HealthJune 16, 2010

8 myths of med school admissions

While it is true that if you decide to be pre-med you inevitably face a long, strenuous road ahead of you, there are many myths out there that may cause you to develop unnecessary stress. So, we want to help you by dispelling some of the most common myths about medical school admissions, to remind you of reality and to show you that it is not always as harsh as we commonly assume it to be.

Myth #1: I need to major in Biology or some other science.

Majoring in a science during your undergraduate education is not a requirement for medical school admissions. Med schools do, however, look closely at your science GPA. An important implication of this is that if you major in a non-science, every science course you take will heavily influence your science GPA, leaving no room for inadequacy. However, if you are a science major, doing poorly in one science class will not ruin your science GPA as easily. The downside is that science is generally a tougher major and tends to lead to a lower cumulative GPA.

The trick then is in figuring out what is the best balance for you that will lead to your best performance. The point is that you do not need to feel restricted to majoring in science. Do what is right for you.

Myth #2: If I don’t major in science, I’ll stand out more to the admissions committee.

Non-science majors are just as successful as science majors in med school admissions as long as they have comparable science GPAs. In 2008, 50% of humanities majors and 44% of social sciences majors who applied to med schools nationwide ended up matriculating at one. However, majoring in a non-science just for the sake of “standing out” does not give you any advantage because med schools are interested not in your specific major but in the overall rigor and quality of your undergraduate work.

Myth #3: I need to start preparing during my first year in college so that I won’t be behind schedule.

There is no need to rush and try to get all your pre-med requirements completed in your first two years. You have four years to complete them, and you can even take some or all of your pre-med requirements after you graduate from college. Although traditionally students begin applying for med school during junior year, many applicants in recent years have waited until senior year and beyond.

Myth #4: If I get a C in a science class, then it’s game over for me.

Even though your science GPA is extremely important, the admissions committee will consider the bigger picture which consists of more than just grades. This especially pertains to the grades during your first year, a time that is understood to be tumultuous since you’re still trying to adjust to college life. That being said, admissions committees like to see an upward trend in your performance throughout the years.

Myth #5: It’s okay to just take tough science classes during the summer to make my life easier during the school year.

Be careful because some medical schools specifically prefer that you not do this. More importantly, you need to know the material from these courses in order to do well on the MCAT, and since summer courses go by faster than term-time courses, it may be more difficult for you to thoroughly understand the material and/or to remember it. Consider the pros and cons, and think twice.

Myth #6: I won’t be accepted if I drop any classes.

If you regularly drop classes, then that will not only look bad on your transcript, but also indicate that you may not be able to handle the rigor of medical school. However, dropping one or two classes may be the practical thing to do if you face the possibility of failing those classes. Remember that the key is to maintain consistent, overall excellence.

Myth #7: I will appear weak to the admissions committee if I don’t finish college in four years.

Admissions committees obviously look favorably upon applicants who clearly demonstrate the ability to be a doctor who can work well with patients, and life experiences tend to contribute to this ability. Hence, taking extra time to finish college will not affect your application and may even strengthen it as long as you do so for meaningful reasons, such as studying abroad. Taking a semester off is fine as long as you plan ahead to finish fulfilling all your pre-med requirements either before you go or when you return.

It is only a disadvantage if you take longer than four years to graduate due to light semesters, frequent withdrawals, repeating courses, etc. As long as your record shows that you can handle full workloads, and there is a good reason for why you took more than four years to finish college, it is acceptable.

Myth #8: A high GPA will make up for a low MCAT score, or vice versa.

Medical school admission is no different from college admission in that they both consider your entire package. If there is a huge disparity between your grades and your MCAT score, the admissions committee will likely feel uneasy about accepting you. You should always strive for consistent, overall excellence.

Even if you have both a high GPA and a high MCAT score, your acceptance is not guaranteed. Admissions committees look at much more than just your GPA and MCAT score.



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