35, and even if the average person in that group (counting the rejects) gets *two* acceptances, that skews most of the "accepted" medians up past the matriculated average. And these 4273 people will make up a substantial portion of the total accepted pool, probably around ~20-25%. Now, take this view to the extreme, and look at say WashU, which accepts everyone they can find with a high MCAT score. Them accepting a bunch of folks with 40s who might go on to Harvard or some other school makes it easy for them to get their accepted median up to 38, especially when you consider they only accept ~350 people total. All they have to do is accept 175 people out of the 1085 38+ students to get their median to 38. (Or out of whatever portion of those 1085 students apply. I'm sure they have enough room to pick though)

Your "other consideration" doesn't make any sense to me. Why would the data for the median of accepted applications take into account rejects? They were accepted.
 
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Raryn

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Bottom line is that if a mean is less than a median, regardless of the numbers, then the lower end scores are, on average, farther from the median than the higher end scores. Let's take your example. The people below the median (37) had an average score of 32 (5 pts below median). The people above the median had an average score of 37.8 (0.8 pts above the median). See what I'm trying to say?
I don't agree that the mean is less than the median when we are talking about the *same* group of students. But the students accepted to a school is a totally different group than the students who end up going there, as the "best" students are the ones more likely to be cherry picking their schools...
 

ZagDoc

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Sometimes it seems like the MCAT isn't really the focus anyway and acceptance is largely random (or at least based on intangibles). That's the only reason I can think of why the top six or seven schools in the country don't have MCAT averages of 40+. In a given application year ~70,000 MCATs are taken. Around 400-500 people will score 40+, which means they could fill up all the top spots. BUT... they don't. GPA, ECs, and being able to BS during an interview must be the real deciding factors...

I know, I know. Reviving a dead thread, but I had to give some input for the next person who passes by.
Don't underestimate how much schools select applicants based on "fit." The numbers can get you so far but can only demonstrate to a school that you will be able to handle the academics, not that you will make a good physician. Schools place so much emphasis on "well-rounded" applicants because these are the individuals that are better equipped to handle the stresses and unique challenges of medicine. This is also why application feels so much like a crap shoot. Schools are so saturated with applicants who have demonstrated they can handle the academic rigors (generally estimated as 30+ MCAT/3.5+ GPA) that they can pick and choose applicants on "gut feeling" who they believe will not only succeed academically but also in all the other arenas that encompass medicine.
 

WinterLights

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There is truth in what I'm saying unless the median and mean MCAT scores are exactly the same for a given school. I think acceptance data and matriculation data paint pretty much the same picture MCAT-wise
Either of our examples could have potentially explained why MCAT averages at top schools are not as high as some may expect. But your explanation leads people to assume that there are a bunch of people with low scores being accepted, whereas my example leads them to assume that most scores could be close to the average in either direction. Both of our examples show that the median and the average can be dramatically different, but mine shows how this is possible without a bunch of people scoring in the low 20's. To assume that somehow a bunch of low scoring MCAT people (according to MCAT scores) are getting into top schools is pretty ridiculous. Almost as comical as assuming that acceptance is largely random because the average MCAT score at top schools isnt 40+.
 

Raryn

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No. But you do have a better chance, on average, of getting accepted than someone who has a 3.6/31. But you might interview horribly (not saying you do, just theoretical), and the 3.6/31 might be a division 1 athlete who spent his free time saving babies in Africa.

Also, WashU matriculates 122 students, but it accepts 339 students (in 2007 at least). The *accepted* value takes into account all students who got offered a seat in the class, whether or not they ended up going there. It just helps illustrate that the two groups of people really are different.
 

WinterLights

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What you said:

What I said:Sometimes it seems like the MCAT isn't really the focus anyway and acceptance is largely random (or at least based on intangibles)

not the same thing
[sarcasm]"Sometimes it seems" makes all the difference[/sarcasm]
 

Law2Doc

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So I should get accepted at like 10 schools then? If that's what you're saying, I'll just believe it for my ego. BTW WashU only accepts 100 people, so I guess that helps your point.
I think you are far more focused on the numbers than med schools will be. They are looking at the whole package, and trying to determine who will be a "good fit" for their school. So once you get above a certain threshhold of numbers (this is different at different schools), they are going to focus harder on other things. They will and do reject someone with a 40 MCAT who is mediocre in the nonnumerical aspects of his application. On SDN there have been folks with astounding numbers who couldn't navigate through the interview process, and ended up reapplicants. There were far more who got as many rejections from top schools as acceptances. And we all know folks with astounding ECs (peace corps, military service with medals, amazing research and first author publications, etc) who get some amazing acceptances with rather non-amazing MCATs. This inability to see what non-numeric credentials are getting people into med school or making them a good fit is what keeps folks coming back to SDN and writing about how "random" or a "crapshoot" the application system is. In fact it is neither, but you simply don't see what else is in the application pool and what things adcoms consider a particularly good fit, aside from the numbers which, are just a part of it.

The problem with premeds is they are coming out of undergrad so used to being evaluated based solely on objective, numerical stats that they have a very hard time accepting the fact that what they've accomplished that didn't have a grade, and how they conduct themselves in an interview can be the reason they do or don't get into a particular med school. The top schools get so many people applying over whatever numeric threshold they set that they can pick and choose those who have truly done outstanding things outside of the classroom. Sure this doesn't net you as many 4.0/40+ types, but there has never been any study suggesting that they make better physicians than the 3.7/37 crowd. So schools would just as soon have those in the latter with better ECs. It won't hurt their rankings much because much of that is driven by research dollars anyhow.

Keep in mind that the goal is not to accept the person who is going to do best in the first two years of med school (the classroom stuff) as much as the person who is going to do best in the latter two and thereafter. And while you need a good head on your shoulders, a lot of it is about what you've accomplished outside of school and your people skills to succeed in this service profession. There will be a place for the amazing test-takers in med schools too, but the top schools have first pick and often choose someone more dynamic than the guy who holes up in the library the longest.

I agree with the folks who said the median/mean issue is kind of screwed up when you mix and match matriculants with acceptees. These are very different groups. Schools all accept as many as twice the seats they need. Lots of folks choose other schools for a variety of reasons (location, family, gf/bf, money). I also agree with folks who said that the distribution is very tight. You don't see schools whose averages exist because half the school scores 40+ and half is around 28. You see schools with an average of 36 because half the class scores 37-40 and the other half scores 32-35. So no, you don't see very many folks with below a 30 at the top schools. But when you do, they have done something outstanding with their lives outside of the classroom.

Meaning, you cannot look at your numbers and feel like you will be in good shape at the top schools. You have to look at the whole package the way a med school would. For most this is an impossibility, so you have to apply broadly and not put your hopes into one basket.
 

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Well, in the MSAR, they are MEDIANS, which is different than an average. With an average you add up all of the numbers and divide by the number of numbers you had, so you see numbers like 30.5. A median is more like a range, which is why the MSAR shows the upper and lower limits for each score. With a median, 29 or 31 are both equidistant from 30. I have been told that with a strong GPA, a 29 is still a competitive score to apply with, especially if you have good EC's, strong references, etc.
awww. for a minute I thought jackieMD was back... she was so much fun during my app cycle.
 

rowerlauren

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You are right about more often than not, but that does not take away from the fact that a significant number of 40+ people have GPA's >3.8.
I can name 4 people at my undergrad applying this year. They have 40+s and GPA's > 3.9. And a 3.9 is very very hard to get, especially since most of us/them are Chem majors. I haven't heard of anyone here who got a 40+ without at least a 3.8. 2 of them are MSTP applicants though, so they won't be applying for MD spots directly.
 

nontrdgsbuiucmd

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Getting back to the original question about why some top schools don't have higher MCAT/GPAs, I did speak with one top school (at least top for competitiveness, not sure they'd be top 10 for research or primary care). According the the admissions director, their cutoff is a lizzym type score, I think it was 62 (mcat + GPA * 10). Which seemed strange given they are very, very competitive. The admissions director told me, after a candidate makes that cutoff, the candidate's ECs are carefully considered, as well as leadership potential, community volunteer experience, etc. That's where most of the cuts are made by that school. Average MCAT scores for the school were low 30's, I think around 31-33 or so.

Another possibility came to light in an event I'd attended with a number of pre-med students speaking with the dean of a medical school. It absolutely floored me that several of the students mumbled questions, spoke in the same way one would speak to a drinking buddy, and used improper english when addressing a med school admissions dean (the dean had a list of every person attending the meeting). The dean said that the final question the admissions staff asked themselves when deciding on an accept/not accept: would you want this applicant to be your physician?
 

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Getting back to the original question about why some top schools don't have higher MCAT/GPAs, I did speak with one top school (at least top for competitiveness, not sure they'd be top 10 for research or primary care). According the the admissions director, their cutoff is a lizzym type score, I think it was 62 (mcat + GPA * 10). Which seemed strange given they are very, very competitive. The admissions director told me, after a candidate makes that cutoff, the candidate's ECs are carefully considered, as well as leadership potential, community volunteer experience, etc. That's where most of the cuts are made by that school. Average MCAT scores for the school were low 30's, I think around 31-33 or so.
Let me guess, U of Colorado.
 

doomknight

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There is truth in what I'm saying unless the median and mean MCAT scores are exactly the same for a given school. I think acceptance data and matriculation data paint pretty much the same picture MCAT-wise
When an average is lower than the median, it does not necessarily mean that people below the median have very low scores. You could have a large number of people 1 or 2 points below the average score, and then a smaller number of people scoring above the MEDIAN score, thus balancing out to an average. I would make an excel plot but it's not worth the time, I would think that with your gpa/mcat you could figure out how the curve looks like yourself.
 

scarletgirl777

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From Harvard's website (Admissions FAQ): Fifty-four percent are students of color, and nineteen percent of the student body are members of under-represented minority groups.

I said before that URMs were not the only factor, read my post.
Harvard's URM percentage is not representative of other schools. Because they are Harvard and thus have high yield and because there are relatively few URMs with high numbers, they have an overrepresentation of this small pool of URMS who would be considered to be highly desirable by top schools.