February 8, 2021

A Bad vs. Good Medical School List (Before and After)

The Savvy Premed

By: Savvy Pre-Med Staff

We’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of pre-meds, and every year we encounter dozens of reapplicants who ask us to troubleshoot their past applications and help them reset for the future. 

One of the most common trends in these reapplicants is a poorly constructed medical school list. 

We thought we’d share an (anonymous) example of one to show you the most common mistakes applicants make with their school list and illustrate how our Savvy Pre-Med Med School Search Tool can help you avoid these issues.   

A Bad vs. Good Medical School List (Before and After)

Let’s consider the following candidate:

MCAT: 505

GPA: 3.96

Ethnic Background: White

State Residency: California

Disadvantaged?: No

Bad Medical School List (Before):

University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix

University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson

Baylor College of Medicine

Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

Duke University School of Medicine

Emory University School of Medicine

Geisel School of Medicine

Georgetown University School of Medicine

Howard University College of Medicine

NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Feinberg School of Medicine

Meharry Medical College

Ohio State College of Medicine

Perelman School of Medicine

David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

University of Minnesota Medical School

UNC School of Medicine

University of Virginia School of Medicine

Keck School of Medicine of USC

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

University of Washington School of Medicine

Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences

Yale School of Medicine 

This candidate’s story eventually ends in success, but it took them two cycles to get into medical school. That’s a lot of extra work and money!

And it could have all been avoided with a more carefully constructed school list.  

Before we give the final list that got this candidate accepted into multiple schools, let’s discuss the things that they did wrong the first time around!

Medical School List Mistake #1:

Thought Their GPA Would Make Up For Low MCAT

A high GPA is nice, but it only carries so much weight on its own.

Many candidates have GPAs in the 3.9 or 4.0 range, so it’s not going to be a difference-maker for elite, prestigious schools on our candidate’s list like Yale. 

Also, GPAs are susceptible to grade-inflation and may not be viewed as a very standardized metric for medical schools. Oppositely, they will likely consider the MCAT to be a more accurate indicator of a candidate’s academic ability.  

If you use the Savvy Pre-Med Med School Search Tool, you’ll see that only TWO of our candidate’s schools, Howard and Meharry, fall into the range of a 505 MCAT score.

So, assuming that our candidate does not retake the MCAT and improve their score, 21 out of the 23 schools on their list are statistical reaches (not to mention the problem with Howard and Meharry that we’ll discuss next).  

Medical School List Mistake #2:

Applied to Minority-Oriented Schools

This candidate clearly did not do enough research on schools like Howard and Meharry before constructing their list. 

Let’s take a look at Howard’s mission statement:

Howard: “Howard University College of Medicine provides students of high academic potential with a medical education of exceptional quality and prepares physicians and other healthcare professionals to serve the underserved. Particular focus is on the education of disadvantaged students for careers in medicine.”

And let’s take a look at the data surrounding ethnicity at Meharry:

“The enrolled student population at Meharry Medical College is 80.1% Black or African American, 9.93% White, 5.45% Asian, 4.12% Hispanic or Latino, 0.363% American Indian or Alaska Native, 0% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders, and 0% Two or More Races.” 

So, as a white applicant with no disadvantages in their background, our candidate has a very slim shot of getting into either of these schools.

It’s not impossible, but those two slots leave our candidate with 23 out of 23 schools being reaches. Not good!

Medical School List Mistake #3:

Ignored Schools’ In-State Preference

Again, if you use the Savvy Pre-Med Med School Search Tool, you’ll see that certain schools on our candidate’s list, like the University of Washington and the University of Minnesota, have a low out-of-state friendliness ranking (with 4 being the highest).

It’s also important to note that the candidate only applied to TWO out of the 16 schools in their home state of California. 

Even though it’s difficult to get into California schools, it would have behooved our candidate to apply to more in-state schools and remove unfriendly out-of-state schools from their list.

Medical School List Mistake #4:

Disqualified for Missing Certain Requirements

Did you know that the University of Arizona - Phoenix and the University of Arizona - Tucson require a letter of recommendation from an MD?

Yeah, neither did our candidate! They realized it too late, after they had already paid their fees and pre-written those schools’ secondaries. 

To avoid a big waste of time and money, make sure to review schools’ requirements surrounding letters of recommendation, prerequisites, etc.

Our Savvy Pre-Med Med School Search Tool includes links for all these requirements for every school, making your research all that much easier. 

Medical School List Mistake #5:

Did Not Apply to DO Schools 

According to our Savvy Pre-Med Med School Search Tool, there are only 11 MD schools that fall into the <507 MCAT range. And two of those are Howard and Meharry, which we’ve already removed for our candidate.  

So, statistically speaking, this candidate would only have NINE statistical matches for MD schools, and that’s not even accounting for out-of-state friendliness. 

Oppositely, there are 38 DO schools that fall into the <507 MCAT range. That’s a much healthier pool of schools to pull from, and there’s no reason why our candidate couldn’t apply to both MD and DO schools.

A Good Medical School List (After):

So, let’s quickly review the criteria for our candidate’s improved list:

  • <507 MCAT range (assuming there’s no MCAT retake)
  • No restrictions on prerequisites, letters, disadvantaged status, etc
  • DO schools, especially those in CA and those with out-of-state friendliness

Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine - California

Western University (COMP - Pomona)

Western University (COMP - Lebanon)

Loma Linda University

California University of Science and Medicine (CalMed CUSM)

Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM)

Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM-Seton Hill)

Nova Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine (NSU-KPCOM) (Patel)

A.T. Still University of Health Sciences - Kirksville (ATSU-KCOM)

A.T. Still University of Health Sciences - Mesa (ATSU-SOMA)

Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine (AZCOM) (Midwestern)

Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine (CCOM) (Midwestern)

Des Moines University

Kansas City (KCU-COM)

Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM-Bradenton)

Marian University (MUCOM)

New York Institute of Technology (NYIT-COM Old Westbury)

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM)

Rocky Vista University - Colorado (RVUCOM)

Rocky Vista University - Utah (RVUCOM)

Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine - New York

Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine - Nevada

University of New England (UNECOM)

Lincoln Memorial University (DeBusk) (LMU-DCOM)

If our candidate wanted to add a few reach schools from their previous list (perhaps UCLA, USC, and/or NYU), that would be fine! We’re not in the business of crushing dreams, but it’s vital for your list to be balanced and realistic.

And that’s why the Savvy Pre-Med Med School Search Tool is so useful. It’s a simple, objective tool that you can rely on when constructing a strategic school list!

Have any questions about constructing your school list? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll respond to you personally. 

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