mcat and application

Everyone knows that applying early is important but does anyone have any stats on this? specificially, I’m curious to know the breakdown of offers made per week/month starting on June 1st for majority of the med schools. Do med schools fill >50% of the class seats during june and July or something? It would be helpful to get a better sense for this.

I ask because, I’m wondering if I should take the exam this Saturday and get a score of 25-26 (that’s what I’ve been getting on my practices) or study some more and take the early July exam with the hope of scoring higher. On the one hand, I want to apply really badly this year, but on the otherhand I realize that getting a 25-26 is just as same as not applying. If I do take the test on July, the scores won’t be back till early August. Would submitting my app in early August be considered too late or would I still be riding the early advantage? Anybody know? thanks.

The only ‘reference’ I know of - have not checked in a long time though - was made in Ken Iserson’s book on Getting Into a Residency where he calculated (provided no source for the data that I am aware of) an approx 2~5% benefit for early vs late. His summation was: yes, there is a benefit, but not a massive one. So, if you have your ducks in a row, then apply early because why not have that advantage, no matter how small, working in your favor. However, if your ducks are NOT in a row, the advantage is not of sufficient magnitude to do things before you are ready.

Of course, the reality is, who knows for certain? It is a commonly perpetuated corollary without data support…at least not openly available data. BUT, it makes good sense, if & only if, you are ready to move forward. If you are not ready, then no matter which parameter you are questioning, it is high-risk to move too early.

In other words, play the game as best as your credentials permit you to play it. Trying to play according a hand of cards that you do not have will not benefit you. This is not bluff-poker.

There is a bit of interesting information posted on an AAMC web page about this (see below). It appears the intent of this page was say that taking the August/September MCAT would not put a student disadvantage. However, table of MD & DO schools on the web page seem to suggest that very few schools openly say that there is no disadvantage. A few schools clearly note that the August/September MCAT is not acceptable. Again, this is all conjecture and implication but it does suggest an operational bias against late applications.

Below is from this AAMC web page 7acceptan…

Most schools operate on a rolling admissions process. However, many (those with an asterisk) noted that taking the September MCAT should not put an applicant at a disadvantage.

Several schools asked that we post this reminder:

Applicants should submit their applications as early as possible, even if they have not yet taken the MCAT, so that admissions offices can begin reviewing all of their other qualifications and move their applications forward quickly once the MCAT scores are available.

There was study from the early 1990s that found at least at one medical school data to indicate early applicants are more likely to gain admission than late (abstract below). There are some later studies by the same author (2002) but I do not have access to them.

1: Acad Med. 1997 Jul;72(7):644-6.Links

The effect of a rolling admission policy on a medical school’s selection of applicants.

Elam CL, Johnson MM.

Department of Behavioral Science, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Lexington 40536-0084, USA.

PURPOSE: As the University of Kentucky College of Medicine (UKCM) employs a rolling admission policy, this study was designed to determine (1) whether the month during which applicants were considered by the UKCM admission committee was associated with admission status, (2) whether applicants considered early in the process differed in selected academic and noncognitive pre-admission characteristics in comparison with later applicants, and (3) what the importance of the month of the applicant’s consideration was relative to other predictors of admission to UKCM. METHOD: The application files and admission committee’s minutes regarding 302 applicants who received interviews during the 1993-94 application cycle were examined. Data reviewed included each applicant’s gender, age, geographic origin, undergraduate science and non-science grade-point averages, and Medical College Admission Test scores; the date of consideration by the committee; interviewers’ ratings; the initial motion on the applicant; and the final admission status. RESULTS: The findings indicate that the applicants considered earlier were significantly more likely to gain admission. However, upon assigning the applicants to three groups according to the month of consideration, no difference in academic qualifications was found. Regression analyses revealed that despite the effect of time of consideration, noncognitive characteristics related to UKCM’s mission also predicted admission decisions. CONCLUSION: This study provides useful information to admission committees reviewing the effect of a rolling admission policy, as well as to applicants and premedical advisors, who should be aware of the potential importance of submitting applications in a timely manner.

ok…but how much is “significant”…just want to get a quantified answer…everyone knows it’s significant…but how significant is significant? does it boost your chances by 70% or something? the way they say it makes it sound like if you have below average scores you can still sneak in if you apply early. how much truth to this is there? and what is the cut off of when this ‘early’ advantage wanes? i’m wondering is it like an inverse exponential curve or a linear negative slop line that reflects this trend? inquiring minds want to know!

is the advantage like 7% or 70%?

IMHO, if you’re not ready for the MCAT (or at least as ready as you will be), don’t take it. I’m sorry I don’t have concrete data to give you on the perceived advantage of applying early (I suspect the data in this thread are the closest you’ll get to quantifying it). If you really are driven to submit in June (rather than August, which is still not very late), you can submit your AMCAS before taking the MCAT. Further points on the exam have a pretty good chance of making quantifiable difference in your responses. Further, it may not seem like a lot, but you haven’t yet fully resolved to take the test. For me, at least, setting a concrete date actually helped me raise my focus a bit more. Not having that might throw your mental game off, so to speak. Either way, good luck with it!

You’re trying to quantify what is not quantifiable. Every school handles things a little differently. Submitting your application during the summer may help you get an interview invitation even with marginal MCATs. But following the interview, those marginal MCATs may relegate your application to the waitlist pile or worse. In other words, marginal MCATs might get your foot in the door but whether they’ll keep the door open depends on too many other things.

Although it feels like it, med school admissions is not a Vegas-like exercise in trying to beat the house. It’s just too subjective.

Rather than figure out if your current MCAT is “good enough” to game the system, I would strongly urge you to submit your application early with MCAT pending, set a later MCAT date, and, as Adam suggests, take that date as a challenge to do your best.

My advice to submit your AMCAS now, at the beginning of the admissions cycle, presumes that you’ve got a good application ready to go. By that I mean: competitive GPA with good grades in the prerequisites, interesting extracurricular activities, thought-provoking personal statement. A package that will make an AdCom member say, “Wow, I look forward to seeing her/his MCAT scores! Hope they’re good!”

Good luck!


Since the study was done by a behavioral scientist, “significantly” indicates greater than 5%. You could always go online and find the complete article and read it for particular data. Of course a study of a single school 15 years ago may not give the kind of information that you seek. I am sure you could pour over the research literature spending weeks looking for those numbers finding the comfort that you seek.

Now of course, if you’d like spend the time to get into medical school instead, I would suggest a different path. Is your overall goal to apply this year or to maximize your chances to get into medical school? It sounds like are you falling into that syndrome that I like to call “premature application.” You may apply with weaker application with either a June but low scoring MCAT or an August but higher scoring MCAT. Either situation presents less than the best application possible. In either event all your other materials need to be sent in now, thus committing to an application cycle this year. You may want to seriously consider delaying you application by a year to get both the best and earlier MCAT score possible as well as polish your overall application to a spit shine.

I have a different take on the should I apply now with a lower MCAT score or wait until I get a high score because that’s the situation I’m in right now too.

The danger in applying with a lower MCAT score is that when combined with your other credentials, that could be grounds for a rejection. For example in my case, I have a VERY low undergrad GPA, so applying early with a lower MCAT score in theory, gives the adcom 2 solid reasons to reject my application outright despite the fact that I’m retaking the exam in July. I’ve decided not to take that chance.

So whether or not you should apply now I think depends on what the rest of your application looks like. If there are no other “causes for pause” in your app, then they may be willing to wait until they get the newer scores. But so far as I know, there’s no guarentee that an adcom will do that.

  • anonymous Said:
.... I'm curious to know the breakdown of offers made per week/month starting on June 1st for majority of the med schools. Do med schools fill >50% of the class seats during june and July or something?

Note: there are no offers made in June or July. Your sequence of events is:

1 -- submit primary application through AMCAS / AACOMAS (starting in June)

2 -- wait for secondary applications from individual schools. This can be almost right away, or can take awhile; some schools screen your primary application and decide whether or not to send you a secondary, while others send the secondary application to everyone.

3 -- you return secondary application

4 -- you get invited for interviews

5 -- you go to interviews

6 -- some time after the interview (ranging from days to weeks, school-dependent), you get an accept / waitlist / reject letter.

The earliest I've heard of interviews occurring is mid-September, and IIRC the earliest AMCAS schools can send an acceptance is October 15.

After AMCAS receives your electronic application, they spend time verifying your credits. They take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to transmit the application to your designated schools. In June, when a whole boatload of applications comes in, it's definitely weeks.

I can't stress it enough; the quality of your application is far more important than when it gets there, as long as the "when" is reasonable. Just because the AMCAS deadline is November 1 (WARNING: I don't know what the deadline is, I am making this date up) doesn't mean that you should submit on October 30. But just because the first day you can submit is June 4 doesn't mean that you are screwed if you submit on June 5. (In fact schools won't be able to tell the difference, as they'll receive a big batch of applications from AMCAS that will probably include several dates received.)

Hope that helps. It's a convoluted process; I hope understanding how it works can allay some of your anxiety about timing.


hey everybody…thanks for all the different thoughts on this…last night…after staying up till 2am, ruminating whether i should take the test today after ditching previous schedulings, i went in 20 minutes late today and took it!

I finished all the sections. (I was jazzed that i was able to stay engaged throughout the VR let alone finish with some time to spare.) overall it was a good feeling…but too good. i know i got some answers wrong… more than i know. … so i voided it after finishing BS section. but it was good

in case i don’t get a higher score in the later testing, i was concerned that i may have missed my opportunity by not simply applying early with the dismal mcat scores for that little bit of advantage. but what i’m hearing is first priority is getting my shiit in order prior to applying- no matter when that is.

well, my strategy right now is to work on and submit my AMCA app while i wait for the score to arrive after taking it a bit later.

what i have going for me is a strong gpa, semi solid EC (summer stint volunteering in ER with about 150 hours, volunteering at post-op during spring with about 70 hours, shadowing a doctor doing knee surgery (that was wicked!), tutoring students, some teaching experience, later this summer i’ll have a leadership/supervisory role in a summer program of sorts…it’s not much but it’s what i got).

what do you guys think of my chances? are my EC ‘substantial’ enough for this ap cycle? (IMHO no matter what applicants say…we ARE trying to play the adcom by doing this that and the other to align our resumes to their expectations and wishes.)

OK I was with you until you got to the part about receiving your scores. If you voided today’s test, your test will not be scored; you will NOT receive scores. Read page 14 of MCAT Essentials. It was good practice to do it in a real test setting - obviously exhilarating for you to realize that you were able to finish! - but I gotta say, staying up til 2am cramming and then going in late is not the way I’d advise taking it for real. Next time I strongly urge you to STOP studying a day or two before the test, get there on time, and move at a deliberate pace through the test. Could be worth a point or two, you never know.

  • anonymous Said:
(IMHO no matter what applicants say....we ARE trying to play the adcom by doing this that and the other to align our resumes to their expectations and wishes.)

And those of us who are waaaaay beyond applicant status are telling you that you don't need to do that! You need to be true to yourself and your interests and present your resume without apology. Your ECs sound fine as long as you can write about them with sparkle and show why they are meaningful to YOU.

AdComs want smart, mature, poised, dedicated and **interesting** people in their classes. There is not a cookie cutter for medical student. Having read lots and lots of applications, please believe me when I tell you that it is often easy to tell the difference between someone who is checking off the list of "Things I Know the AdComs Want" versus "Things I Enjoyed And Got A Lot Out Of," even when the two lists are identical.

In other words, it's really much more about how you present it than what you did. The whole point of your application is to let YOU shine through. This is a daunting thought because it means that you are putting yourself out there to be judged.

Please, please stop thinking of "AdCom" as some monolithic entity with set expectations. I've *been* on an AdCom and I can assure you that once the minimal expectations of competence have been met, the rest of the application can - in fact, should - be different from everyone else's.

thanks for that thought. i’m going to take it to heart and try to personalize my experiences.

as far as last night, i wasn’t craming, just staying up late night trying to decide while i was reading various postings on OPM :slight_smile: … yeah, craming never works for me either. i was surprised that i was feeling refreshed in the morning though. i did void it though because despite feeling good about it, i know that i didn’t do well.

i’m going to prep for another one later on.

so it sounds like i may have enough EC at this point to put in an app this cycle…just need to make it personal.

as far as LOR goes, i’m trying to think of potential folks to get LOR from. do they prefer LOR’s from doctors? I don’t know many and since i’ve been out of school for a while, I don’t think getting LOR from profs is viable option.

If I may suggest…without sounding too abrupt…your posts, thoughts & strategies convey to me a fundamental lack of understanding in the mechanics of the application process. I sense a definite desire to become a physician & a distinct lack of planning. Believe me, not planning in this game can only equal failure. sorry to be so blunt, but them is just the facts.

Even though you voided the MCAT - and yes, I imagine it did serve to pump you up for finishing & was excellent exposure to the ‘real thing’ - your MCAT transcript will indicate that you took the test & had it voided. That, in & of itself, is far from a death sentence. However, if you have multiple skeletons in your closet that you are trying to overcome, having that void on there will only prompt additional scrutiny of your application package. If your app is strong, then no harm/no foul. If, however, your application is weak, it may contribute to making the case against your admission.

My advice to you is to purchase a couple of books that lay out the process of applying to medical school - the nuts & bolts. AMCAS & AACOMAS both put one out - get one of them. In addition, pick up one or two of the advice on applying books as well. Two that come to mind are by Xxxxx Sandford, MD & another by Ken Iserson, MD. They provide not only an overview of the process itself; but offer planning techniques & strategies to maximize your potential for success.

However you choose to approach this, please know that it is a very complex process that rewards the prepared & knowledgable applicant. Even though it may ‘seem’ to be a Vegas-style crapshoot, it is not. Folks do not get in by merely falling off of the applecart & into medical school…although I could have sworn 1 or 2 of my med school classmates might have gotten in on the day the AdCom office had nothing but temps working - LOL!

Long story made short, this is sufficiently challenging process in which you are competing with some of the top academic talent in the country. Do not, through lack of knowledge or familiarity, give the AdCom cause to nix you.

I’m afraid I have to agree with Dave here. Your question about LORs concerns me: in June of your application year, you should know who will be writing your letters already and in fact should have them done. Getting the LORs is a huge headache during the application process and you need to know how you are going to handle this.

LORs should be from academic professors. Letters from MDs aren’t very useful because medical schools want to know how you will do as a student. They want to hear that you worked hard, were well prepared, contributed to class discussions, took responsibility to help your fellow classmates, etc.etc.etc. The LOR needs to give some “body” to the skeleton of your grades. As Judy Colwell said elsewhere in the forums today, letters from MDs/DOs, colleagues, work supervisors etc. should only be submitted IF you have fulfilled the expectation of three academic LORs.

You clearly are committed to doing this. My suggestion to you is to spend a little more time taking stock of where you are at this moment, and consider whether it would be far more productive for you to aim on applying next year after you’ve had more time to get all the aspects of your application together.

I don’t mean to take the wind out of your sails. It is June 3, which is early in the application year, obviously. But it’s only early if you are ready to apply. If you don’t have everything well on the way to being completed, I’m afraid it’s not early at all.

Good luck to you!