Anyone who has ever considered applying to medical school can recognize that it is a complicated, long, and unbelievably competitive process. Many necessities must be up to par when applying to medical school: excellent academics, extensive volunteer hours, experience in patient care, enriching letters of recommendation, and so on. Many times, even the most successful premedical students are rejected from medical schools to which they applied.
This guide will help you to identify what areas of your application have weaknesses, what you can do to strengthen them, and when you should be reapplying to medical school. These timelines will differ depending on what areas of your application need fixing. It can be challenging to look at such a lengthy, comprehensive application and determine where you went wrong in your application process. This article will teach you how to examine your application, identify your problem areas and implement the necessary changes to ensure that your application is everything an admissions officer is looking for in a successful medical school candidate!
Even though you may feel embarrassed or upset for not getting accepted to medical school after your first application, what you may not know is that this is normal, common, and okay. Many students have applied more than once to medical school before they were accepted. Many prestigious medical schools have low acceptance rates. For example, at Stanford University, the acceptance rate is only 2.3%. Low acceptance rates are a common occurrence at many of the top medical schools in the US. Sometimes even the greatest candidates get rejected because there simply isn’t room in the next incoming class.
There is nothing wrong with reapplying to medical school after being rejected. If anything, it shows your dedication to medicine and your perseverance by continuing to work toward your passion. Admissions officers will recognize this. Plus, there are several things you can do to strengthen your application when reapplying to medical school.
Although you are probably anxious to reapply to medical school as soon as possible, the best route to take begins with slowing down! Take time to assess and reflect upon your application. There may be obvious things you are missing in your application: spots you can expand upon or places you can better show your skills and knowledge when it comes to medicine. Take all the time necessary to seriously examine your application and reflect upon where you can improve. There must be a significant change in your application when reapplying to medical school; if your application looks virtually the same year over year, how will it change an admissions officer’s mind? Take the time you need to reevaluate, make changes, and do everything you can to strengthen your application.
The first step in assessing your previous application is successfully identifying what didn’t work. For example, look to see at which point in the admissions cycle you were rejected. If you were denied before you could submit a secondary application, then we can identify that your primary application was lacking something. Similarly, if you made it to the medical school application’s interview portion, your interview skills were likely lacking.
Once you can narrow down the specificities of your application that hindered you from being accepted to medical school, you can focus on tackling each issue one-by-one.
When assessing your medical school application, you can make many changes to ensure you apply with a more robust application the second time around. There are also ways to examine your application if you are unsure of your application’s weak points. One great tip from John D. Schriner, Associate for Admissions and Student Affairs at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, is to solicit feedback from the medical school to which you applied. Reach out and ask what prevented you from being accepted in the previous application cycle.
Though not all schools are receptive, it does not hurt to try. Plus, if you receive that feedback, you have a target area that you are certain you need to assess, make changes, and improve. It is the perfect opportunity to act on the advice you receive and show the admissions officers that you can absorb that feedback and excel because of it.
Schriner also points out that there is no shame in addressing that you were rejected in your reapplication. Show the admissions officers that although you were denied, you’ve taken the time to reevaluate your application and your experiences to become a worthy and passionate medical school candidate. Don’t let a rejection stop you from pursuing your career in medicine.
The first step in planning to reapply to medical school begins with taking a long, hard look at your application so you can recognize areas that need improvement, expansion, or removal. Though this may be a tedious process, it is imperative. Some things on your application may have deterred admissions officers from accepting you into their program; this is your time to identify those areas so you can expand upon them, remove them, or change them completely. By identifying what is wrong with your application, you are one step closer to identifying what your application needs to be taken seriously by an admissions office.
When reevaluating your application, take it one step at a time. Focus on one section at a time: for example, don’t continue evaluating your personal statement and essays until you have thoroughly gone through your extracurricular activities and deemed what was helpful and representative of your experiences and what was not.
This way, you can set your focus on one specific aspect of your application and thoroughly evaluate it. Can you identify any weaknesses in this section? Is there anything you can add to help admissions officers better understand what you are trying to show them? Is there a more efficient example you can use or a stronger description you can implement?
According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, twelve components go into a medical school application:
- MCAT Exam
- Primary Application
- Background Information
- Coursework & Official Transcript(s)
- Work and Activities
- Letters of Evaluation
- Personal Statements & Essays
- Secondary Application
- Social Media / Internet Search
- Financial Information
- Criminal History Search
When reviewing your application, there will be sections that you cannot implement changes to right away: for example, if your grades and GPA are an issue in your application, it is recommended that you take another course or more to improve your GPA for the next application cycle. You will have the time necessary before you can apply to medical school again, and this is an extremely productive use of your time. If your MCAT score was low, utilize this time period before the next application cycle to reevaluate how, when and where you study, consider taking a preparatory course and retake the MCAT exam. Once you identify what parts of your application are hindering your success, you can determine what steps to take in fixing your application.
Important things to keep in mind while you are reevaluating each section of your application:
To be a strong applicant that is seriously considered for any medical school you want to apply to, you must show that you have performed successfully in both areas. If this poses a predicament for you, consider retaking the MCAT or taking another course to boost your GPA. Both of these options exhibit your dedication to medicine and becoming a doctor despite your obstacles.
When looking to faculty or advisors to be letter writers, you are looking for someone that will advocate for you. Therefore, you should be looking to someone that knows you and your character well and is willing to justify why you deserve to be a medical student at X Medical School.
Any discrepancy in these areas is a sure-fire way to distract admissions officers from the critical points of your personal statements and essays – and that can seriously harm your chance at being accepted into medical school. Have a trusted faculty member, advisor, or even family member read through your personal statements and essays. A fresh set of eyes is always a good way to look for mistakes you may have missed. Inspira Advantage also offers free consultations with admissions experts to increase your chances of being accepted to medical schools.
The best thing you can do is practice, practice, practice. There are many sources to prepare for an interview, and this step-by-step guide covers everything you need to know to succeed in your medical school interview. Harvard University also offers interview tips and sample questions.
When it comes to personal statements and essays in a medical school application, it isn’t about having the most detail or the longest essay. What matters is that the content represents you, your character, and why you want to be a doctor. It is as simple as that. Anything that deflects from this only distracts admissions officers from why you believe you deserve to be a premedical student at their medical school. A personal statement guide is a great resource for writing a successful personal statement. Here is where you can give admissions officers an insight as to who you really are. Here is where you have a chance to advocate for yourself and show them why you are meant to be a doctor.
If you have struggled with writing a successful personal statement, consider researching what personal statements and essay topics and questions have proven successful for doctors in the past. This can provide inspiration, insight, and a baseline for you to refer to when rewriting your personal statements.
As already discussed, letters of recommendation should be more than just a mere display of your academic achievements. Your letter writers should be advisors or faculty with whom you have a strong, professional relationship, that are ready and willing to speak on your character, drive, and passion for medicine.
If your letters of recommendation were a problem area in your initial medical school applications, consider sending the American Association of Medical Colleges’ Guidelines for Writing a Letter of Evaluation to your letter writers. This helps your letter writers to know exactly what admissions officers are looking for in a strong applicant.
Updating Your Work Experience to Strengthen Your Application
Maybe the area of your application that needs work is your work experience. Most, if not all, medical schools heavily emphasize the importance of experience in patient care. As this will be an essential aspect of your duty as a doctor in the future, it makes sense that this is such a large part of your application and whether it is accepted or denied.
Since you will have at least a year before the next application cycle, this is the perfect time to expand upon your experience, whether that is through volunteering, getting a part-time job, or shadowing a doctor in the medical field. Reference this comprehensive list of extracurriculars for any medical school application when adjusting your own. Not only will admissions officers notice this update in your application, but it will be extremely beneficial to your own experience in entering the medical field.
The first thing you must do when reevaluating your medical school application is to take your time. Though it is exciting and you are ready to jumpstart your career in medicine, if this is a problem area of your application, there is nothing wrong with waiting to reapply to medical school and instead taking that time to gain more experience in any area before you resubmit your applications. This will also show admissions officers that you have taken a large, necessary step in the right direction, and the experience will help prepare you in your path to becoming a doctor.
Once you have successfully reassessed and implemented meaningful changes into your medical school applications, create a draft of a list of medical schools to which you plan to apply. Are you applying to all the same medical schools you applied to previously? Are you applying to less? Are you applying to more? Are you applying to entirely different medical schools?
These are essential questions to ask yourself, so you know what sort of guidelines you are following in each application. Once you are sure of which schools you are applying to, you can adjust your application accordingly.
When you are finished making all the necessary adjustments to your medical school applications, even if you are sure it is completely finished, set up an appointment with your premedical advisor or admissions consultant to have it reviewed before submitting your final applications. As stated before, a second, fresh set of eyes can spot any discrepancies that you may have missed after spending so much time working on each section.
To ensure you have done everything you could in fixing your medical school application, take time to review the American Association of Medical Colleges’ Tools for Medical School Applicants. Create a checklist when reviewing these tools and check them off as you go so you are sure you didn’t miss anything that may affect your chances of being accepted to the medical schools to which you apply. It just may be your saving grace!
Applying to medical school to start a career as a doctor is a huge decision and requires a lot of hard work. On top of that, it is an extremely competitive field. Acceptance rates are low, expectations are high, and every other applicant is your competitor for a medical school spot. It is perfectly normal and okay not to be accepted into medical school on your first try! This isn’t something that just happens to “bad” candidates or people that don’t want it enough. It happens to great, passionate premedical students everywhere. If you don’t give up and make every effort to show admissions officers that you are passionate about medicine, they will see that. When you put in the work to fix your medical school application, whether it be submitting stronger personal essays, gaining more work experience in patient care, or retaking your MCAT exam, admissions officers will see and notice this effort. It speaks to your character and your drive to become a great doctor, which encourages admissions officers to give you the chance to be just that.