As medical school admission becomes more and more competitive, with only 40% of applicants accepted in 2021, having a well-thought-out medical school list can be the difference between being accepted or rejected in the upcoming admissions cycle.
Having data on your side when compiling this list is essential, which is why you should be utilizing the MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) database.
What Is MSAR?
Created by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), MSAR helps you gain a deeper insight into allopathic medical schools in the United States and Canada. You will first have to create an AAMC account to access the data. Free users can see general information about the medical schools, such as the application deadline, first-year class size, tuition, etc. However, only paid subscribers can see the complete information, including the average MCAT score, GPA and the number of applicants in the previous cycle.
A one-year subscription to MSAR costs $28, or you can get a two-year subscription for $36. For students who are part of the AAMC Fee Assistance Program, you have free access to MSAR until the end of your qualified year.
To fully take advantage of everything that MSAR offers, it is worth the investment of the subscription fee to build a well-rounded medical school list and increase your chances of success.
How To Use MSAR To Explore Medical Schools
Each allopathic medical school in the US and Canada will have its own page within MSAR, listing its different admission requirements. You’ll be able to compare your stats and experiences to the accepted applicants to estimate your chances of getting accepted.
Each school’s information page will broken up into six sections:
- Overview. This section lists the school’s contact information, including phone number, email, social media pages, mission statement and any information on special programs or combined degree programs like BS/MD or MD/Ph.D.
- Admissions. This section contains deadlines, when the application review begins, how many letters of recommendation can be submitted, secondary application information and interview information. It also covers what classes are required and what resume experiences their accepted students had.
- Acceptance Data. This section breaks down the data of admitted students, including MCAT scores, GPA, matriculant demographics and specialty training for the graduating class. You can also see how many applicants (in-state, out-of-state and international students) applied, interviewed and were ultimately accepted to the school.
- Education and Research. This section details the research funding, clinical and patient interactions and more information about the curriculum.
- Tuition, Aid and Debt. Here, you can learn about the average cost of attendance, how much aid students typically get and how much debt students graduate with.
- Campus Life. In this section, you can learn about housing, student organizations and activities, diversity programs and support systems.
How To Use The MSAR Effectively When Applying To Medical School
Tip 1: Add Your Information In The “My Data” Tab
To better customize MSAR to your specific qualifications, you can add your MCAT score, GPA and coursework to the “My Data” tab. That way, when looking at particular schools, it will mark where your scores are in relation to successful applicants to compare what your chances might be more easily.
Tip 2: Use The Filter
There are 171 medical schools listed on MSAR, but you won’t be applying to all of them. You’ll want to filter down the medical schools based on your qualifications. You can pick the location, school type (public or private), campus type (rural, suburban or urban), application deadline, class size and if they offer any combined degree programs like MD/JD, MD/MBA or MD/MPH.
Another useful tool available to filter down medical schools is if they accept out-of-state or international students. You can also select a range of median MCAT and GPA of accepted students to quickly see how your academic qualifications measure up.
Tip 3: Look At Course Requirements
The pandemic caused many changes, one of which was students’ ability to take classes in person. MSAR will detail not only what classes are required or recommended, but also if the medical school accepts online or community college courses. By entering your classes in the data tab, you can quickly see if you are even eligible to apply to that particular medical school or if you need to add a few more classes to your semester load.
Tip 4: Pay Attention To The MCAT And GPA Charts
Your MCAT score and GPA are two important pieces of the puzzle. While they aren’t the only thing that medical school admission committees will consider, these data points can help you see at a glance what the range was of past applicants to the schools you are interested in. The MSAR recently updated its GPA and MCAT exam score graphs so you can see not only the median score but also the breakdowns of each subsection. While your MCAT score and GPA don’t need to match the median scores exactly, you should be within the range of accepted applicants.
Tip 5: Look At In-State Vs. Out-Of-State Acceptance Rates
Applying to medical school is extremely competitive, with most schools accepting 2% or less of their applicants. Darlene Diep, Medical Admissions Counselor at Moon Prep, advises her students to apply to at least 20 schools to give them the best chance of acceptance.
Diep says one of the key factors to consider when making your medical school list is the out-of-state and in-state acceptance rates. Looking at these numbers can be especially critical for state schools, because these schools will have heavy in-state preference.
Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, a public university in Georgia, accepted just four out-of-state applicants last cycle, compared to 256 in-state applicants. On the other hand, Duke University School of Medicine, a private university in North Carolina, accepted 98 out-of-state students and just 25 in-state students.
Even if you are an out-of-state applicant applying to a state university, it doesn’t mean that you will be automatically rejected. If you have close ties to the state, such as family, prior education or even if you lived there before as a child, you can explain it in the school-specific secondary essays.
When looking at the in-state vs. out-of-state acceptance rates, you should also consider financial aid and tuition. The class of 2022 graduated with an average debt of $207,003, and non-residents attending public schools paid nearly $17,000 more than residents. Tuition costs will likely factor into your decision.
Building A Strong Medical School List
Use the tools of MSAR to build a strong, data-filled medical school list and increase your chances of getting accepted to your dream medical school program.