Every year, around 40% of applicants who apply to medical schools do not receive a single acceptance and will need to re-apply. If you find yourself in this group, do not worry! Many medical students and physicians practicing today did not get in on their first try. And if you are able to reflect on your application and make the needed improvements, you will have a much stronger chance of receiving an acceptance the second time around as a medical school reapplicant.
In this blog post, we detail:
Rejected from Medical School Reflection: What Went Wrong?
We strongly encourage you to do some soul searching, critical analysis of your last medical school application, and research what went wrong.
Common reasons that applicants do not succeed on their first try include:
- Lacks cohesion and a narrative throughout their medical school applications
- Non-competitive GPA and MCAT score (low GPA and/or low MCAT score)
- Poorly written essays
- Late submission of application
- Inappropriate school list/not applying to enough schools
- Insufficient understanding/exploration of medicine
- Deficient interview skills
- “Red flags” such as institutional actions (IAs) and/or negative LORs
- Did not fulfill pre-requisite requirements for medical schools
Ask yourself the following to determine which reason(s) might / may have weakened your application:
- Look at the median and 25th-75th percentile GPA/MCAT ranges of the schools you applied to. Are you in range? If not, your academic metrics may need to be boosted before reapplying.
- Have multiple people read over your essays/personal statement. Can they clearly explain why you want to go into medicine after reading your essays? Do they think your writing is generally well-written? Otherwise, your writing may need improvement.
- When did you submit your primary application? When was it verified? How long did it take for you to submit your secondaries? Ideally, you should aim to be complete at all of your schools by September.
- How many schools did you apply to? Do students accepted to schools you applied to have similar academic metrics on MSAR? Did you apply to out of state schools that do not favor out of state applicants? Consider having your school list reviewed by a trusted advisor and aim for at least 20-25 schools.
- How many hours of clinical experience did you apply with? Over how many years? Did you shadow multiple physicians, including primary care? While there are no set-in stone rules for clinical experience, it is a good idea to aim for 200+ hours and multiple years of commitment.
- Did you receive multiple interviews but no acceptances? Did you schedule mock interviews before the real thing? Consider performing mock interviews with your friends and mentors before re-applying to hone your interview skills.
- Negative comments from recommenders can definitely prevent you from gaining an acceptance offer in a very competitive admissions process. While IAs are self-reported, a negative LOR is difficult to detect on the applicant-side. Consider asking schools you applied to who are receptive to providing applicants feedback about weaknesses of your application!
- Look over whether you fulfilled the all the requirements for all the medical schools you applied to. Some medical schools require or “strongly recommend” 1 semester of Biochemistry – this is one class that many premeds did not take during their undergraduate careers and therefore did not fulfill the requirement for some medical schools.
Tips For People Reapplying to Medical School: Improving Your Application
Medical School Reapplicant Tip #1: Raise your GPA and consider retaking the MCAT
If academic credentials were your weakness, consider taking 1-2 years to enroll in a post-bac program or a 1 year SMP program (ideally administered by a medical school). Aim for a 3.7+ GPA to show your readiness for a medical school curriculum! If you failed any of your prerequisite courses, you will also need to retake these to fulfill matriculation requirements at many medical schools. Remember, medical schools look highly on an “upwards trend,” so don’t worry if your cumulative GPA is still lower as long as you show a clear and consistent upwards trajectory in recent courses.
Your target MCAT score will depend on the schools you are aiming for (competitiveness, DO vs. MD) as well as other components of your application. Consider re-taking if your first exam went poorly due to insufficient preparation and/or test day misfortunes. See our blog post on How to study for the MCAT for more information on how to ace your second attempt!
Medical School Reapplicant Tip #2: Review Our Tips For Writing Strong Essays
- With up to 5300-characters allotted for your personal statement, 700 characters for a maximum of 15 activities (including 3 most meaningful activities with an additional 1325 characters), and secondaries essays from most schools, your ability to succeed when applying to medical schools is highly dependent on your writing ability.
If you are going to reapply to medical school in the next 1-2 cycles, we strongly suggest that you work with our Cracking Med School Admissions team through our application packages to strengthen your application.
Here are links to our high yield blog posts:
Medical School Reapplicant Tip #3: Apply Earlier in the Application Cycle
Medical school admissions is a rolling process. Therefore, applying late handicaps your own application before it has even been reviewed by an admissions committee member. Have a clear understanding of the application timeline and ensure you are ready to submit on day one and turnaround secondaries within 1-2 weeks of receiving them!
Medical School Reapplicant Tip #4: Tailor Your School List Towards Your Application
In making your school list, consider: location, personal fit, number of schools, and median GPA/MCAT scores of students accepted. Also look at GPA, MCAT, and matriculant data listed on MSAR to ensure you are applying to schools appropriately. Read our blog post about building a school list that optimizes your chances of getting accepted to medical school.
Medical School Reapplicant Tip #5: Strengthen Your Extracurricular Activity Involvements
If you had low clinical hours, accumulate additional hours volunteering and make note of any memorable experiences to potentially write or talk about later in a re-application cycle. Pursue leadership positions and build upon involvement in activities you are already a part of. In addition to demonstrating involvement, you should also be well-rounded by pursuing activities which you may have lacked the first time applying. For example, students often neglect non-clinical community service in solely focusing on clinical experiences.
Medical School Reapplicant Tip #6: Improve Your Interview Skills and Do More Mock Interviews
Think back on personal experiences in your activities and brainstorm at least one anecdote and “take away” for each activity you listed on your primary. Think about what common patterns and themes connect the activities you are involved with, and practice vocalizing those answers out loud in a cohesive manner. Even if you do not have a friend or mentor to practice with, you can record yourself and adjust after watching the recording to perfect your poise and delivery.
Medical School Reapplicant Tip #7: Consider Gap Years, Post-bacc Programs To Improve Significant Weaknesses
If there was a significant red flag on your application, consider taking multiple gap years to put distance between the red flag and your application. For example, applicants previously disciplined for academic dishonesty have succeeded in gaining eventual acceptance to medical school after years of service (e.g. Peace Corps, working with underserved populations, army service) and time to mature.
What to know as a Reapplicant to medical school: answers to common questions
Many re-applicants ask us when to reapply to medical school. The simple answer is that you should not reapply until you feel ready. If you have taken the necessary steps to remediate any weaknesses and prepare a stronger application, then you should feel confident re-applying and fully commit to the process! We typically don’t suggest applicant to re-apply the following cycle. One exception to this is if your MCAT will expire the upcoming year.
We recommend re-writing any essays and descriptions. While you can talk about the same ideas and themes, you should do so from another perspective, or through different anecdotes. If you have significantly improved your application, you will need to write new descriptions and want to talk about things you have done since last applying anyway!
We’ve been asked in the past whether there is something specific a medical school reapplicant should write about in his or her personal statement or secondary essays. No. But, as we stated above, make sure that your all components of your AMCAS and secondary essays are 1) different from your last application and 2) stronger.
Here are links to our high yield blog posts:
First, assess whether all your previous letters of recommendation were strong ones. You can certainly reuse letters of recommendation if you feel confident in them. Make sure your letter writers update the date on your letters as well as the content with any new activities you have become involved with. Second, Also consider asking for additional letters if you have pursued additional meaningful activities which you would like highlighted when re-applying. One recommendation we give premeds is to ask for strong letters of recommendation.
There is no data from AAMC that allows for a clear answer to this question. Stay positive and focus on what you can control rather than worrying about the effects of being a reapplicant, a fact you cannot change.
If you are reapplying to medical school, contact our Cracking Med School Admissions team so we can coach you and advise you about how to strengthen your application.
Yes! As long as you have meaningfully improved your application, you can absolutely apply to a medical school that previously rejected you. Keep in mind that some schools place restrictions on applicants who reapply multiple times (e.g. UCLA Geffen School of Medicine limits applicants to one reapplication only).
We suggest students to apply to more safety schools as a medical school re-applicant. Additionally, you should apply to at least 5 medical schools you have not applied to in the previous cycle.
From our experience of looking and talking with over 100 re-applicants, most students can improve their AMCAS descriptions, personal statement, and secondary essays significantly.
Two resources that will give you the tips and tools to improve are:
- Our Cracking Med School Admissions book
- Our AMCAS Work and Activities workbook, including examples of AMCAS descriptions
There are many aspects of medical school applications that are in your control and can help boost your chances to get into medical school. First, analyze why you did not get accepted to medical school. Second, once you identify your application’s weaknesses, strengthen them. Third, continue making an impact through your interests. Fourth, consider getting additional medical school letters of recommendation. Fifth, when you reapply to medical school, make sure your application is submitted as early as possible and that you have significantly changed and improved your application.
Even though becoming a doctor and attending medical school is your life dream, it is not the end of the world! First, figure out what your weaknesses were in your medical school application. You need to strengthen those weaknesses and perhaps even make it a strength for your next application. For example, if you have a low GPA, consider taking a post-bac program or enroll in extension school courses to improve your GPA. If you lack clinical hours, re-applicants typically work in scribing, EMT, or clinical research positions. However, our Cracking Med School Admissions team DOES NOT recommend these positions for all re-applicants. We can help you strategize what to do in the time before applying to medical school. Our goal is to help you STAND OUT. Check out how we help re-applicants here or contact us down below.