Rutgers experiences prepare for medical school
The Medical College Admission Test is a required exam for entry into U.S. medical schools. Last year, the MCAT was administered 94,907 times, and of the individuals who took the exam, roughly 48,000 applied to medical school while only 20,055 matriculated, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The national average score has been 25 out of 45 over the past ten years.
The national applicant pool for medical school has become very competitive over the years, and a lot of it can be attributed to the increasing number of bachelor’s degree recipients, the backflow of re-applicants and the growing niche of non-traditional students interested in medical school.
When I called the Rutgers Health Professions Office, they suggested that about 50 percent of incoming students are pre-med. Pre-med is about two years of college coursework and fulfills the criteria for most U.S. medical schools, while theoretically preparing you for the MCAT as well, but not necessarily. It is not unreasonable to assume that almost half the incoming students are pre-med because required courses like general biology and organic chemistry will typically accommodate around 2,000 students every year, not including the summer session.
Some schools across the country are known for having a rigorous curriculum, but after having been through the Rutgers system, just having to compete with thousands of students is no walk in the park, regardless of a school’s reputation or ranking. When you are competing with that many students, grades will almost always be curved on some sort of normal distribution with a majority of students scoring 70 to 80 percent in these courses, which is equivalent to a 2.0 to 3.0 on a GPA scale. And to put it into perspective, last year, the national average undergraduate GPA was 3.69 for a matriculated medical student. Even in third- and fourth-year courses, the number of pre-med students may somewhat decrease, but the remaining students become even that much more competitive. In fact, the total number of bachelor’s degree recipients from the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus has steadily increased over the past decade to about 9,507 in 2012.
After looking back at my experience at Rutgers a decade ago, I have learned the value of and really gained an enormous appreciation for its competitive program. Many incoming students underestimate the pre-med program, and just the sheer number of first- and second-year students can be overwhelming. Rutgers is a public school, but there is a hidden competitive spirit within many students that can blindside you.
Last year, both Robert Wood Johnson and New Jersey Medical School received about 3,500 applications each — most likely from the same individuals — and ironically, both schools filled their combined 309 out of 312 total seats with in-state applicants. And unless you are solely applying to these schools, you are going to become a part of the U.S. applicant pool of nearly 50,000 pre-medical students. In conclusion, pacing yourself for a marathon will help you to the finish line whether it may be admission to an allopathic, osteopathic, offshore or even a foreign medical school.
The great thing about being a Rutgers student is that we have two medical schools (i.e. allopathic) that favor New Jersey residents, but at the same time, the bad part is that we “only” have two medical schools. Strategically, perhaps attending a university with smaller class sizes may alter the outcome a little with regards to GPA. Ultimately, though, performance on the MCAT will still require hard work no matter where you are.
Mahesh Yaragatti is Rutgers College Class of 2004 alumnus.