To the Editor:
On the journey to medical school, the early submission of an application is both emphasized and highly encouraged. Premedical students like myself are often told that early submission improves a student’s odds of acceptance due to rolling admissions. Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many premedical students are facing additional challenges in building a complete application.
For many students, such as myself, the final hurdle on the way to a completed medical school application is the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The MCAT exam is a crucial portion of a medical school application as data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) show that a student’s MCAT score has a strong correlation with her or his chances of acceptance to a U.S. medical school.1 Advisors recommend that students take the MCAT exam no later than early June during the year they apply to medical school to be able to submit a complete application in the early window of the application cycle.2
Eight MCAT testing dates were canceled globally through March, April, and May of this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. These cancelations put additional stress on thousands of prospective medical students. As of July, the AAMC has added 3 new dates to the 2020 MCAT testing calendar: June 28 and September 27 and 28. In addition, the MCAT exam will be offered 3 times on each of these dates to allow for proper social distancing protocols, while increasing the total number of testing seats available. The AAMC also plans on expediting score reports to get the information to medical schools sooner.
Students who have spent years preparing for a career in medicine may find their efforts derailed for another year if these issues with the medical school application process are not addressed. The AAMC has emphasized and supported maintaining and improving the well-being of physicians, residents, and medical students.3 With test date cancelations and many other unknowns in the application process, medical school applicants are facing increasingly stressful conditions that can be damaging to their well-being. To improve applicants’ well-being during these unprecedented times, I recommend medical schools adjust their application timeline to support the thousands of students affected by the MCAT test date cancelations earlier this year.
1. 2019 FACTS: Applicants and Matriculants Data. Association of American Medical Colleges. www.aamc.org/data-reports/students-residents/interactive-data/2019-facts-applicants-and-matriculants-data
. Accessed July 1, 2020.
2. Shemmassian S. When should you take the MCAT? The ideal timeline. Shemmassian Academic Consulting. www.shemmassianconsulting.com/blog/when-to-take-the-mcat
. Published November 2,2019 Accessed July 1, 2020
3. Well-Being and Emotional Resiliency in Academic Medicine. Association of American Medical Colleges. www.aamc.org/news-insights/wellbeing
. Accessed July 1, 2020.