October 11, 2012

Med School Admissions Statistics, Part III: What’s the Average GPA? (And What Can I Do About It?)

Over the past two weeks, we've been taking a look at some of the medical school admissions statistics.  While we've tackled the question of how many people get into medical school and the average MCAT score, we turn our attention today to the average GPA. Remember, AAMC keeps this information public through their FACTS tables.  In addition to what we’ve covered here, check out what other great information you can glean from these resources.  In the world of medical school admissions, knowledge is power! (credit:  Schoolhouse Rock!) Interestingly, medical schools are actually given three GPAs when they look at your application.  Your science and math courses are considered in what is called the BPCM (Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Math) GPA, and your non-science courses (humanities, social sciences, language, etc.) are considered as another entity.  Finally, schools see the overall (amalgamated) GPA. While each school has a its own average GPA for the incoming class (information, by the way, that is easily found in the Medical School Admission Requirements guidebook), the national averages in 2011 were as follows:
  • BPCM GPA – applicants 3.43 ± 0.43, matriculants 3.61 ± 0.32
  • Non-science GPA – applicants 3.65 ± 0.30, matriculants 3.74 ± 0.25
  • Overall GPA – applicants 3.53 ± 0.34, matriculants 3.67 ± 0.26
Unlike the MCAT, for which many of you still have a clean slate, GPA is set during your college career.  So what can you do if your GPA isn’t quite into the range above?
  • Explain the GPA Tactfully – on your applications, you have the opportunity to bring up any blips in your GPA in both the primary application (as part of the Personal Statement) and secondary applications (in one of the essays, or as an addendum to the application).  When talking about a problem in your GPA, explain the reason behind the drop, but don’t make excuses!  Medical schools want mature applicants who can take ownership of the problem, and – perhaps more importantly – can explain how it served as a learning experience.  Did getting a not-so-great grade in Organic Chemistry I teach you how to study better, utilize office hours, or find new ways to learn so that you knocked Organic Chemistry II out of the park?  These skills may better you as a physician – tell the medical schools that!
  • Be an MCAT Rockstar – according to a Harris-verified poll a few years back, 90% of medical school admissions officers polled consider GPA and MCAT to be the two most important factors in admission – at least in the early stages.  Thus, a not-so-great GPA can be significantly abated with a stellar MCAT score.  Prepare wisely and work towards that 45 you deserve!
  • Consider Re-Taking Courses or Post-Bacc Work – there are a number of post-baccalaureate programs in the country that can be optimal for a student who needs to boost their GPA (especially the BPCM GPA).  These programs may also afford you opportunities to become involved in research or shadowing, thus helping your application portfolio that much more.
This is the end of this particular series on medical school admissions statistics, but we want to hear from you!  What other statistics (or aspects of the medical school application process) would you like to learn more about?  We want to arm you with the knowledge to help get you into the medical school – and career! – of your dreams. This article is Part III in a three-part series on Medical School Admissions Statistics.  For more information, check out: ...read more
Applying to Med School
December 12, 2011

The Med School Personal Statement: Where To Start

There’s a great line in the 2000 British stop-motion animation film Chicken Run. After surviving a brush with death, Babs, the sweet, daft chicken deadpans, “All me whole life flashed before me eyes . . . It was really borin’.”

Some of you may be feeling a little bit like poor ol’ Babs as you stare at an empty Word document – or blank sheet of paper for you old-fashioned types – wondering how you’ll ever manage to craft a personal statement for your medical school primary application that is interesting, meaningful, and no longer than 5300-characters-including-spaces. You might be thinking, Well, I haven’t cured any major diseases. I haven’t performed solo at Carnegie Hall. So I don’t really know what will be interesting or unique to write about. But if this is what you’re thinking, you’re missing the point of the personal statement.

First, let’s be clear about what the personal statement is not. It’s not an autobiography. You should never, ever start your personal statement with, “I was born in a one-room log cabin on a farm in Kentucky.” First of all, that wasn’t you – that was Abraham Lincoln. And even if you were born in a one-room log cabin on a farm, that information is most likely not relevant to your passion for medicine today.

At the same time, the personal statement is also not a “greatest hits” album of your academic and extracurricular achievements. You’ll come across as a self-important jerk if your essay is just “First I did this. Then I did that. Then I got this award. Then I was honored for . . .” You get the point. Besides, you’ve already provided your greatest hits in the Coursework and the Work/Activities sections of the AMCAS application, so there’s no point in taking up valuable space repeating yourself.

Lastly, your essay is not a confessional. Nobody is all that interested in reading an extended apology for all your various shortcomings (such as that C- in first semester Orgo), failures, or character defaults. It’s also not a position paper. This is not the time or the place to offer your astute analysis and critique of health care reform efforts under the Obama administration, regardless of how well you know the issue.

So what is the personal statement? It’s personal, which means that it must be sincere, thoughtful, and open, and honest. These are your qualities, by the way; you reveal these hard-to-quantify attributes through your writing. It’s a statement of your motivation – or more accurately, a demonstration of your commitment to the mission of medicine.  You must show rather than tell. The personal statement is a focused narrative of your developing identification with and embodiment of the humanist commitments of the medical profession. It doesn’t promise the kind of doctor you’re going to be – and by kind, I don’t mean specialty. It demonstrates, it shows, the kind of care-taker you’ve already come to be. Medical school admissions committees want to see the record of your compassion, your humanism, your dedication to supporting the health and wellness of individuals and communities. They want to see your empathy in action; they want to know how you’ve embodied the qualities of an excellent physician.

If this sounds a bit grandiose, remember that no one expects you to have performed miracles. In fact, your narrative may tell a small, quiet story of gently applying a cool washcloth to a febrile toddler’s forehead, calming him down by clasping his small hand in yours. Or your narrative might describe how – as a premed art history major – you slowly, but powerfully, began to understand your love for interpreting art in order to understand the artist as a metaphor for your role as a care-taker in the building of relationships through the physicality of the body. The power of a well-written personal statement is not found in the drama of the events you describe, but in the depth of your reflection on the meaning of those events for your development as one who is already dedicating his or her life to supporting the wellness of individual people and communities.

Editor’s note: Students interested in learning more about writing the personal statement are invited to join one of Kaplan’s free Personal Statement Workshops. Simply visit KaplanMCAT.com and search for free events to find one that matches your schedule. 

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