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Kaplan Test Prep Survey Reveals Inside Info from Admissions Officers

Applying to med school is one of the most important—and nervewracking—things a wannabe doctor will ever do. But how to separate rumor from truth on what will really set yours apart?

Kaplan Test Prep did a survey of 83 medical school admissions officers from across the US to find out.

Many aspiring doctors are drawn to medicine because of a personal connection with illness; in fact, 90% of those officers surveyed report that it's "somewhat" or "very" common for applicants to include in their application a story of personal illness or illness in their family. Also a running theme among medical school applicants is having other doctors in the family—69% of admissions officers report it to be "somewhat" or "very" common for applicants to include in their application mention of a family member who is a doctor. For the most part, though, referencing a personal connection with medicine makes no difference in an applicant's chances -- only 24% of admissions officers say highlighting a personal or family illness in an interview or essay helps an applicant's cause. 75% say mentioning a family member who is a doctor makes no difference.

"Our interpretation is that talking about a personal or family illness or about your family medical profession pedigree is a bit like eating chicken soup to treat a cold -- it probably doesn't help much, but it doesn't hurt either," said Amjed Saffarini, executive director, pre-health programs, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions. "What's ironic is that while medical school admissions officers are much more focused on the MCAT score and GPA than on personal stories, nearly half want to see the MCAT focus more on qualities like empathy, integrity and ethics."

Other key Kaplan survey results:

Admissions Killer: 45% report that a low score on the MCAT is the biggest application killer.

Med Schools Like the MCAT: 87% express confidence in the MCAT's ability to measure a prospective student's success in medical school, though the MR5—a study to broadly change the MCAT—is underway. Though confidence in the MCAT is high, 47% say the exam needs to focus more on applicants' personal attributes like empathy, integrity and ethics.

Nothing But The Facts?: 81% of medical school admissions officers say they've discovered claims on an applicant's application to be exaggerated or untrue, compared to 73% of law school admissions officers saying the same about their applicants.

High MCAT score = Money: 85% say a strong MCAT score will help a student receive merit-based scholarships.


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