For decades universities and colleges used the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and grade point average in selecting applicants for medical school. The MCAT has been relied upon by the medical schools as predictor of academic performance of medical students. Many studies conducted over the years have demonstrated a strong correlation between performance on the MCAT and performance in medical school; and ultimately on the US Medial Licensing Examination.
In the last couple of years, the Association of American Medical Colleges as well as other medical schools are trying to find new frame of references. The need for one is brought about by the need to find a holistic review of applicants so that the schools have diverse environment as endorsed by the United States Supreme Court. As such, schools no longer screen applicants by way of their academic or intellectual capabilities. Instead, they choose applicants who can best contribute to the needs of the school in terms of diversity. Students are evaluated based on their particular strengths which include personal background, employment and other considerations pertaining to diversity.
For some schools, it is not just to adhere to the call of diversity. Icahn School of Medicine for example, offered assurance programs to selected students. The students are no longer required to take the MCAT. They are assured slots in the school if they maintain a grade point average of 3.5 and continue to take humanities and social sciences. According to the school, the selected students performed as good as the other students who took the MCAT.
For years, medical schools relied on MCAT scores and GPA of students when selecting applicants. Researches on the relevance of MCAT scores have shown that students who have high MCAT scores are more likely to perform better academically. In the more recent years however, studies have shown that MCAT scores are strongly associated with other factors, not just the intellectual acumen of the students. Studies have demonstrated that MCAT scores are strongly linked with the students’ ethnic background, socioeconomic background, gender and other factors. Then there are students who cannot afford to pay for MCAT reviews. This gives them significant disadvantage over students who can afford to pay hundreds of dollars for the review.
This is the reason why many schools have developed a more holistic approach in selecting students. These schools have recognized the shortcomings of the MCAT in selecting the best students. One example is Boston University of Medicine. The university has implemented a new approach in their selection of students five years ago. Since then, the university has noted that the students who were selected using their new guidelines are better than the previous students who underwent traditional application and selection. The students today are more involved in community activities and more supportive of each other. They are also as academically prepared as the previous students. Other schools have their own new guidelines in selecting students. In most of these schools, the MCAT score is no longer as relevant as it was in the past decades. The MCAT score is now just one of the criteria.
For years, medical schools almost have the same standard processes in selecting and accepting medical students for the in-coming school year. Students’ grade point average and MCAT scores are the main considerations. In fact, for many schools and universities, students are alike in many ways. They have the same grade point averages and MCAT scores. They came from similar family background whereby most of their parents invested heavily on their education. There were few minorities and they stood out from the rest of the class. All the students have one common denominator. They did well in their MCATs and are good in science. Today, things are changing for many medical colleges and universities.
Admission policies for many schools have significantly changed these last years. Every year an average medical school has about 4,500 applicants. From these applicants the school selects one hundred to two hundred students based on their MCAT and interview. Traditionally they evaluate and choose the students based on their MCAT and interview. Studies over the years have proven that high MCAT scores are strongly associated with good performance. Schools therefore rely on the MCAT scores of students.
However, studies have also found that MCAT scores are influenced by other factors, such as gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic background. There were also students who cannot afford to pay for MCAT reviews. This puts them at a disadvantage. As such, today, the Association of American Medical colleges have and other medical schools have used different admission criteria. These schools now use a more holistic review so that they can select highly qualified students.