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How to Use the MSAR to Choose a Medical School

May 30, 2022
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”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, & Admissions Officer, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/30/22

Have you heard of the MSAR tool for medical school but aren’t sure how to use it? Here is a complete guide on what the MSAR is, how to use the MSAR for med school, and what it’s all about. 

Applying for medical school is a complicated and stressful process. To ease the process, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) provides an array of online tools for medical students. One of these tools is the Medical School Admission Requirements guide, otherwise known as the MSAR.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the MSAR, from how it works to how to get the most out of the online service. Let’s get started!

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What Is the MSAR?

The Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) is a guide created by the AAMC to help students curate the list of medical schools they apply to based on their requirements. 

The MSAR guide is regularly updated and contains information on deadlines, policies, special programs, teaching style, mission statement, current student data, and more for every MD-granting medical school in the US and Canada.

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What’s in the MSAR?

Most of the unique information available through the MSAR information requires a subscription. However, some of the MSAR’s medical school information is available free of charge. Here is a list of MSAR data that is available for free:

The remaining medical school data available through the MSAR requires a subscription to access. The AAMC notes that if you have previously subscribed to the MSAR, you do not need to resubscribe when information is updated. Here is a list of other information that is available through the MSAR with a paid subscription:

While the MSAR allows you to view medical school information, it also allows you to upload your own information and update your applicant profile. With this tool, applicants can directly compare their test scores, coursework, and other personal information with the requirements of medical schools. 

How to Use the MSAR to Choose a Med School

So, how do you use the MSAR for med school? As mentioned above, you can have access to some of the MSAR’s information for free and even use some filters to find programs that suit you. To have full access to the MSAR, you must purchase access to the MSAR website. You can then upload your information to the online service and apply filters according to what you’re looking for.

MSAR Filters

The first useful tool the MSAR offers are filters to help you look through their database. Searching for medical schools that fit each of your individual needs can be challenging, especially when certain websites are not up to date. 

That’s why the MSAR consistently updates their school information and provides filter options. Using the filters can show you which programs fit what you’re looking for while eliminating programs that don’t. 

Screenshot of the MSAR's location, Median MCAT, and Median GPA filters which help you find the ideal med school program for you
Screenshot of the MSAR's application deadline, combined degrees, class size, school type, and campus

You can use the MSAR filters seen above by simply clicking to tick boxes and clicking and dragging the bars.

MSAR School Information

Once you’ve applied MSAR filters that match what you’re looking for, a list of medical schools will appear that fit your requirements. The schools appear with some basic information underneath the title to give you a general idea of their requirements. 

Here is an example of what the basic profile of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine’s basic data looks like. Note that this image does not reflect the current data of the University and is only meant to demonstrate how the data is set up on the MSAR. 

Screenshot example of what the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine's profile looks like on the MSAR

You can click on the school to see detailed information about it and the programs they offer. The MSAR offers several tables and graphs to demonstrate admission statistics, MCAT scores, median GPAs, and more. To navigate information once you’ve clicked on a medical school, you can use the menu on the left side of the screen (shown below) or simply scroll down the page.

Screenshot of the MSAR application with the navigation menu on the left hand side of the screen highlighted

The menu shown above divides the school information into sections. Here is a breakdown of the information that each section contains:

Overview

The “Overview” section goes over general information about the school, most of which is easily accessible on the school’s website. This section includes:

The first section’s information is mostly reflective of the filters you’ve already applied to the MSAR database.

Admissions

The “Admissions” section is where more specific information is offered about the admissions process that has not been covered by the filters you’ve already applied. This section covers:

It’s important to read over all of the information in this section to learn what you have to do in order to be eligible for admission to the school. All of the important dates and deadlines for the application process are also included in this section.

Acceptance Data

This section displays multiple graphs and tables on acceptance data and is an extremely useful and unique feature of the MSAR. You can also insert your own data to compare it with the graphs that are shown by clicking “edit your mcat score,” as shown below:

Screenshot of hte MSAR's "My Courseowrk & Scores" section, which allows you to input your total mcat score and overall GPA to see how they compare to the scores of admitted students at your chosen medical school
Sceenshot highlighting the "Edit your MCAT score" button, which users can use to amend their MCAT score to see how it compares to the medain MCAT scores of students at their chosen medical school

Once you’ve typed in your MCAT score, you can then click the “view on school profile” button to see your score on the MCAT chart. You can use the same process to compare your GPA and other test scores to the median scores on the MSAR graphs. 

Screenshot of the MSAR graph which shows how the user's tiotal MCAT score compares to the MCAT scores of admitted students at their chosen med school

Also, in this section, you can view the median data of in-state vs. out-of-state students and compare the data to your own. Other graphs and tables in this section include:

The graphics in this section are excellent tools for learning about your future medical school. Comparing the data between schools can help you get a better idea of your chances of acceptance. 

Education & Research

The “Education & Research” section tells users more about the actual content of the medical school programs. Here you’ll learn about the schools:

The MSAR does not include all of the information on the school’s program details. For further information on what to expect in a school’s curriculum, visit their website or speak to an academic advisor. 

Tuition, Aid & Debt

The “Tuition, Aid & Debt” section allows users to explore the educational costs at each school. In this section, costs of tuition, options for financial aid, and the average debt of students are all covered. Financial information is also displayed for out-of-state and international students.

Campus Life

In the final section titled “Campus Life,” some information is included on different programs and benefits of attending the school. This section looks different for each school as it only covers the individual offerings rather than offering a set of data. Housing and on-campus residency options are also covered in this section. 

Comparing Medical Schools with MSAR

One of the most useful features of the MSAR is its medical school comparison tool. By ticking the “compare” box at the bottom right corner of each school, you can compile a list of medical schools to be directly compared to each other.

Screenshot of ow the East Tenessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine's profile appears on the MSAR. The "Compare" button on the bottom right0hand side of the screen is highlighted

After selecting which schools to compare, you can view them in a table with their important data side by side. It will look something like this:

Screenshot of the MSAR compare function, which compares the locations, amdissions requirements, and statistics of the medical schools the user wants to compare

Once you’ve compared the medical schools you’re interested in, you can add them to your favorites list by clicking the star on the top left-hand corner or by clicking the “add to favorites” button. Schools in your favorites list are available to view with easy access, so you won’t have to search them up every time you want to review their information.

Other Things to Know

Now that we know how to use the MSAR to compare medical schools, let’s go over a few other things to know about the service. Here we’ll cover how to create an MSAR account, how much it costs to subscribe, and some helpful tips for using the MSAR online service. 

Cost

To have access to all of the MSAR, you’ll have to subscribe to their database, which costs $28 annually. This price does not change even as the website is continuously updated with new information and tools throughout the year. 

How to Register for the MSAR

You can create an MSAR account on the AAMC’s website. Creating an account is free, meaning you do not need to already have subscribed to the MSAR to create an account. 

Tips for Using the MSAR

Using the MSAR service is pretty straightforward, but how do you make the best of having access to that information? We’re here to help. Here are some tips for using the MSAR.

Compare the Facts

Some medical schools say things on their profile that may not always be reflected in their matriculant data. For example, a school may say on their profile that they accept international and out-of-state students, while their data may show that they haven’t accepted any or very few in the past year. Comparing data will give you a better idea of your likelihood of acceptance. 

Upload Your Data

The MSAR allows users to upload their data, such as test scores, GPA, prerequisites, etc. This is an excellent tool for understanding how your grades compare to the entering class at a medical school. The service also stores your information, so it’s readily available whenever you log back on.

Create Your Own Chart

Once you’ve used the MSAR to find a list of medical schools that suit you, you should create a chart or list in a document or journal. Separating your favorite schools and writing down the data that matters the most to you can help you make your final decision. 

FAQs: How to Use the MSAR

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the MSAR.

1. Does the MSAR provide admission rates?

The MSAR does not provide admission rates but does provide detailed data on the number of students who applied to a program vs. the number of students who were accepted. With this information, you can calculate the admission rate of the medical school. 

2. Is the MSAR free?

You can access basic information about the medical schools on the MSAR without paying for a subscription. You can also create an MSAR account without paying for a subscription. However, the majority of important information contained by the MSAR requires a paid subscription. 

3. Do you need an account to use MSAR?

You do not need to create an account to use the free features of the MSAR on the AAMC website. However, you need to create an account if you want to insert your own information to compare it to the requirements of different medical schools in the guide.

4. How much is the MSAR subscription? 

The MSAR subscription costs 28$ and is billed annually. 

5. Is every medical school on the MSAR?

The MSAR contains information on every accredited MD providing medical school in the US and Canada.

6. Should I pay for the MSAR?

So, is the MSAR worth it? Our answer is yes. The up-to-date data the MSAR provides is unique and covers every MD program in the US and Canada. If you’re starting to apply to medical schools, using the MSAR is an excellent way to help you make informed decisions on where to apply. 

Final Thoughts

The MSAR guide is an excellent tool for medical students who are deciding where to apply for medical school. Even if you already have a medical school in mind, you may not know certain details about the program contained by the MSAR that could sway you in a new direction. 

On top of costing only $28 for a year-long subscription to the service, the MSAR’s information is continuously updated. Many websites have old information that may not be reliable, and getting the correct information on a medical school’s application process is crucial. 

Overall, the MSAR is an easy-to-use service that encompasses tons of helpful information. The MSAR is certainly worth purchasing to help you find your way to the right medical school for you.

Good luck!

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