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Blog / How Do Medical School Admissions Committees Work

How Do Medical School Admissions Committees Work?

Written by Nassim on Jul 30, 2022

Although each medical school has its own standards, goals, rules, and regulations, many institutions look for applicants who can handle rigid material with the soft skills required to collaborate with others. Admissions committees look for students who have also demonstrated remarkable personal effort. Leadership, creativity, research, community service, inspiration, or other life experiences can all be examples of such initiatives. Simply put, they want clear answers to: Does the candidate have any experience with caring for others? What are the benefits and drawbacks of a medical profession to the applicant? However, as an applicant it can work the other way, it’s important for you as the applicant to understand how do medical school admissions committees work. By understanding this question, you will be better prepared to showcase your work above the rest of the application field. 

To the greatest extent possible, each applicant must be sure that this is what they want to do with their lives. Academic success, pursuing clinical medicine, and community engagement are all ways you can address this motivation. 

Additionally, admissions committees look for proof that applicants have shown the compassion, empathy, and interest essential for any doctor. The extracurricular activities they participate in, letter of recommendation submissions, and applicants’ personal statements are viable forms of proof.

Application for Medical School: Components

This list shows the order of importance to admissions committees for each part of the initial application. Remember that this is an overview of the relative importance of the various factors rather than a definitive list.


It is difficult to determine which is more significant. Both are the only objective, unbiased indicators of academic achievement, making them the most crucial components of your application. They can both be seen as essential, and it will help if you aim for the highest level of success in both. But generally, a strong MCAT can compensate for a weak GPA and vice versa.

2| Research

Academic success is more significant than critical extracurricular activities. This covers both clinical work and research experience. Because there is greater variation in research experiences, research is deemed to be the more significant of the two. Students can demonstrate research activities of any quality, depth, and quantity. Some research experiences are of greater value if they lead to publications or presentations at conferences. Research is a stronger metric for differentiating applicants than clinical volunteering since it gives you the chance to stand out and achieve more.

3| Clinical experience

As already mentioned, this is also very important, second only to research. Everyone is expected to participate in clinical volunteering. Note that it will be more of a requirement than something that actually distinguishes your application. So you are in trouble if you don’t have it, though. Look for 1-2 good jobs where you can put in a good amount of time (>100 hours), showcasing your commitment to medicine and gaining some experience with its real-world challenges.

4| Personal Statement

This is next on the list because it can make your application really stand out. The reader does not necessarily need to be amazed by the personal statement. A sensible, well-written, and safe remark may be enough. However, strong personal statements can compensate for a weak application. On the other hand, a statement that is poorly worded can seriously hurt your admission chances.

5| Letters of Recommendation

You’ll typically submit 4-5 letters of recommendation, with three from professors and one or two from extracurricular tutors. Strong, encouraging letters from people who know you well are essential. Lukewarm letters can raise suspicions, and negative letters will undoubtedly reduce your chances of being accepted. So it’ll be very helpful to build relationships and select writers carefully.

6| Community Service/Work Experience/Activities

Although they should be listed in the AMCAS activities section, these activities generally are quite beneficial because they show balance— a demonstration of how well-rounded you are. 

These activities are necessary to complete because every applicant will do them, but the admissions committee is unlikely to give them any weight. This could be a strong point in your application if you are an unusual applicant with a lot of post-undergraduate employment experience in a different subject, like engineering or finance. You cannot be accepted if you do not meet the above-mentioned requirements. However, exceptional job experience can help you stand out from the competition when combined with the appropriate academic status.

What Happens When an Application is Received?

Each medical school has its own complex applicant review procedure. Weill Cornell, for instance, encourages all applicants to complete the supplemental application. The application is moved to screening once the file is complete (containing the secondary application, letters of recommendation, and MCAT results). Screeners are a handful of seasoned admissions committee members. Weill Cornell’s admissions committee includes fourth-year medical students, but they do not review applicants.

One screener examines all candidates with a specific MCAT score to give each applicant a fair assessment of their personal traits and accomplishments. This takes into account the procedure’ inescapable impact on this crucial exam. An admissions officer reads every application that is submitted to the school. (It’s not an automatic filter)

A formula will be utilized to sort and classify candidates based on their AMCAS primary application due to the volume of applications. The options are:

  1. Send a secondary application and move on.
  2. Hold for an MCAT score or other mitigating circumstances and inform candidates.
  3. Academically at risk.

The assistant chief and an executive committee are usually five faculty members who individually examine each candidate in the “risk” category. A choice is taken regarding whether to continue or reject the application process. Following the submission of secondary applications, the associate chief and a committee typically evaluate the applications and choose applicants for interviews. Only a small portion of the applicants are chosen for interviews due to the huge number of applicants.

How Do Reviewers Choose Which People to Interview?

Medical schools consider each applicant’s academic ability, the likelihood of thriving in the institution’s environment, and whether their experiences, qualities, and objectives align with the school’s. Medical schools inevitably receive many more qualified candidates than they can interview and accept. So choosing which student to interview can be quite challenging. 

Ultimately, the screening committee looks to find the most competent candidates from various academic and personal backgrounds who we believe have the most potential to create a dynamic academic environment and become leaders in the medical field.

Excellent GPA and MCAT scores are not a guarantee of an interview invitation at the University of Maryland. Extracurricular activities, life experiences, AMCAS essays and personal comments, and letters of reference all rank equally high in importance.

Each applicant’s journey to becoming a doctor is different; thus, most medical schools don’t require any specific course of study. They do not favor any one major (or minor). 

Evidence of the human qualities of honesty, flexibility, language proficiency, teamwork, and commitment to service are also closely analyzed. They choose the desirable applicant characteristics from the application’s content and the attention it receives. Candidates who present themselves honestly and without “spin” are highly regarded.

What Errors Do Applicants Frequently Make?

The same advice you might have gotten for undergraduate or employment applications applies to medical school applications. Always be honest, and make sure to highlight any significant volunteer, research, or professional experiences that have taken place recently, if at all possible. 

Be serious when answering the AMCAS essay questions. These writings are not exercises in creative writing. Start with a brief description of the incident, then rapidly discuss how and why you want to become a doctor and how this experience contributed to that decision. Proofread thoroughly as well. Grammar and punctuation mistakes cannot be excused. Although we know you are applying to multiple universities, please use the right name in any additional papers. Wasted space includes redundant information. Consistencies might cast doubt on an applicant’s honesty, so we suggest against listing high school activities or those in which you had a minor role. Avoid boasting or exaggerating as well.

Admissions committees are experienced at spotting applicants who are not quite serious. You can be creative and incorporate humor into it if you’re hilarious and have a wonderful sense of humor that comes over on paper (again, have someone else analyze it). Alternatively, provide a straightforward response.

The committee members will understand your motivation if it is based on a personal interest, which it frequently is. Suppose you can explain that without being self-serving, do so. While you don’t want to be overly sentimental, if you can realistically display a part of yourself that has some sympathy and understanding, do it! Otherwise, the typical narrative won’t differ too much. Not only will you not receive a point, but your real motivation will also be questioned.

Candidates need to start thinking like professionals. If a picture is required in a secondary application, be sure it’s a nice one and doesn’t make you look unprofessional.

Which Factors Are Mostly Taken into Account?

Your grade point average (GPA) and Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) results will be the first things any admissions committee would consider. Some medical schools may further divide the GPA into science and non-science GPAs. A GPA from a university or college regarded as “prestigious” will count as more than one from a different institution.

The MCAT and GPA are two very distinct metrics. Choosing less challenging classes makes it possible to achieve a high GPA, but this may leave you lacking the knowledge necessary to perform well on the MCAT. The knowledge required to perform well on the MCAT must be balanced with the subjects you believe you will do well academically. Most medical schools will have a bottom requirement that demands a certain GPA and MCAT score, and frequently, these two factors are combined into one index.

Generally, people don’t pay much attention to what you major in. Still, during the past ten years, the tendency has been toward people who have the desired GPA and MCAT scores and have majored in either engineering or computer science due to the increasingly technical components of medicine.

The admissions committee is interested in candidates with unique talents and interests. Still, they’re also looking for people devoted to a specific field for at least one to three years. A determined mind is what they seek to see. Other achievements, such as a career, speaking multiple languages, giving presentations at national meetings, etc., are also significant.

To confirm that you meet the requirements, you should also visit the school’s website you are applying to. In addition to focusing on diversity in terms of color, gender, thinking, and interest, they’ll also closely examine GPA and MCAT scores. 


The college admissions process can be daunting, but it’s important to remember that with a little hard work and careful preparation, you can submit an application that stands out from the rest. We hope these tips have helped give you a better idea of what colleges are looking for and how to make your experiences shine in your essays. Be sure to check out our other blog posts for more advice, from acing the MCAT to writing strong personal statements. And as always, if you need help getting started or want someone to review your application before submission, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our consultants to go over your academic goals.


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