Admissions officers assemble classes of medical students with different backgrounds and experiences who can contribute to their institutions’ service, leadership, and research goals. While schools’ local interests vary, they share a common goal: meeting the health needs of an increasingly diverse population. Despite the well-known benefits of diversity, the physician workforce does not yet reflect the nation’s diversity by socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, or other background characteristics.
The authors reviewed the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores and backgrounds of 2017 applicants, accepted applicants, and matriculants to U.S. MD-granting schools to explore avenues for increasing medical school class diversity. They found that schools that accepted more applicants with midrange MCAT scores had more diverse matriculating classes. Many schools admitting the most applicants with scores in the middle of the MCAT score scale were public, community-based, and primary care-focused institutions; those admitting the fewest of these applicants tended to be research-focused institutions and to report pressure to accept applicants with high MCAT scores to maintain or improve their national rankings.
The authors argue that reexamining the use of MCAT scores in admissions provides an opportunity to diversify the physician workforce. Despite evidence that most students with midrange MCAT scores succeed in medical school, there is a tendency to overlook these applicants in favor of those with higher scores. To improve the health of all, the authors call for admitting more students with midrange MCAT scores and studying the learning environments that enable students with a wide range of MCAT scores to thrive.