The Double-Edged Sword of the MSAR

Trust us when we tell you that using the MSAR as a resource is a double-edged sword. The Medical School Admissions Requirements Database, or MSAR, is an online database run by the AAMC which houses basic information about US and Canadian medical schools. For example, it allows you to see the official applicant and matriculant data for just about every school out there. It also shows you what classes are required for each school, including if online classes can be used toward a school’s pre-reqs or not. It also shows you the median MCAT and GPAs of matriculating students.

Access to the site, is not free. A subscription costs $28 at the time of this writing. In our opinion, this is one investment that is well worth the cost. Before you purchase, however, always check with your college’s pre-professional or career planning office as you may be able to access this information for free.

A word of caution before you get swept up in MSAR hysteria and start comparing yourself to quantitative data it contains. Please remember that your MCAT score and GPA are not the sole components of your application.

Let’s repeat that for good measure.


Not only that, they do NOT come close to representing the summation of who you are as an applicant or what you will offer as a medical student or physician. The MSAR is a double-edged sword. That’s because, on one hand, it allows you to put your stats in a general context and make more informed decisions about what schools may be considered reach” schools for you specifically. This will ultimately help you balance out your application list. On the other hand, at its worse, the MSAR can cause you to question your worth as an applicant and feel like an imposter who doesn’t have what it takes to become a physician.

Here’s the part where you must have a little faith and trust in the minority physicians who have come before you. Trust us when we tell you this: Do NOT allow the MCAT scores and GPAs listed be the sole determinant of where you apply to medical school or worse, whether you apply to medical school at all. The MSAR is a useful starting point, but not the end all be all on what it takes to get into a school. It’s just averaged, depersonalized data. The MSAR’s data tells you absolutely nothing about who the students who are as people, what their individual strengths are, what they have done outside of academics, their backgrounds, how they interview or any other critical component of their application. While it’s tempting to compare yourself to others, and imagine that you are in some way lacking/not good enough, don’t fall into that trap.

Again, just trust us on this!

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