Several years ago I had a very strong student that was a good, but not great test taker. This young woman was in the top 1% of her class at a large high school in California. She had taken all of the necessary classes to be competitive and was getting an IB diploma. And while her test scores were good, they were not great.
Her SAT critical reading score was 670, math was 760 and writing was 750 for a total of 2,180. She had previously taken the SAT and had a total score on that test of 2,120. SAT subject test in Chemistry was 710 while Math Level 2 was 740.
The student had fairly traditional doctor shadowing and typical research involving the summer before senior year with a professor at a local public university.
But, what the young woman had was some very strong volunteering. She had been volunteering 2 hours a week for 4 years at a local nursing home, had worked at a local habitat for humanity on a regular basis for several years as well as other regular non health care volunteering. Note that none of her volunteering was at a hospital.
In addition to regular consistent volunteering, this student had started a summer soccer program for under privileged youth which ran for several years.
Finally, the student worked at a non health care related job through out the year for several years. And this was not a situation where she needed to work to support the family. Rather, she worked because she wished to have a job.
I expected that the student would be competitive for many of the mid level BS/MD programs but the most competitive programs were definitely a reach given the low SAT scores.
So, where was she accepted for BS/MD programs? Union/Albany Medical College, Virginia Commonwealth BA/MD, and the Drexel BS/MD programs associated with Drexel, Villanova and Lehigh for undergraduate colleges. Oh, and Northwestern HPME. Yep, she was accepted at what is probably the most competitive program in the country with a relatively low SAT score.
As I always tell my students, grades and test scores only get your considered for BS/MD programs. They never get you in. This young woman is a classic example of this. Although she was relatively weak in one area, she had a very strong resume in an area of importance to BS/MD programs, volunteering. And she was able to combine that volunteering strength with leadership that she showed by started the soccer camp.
No applicant to BS/MD programs is perfect. Very, very strong, yes. But virtually everyone I see has a weakness in one area or another. That is understandable, you are not perfect. But the more you can minimize your weaknesses, the stronger a candidate you will be.
And sometimes, you might surprise me too.