There are so many factors that are looked at before the committee decides to consider an applicant for interview. Lets go through the some of the things that medical school admissions committee members consider when going through your application.
As much as I would want to be the one to say that your scores and grades are not the MOST important pieces of your applications, your scores do play a significant role in your application. Many times, there is a certain cutoff so that if your MCAT or GPA does not fall above their cutoff then for the most part they do not consider you. However, this does not have to be a hard and fast rule. There are times when people have fallen below the cutoff and still interviewed and subsequently matriculated into medical school. But there is a certain score that medical schools feel comfortable is a solid amount of knowledge for a matriculating medical student. There are cases where students have put in information under the extreme circumstances location which can sway an admissions committee member to delve closely into a students chart even with a glaringly low MCAT score or low GPA. If you are right below the cutoff, your admissions packet might be set aside to see if the rest of your application might make up for a not so great score/grade on your transcript.
The process is very dynamic and is very difficult to predict what will happen because we do not know the cutoff scores from these medical schools in terms of what they are looking for. Now even if we knew the cutoff score, it would not necessarily help because after the scores are reviewed the next step is to look another piece of the application.
At each step of the way, certain applications are placed in the further review pile while others are placed in the decline pile with others in the standby pile. Further review means your application will be further explored your scores were good enough that the admissions committee would like to read more about you. The decline pile unfortunately means that you are not a good match for that medical school and they would not like to spend more time reading through your application. Do not get too overwhelmed and think that if your MCAT score is average that you will automatically go into the decline pile this is not the case. This pile may include people that have not completed the requirements for medical school, scored very low on the MCAT, have a GPA of 1.0, etc. Most medical schools do not only use your scores to dictate whether you would be a suitable candidate for their school.
I have read plenty of personal statements and let me tell you, almost 75% of them are your run of the mill essays about why you want to attend medical school. These types of personal statements just check off the box for the personal statement in your application. These do not get you any extra points that put you ahead of another applicant. The best way that I can think of describing this process is that everyone starts off with the same number of points lets take for example 100 points. If your scores are average you do not get any extra points, if your scores are great you get 50 points, and if your scores are terrible you subtract 50 points. Now lets say that your personal statement is just average and your scores were average, you once again do not get any points. However, with poor scores and a phenomenal personal statement maybe your total score goes from 50 à 85, that increases your chances of being considered for a position. Basically, what I am trying to say is that your personal statement can go a long way and although it may be easier to write a basic personal statement, if you want to push yourself to the next level you will take the time to make sure that it is phenomenal. Because even if you have amazing scores, you never know how the admissions game will turn out and you never want to be overconfident. Also, never discount part of your application as not being important or playing a role in your application. You never know what will catch an admission officers attention.
And then there’s other
The last section is typically thought to be the extracurriculars section however I like to leave it a bit vague because there is a lot more to this section than your volunteering at the hospital. The big components are the following: Research, Shadowing, Volunteering, Study Abroad, Working.
As you can tell, there are many things that can make this other section and is not specific to activities you did that were specific to Medicine. For most my interviews, admissions officers wanted to talk to me about my writing in a journal during undergrad or my study abroad experience. When the time comes do not be surprised if they do not want to talk to you about your research or shadowing and instead turn to you to ask about your Piano skills. As a side note I took Piano 101 as a fourth year during undergrad and I distinctively remember having a lengthy conversation with an admission officer regarding my final exam for Piano 101 and how I was more nervous about that exam rather than talking to me about my research projects. Basically, what somebody finds interesting about you does not have to be Medicine related at all. It is important for you to pursue activities not just to prove that you are a suitable candidate for medical school but also explore your own interests as that is what makes you unique.
Just like you put a lot of effort into your application, admissions committee members also spend a lot of time sifting through your application so make sure that you pay attention when filling out your application.