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Office of Admissions - Brody School of Medicine
Application Process

Admission Requirements | Selection Factors | Application Procedure | Interviews | Decision Timeline | Technical Standards | Acceptance Procedure | Early Assurance Program | What If I'm Not Accepted?

What if I'm not accepted?

It's usually of little solace to unsuccessful applicants to hear that they are part of a very large group, but it's an unfortunate fact. In recent years we have had 10 to 12 NC applicants for each of our 86 positions, and thus have had to turn down many qualified candidates. A large number of these individuals re-apply at some point, and an ample percentage of each entering class (usually 40-50%) is composed of people who were previously rejected. We do not keep statistics on the percentage of re-applicants who eventually gain admittance because such numbers would be misleading. A re-applicant's chances of ultimate success do not hinge on mere persistence, but rather are determined by that person's understanding of which aspects of the application need improvement, and the subsequent efforts undertaken to augment these areas.

We are glad to meet with unsuccessful applicants to discuss their situations and provide advice, but the time available for such counseling is understandably limited. Therefore, we've prepared this web page in order to assist candidates in evaluating their applications with respect to the priorities of the Admissions Committee and the mission of the Brody School of Medicine (BSOM). We obviously cannot predict whether individuals will be successful when they re-apply with enhanced credentials, but we do know that there is little use in re-applying without making substantial improvements in the application.

Like every medical school, the BSOM seeks evidence that applicants will be able to master the course work and pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam. Most successful applicants consequently have good grade point averages and Medical College Admission Test scores (or compelling evidence that isolated low numbers are not reflective of their true abilities). The average GPA of the entering class is typically about 3.6, and the average numerical score on the old MCAT is usually 30 (10, 10, & 10), while the new MCAT average score is usually 508 (127, 127, 127, 127). These averages are not as high as those of many other medical schools, and this reflects our desire to use numerical data such as GPAs and MCAT scores more as "safety gauges" than as absolute measures of worthiness. However, with the level of competition being as high as it is, applicants with low GPAs or MCAT scores are not going to be accepted at this or any other accredited US medical school.

An individual with a non-competitive undergraduate GPA can often remedy this by getting a second undergraduate degree, earning a master's degree, or completing an enrichment program such as ECU's Summer Program for Future Doctors. Applicants should be aware that these opportunities are "double-edged swords": a very good post-graduate GPA or enrichment program evaluation can enhance an application, but a mediocre or below-average performance may hinder the chances for admission. We do not encourage applicants to undertake these activities for the sole purpose of gaining admittance to BSOM, since we cannot guarantee that this will be the result. However, if getting another degree would be beneficial to an individual's current activities or alternate career plans, then doing so may be a reasonable way to overcome earlier academic problems.

Consistent low scores on the MCAT are more difficult to surmount. Since it is a well-constructed standardized test, there is little chance of getting wide fluctuations in MCAT scores from take to take as a matter of chance. The best way to obtain significant change in MCAT results is to employ significant changes in test preparation. Applicants who have high GPAs but persistently low scores on standardized exams might consider having their reading tested, since slow readers or those with reading problems are often penalized by the time limits of the MCAT (and other standardized exams). We accept MCAT scores that are obtained under non-standardized conditions, and frequently provide accommodations for enrolled students with documented learning problems. However, applicants need to realize that the National Board of Medical Examiners does not often grant similar accommodations for the USMLE.

The Admissions Committee also considers a number of non-numeric factors ("non-cognitive variables") in their deliberations. The relative importance of different non-cognitive variables differs from school to school, so it makes sense for applicants to seek advice from all the medical schools they are interested in as they plan for re-application (and their pre-medical advisors as well). The non-numeric factors valued by the Admissions Committee here reflect the mission of the BSOM: to provide medical care to Eastern NC, to educate the people of NC, and to train physicians to serve NC. These non-cognitive variables are: medical exposure, volunteer service, personal attributes, and fit to the BSOM mission.

Thus, most successful applicants here have a long history of involvement in medical activities such as physician shadowing, hospital volunteering, medical clinic experience, and so forth. The Admissions Committee likes to see evidence that an applicant knows what the day-to-day life of a practicing physician is like, particularly in the specialty areas in which that applicant has an interest. Medically-related activities that don't involve direct patient contact generally add little to an application.

Likewise, most successful applicants to BSOM have extensive and meaningful experience in service endeavors. These can be organized programs (such as Habitat for Humanity, the Peace Corps, and others) or less formal activities (helping needy neighbors, visiting nursing homes, and so forth). Medicine is a service profession, and people who enjoy helping others prior to medical school tend to be happy and successful in the practice of medicine. Significant involvement in a few volunteer activities typically impresses the Admissions Committee more than superficial participation in multiple events.

Personal characteristics valued by the Admissions Committee are those that most people would want to see in their personal physicians: concern, integrity, honesty, empathy, reliability, leadership, communication skills, and so forth. Some of these traits become evident during interviews, but we recognize the limitations of this relatively brief encounter. Accordingly, the Admissions Committee relies heavily on letters of recommendation for this information. It therefore makes sense that applicants should strive to obtain letters from professors who know them well and can speak to their personal as well as their academic qualifications.

Finally, we seek to admit students who are likely to fit the mission of the school. Contrary to popular belief, applicants do not have to claim a desire to be "a family doctor in a small rural community in eastern NC" in order to be admitted to the BSOM (although there is a huge need for primary care physicians in underserved areas throughout NC). An applicant who wishes to specialize in a field of medicine that is not a shortage specialty in the state at large, but plans to practice in a NC community without such a specialist, is a perfect fit to the mission of the BSOM. Similarly, an applicant who intends to specialize in family medicine, but practice with a large group of other family physicians in a city that already has more doctors than it needs, does not really fit the BSOM mission.

In selecting students for the incoming class, the Admissions Committee tries to choose individuals who have a good mix of all the characteristics and factors noted above. There are no rigid formulas or weighting systems used in this process, which allows for the selection of candidates who might have an area of relative weakness but are nonetheless outstanding overall. Clearly, an unsuccessful applicant whose credentials are below average in several of the areas described above needs to do quite a bit of work in order to feel optimistic about re-applying. An applicant who has only a single area of relative weakness, on the other hand, may be able to remedy this quickly and successfully re-apply.

We hope the above information is useful as you consider your plans, and we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.