“I’m Afraid I’m Not a Competitive Applicant. What Should I Do?”Part I
Are you worried about your candidacy for medical school? When you think about your GPA, MCAT score, and experiences, do you fear that they’re just not cutting it compared to those of other applicants? Perhaps you look around your organic chemistry class, at students who are ten years younger than you, and wonder if you’ll ever catch up. Your last MCAT practice score left much to be desired, your study skills are rusty, you aren’t heavily involved in an undergraduate pre-med club. Questions and doubts fill your mind. Since the medical school admissions process is so grueling, do you sometimes ask yourself, “What am I doing?”
These are the most common self doubts that nontraditional pre-meds harbor. It’s tough to do battle with your self doubts, but the good news is there are several ways to enhance your candidacy: stop beating yourself up, retake courses to improve your GPA, take practice tests to raise your MCAT score, gain more experience, do your paperwork early, pick appropriate schools, and be a better applicant next year. To explore these methods more thoroughly, read on.
Relax-you are probably stronger than you think
Believe it or not, these thoughts and fears are common among med school applicants of all ages. Often applicants are blind to their own strengths and don’t realize the uniqueness they can bring to a medical school or medical profession. Almost every applicant feels this way, and you are probably more competitive than you think. Statistics from the Princeton Review’s website show that for many med schools’ accepted applicants, the average GPAs are 3.4 or 3.5. University of California at Davis, Mercer, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Southern California, Temple University, and Virginia Commonwealth all have average accepted GPAs within this range. And keep in mind: these GPAs are the average scores. From our experience, there have been many students with GPAs well below 3.4 who got accepted into medical school.
Don Osborne, president of INQUARTA, points out that while GPA and MCAT scores are important, there are many other factors that play into the ad com decision:
“The admissions selection process is highly subjective. How do you distinguish between ten students who all have the same GPA and MCAT scores? It’s all about presenting yourself as persuasively as possible. That’s why applying to medical school is a lot like dating,” he said.
A good method for GPA repair is to retake courses that you did not excel in. If it’s been a while since you’ve been in school, you might want to sharpen your study skills. Refresh yourself on effective ways of taking notes and studying a textbook. There are many useful books and articles on this very topic. (See www.inquarta.com/content/view/181/10 ). Taking classes again will also give you a fresh review if you are preparing for the MCAT.
If you are not satisfied with your MCAT score, take action. Several resources at your fingertips are prep courses, MCAT study guides, and practice tests. MCAT practice tests are good barometers that give an indication of how you will do on the actual test date. Remember, you can always sign up for the MCAT again. The AAMC will allow you to take it up to three times per year. Follow this guide to see if you should retake the MCAT:
If you received a 6 or lower on any of the sections, you will need to retake the test. If you received a 7 or 8 on a section, while the other two scores are higher, you are on the borderline. To find out if you need to take the test again, study and do practice tests. If you receive a score higher than 8 while the other scores are as high or higher, retake the MCAT. But don’t register for the test until you’re very confident that you will do better!
Ex. You got a 7 on verbal and a 10 on the other two sections.
1. Study for the verbal and take practice tests. See if you can repeatedly get a 9 on the verbal section.
2. Register for the MCAT and take it again!
The danger is most applicants will raise the lower score, only to find that their other two scores have dropped. This makes your situation worse!
Finally, if you receive a 9 or higher on the sections, you are ready to go.