Med school admissions stats matter
While there are many subjective and qualitative factors that contribute to an effective medical school application, the objective, quantitative factors play a significant role both in your acceptance and in how you should choose where you apply.
You can’t underestimate the importance of these medical school admission rates and stats. They frequently constitute numerical screen tools and determine who gets secondary applications. And they should influence you when you choose the programs to apply to.
The most important medical school applicant stats are:
- Your MCAT
- Your undergraduate GPA
The most important medical school admissions stats are:
- The median MCAT for matriculants
- The median GPA for matriculants
- The overall, in-state, and out-of-state acceptance rates
How to use your stats to choose which med schools to apply to
Medical school acceptance rates for the class that entered in 2019 at schools ranked by U.S. News ranged from a low of 2.2% at Florida State University to a high of 27.1% at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center - Shreveport. However, since most med school applicants apply to multiple medical schools, if you look at the applicant pool as a whole the picture is not quite as bleak. Per AAMC for the class that matriculated in 2019, 53,371 applicants submitted 896,819 applications and in the end 21,869 matriculated at an allopathic medical school. Bottom line: 41.9% of applicants who applied to allopathic medical schools matriculated.
That 41.9% is certainly a lot more encouraging than the 2.2 - 27.1% acceptance rates at individual programs, and it doesn’t include applicants who opted to go to osteopathic medical schools. At the same time, that 41.9%, which is not atypical, still means that the majority of applicants don’t get accepted to MD programs in any given year, and you want to maximize your chances.
Ideally you want to apply mostly to programs that you want to attend and that are somewhat likely to accept you. “Somewhat likely to accept you” means that your stats are close to or above the median. You don't want to apply solely to the easiest medical schools to get into without considering if you actually want to attend that school. Yes, you can apply to a couple of dream schools where you are less competitive, and you should apply to a few schools where your stats are above average and where you would also be happy to attend.
Keep in mind as you apply that medians are medians because applicants are accepted with GPAs and MCATs that are below the median. However, the further away your scores are below the median, the less likely you are to be accepted, especially if both your GPA and MCAT are weak.
Keep also in mind the impact of in-state (IS) vs. out-of-state (OOS) acceptance rates as you choose your target schools. Many medical schools associated with public universities have significant preferences for in-state residents. They frequently also charge lower tuition to in-state residents. Those two facts, if applicable in your state, suggest that you should apply to your IS school(s) in addition to any OOS schools that appeal to you.
Why are GPA, MCAT scores, and acceptance rates important when you apply to medical school?
Your undergraduate GPA reflects your academic performance in college and over time. Since a foundational element of admissions is that past behavior predicts future behavior, that number is really important.
Schools want to know that you know how to perform in a demanding academic environment, particularly in the sciences. Your GPA tells them how you’ve performed in the past and also reflects how you’ve performed relative to your peers.
The median GPA in the table above is a median. People were accepted with GPAs below the median as well above the median. To gain a fuller understanding of the GPA range at a given school you can check:
- Each school’s website
- AAMC’s Medical School Admissions Requirements (a good investment)
- U.S. News Medical School Rankings
While the median GPA provided here is a good initial check when assessing the competitiveness of your GPAs, make sure that you don’t stop there; look into the larger range of GPAs as you assess your competitiveness at particular schools.
Also consider the trend in your GPA, your science GPA, your postbac grades (if relevant), and extenuating circumstances that may make your GPA look shinier than it is at first glance.
Where does your GPA fall relative to the median GPA at your target medical schools?
If your GPA is at or above the median GPAs for your target schools, great!
If it’s significantly below the median or if both your GPA and MCAT are below the median, then you’ll want to explore the following free resources:
- Applying to Medical Schools with Low Stats: What You Need to Know, an expert admissions guide
- Boost Your GPA for Medical School Acceptance, an article
- Get Accepted to Med School with Low Stats, a webinar
The MCAT allows medical schools to compare students on a common measure. Grading standards vary among schools, among professors, and among TAs. There is an element of subjectivity to the grading system.
The MCAT is something all medical school applicants – whether applying to allopathic or osteopathic schools – have in common. And it’s scoring is consistent.
MCAT scores also correlate somewhat to performance on the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK exams (see here for details). Medical schools want to know that if they admit you, you will not only be likely to handle the workload at medical school, but also likely to pass these critical exams.
Other factors to consider when evaluating your MCAT:
- The breakdown of the MCAT scores. A really low score on one part of the exam can hurt even if the overall score is competitive.
- Taking the MCAT multiple times. Some schools will use your highest score. Some will take the average. Some will take the most recent score. Most will consider trend if you take the MCAT multiple times.
Where does your MCAT score fall relative to the median score at your target medical schools?
If you have an MCAT that you are satisfied with, fantastic! Check it off your to-do list. If you are not satisfied with your MCAT, here are additional resources for you:
- 3 Ways to Deal with a Low MCAT Score
- Tips for Applicants with a Low MCAT Score
- Applying with Low Stats
Medical Schools with the Highest Median MCAT Scores
|School||Median MCAT Score|
|University of Washington St. Louis||521|
|Johns Hopkins University||521|
Medical Schools with the Lowest Median MCAT Scores
|School||Median MCAT Score|
Lincoln Memorial University (DeBusk)
|Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine||501|
|Marshall University (Edwards)||502|
|Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine||
|Oklahoma State University||503|
Clearly there’s a significant range in median MCAT scores at different schools. Not only that, but some applicants are admitted with MCAT scores below the median.
IS vs. OOS medical school acceptance rates
As mentioned above, overall acceptance rates vary from a high of 27.1% for the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center - Shreveport to a low of 2.2% for Florida State University. However at Florida State University, the in-state acceptance rate is 5.5% and the out-of-state acceptance rate is a meager 0.2%. At LSU - Shreveport the in-state acceptance rate is 37.4% and the out-of-state acceptance rate is 6%. Obviously in determining whether it makes sense for you to apply to these two programs (and many others), the difference between in-state and out-of-state acceptance rates can be more important than the overall acceptance rate.
You can find the overall, in-state (IS), and out-of-state (OOS) acceptance rates at Accepted’s tool: Med School Acceptance Rates: In-State vs. Out-of-State. You’ll also find it very easy to determine which schools have strong preference for IS and which have no or negligible preference.
Schools with the Strongest Preference for In-State Applicants
|Overall Acceptance Rate||In-State Acceptance Rate||
Out-of-State Acceptance Rate
|Ratio of IS to OOS|
|University of New Mexico||
University of Washington
Marshal University (Edwards)
Florida State University
University of Oklahoma
Those are pretty telling numbers if you live in New Mexico, Washington, West Virginia, Florida or Oklahoma.
They tell a very different story if you are considering those programs and don’t live in those states.
If you live in a state with no or few medical schools, you have to look out of state. You might find these programs more welcoming.
Schools with the Highest Out-of-State Acceptance Rates
|Overall Acceptance Rate||Out-of-State Acceptance Rate|
Lincoln Memorial University (DeBusk)
|University of Virginia||11.7%||10.6%|
|Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine||12.4%||10.3%|
|University of Missouri – Kansas City||13.5%||8.5%|
|Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center||11.6%||8.2%|
Moving forward with the medical school admissions process
Some of you are probably thinking: these programs are really hard to get into! You’re right. That’s why we also recommend that you apply to 20-25 programs and don’t stop with these top or bottom five. Look at both tools as well as the other resources we provided.
Finally, don’t go it alone. Consider getting professional help to guide you as you attempt to take the next step towards the professional career of your dreams.
Yes, medical school admission stats are serious business. Evaluating your stats vis-a-vis your target schools’ stats and keeping in mind in-state vs. out-of-state acceptance rates is a first step in choosing the most appropriate schools for you. And those are the medical schools where you are most likely to get accepted.
Choosing those “most appropriate” medical schools to apply to can save you lots of time, money, and heartache. You need to evaluate all the stats discussed here as well as the qualitative factors that go into a successful medical school application to apply effectively.
If you’d like help in choosing those programs, advice on mitigating weaknesses, or guidance in presenting your best self in primary and secondary applications and interviews, check out Accepted’s outstanding Medical School Admission Consulting Services.
Competition is intense. Get Accepted.