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unrealistic expectations after lots of hard work

limabeanslimabeans Registered User Posts: 4,751 Senior Member
edited December 2012 in Pre-Med Topics
This is what I read every time I look at a book about getting into med school:
Fewer than 40 percent of students who apply to medical school get accepted
.. and "fewer than one-half of all students who apply to medical school are accepted ..." why are acceptance rates so much, much tighter than getting into college?

Like what's been happening recently for UG, when so many students who apply to numerous colleges, is it because med school applicants apply to 12-18 med schools when all they need is one?

Is it because there are fewer med schools than UG college?
Is it because many more high school students can apply ED without the same pressure that potential med school students may experience? (That is, if you're NOT accepted ED to med school, you pretty much have to wait a year later because it's too late to apply to the regular cycle.)
Is it because many potential students are really that unqualified?
Is it because potential med school students apply to reach schools that were unrealistic choices?

Is it because med schools want to see "everything" and most students haven't done it all (research/volunteer/shadowing/clinical/leadership, etc.)
Is it because UG schools don't provide good advising like kids get in high school?

Why else? What do you think?
Post edited by limabeans on

Replies to: unrealistic expectations after lots of hard work

  • MiamiDAPMiamiDAP Registered User Posts: 16,184 Senior Member
    " why are acceptance rates so much, much tighter than getting into college?"
    -average Med. School class size is about 170. Average number of applicants to every Med. School, including very low ranked is close to 5000. Yes, many apply to about 15 schools and get accepted to several and will have to turn down some acceptances. But the gap between 170 and 5000 is sill way too wide. It is not in the same range as regural UG's. If you want some kind of "fair" comparison, consider comparing to combined bs/md programs. It is even harder to get accepted to UGs bs/md programs than Med. School.
    However, to get foot in, or be at least considered for Med. School acceptance, you need the min. college GPA of about 3.6+ and MCAT preferrably in 31+. These are not your average students at all. In addition, they need to show great medically related EC's, preferrably other EC's in unrelated area of interest, social personality, people who feel comfartable at interviews and who could stand their own grounds no matter what the question is. There are not many interviewers who would ask uncomfortable questions, but there are some who will try to put you down to check your reaction.

    However, as many do get accepted, I would not call expectations "unrealistic", the goal is obtainable if you are prepared to work hard and preferrably from day 1 at college.
  • curmudgeoncurmudgeon Registered User Posts: 12,128 Senior Member
    Wide at the bottom, narrow at the top? Can you say "bottleneck"?

    Yes, there are some poor candidates who should have never applied. Probably not all that many of the rejects, or at least not as many as folks think.

    Some who over-shot their mark. Probably a bunch of the rejects.

    Some who applied to too few schools. Some for good reasons, some for no good reason at all. Significant number.

    Some who simply did not put in the effort in all parts of the app process thinking their ______ would get them in. (Put in GPA, school, MCAT, LOR's, whatever.) Probably another good percentage of the rejects.

    Some who by circumstance or failure to plan simply applied too late for the cycle. (My last year's charge was one of these but got off the W/L at the stroke of midnight.) Anoher good chunk.

    Takeaway point? Don't be that guy or gal.
  • curmudgeoncurmudgeon Registered User Posts: 12,128 Senior Member
    Oh, BTW. I was watching some PBS "too many kids go to college" debate and the statistic being thrown around (as if it was an accepted fact) was that less than 10% of the students starting college pre-med ever made it to any med school. My gut says it may be closer to 5% (than 10%) if we are talking only US allopathic medical schools.
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 8,853 Senior Member
    I heard a member of a "brand name" school adcomm say in a public interview that probably 80-85% of REJECTED med school applicants probably could be successful in med school. (IIRC, He said any MCAT ≥ 26 could probably successfully graduate from a US allopathic school and pass the licensing exams.)

    It's not so much a matter of underqualified applicants, but simply not enough seats to go around.

    According to AMCAS over 100,000 unique individuals (doesn't count repeat test-takers) took the MCAT last year. There are only 19,000 total available seats in all US medical schools combined.

    Because of this mis-match, medical schools can afford to be picky. And each school has its own mission and interests, and may be looking for different qualities in an applicant than the school down the street.

    Applicants know that there is a lots of randomness involved in who get the nod and who doesn't. (Your interviewer has a lot to do with this and while we all like to believe that every med school interviewer is open and fair-minded, they are all human beings like the rest of us. They can have their own views, prejudices, interests, unconscious biases, etc. They can also have bad days. As can applicants.) It's only common sense on the applicant's part to apply widely and hope for the best.
  • Columbia09Columbia09 Registered User Posts: 1,012 Senior Member
    Are med schools getting less competitive though? A lot of people are shying away from med school today for various reasons.
  • MiamiDAPMiamiDAP Registered User Posts: 16,184 Senior Member
    ^Check statistics. I do not think so, I believe that they are getting more and more competitive as job market is not a good place to be. Many more are thinking about Grad. School in general (instead of simply being un-employed)
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 8,853 Senior Member
    No, The number of applicants has been going up recently.

    In 2011 there were 44,000 applicants (up from a low of 33,600 in 2003) for 19,000 seats.

    See chart for allopathic schools here:


    Osteopathic medical schools also had a record number of applicants in 2011. 15,000 unique applicants for 5,200 seats. (So by the numbers--actually tougher to get into a DO program than a MD program)

  • limabeanslimabeans Registered User Posts: 4,751 Senior Member
    Less competitve? Columbia, from what I hear, a lot of people are shying away from med school because it's a whole lot more work than they realized. Whether or not that has statistically changed, not sure. At least those at my son's university, I think this is a big reason. But that doesn't mean med schools are getting less competitive.

    If anything, I think those who might have applied to med school back in the day are now engineering and CS majors instead. (In theory, you'd get a "real" paying job just out of college, rather than having to do years of more study.) But that's just conjecture.
  • kristin5792kristin5792 Registered User Posts: 2,068 Senior Member
    I think the thing is...med schools can afford to be as competitive as they want to be, and every school I'm familiar with is ridiculously competitive. Even the not-as-competitive ones (take, for example, my state med school in the midwest) with acceptance rates nearing 25% are wickedly competitive by everyday standards.

    And you know, I don't really think it's a bad thing. Med schools are training the next generation of doctors, people who, collectively, will be responsible for caring for millions of patients for decades. The group of people they're choosing will also be heavily involved in major policy decisions, including figuring out health reform and how to distribute health care. In addition to that, they're also making leaps and bounds in terms of research and new treatments. I personally don't think these decisions should be left up to just anyone who decides he wants to go to med school.

    I think you have to keep in mind that so extraordinarily little time is spent in med school compared to one's entire career as a physician. I'll be in med school from 23-26, and could reasonably practice for 40-50 years after that. I really believe it when med schools say they're choosing who to invest in--because really, I think their investments are paying off decades down the road rather than in the immediate few years of med school.

    Who knows. Maybe I'm crazy. But I really think a big part of it is that students don't realize what they're getting themselves into, and it seems like many of them decide to "go to med school" just on a whim. You also have to keep in mind that the majority of applicants aren't like the people on this board. Every single person I can think of who posts semi-regularly here is either in med school or has a kid in med school. That 100% success rate is not indicative of the rest of the population!
  • i_wanna_be_Browni_wanna_be_Brown Registered User Posts: 7,836 Senior Member
    I think the biggest thing is the number/range of medical schools available. As the pre-med advisor at Brown said, "With over 4000 undergraduate institutions in the nation, there is a college/university for everyone. With 126 MD granting institutions in the nation, there isn't a med school for everyone."

    Add on top of that the number of seats in each school. Brown's freshman class is more than 10x as large as my med school's first year class. If the average medical school class is 170, then we are talking about roughly 21,250 first year medical students in the entire country. The ivy leagues alone are 13,900 first years.

    Imagine how competitive undergraduate would be if literally only the top 15 schools in the country existed and if you didn't get into one of those, you didn't get to go to college. Does that admissions game really seem that much different than med school?
  • jonrijonri Registered User Posts: 6,974 Senior Member
    While things are changing a bit...

    What makes this all so very silly IMO is that after lots of people who would probably be good doctors are rejected from medical school, lots of foreign medical students, some of whom can barely speak English, are successful in their applications for residencies in US hospitals.

    A fair # of American kids who go to med schools in the Caribbean are able to get residencies in the US, in part because they've done clinical rotations in the US.

    Again, I know that's changing a bit..but..

    The pediatrician I used when my offspring were young got rejected from US med schools. He ended up going to medical school in Germany. He did very well there. He came back to the states and did the "5th Pathway."( I don't think that's an option any more. ) He got privileges at one of the better hospitals in NYC.

    He was an AMAZING pediatrician. He chose to live in the community where his office was. People who lived in the same building would literally ring his doorbell at 3 or 4 am when their children were sick. He ALWAYS answered. One of my friends had a child who was born very prematurely. He went to the hospital almost every day to sit with mom in the PICU. He never charged a dime. He'd listen to the latest report about the child's status and "translate" it so mom could understand what was going on.

    He was a humble man and if your child needed to see a specialist, he was the first to say that. But when young moms were upset about the first cold, the first shots, the broken wrist (that would be me), he was "there" for you.

    The "superstars" rarely want to be primary care doctors.
  • limabeanslimabeans Registered User Posts: 4,751 Senior Member
    Jonri, there are lots of reasons why med school students do not choose to go into primary care. Some of those reasons were ones you used in your anecdotes: seeing patients day and night, 24/7. Many of those visits aren't chargeable. But, I think one of the biggest compelling reasons why doctors avoid internal or primary care is because of the pressure. My own internist tells me she wouldn't recommend her area of specialty because she has to rush through patient visits and because of doctor's biggest hassle: dealing with insurance and HMO.

    You mentioned that foreign students are getting spots in medical schools, while US students were not. I thought most med schools don't admit international students. In any case, I do know that an interview is one very important part of the application process and if that potential student can barely speak English might not be accepted.
  • curmudgeoncurmudgeon Registered User Posts: 12,128 Senior Member
    FMG's (Foreign Medical Graduates) in US residencies not foreign students in US med schools. There are very few of them.
  • YoHoYoHoYoHoYoHo Registered User Posts: 2,000 Senior Member
    Limabean, the acceptance rate to med school is based on simple math. There are 16500 spots at US medical schools; there are 44000 applicants in 2011; thus 16500/44000 = 37.5% acceptance rate. In 2003, there were 33600 applicants for 16500 spots = 49% acceptance rate. The number of spots does not really change much unless they open up a new medical school, so your acceptance rate will be based on the number of applicants in a given year.

    Also, for your training, you neglected to include residency (or internship and residency, depending on your specialty) which usually spans 3 - 7 yrs and possible fellowship, which can span 1-3 years. I like to joke that from Kindergarden to end of fellowship, I have spent 30 years "in school". (FYI the order goes: High school, College/Undergrad, Med school, Internship+Residency or Residency depending on your specialty, Fellowship. Sometimes people will also sprinkle in Research years, Masters in Public Health (MPH), or PhD)

    As for Foreign medical graduates, US medical grads do not want to choose specialities such as Family practice and Internal medicine (due to many reasons) so the # of residency spots are only about 50% filled. These spots are available, and US med school grads don't apply for them, so then Foreign med grads apply for them and get them. As reimbursments continue their slide and paperwork continues to increase for FP and Int Med, many of our future doctors for these sections will be Foreign med grads from India or may go the way of Nurse Practioner or other ancillary health providers.

    Graduates Being Denied
  • Brian1Brian1 Registered User Posts: 135 Junior Member
    I think it will get easier to get into medical school.

    A few new medical schools are opening in the next couple of years and the AMA is increasing the number of spots in medical schools to meet the demand for medical doctors. So, there are going to be more spots available. The problem then will be matching into residencies, but I think that's good competition.

    Tuition is still increasing even though salaries will probably decrease in the next few years. That will probably discourage a few people from applying.

    And to be fair, an overall acceptance rate of 40% is pretty high in the grand scheme of things, especially considering a lot of people who aren't hardworking or smart enough shouldn't have applied in the first place.

    I think people exaggerate how difficult it is to get into A medical school. Many unranked medical schools have low median MCATs and GPAs. Four out of five of my group from high school are now in medical school, and while they are smart, they were by no means the smartest people I knew. The smartest people ended up pursuing PhDs in Physics, Math or EECS.
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