Compiling Your List of Medical Schools: Pitfalls to Avoid

Each spring, I’m contacted by applicants who did not receive acceptance to any med schools despite solid GPAs, MCAT scores, and extracurricular activities. The problem often lies with their list of schools. Below are some common pitfalls to avoid as you put together your list of med schools to help ensure that you give yourself the best chance of a successful application cycle:

  • Filling your list with reach schools. Having some reach schools on your list is appropriate, but if those schools comprise the majority of the list, you risk missing schools where you have a realistic chance of admission. All U.S. medical schools are highly selective, and all will get you to your goal of becoming a physician, so make sure you have plenty of target and safety schools on your list.
  • Focusing on public schools in other states. Public schools give preference to residents of their state, so research the number of nonresident applicants who are accepted and interviewed at a public school before adding it to your list. For out-of-state schools, private schools are often your best bet.
  • Applying to too few schools. For strong applicants who are residents of states in which the public med school could be considered a “safety” school, 10 med schools may be sufficient. However, in a state  where the public medical schools are very competitive, applicants are often better off applying to 15 or more schools.
  • Ignoring the school’s mission statement. Med schools look for applicants who fit their mission. Therefore, if you apply to a school that strongly emphasizes training primary care physicians who will provide care to patients in rural Appalachia, and your background doesn’t demonstrate an interest in that goal, you may be passed over for other applicants who do. Expend your effort on schools where you’re a good fit.

For more guidance about putting together your list of med schools, check out Chapter 7 of my medical school admissions book Getting into Medical School For Dummies.

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