Deciding where to attend medical school is difficult, but there isn’t a lot of choice when it comes to medical schools in Hawaii. In fact, there is only one school for MDs: the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM). In other words, if you are hoping to attend medical school in Hawaii, the good news is that you don’t have to worry about dividing your focus. The bad news is that you will need to focus very, very hard on this single institution.
Consequently, when thinking about how to prepare for your medical school application, you may wish to consider medical school application help.
You can also check out some hard data, careful analysis, and expert tips to help you achieve your goal. Let’s dive in.
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Recent Admissions Statistics for the John A. Burns School of Medicine
Admissions rate: 27.8% of in-state applicants were accepted; 0.39% of out-of-state applicants were accepted.
Average CGPA: 3.74 (average Science CGPA: 3.69)
Average MCAT total score: 512
Sex breakdown: 44 females, 33 males (57% female)
Top 5 undergraduate majors: Biology; Cell and Molecular Biology; Human Biology; Neuroscience; Biochemistry (in other recent years, Psychology and Bioengineering also made the top 5).
Wondering how to make your medical school application stand out? Watch this video:
Analysis of Admissions Statistics
Some obvious conclusions can be extrapolated from recent admissions data. One superficial observation is that JABSOM vastly favors in-state applicants over out-of-state applicants. There is also a CGPA level that must be obtained to be competitive.
How to stand out: one way that you can stand out is by pumping your GPA. Improving your GPA to at least 3.80 would place you at a higher academic level than other applicants and positively influence your application. Studiousness is your ally.
What Type of Student is JABSOM Looking For?
Year after year, a very large proportion of spots at Hawaii’s medical school go to in-state applicants. Close to 90% of accepted students are local applicants; in a recent year, 67 students, out of 77, were Hawaiian residents.
Is there any hope for an out-of-state applicant? If you are an out-of-state applicant, what can you do? First, it will be imperative that you bring something extra to the table. This might be a particularly robust GPA, but in addition, you should be making sure that JABSOM takes a close look at your application.
If you are non-local but have deep connections to Hawaii – family roots, for instance – you might want to use some of the real estate in your secondary essays to articulate those connections. With a local connection of some sort, you might be able to differentiate yourself from applicants with no connection to the Hawaiian Islands. Another option would be to express your interest in practicing medicine in Hawaii. If you are planning to contribute to health care in Hawaii after graduating, mentioning this in your application – in your secondary essays or elsewhere – could also be a point in your favor.
If you are not Hawaiian, but you are from the Pacific Islands, know that JABSOM considers you to be part of the broader Pacific Islander community, and highlighting this will still connect you to JABSOM’s ideals and goals as a diverse learning community serving Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.
Approximately 10 places (13%) in any incoming class are available to international or out-of-state students, including DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students.
It’s important to note that if you are an international student, you will need to log 90 semester credit hours at a university in either the United States or Canada, like all other applicants. So, if you are planning to apply to JABSOM as an international applicant, you will need to plan ahead to ensure that you have the required credit hours.
Wondering how to make your med school application stand out? Check this infographic:
The student body at JABSOM is very diverse, with the majority being Asian. Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students also represent a significant proportion of the student body – approximately half the number of white students – who were the second most represented demographic. There are specific programs and resources for diverse students, particularly Native Hawaiians.
The ʻImi Hoʻōla post-baccalaureate program focuses on providing support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds – economic, social, or educational. Note that while this will be very inclusive of diverse students, it is not exclusively available to students of diverse ethnicities. Rather, it looks to provide assistance based on the three listed factors.
Also note that for purposes of considering Native Hawaiian populations, JABSOM considers other Pacific Islanders to be part of the same group and makes the same resources, programs, and scholarships available to them.
Students Who Care for Patients
Patient interaction begins in the first year at JABSOM. This orients teaching and learning directly with actual, hands-on work with patients. If possible, give yourself a boost in the eyes of the admissions committee by doing volunteer work within medical or clinical settings where you can work directly with patients. Highlight this in your personal statement, and in any questions or essays dealing with “why this school?” you will want to connect your existing experience with patients and JABSOM’s focus on patient interaction. Along with any mentions of your connections to the Pacific Islands and intent to help the Pacific Islander medical community, this will show why you relate to the ethos of the school.
The top undergraduate degrees of students entering JABSOM are all hard sciences or directly related to medicine. Although JABSOM states that it does not have a preference, provided the applicant fulfills the admission requirements and science prerequisites, the trend suggests that you will have a better chance of admission to JABSOM if you have a strong science background. While you don’t necessarily need to have selected biology as your major, you should make sure that your transcript is as full of science-based learning as you can.
So, what if you are already studying in a non-science major? Should you give up? No, because not all students accepted at JABSOM come through the sciences, just the majority. What you need to do if you have studied another subject, however, is connect your subject to medicine. Doing this through an essay is probably the simplest strategy. For example, point out why cultural studies prepares you to understand the needs of underserved communities and will allow you to treat patients from diverse backgrounds with more empathy and care.
You will need to pick up science courses as part of the admission requirements for JABSOM.
Prerequisites currently include:
JABSOM also has a list of preferred and recommended courses that are not required:
That’s a lot of material to try and cram into one education! Don’t worry, here’s how to straighten your schedule out:
First, you must prioritize prerequisites, as they are mandatory. Make sure that you will have completed the required scientific coursework and labs by the time you graduate.
With electives, aim for higher grades. Take courses that will allow you to excel. You’ll notice that in addition to the sciences, JABSOM appreciates courses like social sciences and humanities because they recognize the connection that these disciplines have with health. Make sure to highlight some of these connections in your personal statement or secondary essays, if possible.
If you are looking to include additional medicine-related electives, but you need to make some picks, prioritize with this rubric:
- Start with anything directly related to the kind of doctor you want to become. If you are planning to be a family physician or pediatrician, taking courses that deal with childcare is a good idea. If you want to enter psychiatry, take psychiatry courses, and so on.
- Another layer of selection is how well your transcript will fare if you pick a given course. If you will succeed better in anatomy than statistics, take anatomy.
If all other factors are equal and you must choose between courses, you could either show off your versatility or your specialization for the admissions committee. If you want to show that you have aptitudes across disciplines, you might take calculus but not statistics, as these are both mathematically based disciplines. On the other hand, you might wish to demonstrate a high aptitude in a narrower range of subjects, specializing in additional biology courses, for example, such as cell and molecular biology. When making strategic choices such as these, be sure to underscore them in your application’s supporting materials, such as your AMCAS most meaningful experiences, so that the admissions committee understands your choices and direction.
JABSOM requires the MCAT and will consider all scores obtained within the last three years prior to application. Therefore, you may need to carefully consider whether you should retake the MCAT. This decision is based on an analysis of multiple factors.
First, consider school-specific averages and thresholds. The average score for admitted students at JABSOM is 512. If you have five points lower – 507 or below – you will want to retake. If you are closer, however – say, 510 – retaking might give you a lower score or might simply look like a red flag on your transcript. Note that there is a limit to how many times you can retake the MCAT in a given year or in your lifetime.
Although schools may engage in score scaling by race/ethnicity, as JABSOM is already a highly diverse school, you can consider the average of 512 to reflect the minimum score you should aim for, regardless of your background.
Overall score distribution is another factor to consider when contemplating a retest: this means you consider your total score and how you did on each sub-section of the MCAT. Because JABSOM is more science-oriented, if your total score is lower than JABSOM’s average, but your science score is much higher, you’ll probably be okay. Generally, if you scored lower than 498, you should retest, regardless.
You will also want to evaluate whether you have time for a retest. Retests take time, not just for the test, but for reviewing your study habits and implementing new, better habits for next time.
Preferred Premedical Experiences and Extracurriculars
Premedical experiences of the first year class were in keeping with the science-heavy focus of the school. Lab work was the most prominent activity of matriculants to JABSOM, followed closely by physician shadowing and clinical observation. Therefore, if you want a place at JABSOM, increase your involvement in these types of activities and highlight them in your medical school personal statement.
Volunteer experiences, both in the community and in medical or clinical settings, were also engaged in by over 80% of accepted students in recent years. JABSOM has a community service requirement, so put in as many volunteer community service hours as you can, even if they are not directly related to medicine.
Do you speak a second language? Because most successful applicants to JABSOM do. Knowing a second language might be something to put under special skills, or as a response to a “why this school?” essay or interview question. Having a second language may enable you to fit in more readily to the JABSOM campus culture and allow you to relate to the existing student body.
What Type of Doctor Can You Become?
JABSOM offers an MD program. It does not offer mixed degrees such as MD-PHD programs.
JABSOM uses a problem-based learning curriculum (PBL), comprising health care problems, lectures, and lab sessions. They emphasize clinical and community work, which begins early. In the first year, students will already be introduced to primary care through clinical experiences. Required third-year clinical rotations include family medicine, pediatrics, and internal medicine. Also available are rural health opportunities and student interest groups.
Certificates of Distinction Offered:
A report on medical student specialty match and residency position data for JABSOM indicates a troubling trend. JABSOM increased its medical school positions over the study period; however, a decrease in available residency positions was observed. This means that matching specifically with JABSOM is difficult. Therefore, if you are looking at JABSOM for your residency, you might want to consider residency match services and also explore other schools as options. If you are unsuccessful, you may also want to think about how to improve a residency application after going unmatched.
However, the good news is that JABSOM students generally had good match rates. So, while your residency might not be available at JABSOM, your education there will likely find you a residency position.
Most medical schools have stringent requirements and highly competitive admissions rates. The University of Hawaii’s medical program is no exception, and if you are hoping to study in the Islands – particularly if you are applying from out-of-state – taking the time to get to know the school’s preferences and requirements will give you a far more competitive edge.
1. How many medical schools should I apply to?
Apply to at least 8 schools, or as many as 10. Don’t overextend yourself but give yourself options.
2. Does JABSOM require MCAT scores?
Yes. You must have taken the MCAT within three years of applying to the John A. Burns School of Medicine. JABSOM looks at all scores.
3. Can I take the MCAT multiple times?
Yes, you may, but there is an annual and lifetime limit. Because the average MCAT score for a matriculating student at JABSOM is 512, you will want to make sure that you are close to or over that score. If you are within a few points, you probably shouldn’t retake the MCAT.
4. How many seats in total are available?
Only 77 students are admitted each year to JABSOM, with up to 10 from out-of-state.
5. If I have a low GPA, do I stand a chance?
Yes, although you should consider how to get into medical school with a low GPA. However, given JABSOM’s priorities, if you have a combination of a low GPA and out-of-state residency, your chances of acceptance are almost nil. In this case, you could apply to other institutions or consider a gap year before medical school to improve your GPA.
6. Does JABSOM require secondary essays?
Yes, they do.
7. Is there a fee for JABSOM’s secondary application?
Yes, which is another reason to keep applications to between 8 and 10. While applications are an investment in your future, their cost can add up quickly.
8. Can I really apply with any degree?
Absolutely, yes. While JABSOM has a science disposition, they actively encourage applicants to gain experience in other disciplines to understand the health of the whole patient. For that reason, JABSOM recognizes that many different disciplines and areas of study have something to offer a budding medical professional.
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