How to Use MSAR Effectively:
4 Tips to Apply to The Medical Schools Right For You
Written by Andrew Park
If you plan on applying to medical school in the upcoming cycle, then you’ve probably heard of the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) website. Owned and operated by the AAMC, this site costs $28 for one-year access to its troves of data.
“Wait a minute!” you say. “I’m going to be spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in applications this upcoming cycle. You’re telling me that there’s MORE things I need to buy? Is this thing even worth it??”
Yes. Yes it is.
The MSAR database and MSAR book provide a wealth of information that helps streamline your list of medical schools:
- Applicant profile data – MCAT scores, GPA, for each school
- Required/recommended premed coursework
- Tuition and financial aid information
Furthermore, once you’ve logged in to your personal account, you can select and save your list of medical schools to compile and compare your schools for subsequent review. So while there’s no guarantee that you’ll be spending less money (and time) during the application cycle, proper use of this tool will ensure that you’ll be spending smarter.
Here are 4 Tips to use MSAR effectively for medical school applications.
Tip #1: MSAR GPA and MCAT Scores
You are more than your test scores, and your worth is definitely so, SO much more than just a set of numbers. That being said, your GPA and MCAT scores will play a large part in your application, and may affect your chances towards interview and acceptance. Some schools (but not all) will not consider applicants below a certain threshold GPA / score. As such, it is helpful to assess the MSAR range of GPA/MCAT scores of past applicants and acceptances in each of the programs that you are interested in applying. You will get information on the 25th percentile, median or average, and 75th percentile GPA and MCAT scores.
This AAMC MSAR information will help guide your assessment as to whether each program falls into one of three categories: Reach (median grades/scores above your own), Reasonable (median grades/scores around your own), and Safety (median grades/scores below your own). In terms of your final list of programs, you should apply to a mix of all three tiers (Ex: 25/50/25% of Reach, Reasonable, and Safety, respectively). This can help you choose which schools to select on your AMCAS application.
Tip #2: Medical School Admissions Requirements
The MSAR database allows you to quickly peruse each school’s course requirements to determine whether you meet qualifications for application. Some medical school admissions requirements msar are straightforward, for example, requiring one year of coursework in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and mathematics (calculus and beyond). Other medical schools may require more advanced coursework such as genetics or statistics. Keep in mind, however, that some schools have coursework requirements that must be completed prior to application versus prior to matriculation.
Tip #3: Out-of-State Acceptance Rate
The AAMC MSAR will give the out-of-state acceptance rate for medical schools. This is particularly important if applying to state schools, as these schools hold a preference for in-state applicants than out-of-state applicants (This predilection is not as strong in private medical schools).
While it is not guaranteed that you will be rejected if you are an out-of-state applicant, be prepared to explain whether you have any personal ties (family, prior education, etc) to that geographic location.
Another factor to consider when applying to out-of-state medical schools is financial aid and tuition, as most schools will offer in-state versus out-of state tuition, a difference that can amount to tens of thousands of dollars each year. For example, California inhabitants are eligible to apply for in-state residence after residing in the state for one year. These are key factors to consider when assembling your list of potential medical schools.
Tip #4: Class Composition and Lecture Attendance
Class size will affect the dynamic of your education, but the big ticket item here is lecture attendance: learning whether schools report their lectures are “mandatory” vs. actually mandatory. Obviously in medical school there are required events and activities where attendance is required: anatomy labs, procedural demonstrations, clinical experiences, etc. But the ever-advancing trend of internet subscriptions and educational tools has forced a paradigm shift in medical education. Some schools have adapted, streaming and uploading lectures so you can listen at home (at 1.25x speed!). Other schools are not as lenient. I’ve heard stories from friends from other medical schools that require their students to sign in for every lecture. Sheesh. We all have different ways of learning. This is a key factor to consider when choosing which to schools to apply.
Once you use the MSAR, create a schools to apply to list. Check out our blog post What Medical Schools Should I Apply To?
Other resources you can use are:
- U.S. News and World Report graduate school rankings
- Our multitude of medical school profiles, like the ones for “How to Get Into Stanford Medical School: Tips From Stanford Med Students” and “Cracking Yale School of Medicine Admissions.”