The AAMC MSAR database is a great source for those looking to choose the right medical school to attend. As you know, even the easiest medical schools to get into have requirements all applicants must meet and the MSAR database allows you to access the medical school requirements and admissions information of all American MD programs in one convenient place. In this blog, you will learn how to use MSAR to choose the right medical schools to apply to and how it can help you increase your chances of getting accepted. 

What is MSAR?

The AAMC Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) database provides comprehensive information about each MD program in the United States. If you are looking to apply to DO vs MD programs, you should also take a look at the AACOM Choose DO portal to research osteopathic programs that may be right for you. 

MSAR is an incredibly useful tool if you are starting your search for the right MD program. Not only does it provide the necessary admissions information, such as medical school prerequisites and medical school recommendation letter requirements, but it also outlines the medical school secondary essay expectations and schools’ interview process. 

Knowing how to use MSAR can help you choose the right medical schools and increase your chances of acceptance. Let’s go over MSAR elements that can be utilized in your search.

Admissions Statistics

Perhaps the number one question students ask about any allopathic or osteopathic medical school is “What is the school’s admissions rate?” This is understandable. While some schools have very high acceptance rates, some, like Albany Medical College or Stanford Medical School, have acceptance rates just over 1%. Knowing the medical school acceptance rates of the programs you’re applying to gives you some idea of how fierce the competition is. 

MSAR is a great source of information for admissions statistics. While the portal does not calculate a school’s admissions rate, it gives you a table that outlines how many students applied in the previous cycle and how many students matriculated. Additionally, you can see the breakdown of how many in-state vs out-of-state vs international students applied and were accepted. You can calculate the admissions rate by dividing the number of students accepted by the total number of students applied and multiplying it by 100%. As an example, check out Albany Medical College admissions information:

Using this chart, we can calculate that Albany Medical College has an overall acceptance rate of 1.35%, in-state success rate of 2%, out-of-state success rate of 1.19%, and international success rate of 0%.

Residency and Citizenship Status

If you are an out-of-state applicant, it is important to know if the schools you are planning to apply to accept non-residents. There are many out-of-state friendly medical schools in the United States, but there are some that do not accept non-residents at all. MSAR will give you a detailed breakdown of whether a school accepts out-of-state applicants, whether they review non-residents’ applications on a case-by-case basis, or whether residency plays no role in your chances of acceptance. Keep in mind that most private medical schools do not care whether you are an in-state or out-of-state applicant, so non-residents tend to have higher chances of acceptance in private schools. Why? Public medical schools get subsidized by state governments so there is a limit on how many out-of-state applicants are allowed to be accepted to public schools. Private schools are not financially dependent on the state, so they are free to accept students of any residency or citizenship status. But keep in mind that public schools tend to be some of the cheapest medical schools for in-state applicants, because a) they are subsidized b) they try to attract local applicants to stay to train and practice medicine in their home state. 

Sometimes medical schools’ websites are unclear about whether they accept non-residents or international applicants. This is where the MSAR database comes in handy. If you are a Canadian applicant, MSAR can be the source of Canadian friendly US medical schools for you. International applicants are also encouraged to check which medical schools accept non-citizens before they make a list of their chosen programs. To get an idea of why this is important, let’s take a look at the chart outlining the residency requirements of the Albany Medical College:

As you can see, Albany does not give preference to either in-state or out-of-state applicants, but notice that Albany does not accept international students. Now, compare it to the chart I included in the Admission Statistics section of this blog (above this section). Those 9 international candidates applied to the wrong school when they chose Albany. Whether they did not do their research or decided to apply despite Albany’s policies, they wasted their time and money applying to Albany. This is why checking residency requirements in MSAR is key before applying to a medical school in America.

GPA and MCAT

Typically, your GPA and MCAT score are the first indicators medical school admission committees look at when they receive your application. Competitive schools, like Ivy League medical schools, often use these statistics to weed out applicants who do not meet their GPA and MCAT standards at the early stages of the applicant selection process. Due to the number of applicants these schools receive, admission committee members try hard to alleviate their workload. Once they weed out applicants with lower GPA and MCAT than their expected average, they can focus on reviewing the application materials of candidates who met their academic standards. Furthermore, this process is used in many schools, not just the top-tier medical schools in North America, so you must strive to apply to schools where you meet the set GPA and MCAT thresholds. 

What can you do to prevent yourself from being cut from the applicant pool in the early stages of the process? Check the MSAR database for schools' academic requirements to make sure that you apply to schools that have average GPA and MCAT scores that are less or equal to yours. While statistics are not everything when it comes to getting into medical school, we strongly encourage you to apply to schools that do not have higher GPA and MCAT expectations than what you have achieved. You may have an outstanding medical school personal statement and impressive entries in the AMCAS Work and Activities section of your application, but if the school cuts you out based on your GPA and MCAT right away, the admissions committee members will never get to see them. 

MSAR will help you find the schools where your grades and scores will be accepted, so your application can move on to the next stages of the selection process. This way, the committee members will get to review the other components of your application and form a deeper understanding of you as a candidate. While this may not guarantee an acceptance offer, you are more likely to receive a medical school secondary essay application or even an interview invite. Even if your GPA and MCAT simply meet the expectations and do not exceed them, you will have a higher chance of moving on in the selection process. 

Learn how to improve your GPA in our video:

Recommended Courses

As you may already know, medical schools typically have expectations when it comes to your knowledge base. While most MD programs do not require you to take on any particular major in your undergrad, some have pretty strict course requirements. Having these courses in your transcript demonstrates your baseline knowledge of sciences, social sciences, and humanities that will help you in the study of medicine. 

In addition to required coursework, a school may also list recommended coursework. The difference between the two is that while a school will not review your application if you do not complete the required courses, your application can still be reviewed if the recommended courses are not completed. For example, you can see here that Albany Medical College profile on MSAR outlines which courses are required and recommended:

MSAR gives you a detailed breakdown that outlines which coursework is required with lab, how many credit hours you should have, and whether these courses can be completed online or in a community college. This table is incredibly useful for several reasons. If you are still in your undergrad, you can utilize this table to create your course schedule. On the other hand, if you already graduated, this table will inform you if you need to take extra coursework during your gap year before medical school. If you do not have time or desire to complete the required coursework, this table gives you an idea of whether applying to Albany Medical College is worth your time. If you are missing one or several of the required courses, it might not be in your interest to apply to this school.

Premed Experiences of First-Year Class

The breakdown of premed experiences of past years’ matriculants is perhaps one of the best elements of the MSAR database that can help you apply to the right schools. Some students choose to apply to schools based on prestige, location, cost, or other personal circumstances. While all these reasons are valid, you must also choose the schools that would be right for your personality, interests, and experiences. Not only does this mean that you will be a happier student at such a school, but it also means that you will have more chances of acceptance if your personal skills and experiences match those of the schools to which you are applying.

MSAR is an excellent source for figuring out what kind of candidates medical schools accept. Let’s take a look at the following graph:

This MSAR chart gives a detailed breakdown of what kind of premed experiences the matriculants of Albany Medical College had in the recent past. This means that these kinds of experiences are greatly valued by this particular school. Notice that over 70% of matriculants had shadowing or clinical observation experience, even though officially, shadowing is simply recommended rather than required at Albany. Pay attention that research seems to be the most common variable when it comes to the matriculants’ premed background. This means that your research projects and skills will be a valuable asset when you apply to Albany Medical College. Another noticeable statistic is that Albany seems to accept a very small percentile of matriculants with military experience.

Let’s compare these statistics with the premed experience of the matriculants at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine:

Now, if I was an applicant with a military background, I would probably be more likely to apply to this school rather than Albany, as the stats show that in the past year the University of Missouri-Kansas City has increased its acceptance of such candidates. This is of course also dependent on whether I meet other criteria like GPA and MCAT score averages, residency requirements, etc. You will also notice that the percentile of this school’s matriculants who had paid clinical employment is much higher than Albany’s. This should be a signal that you might want to gain such experiences if you want to be a competitive candidate at the University of Missouri.

Keep in mind that you do not have to have the same extracurriculars for medical school as past years' matriculants. These MSAR charts are there to give you an idea of what kind of skills and experiences are valued by each medical school in America. Simply put, if you are serious about getting accepted into your chosen schools and want to increase your chances of acceptance, research what kind of extracurriculars the school valued in its applicants in the past. Otherwise, look for schools that tend to accept students with premed experiences that are similar to yours.

TIP: another source of information that can help you find the right school and highlight the right premed experiences is the school’s mission statement, which is also available in the MSAR’s profile of the school. While these tend to be short, they can often provide important information about the school's objectives and plans and what kind of students it accepts. As an example, let’s take a look at the mission statement of Stanford Medicine:

“To be a premier research-intensive medical school that improves health through leadership, diversity, and a collaborative approach to discovery and innovation in patient care, education, and research.”

This one sentence provides you with the necessary information: Stanford is a research-heavy institution. Moreover, this is further proven by looking at the premed experiences of their past matriculants. If you want to apply to Stanford, it would be wise to have solid research skills and experiences since 99% of its former matriculants had them:

As you can see, looking at the school’s mission statement and previous matriculants’ stats can help you choose which schools are worth your while. If you do not like research or have not gained sufficient research experience, you will know that Stanford is not the right fit for you. 

Programs Available

If you are looking to broaden your search beyond MD programs, MSAR is also a useful tool that can help you examine what kind of combined programs different medical schools offer. For example, as you can see, Albany Medical College has a variety of dual programs you can choose from.

Furthermore, the database also provides you with the necessary contact information. If you would like to learn more about the programs’ lengths, requirements, and objectives, all you need to do is click on the link provided in MSAR or contact the admissions office of the program you’re interested in.

Campus Life

MSAR also gives you a glimpse into the campus life of your chosen schools. While this cannot replace visiting the campus in person, it can provide you with information you can later research on the school’s website or inspire some questions you can ask when you actually get to campus for a visit or your interview. 

For example, if you are wondering what kind of student activities your medical school of choice offers, MSAR usually gives a general summary of what to expect and link to the appropriate page on the school’s official website or the website of the student body. Or if you are wondering what kind of support is given to students who identify as minorities, MSAR also provides a general statement from the school which outlines what you can expect from your chosen school when it comes to diversity and inclusion. 

Even if these summaries are quite general, they can serve as the source of your questions and comments during your visit to the school and your interview. Don’t forget that most medical schools organize Q&A periods and set you up with current students when you visit campus. Use MSAR to write down some important questions you have about campus life and what kind of environment you’ll be studying in. 

Interview Format

The interview format might not influence your decision on which schools to apply to, but it’s very important information to know when you are getting ready to meet the admissions committee. MSAR gives you a detailed description of what interview format each medical school uses, the time of year when the interviews are usually held, and other important information about the interview day. While it’s up to you to go over common medical school interview questions, or MMI questions, and learn how to prepare for your medical school interview, MSAR can help you learn what to expect of the interview day at the schools of your choice.

Check out some sample medical school interview questions and answers in our video:

Compare Schools

As you are looking through schools, you may add them to the "My Favourites" folder in your MSAR account. This feature is particularly useful if you are trying to compare schools’ admissions info and see how you fit in at each school. You can compare up to 26 schools from your search results. This means you’ll be able to compare which schools have GPA and MCAT score averages that are comparable with yours, assess schools’ financial aid plans, see what kind of interview formats each school requires, and so on.

Check out this infographic for a quick recap of how to use MSAR to choose the best medical schools for you:

Final Thoughts

While getting into medical school is a challenge, don’t make this task even more difficult by applying to medical schools blindly. MSAR is a great resource for researching the schools you want to attend. Instead of visiting dozens of official medical school websites, learn how to use MSAR to help you choose the right medical schools. This tool makes research and comparison of the schools easy – browse through dozens of profiles and review the schools that stir your interest. Remember, applying to medical schools involves strategy and long-term planning. 

No one can deny that medical school is difficult – challenging coursework, long hours at the lab, endless rotations, traveling from clerkship to clerkship – but attending the right school will reinforce your reasons for why you want to be a doctor. Research your options and choose schools that fit your interests, personality, objectives, and worldview. Choosing a school based on name, prestige, or someone else’s opinion is a risk. These reasons will not sustain you in medical school if you do not like its mission, values, and requirements. In the end, it’s your life and career, choose the school that’s right for you.

Want a quick recap? Check out our video:

FAQs

1. Is the AAMC MSAR free?

There is a free option, but it does not give you full school profiles. We recommend using the MSAR database that gives you a full account of a school’s admission requirements and expectations. A two-year subscription costs $36, while a one-year subscription costs $28.

 2. When should I start reviewing MSAR profiles?

When you choose to start reviewing MSAR is dependent on many factors. Firstly, it depends on when you are thinking of applying to medical school. It’s easy for me to say that you should start reviewing school profiles in your senior year of high school, but a lot depends on when you make the choice to become a doctor. However, if you are looking to apply to BS/MD programs, checking out MSAR in high school is certainly a good idea.

It’s good to start your research early so you know what you’re up against but creating the final list of the schools to which you want to apply should wait until you have an idea of what kind of candidate you are. When you’re compiling your final list, you should have your exact GPA and MCAT score (or as close to the final results as possible), you should have some quality premed experiences under your belt, and you should have completed medical school prerequisites and course recommendations. This way, you will know which schools are going to be the best fit for you.

3. How many medical schools should I apply to?

We recommend you apply to 15-20 schools. Having too few schools may limit your chances of acceptance, while having too many may hinder you from writing quality secondary essays. Keep in mind, that if you apply to 15 schools, there is a chance you might have to prepare secondaries for 15 medical schools roughly in the same timeframe. 

4. Can I apply to schools that have higher GPA and MCAT score expectations than my own results? 

While your list can have 2 or 3 schools that have higher GPA and MCAT thresholds, you should aim to apply to schools where you meet these expectations. Some schools may indeed overlook a lower GPA if the MCAT score is high, and vice versa, but you are taking a risk if you apply to a school where your results are lower than the expected average. Remember, these are used to weed out applicants in the early stages of the student selection process – avoid giving the admission committees any causes to cut you out of the applicant pool.

5. Isn’t it easier to get all the necessary information on the school’s official website?

While most schools have their own admissions pages, some are difficult to navigate and confuse visitors. In some cases, admissions information is spread out among several pages: one with course requirements, another with the interview format, a separate page for statistics of last year’s matriculants, etc. MSAR provides all the necessary information in one place. You do not have to search through several pages to learn everything you need to know about a medical school.

6. How often is MSAR updated?

MSAR data is updated every year. The database stays current by gathering information from all participating medical schools.

7. Does MSAR have information about osteopathic medical schools?

No, MSAR does not have DO school information. To check out profiles of osteopathic schools, review the AACOM Choose DO database.

8. How can using MSAR increase my chances of acceptance?

MSAR lets you examine the admissions requirements of schools that interest you. This means that you can review their statistics and selection factors and make sure that you apply to schools where you meet residency requirements, GPA and MCAT thresholds, desired premed experiences, and so on. Simply put, MSAR is your guide to which schools are the best fit for you.

9. Should I still review school websites?

MSAR might not talk in depth about certain aspects of your educational journey, such as campus life, research opportunities, and so on. You should study the websites of the schools that interest you to get a better idea of what kind of educational experience you will be getting. Additionally, you should feel free to reach out to the admissions offices of the schools that interest you. They can answer any questions you have about admissions requirements, selection factors, tuition, and funding.

 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

Source: the AAMC Medical School Admission Requirements.

Disclaimer: BeMo does not endorse or affiliate with any universities, colleges, or official test administrators. The content has been developed based on the most recent publicly available data provided from by MSAR. However, you should always check the statistics/requirements with the official school website and MSAR for the most up to date information. You are responsible for your own results. 

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