Applying to Medical School
Selection Factors for Acceptance to Professional/Graduate School
Decisions to admit candidates are based upon multiple factors that are to a degree, unique to each school. In general, however, all schools are looking for (1) evidence of an ability to accomplish the academic work necessary to progress through the school’s curriculum, and (2) evidence of possession of the personal qualities and attributes of physicians. These qualities are measured by (1) academic record (college grades, particularly science grades), (2) scores on the MCAT or other appropriate admission exam, (3) letters of evaluation, (4) the impression made in your personal interview. Other somewhat less important factors that will affect your acceptance are work/volunteer experience in a medical setting and your extracurricular activities.
Your academic record (grades) will be the single most important factor in determining your acceptance to medical school. The academic record includes the cumulative GPA, the science GPA (biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics), and trend in performance. Trends are important; a poor freshman year followed by better sophomore and junior years is preferred to a good freshman year followed by a declining record. A good academic record is evidence of both high motivation and ability. In recent years the average GPA of students accepted to medical school nation-wide and within our region has been near 3.70.
In addition, college transcripts are carefully reviewed from the standpoint of the credit hours carried during successive academic periods. In general, schools prefer candidates who have accomplished their college work on a normal full-time schedule (even if they are employed).
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
The MCAT is taken in the Spring or Summer during the year of application - normally, the junior year of college. The MCAT is an extremely important factor in evaluating an applicant for medical school. In medical school and beyond, you will have to pass national standardized exams. Since many of these exams show high correlation with each other, medical schools are most interested in candidates who have demonstrated proficiency in testing by doing well on the MCAT. In addition, MCAT scores are valid predictors of academic success in the basic medical sciences and they provide committees with a standardized measure of academic performance for all examinees under equivalent conditions.
The range of acceptable MCAT scores varies among schools with the national average composite score of those accepted usually being around 29. By-the-way, your ACT composite score is an excellent predictor of your performance on the MCAT. Studies have shown that most students will earn a MCAT score that is within two points of their ACT composite score.
Additional information concerning the MCAT is available at http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/.
Personal Qualities and Attributes
Medicine demands superior personal attributes of its students and practitioners. Integrity and responsibility assume major importance in the classroom and research laboratory, as well as in relationships with patients and colleagues. Medical schools also look for evidence of other traits such as leadership, social maturity, purpose, motivation, initiative, curiosity, common sense, perseverance, and breadth of interest. Evidence of the above characteristics is sought through information obtained from the personal statement on applications, evaluations by institutional pre-professional advisory committees, and interviews.
Generally, a composite letter of evaluation from the pre-professional advisory committee of the applicant’s undergraduate college where premedical courses are taken is required as opposed to individual letters of recommendation, although some schools require both.
Students are evaluated by the Pre-professional Advisory Committee of the college in the Spring semester of their junior year. The Health Professions Advisor will conduct a meeting informing students of the details of the evaluation process. To be eligible for a Composite Letter of Evaluation a student must have completed the courses required for admission to medical school by the end of the semester in which application is made for the composite letter. In addition, if a student is applying to medical, dental, or veterinary school, she/he must have a cumulative and science GPA of at least 3.30. If applying to a field of allied health, the student must have a cumulative and science GPA of at least 3.00.
The Composite Letter of Evaluation written by the committee represents an objective and honest appraisal of the student’s potential to be a successful medical student and professional. These letters point out both the strengths and weaknesses of a candidate. On multiple occasions over the past several years the directors of admission of the schools to which our students apply have expressed their appreciation for the objective and frank nature of the letters written by the committee. Bear in mind, through their academic performance and conduct, in effect, students write their own letters of evaluation beginning with their first day of class in their freshman year.
In addition to the qualitative factors discussed in the text of the letter, the committee considers the student’s academic record and makes a consensus judgment, placing the student in one of seven categories:
|Highest Recommendation Possible|
|Recommended with Complete Confidence|
|Recommended with Confidence|
|Recommended with Reservations|
The Medical School Application Process
The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) is a centralized processing service to which 109 of the 125 U.S. MD-granting institutions currently belong. AMCAS benefits both the applicant and the participating medical schools by efficiently collecting, coordinating, and processing data, which frequently reduces the time and expense of application. The AMCAS application is web-based and is available at www.aamc.org. Similar application services exist for the other health professional schools.
The time required from submission of an application to matriculation at most medical schools varies from 15 to 18 months. Therefore, those who want to begin medical school in the year they graduate from Spring Hill College will apply during the summer between their junior and senior years.
Applicants are encouraged to submit their application as early as feasible in the admission cycle. An application that arrives just before deadline may have a significantly lower chance of acceptance for a student with marginal academi credentials. As described below, the majority of medical schools select their students by rolling admissions. This means that schools do not wait until their deadlines have passed but instead review and accept applicants as their applications are completed. Therefore, if you submit an application later than earlier in the applications period, fewer seats in the class will be available.
If you take the MCAT in the summer, it is best to submit everything well before MCAT scores are returned. This places you in the best position to be reviewed, since your application will be complete at each school once MCAT scores arrive.
The responsibility for the admission process at each medical school is delegated to an admission officer who organizes and conducts the procedures for the receipt and processing of applications. A candidate’s credentials are reviewed and decisions to admit or reject a candidate are made by an admission committee. The composition of this committee varies from school to school but most are composed principally of faculty members from both basic science and clinical departments. Frequently, current medical students and alumni are included on the committee.
After receiving a candidate’s application through AMCAS, a school may send the applicant a secondary application which requires additional information to be submitted by the applicant. The composite letter of evaluation written on behalf of the student is normally requested at this time.
Applicants with strong credentials are contacted by the admission office to arrange an interview appointment. The admission committee interviews applicants on a weekly basis throughout the fall, winter, and early spring. Interviewed applicants are informed of the committee’s decision sometime after the interview with the decision being the offer of an acceptance, rejection, or a place on the alternate list. Information concerning how to prepare for a medical school interview can be found at http://www.mommd.com/interview.shtml.
As the process continues through the admission cycle, acceptances are offered until the requisite number of acceptees is achieved to fill all the positions in the entering class for that year. This is a process referred to as rolling admissions.
Be judicious in terms of the number of schools to which you apply. Remember, you have your best chance of acceptance at the state-supported schools in your home state. You will want to apply to each of those schools, and a select number (less than 5) private schools, especially those affiliated with Jesuit institutions.
Applicants with particularly outstanding credentials and who desire to attend one medical school in particular, may want to apply to that school’s early decision program. By applying as an EDP candidate, the individual agrees not to apply to any other U. S. medical school until any of the following occurs: (1) receipt of an EDP rejections; (2) receipt of a formal release from the EDP commitment, or (3) the October 1st notification deadline has passed. In addition, the applicant also agrees to attend the school if offered an EDP acceptance.
Each year about one-third of the applicants to medical school will be accepted to more than one school. To provide an orderly and fair admission process, candidates are obligated to hold no more than one acceptance at a time. An applicant receiving acceptances from two or more schools simultaneously is expected to accept the offer of the more preferred school and notify the others that their offers are not accepted.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the acceptance rate of your students applying to medical school?
This is the most frequently asked question by prospective pre-medical students and their parents, and we are proud to say that since 1995 approximately 90% of Spring Hill students who have applied to health-related professional and graduate programs have eventually been accepted. This is in contrast to the national acceptance rate of 38.2% as published by the American Association of Medical Colleges. In reality however, the acceptance rate of graduates is probably one of the least important factors to be considered when selecting a college for a pre-medical education. A student who is bright, motivated, has good standardized test-taking ability and interviews well, will have an excellent chance of acceptance to medical school regardless of the overall acceptance rate of the undergraduate institution they attend. Likewise, a student who perhaps is bright, but not particularly motivated, lacks standardized test-taking skills, and interviews poorly, will not have a good chance of acceptance even if the acceptance rate of students from their undergraduate institution has been 100% for the past 50 years.
Where do your graduates go to medical school?
Students will always have their best chance of acceptance at the state-supported medical school(s) of their state of residence. So, Louisiana residents go to the schools of medicine at LSU-Shreveport and New Orleans, Mississippi residents to the University of Mississippi, and Alabama residents to either UAB or the University of South Alabama. Our students have also been accepted to schools of medicine associated with Jesuit institutions such as Creighton University, Georgetown, and Loyola of Chicago.
Do I have to major in a science to go to medical school?
No. Medical schools require that an applicant have a bachelor’s degree in some (any) discipline. If a student chooses to pursue a major other than a science, then in addition to meeting the requirements for a degree in their major, they will also have to take one year of Biology, one year of General Chemistry, one year of Organic Chemistry, and one year of Physics.