The Med School Admissions Puzzle--What Do We Really Look For

Applying to medical school can be a difficult and emotionally draining process. ”Am I good enough?”, “Did I score high enough on my MCAT?” “Is the GPA I earned in my science courses high enough to get me in the consideration pool?”

As Director of Admissions here at Medical University of the Americas, I know well the anxieties that today’s applicants wrestle with as they embark on the process of looking for a fit with the right medical school.

Let me tell you a bit about how we approach the admissions process here at MUA:

We now have nearly 20 years of experience in looking at med students. And there’s a truism that I think every med school admissions director knows, but may not want to acknowledge: having a stellar GPA and a fabulous MCAT are not necessarily predictive of what it takes to become a great physician. (There is interesting research to back this up.)

That’s why when we look at applicants to MUA, we take a very holistic approach. Yes, we look at GPAs and MCAT scores, but we look at them to tell us not just how much you know, but also how serious you are about becoming a physician. We see them as one piece of a puzzle.

There is no question that med school is one of the most demanding academic experiences anywhere. If you don’t positively relish the idea of hitting the books every night and being tested over and over, it may not be for you. But one of the big things that the medical professional has grappled with in recent years is the realization that, as difficult and demanding as med school is, it’s really just the start of your journey as a physician. It’s not the end of your learning process—it’s the beginning. Are you the kind of person who is willing to constantly explore and be surprised? Who will make the commitment to being a life-long learner? We want to know that.

Also, do you take communication seriously and are you prepared to devote the time and effort to becoming a good communicator? There was once a time when developing an effective bedside matter was seen as being unimportant, something you might get to long after you mastered anatomy. Not any more. Here at MUA, as in most top medical schools, we have changed our curriculum in recent years in part to incorporate far more emphasis on the diagnostic and clinical skills that are critical to a successful physician-patient relationship.

Finally, what can your actions as a person today tell us about the physician you will be tomorrow?

Are you a responsible, and trusted member of your community? Have you displayed integrity in your work, and your relationships with others? Have you shown a commitment to service, a selflessness through the community service you have performed or other areas of leadership that speak to your willingness to contribute to society? How motivated are you to become a doctor, and do you persevere through tough times?

Lastly, have you displayed a desire to be a doctor through work you have undertaken (volunteer or paid)? What has led you to this very important decision?
Yes, demonstrated aptitude is important when applying to MUA…but so is who you are as a person and how you will contribute to the MUA community, and the larger world of medicine when you graduate.

At MUA, we believe great physicians can take many forms, and while GPAs, MCATs and other tangible measurements are valuable, they alone can’t tell you whether an individual is going to be a great physician.


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