Is an MSAR Subscription Worth It?
With the AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) application opening at 9:30am EST on May 3rd, the 2021-2022 medical school application cycle is fast approaching. After maintaining a strong GPA, garnering hundreds of research, clinical, and volunteer hours, and scoring high on the MCAT exam, an applicant’s next challenge is figuring out where to apply– that is without using the MSAR. At present, there are a total of 154 M.D. programs in the United States and it can be incredibly difficult to select the recommended number of 15-25 schools out of the 154 you can send your application to.
A quick Google search of the terms “best medical schools” or “medical school rank list” can provide a curious individual with a display of the top schools which any ambitious applicant would want to include on their school list. Unfortunately, not every applicant is guaranteed an acceptance, and preparing primary and secondary essays, writing personal statements, and sending out applications to various schools is an effort that requires the expenditure of time and financial resources. To budget both and maximize the opportunity to receive an interview and eventually an acceptance, applicants should aim to tailor their personal list of 15-25 schools to schools that are (mostly) within range of their own personal statistics. And a school list should be just that: personalized!
Though you are worth more than your grades or standardized test scores, these are important statistics that can help you stand out amongst a pool of similar applicants. Once you receive your GPA and achieve a target MCAT score you are happy with, you can begin to determine which of the 154 M.D. programs are within range for you (programs that typically accept applicants with similar statistics to your MCAT and GPA) and those that are a reach (programs whose average matriculant has higher statistics). Additional considerations may include each school’s tuition–for both in state and out of state students–distance from home and campus location, and class size. Working out these numbers for 154 M.D. programs across the country might take a little longer than a quick Google search for top medical schools, and you still have final exams to prepare for! If only there were a handy tool that could compile all of this data for you…
What is the MSAR?
…and there is! Enter the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) Guide, an online database designed by the AAMC and updated with recent information to streamline your medical school application list. MSAR is a website that compiles relevant data, such as admissions statistics, tuition cost, and application deadlines, from medical schools across the country to serve as a handy tool for applicants weighing their options and creating their school lists. The MSAR is just one of many tools (both privately and publicly available) that medical school applicants can use to help decide where they should apply. Examples of other helpful services can include considering admissions consulting, acquiring information materials provided by your undergraduate advisors, talking to pre-med interest groups at your university, and reading articles found on the AAMC website.
Can I Access the MSAR for Free?
The MSAR website is available free of charge and can be accessed through a guest account. The guest level of access provides applicants with plenty of useful information, such as first year class size, admissions requirements, and relevant contact information for deans and program advisors. Guest users are able to filter and narrow down the available school list by location, search for institutions by name, and sort the full list alphabetically and by application deadline. Guest user access to MSAR will look like this:
Although there is undoubtedly a lot of free information made accessible to applicants, some key features are restricted, such as the median GPA and MCAT score for the average matriculant to an institution. These details are some of the most important considerations applicants should be aware of when putting together their school list, and can often make or break an applicant’s chances of admission.
How Much Does the MSAR Cost?
Full access to MSAR, which includes median MCAT scores, GPAs, and relevant filters for these statistics, is unlocked only with the purchase of a subscription. A virtual, one-year subscription can be purchased for $28, while a two-year subscription is available for $36. Applicants who are part of the AAMC Fee Assistance Program are eligible to receive MSAR access through the end of their qualified year. In addition, the AAMC occasionally offers discounts on MSAR subscription costs! For example, all applicants who registered for the AAMC 2021 Virtual Medical School Fair were eligible to receive a promo code for a 15% discount on either a 1-year or 2-year MSAR subscription. Pretty cool!
So, Is it Worth It?
There is a substantial amount of important information available to users accessing MSAR for free. Guest users can survey various application deadlines, review schools’ mission statements, and gain insight about rural or urban campus life. However, a paid MSAR subscription grants users the opportunity to compare medical schools side by side, filter their list by GPA, and save schools as “favorites” (an excellent way to keep track of the schools you’ll be adding to your application list!).
An additional feature to streamline the process of narrowing down a school list is that MSAR subscribers are able to input their own statistics. Adding your own GPA and MCAT score to your database will allow you to visualize how you as an applicant compare to matriculants from the previous cycle into various medical schools across the country, ranging from private institutions with small-town campuses to public universities in the heart of a big city. Viewing your own statistics side by side with median matriculant data can make it easy to distinguish which schools are within range for you and which schools are a reach. This is an incredibly important consideration for applicants when formulating a school list, and can make the difference between a rejection letter and becoming a first-year at your dream medical school.
Utilizing your MSAR subscription properly can save you time and money on your applications by helping you narrow down your school list and maximize your chances of acceptance by determining which schools are the right match for your statistics. Since the MSAR subscription is active for a year (or two), it can even be useful to purchase your subscription prior to taking your MCAT. This would allow you to set a score goal that is compatible with the schools you hope to apply to and eventually attend. With the right information at your fingertips, you can make your application cycle easier by setting yourself up for success early on! An MSAR subscription provides applicants with all of the information they might need to formulate their medical school list and send out their AMCAS application with the utmost confidence. That confidence alone can make it worth the subscription!