Updated: Mar 22, 2022
1 Apply early
2 PS/ Secondaries are personal & not cliché
3 Find schools that match your mission
4 Apply to schools that have accepted scores closer to yours
5 Make sure you are ready to apply
This is the best advice I got when getting ready to apply! I heard directly from the admissions team as well as med students applying early gives you an advantage because there are simply more spots available early on in the cycle. Not all schools review in the order received but it is still recommended to apply sooner than later. Remember you are not complete until the school has received all parts of your application: secondary, LOR, MCAT, headshots, CASPer/ SJT anything they require. Check your portal to make sure it says complete!
Whatever your scores are it is important your writing is able to show who you are as an individual. Include stories from your experience and your reflection to show who you are, why you are a great applicant, and what you bring to the school. Using personal stories in secondaries and interviews to connect with the mission at a school is one way to help stand out as an individual.
Many schools’ missions sound the same at first glance so you’ll have to do some digging through the website and MSAR to see what the school prioritizes. Some things I looked at were how many Black students they had, the curriculum, and service opportunities. In the curriculum I looked to see did they have classes that discussed SDH or taught community health assessments or other indicators they talked about disparities and community health. For service opportunities, I looked at what clinics they had for students to volunteer or do a preceptorship. These also gave me details to talk about to show why I was interested in their school specifically. Schools want students that will be a good fit.
I used MSAR to see the different ranges of scores accepted and matriculated. My cumulative and science GPA was below a lot of them. I found schools where my GPA was in the range or almost there and looked for schools where my MCAT would be competitive. Of course, I also applied to schools my scores were below the 10th percentile for accepted applicants because I loved the school. But I applied mostly to schools that I was near the range of accepted applicants.
When I say double-check you are ready this is not meant to be discouraging at all. The reality is it costs a lot of money to apply and there are a lot of factors considered in your application. I started to apply in 2019 and when I saw all that is needed in the application and what my GPA and MCAT were at I realized it made sense to wait a year. This gave me time to prepare for the MCAT, time to write my PS well, and another year of grades to improve my GPA. This with everything I did between then and 2020 helped me apply with a much more competitive application.