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Getting into medical school is arguably the most important step to becoming a medical professional in the country. One may even argue that it’s more difficult to get into a medical school than to graduate once you’re in, and interestingly, that statement is statistically true.
It’s already unusual for 50% of qualified applicants to get accepted to medical school, yet findings show that over 80% of medical students graduate once they successfully get in.
Though this can be attributed to many things, it’s mostly because students have limited knowledge of what affects their acceptance. Moreover, those who do know what determines acceptance cannot control them, specifically those with low GPA (Grade Point Average) or MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) scores.
With that in mind, this guide will go over the key factors that affect your medical school acceptance and perhaps give you a leg up by discussing ways to control them to some extent.
Factors That Affect Medical School Acceptance
1. The Medical School’s Acceptance Rate
Acceptance rate refers to the ratio of the total number of applications to the number of accepted students. If there are 200 applicants and only 42 passes, the acceptance rate is 21%.
Most schools have a consistent acceptance rate they maintain every year. Certain schools are competitive or selective and therefore have low acceptance rates, typically in the single digits.
The NYU Medical School acceptance rate, for example, is 2.5%, though it’s understandable since they offer free tuition. Other schools have the same acceptance rate, from 2% to 5%.
Thankfully, some medical schools are not as selective. Those medical schools tend to have considerably higher acceptance rates, ranging from 20% to 30% or even higher.
For a higher chance of acceptance, it’s best to apply to schools with high acceptance rates. It’s either because they’re less strict or they can accommodate more students than other schools.
2. The Number Of Medical Schools You Apply For
Most students apply to several medical schools. On average, a student applies to 16 schools, but some go beyond that. You can go even further by applying to 30 or even 40 schools. It depends entirely on your availability, finances, and energy level.
Of course, you must carefully choose which schools are included in your list. Ideally, you’d want to make sure you at least have a realistic chance of acceptance to each school. The higher the number of medical schools you apply for, the higher your chance of acceptance.
3. Your GPA
Your GPA indicates how well you performed in your courses on average. Think of it as the number that represents your entire academic performance.
The minimum requirement for a typical college is a 3.0 GPA, but since medical schools are competitive, their requirements are usually higher than that. Data from the U.S. News 2022 Best Medical Schools shows the average median GPA of the 121 best-ranked schools is 3.75. Again, there will always be outliers with a median GPA that’s either higher or lower.
Ideally, you’d want to apply to medical schools that don’t have too high of a GPA requirement. But at the same time, you must also refrain from those with too low of a GPA requirement.
If you have a GPA of 3.50, for instance, you should at least look for schools with a requirement closer to that, rather than just the minimum 3.0. There’s a good chance a lot of other students will also apply to those schools, so there may not be any vacancies if you’re late. Similarly, you shouldn’t rule out a school just because your GPA is slightly below their median GPA.
GPA isn’t the only number they look at when accepting applicants. There may be other metrics in your application that may pique their interest, like your MCAT score.
4. Your MCAT Score
Every student who wants to apply to a medical school will have to take a Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) exam. The score you’ll get in the exam is another metric contributing to your medical school acceptance.
Similar to GPA, every medical school has a median MCAT score, and naturally, you need to have a higher score to be competitive. For your reference, an MCAT score of 501 is too low to be competitive. 504-506 is better, but again, not very competitive. Medical schools typically look for scores of around 510.
However, remember that it depends entirely on your percentile rank, and percentile scores may vary yearly. For example, if the 75th percentile is 506 in the previous year, then 506 should be high enough for medical schools. But by the following year, 506 might end up as just the 60th percentile score, which is often not competitive enough.
Most medical schools need applicants to be at the 70th percentile or higher. The more competitive ones look for 80th percentile rankers.
Applying for medical school isn’t something you work on for only a year. It’s something you must work on while you’re still in your pre-med course. You must do your best to get a high GPA score and take a handful of extracurricular activities.
Otherwise, you might become one of the many students who regret not taking their pre-med course seriously and get a relatively low GPA.