Why No School Is a Safety in Med School Admissions
With some programs accepting only 1% to 2% of applicants, no medical school should be considered a safety school.
MANY COLLEGE APPLICANTS are familiar with the concept of safety schools, institutions where their academic competitiveness, such as overall GPA and SAT or ACT scores, far exceed the school’s averages for accepted students. Applicants use this designation to apply to schools where they feel confident that they will be accepted.
Although this is a commonly used approach in college admissions, with the ultracompetitive nature of medical school admissions, does a safety school actually exist?
With an overall acceptance rate of around 41% and some medical schools accepting only 1% to 2% of applicants, the consideration of a school being “safe” does not really apply. In fact, many admissions experts think that no school is “safe,” even for the most competitive applicant.
According to statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges, applicants with the highest GPAs and MCAT scores only have about an 89% acceptance rate to a U.S. allopathic medical school. What this essentially means is that acceptance to medical school is not guaranteed, and a variety of factors, not only test scores and GPAs, are considered. Therefore, it is argued that there are no medical schools that should be considered safety schools.
Instead, applicants should consider classifying schools according to their competitiveness. A common method used by medical school applicants is designating schools as far reach, reach, target and undershoot schools.
This classification is based on many factors about the applicant and the school itself and is more reflective of the medical school admissions process. It allows applicants to put their competitiveness into perspective relative to a particular school.
For example, an applicant may consider his or her dream medical school that has a median MCAT and GPA far above his or her scores a far reach school. That same applicant may consider a different school an undershoot if his or her GPA and MCAT exceed that school’s median numbers.
The number of medical schools a prospective student should apply to, including those deemed as undershoots, depends on the strength of the applicant. If the applicant’s scores are not very competitive, he or she may want to apply to more undershoot schools to maximize the chances of getting an acceptance.
These designations will be specific to each applicant and his or her respective qualifications, but the key here is that this method incorporates the very competitive and uncertain nature of medical school admissions.
Remembering that even the highest scoring, most academically qualified applicants don’t have a 100% acceptance rate reinforces that there is no guarantee of an acceptance when applying to medical school – and why the term “safety school” doesn’t truly apply in this realm of admissions.