Mentioning personal or family illness on a medical school application does very little to  influence an admissions officer’s decision to admit a student or not, according to a recently published survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep.

The 2010 survey, which polled admissions officers from 83 medical schools in the U.S., found that referencing a personal connection with medicine – whether it’s telling your story about a personal or family illness or mentioning that a family member is a doctor – makes no difference in an applicant’s chances of getting accepted.

The results of the survey revealed that 90% of admissions officers reported that it’s “somewhat” or “very” common for  applicants to include in their application a story of personal illness or illness in their family.

However, only 24% of admissions officers said that highlighting a personal or family illness in an interview or essay helped a student’s application.

In addition, 75% of admissions officers said that mentioning a family member who is a doctor made no difference at all.

The survey also found that medical schools like the MCAT, as 87% of admissions officers
expressed confidence in the MCAT’s ability to measure a prospective student’s success in medical school. And with admissions officer’s feeling so strongly about the MCAT, it makes sense that 45% of them consider a low MCAT score to be the biggest application killer.

“Our interpretation is that talking about a personal or family illness or about your family medical profession pedigree is a bit like eating chicken soup to treat a cold – it probably doesn’t help much, but it doesn’t hurt either,” said Amjed Saffarini, executive director of pre-health programs at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions. “What’s ironic is that while medical school admissions officers are much more focused on the MCAT score and GPA than on personal stories, nearly half want to see the MCAT focus more on qualities like empathy, integrity and ethics.”

The findings from Kaplan’s survey has provided valuable insight into the minds of medical school admissions officers. Students applying to medical school may have to rethink their approach when writing essays and sitting down for their medical school interview.

The survey of admissions officers from 83 U.S. medical schools was conducted by Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions in August 2010 to obtain information on key trends and relevant issues pertaining to the medical school admissions process.