"What are my chances?"
An Analysis of Amherst College Premedical Outcomes

Amherst College has no magic touch that automatically elevates a student's chances of entering medical school simply by virtue of the student's coming to Amherst; no college or university has that kind of magic touch. What does elevate a student's chances is to go to an institution (1) that energizes and challenges that particular student academically, while providing good teaching and academic support so the student can meet the challenge satisfactorily; and (2) that provides opportunities for accomplishment and leadership in extracurricular areas. Of course the student must take advantage of these educational and extracurricular opportunities - in the end it's the student's accomplishments that count, not the name of the institution.

With all that in mind, here are outcomes for the 224 Amherst College students and graduates who applied to U.S. allopathic medical schools (i.e. seeking to become physicians with an M.D. degree) for the first time for admission between 2000 and 2004, including those in this group who reapplied to enter in 2005 and/or 2006 if not accepted the first time. The 224 applicants are divided into two groups: (1) 174 so-called "well-qualified" applicants, and (2) 50 so-called "less-qualified" applicants. The "well-qualified" applicants met the criteria for grades and MCAT scores suggested in the Amherst Guide for Premedical Students:

. The "less-qualified" applicants didn't meet one or both of these criteria. (Note that we count applicants as "less-qualified" if they took the August MCAT in the year they applied, no matter how high a score they received, because taking the August MCAT delays the application and puts the applicant at a disadvantage!) Here is a table of outcomes, explained below:

Total Accepted
Rejected on first try, haven't reapplied 4 --
Rejected on first try, have reapplied 14 12 98.8% (168 out of 170) acceptance rate for 'well-qualified' applicants who either were accepted on their first try or who have reapplied 97% (199/205) acceptance rate for all applicants, 'well-qualified' and 'less-qualified,' who either were accepted on their first try or who have reapplied
Accepted on first try 156
Accepted on first try 20
Rejected on first try, became 'well-qualified' and then reapplied 5 5
Rejected on first try and reapplied although still 'less-qualified' 10 6
Rejected on first try, haven't reapplied 15 --

How many were accepted on their first try?

On their first try, 156 of the 174 "well-qualified" applicants were accepted (90%). Among "less-qualified" applicants, 20 of the 50 were accepted on their first try (40%), for an overall first-try acceptance rate of 79% (176 out of 224). Thus the "well-qualified" applicants were more than twice as likely to be accepted as the "less-qualified," but some "less-qualified" applicants were also successful. (Some reasons why: underrepresented minority status; being from a state with a medical school and a small population; having family connections at a medical school; or plain good luck.)

By the way, the Amherst Health Professions Committee supports almost all applicants without reservations even if they are "less-qualified" by our definition. We take no account of MCAT scores in making recommendations, and we support even those whose grades give them little chance of acceptance, as long as we believe (1) they can do the work of medical school, which means getting grades at least in the "C" range in Amherst science courses; and (2) they have the integrity and maturity needed to be a physician. Only three of the applicants from 2000-2004 who applied through the Amherst Health Professions Committee didn't meet these standards and so were recommended with reservations.

Is it worth it to reapply if not accepted the first time?

Yes! Among 'well-qualified' applicants initially rejected who reapplied, the success rate is 86% so far (12 out of 14). Among initially 'less-qualified' applicants, the success rate is not surprisingly greatest for those who improved their grades and/or MCAT scores and became 'well-qualified' before reapplying. Of these, 5 out of 5 have been accepted so far, i.e. 100% of this group. Even the 10 'less-qualified' initially rejected applicants who reapplied without substantially improving qualifications didn't do too badly: 6 have now been accepted (60%), showing that persistence sometimes pays, perhaps bolstered by more medically-related or scientific experience, even without much higher grades and MCAT scores.

We should note that some students who show up as 'rejected' in the table reapplied to other health professions such as osteopathic medicine or dentistry and were successful. This analysis refers only to 'allopathic' medicine, i.e. being a physician with an M.D. degree.

Two groups are marked for special attention in the table: the group shaded in dark blue, and the group shaded in purple (which includes the "blue group" also). The "purple group" are the 205 applicants who either were accepted on their first try or who reapplied if not successful the first time around, leaving out only the 19 who were rejected the first time and haven't reapplied. Among this group, the success rate is 97% (199 out of 205). The "blue group," a subset of the "purple group," was even more successful. These are the 170 'well-qualified' applicants among the "purple group," i.e. those 'well-qualified' applicants who either were accepted on their first try or who reapplied if rejected on the first try. The success rate in this group is an impressive 98.8% (168 out of 170 applicants).

Does it help to major in science?

The non-science majors in this group did just as well as the science majors in gaining acceptance to medical school. Of the 224 applicants, 88 were non-science majors, or 39% of the applicants. The other 136 applicants (61%) majored in science. (Those who had two majors, one of which was science and the other non-science, are counted as science majors.) Among the 176 who were accepted on their first try, 70 were non-science majors and 106 were science majors. Those 70 non-science majors represent 40% of the 176 first-time acceptances, which is almost identical to the 39% proportion of non-science majors among all Amherst applicants. So, majoring in science doesn't in itself make any difference to the odds of acceptance. Of course, non-science majors, just like science majors, had to do reasonably well in the required premedical science courses and get decent MCAT scores in order to be accepted.

Why were any 'well-qualified' applicants rejected?

Although most 'well-qualified' applicants were accepted the first time (90% as noted above), that leaves 10% (18 applicants out of 174) who were rejected the first time in spite of being 'well-qualified.' The most common reason for these applicants' rejection is that they applied to only a small number of schools, and/or not the best choice of schools given their state of residence and qualifications. Another reason several strong applicants were rejected is that they applied only to MSTP MD/PhD programs, which are extremely selective, with no 'backup' straight MD applications. Of course it is perfectly fine to do this if MD/PhD is one's goal, but it may help explain why our modest 'well-qualified' standard - 3.1 science GPA, just above "B", and 28 MCAT - wasn't good enough in these cases, at least on their initial round of applications. A few 'well-qualified' applicants just had bad luck--at least we can see no good reason why they weren't accepted.

What's the bottom line in all these numbers?

There is no single answer to the question, “What is the success rate for Amherst premeds?” It’s all of these:

To be in the group that had the 98.8% success rate in 2000-04, including reapplications since then, you would do two things:

Health Professions Home Page Amherst College Home Page


Prof. Stephen George
Chair, Health Professions Committee
Amherst College

Last modified: October 10, 2006