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Get Into Medical School 4E-100611

Get Into Medical School 4E-100611

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Underrepresented minority students share many of the concerns faced by all medical
school applicants throughout the entire application process. But there are a number
of special concerns faced by URMs.

Self-Designation on the Application

On the AMCAS form, you are asked to designate your race/ethnicity. Most medical
schools accept the designations at face value. However, once an applicant designates
himself as an underrepresented minority, his application may be reviewed for the
degree of cultural immersion or cultural identity with the specified ethnic group.
Applicants may be asked specific questions about cultural identity during the inter-
view. A complete lack of affiliation with the designated group may indicate frank dis-
honesty to an admissions officer—and dishonesty is not a good policy in any part of
the application process—but it may also reveal assimilation into mainstream culture,
which admissions officers tend to tolerate.

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Special Considerations

174

An increasing number of students identify themselves as biracial or multiracial on
their applications, a designation that poses challenging questions to admissions com-
mittees, most of whom will assume that these students have maintained a cultural
identity with the designated minority group, and are not using the designation for
secondary gain.

The AMCAS application also asks whether you consider yourself to be a disadvan-
taged applicant. This is a difficult question to answer because, while medical schools
have different definitions of disadvantage, they will try to consider the effects of dis-
advantage on an applicant’s later performance. In general, if you feel that you were
socially, economically, or educationally disadvantaged during your early years, you
may want to consider answering yes to the question. If you do answer yes, be prepared
to explain your reasons later in the admissions process.

Medical Minority Applicant Registry (Med-MAR)

As an underrepresented minority or financially disadvantaged student, you can par-
ticipate in the Medical Minority Applicant Registry by indicating your willingness to
participate on your MCAT form. This free service provides your biographical infor-
mation and MCAT scores to minority affairs and admissions offices of all U.S. medi-
cal schools. You will then receive information directly from them. See www.aamc.org/
students/minorities/resources/medmar.htm for more information.

Minority Candidates and the Application Process

Admissions committees do not formally have a separate process for minority candi-
dates; however, minority faculty members are commonly sought out to participate
in the admissions team. At some medical schools, in fact, applications from minority
or disadvantaged applicants are handled by an entirely separate admissions subcom-
mittee, a practice that might expand in the light of recent affirmative action rulings.

Remember that it is essential that you submit your application early in the year.
Don’t wait until the last minute to apply. June or July is not too early. That will allow
plenty of time for you to complete supplemental application materials requested by
individual schools and give the admissions committee adequate time to review your
file. Some medical schools begin interviewing applicants as early as October. Your file
should be complete when the schools are ready to begin interviews.

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Groups Underrepresented in Medicine

175

Minority Score Cutoffs

Few admissions officers will offer statistics on minority MCAT and GPA scores.
Disparities do exist between the scores of underrepresented and non-underrepresented
matriculants, but it is not clear how much of the disparity may be due to academic
preparedness and how much to any inherent bias in the MCAT exam and educational
system. With all applicants, but especially with underrepresented students, admis-
sions officers consider qualities such as leadership ability, determination, compas-
sion, maturity, and communication skills in assessing the candidates’ suitability for
med school and the practice of medicine. The goal of the admissions committee is to
recognize the contribution that underrepresented candidates bring to medical school
by way of their varying personal experiences, and to interpret GPA and MCAT scores
in concert with these personal, experiential traits.

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