If you are one of the many students who didn’t get into medical school this past cycle, you are part of the disappointed majority. According to 2016-2017 application/matriculation data from the AAMC, 53,042 applicants submitted an average of 16 applications to medical schools, resulting in a total of 830,016 applications. Of those applications, only 39.6% were admitted to medical school. Medical school rejections are difficult to handle, but raise an important question: what now?
First, you need to decide if medical school is still worth pursuing, and whether your intentions have changed. Do you want to get into medical school because you want to be a doctor? Or do you want to get in to erase the sting of rejection? If medical school is not for you, that is a perfectly fine realization, and does not impart any weakness or decreased worth on yourself as a whole. The Sunk Cost Fallacy rings true: you are not beholden to medicine just because you’ve committed so much time and effort to it.
If you do decide that you want to apply to medical school again, here are some actions you can take to try again.
Rejected from Medical School? Rebounding from Med School Rejections Tip #1: Hold a Morbidity and Mortality (M&M) conference for your application
Like the namesake review held by physicians to evaluate mistakes and plan future actions, you need to host a thorough debriefing of your application.
Our Cracking Med School Admissions team has successfully advised several students who had previously been rejected from medical schools to gain acceptances to multiple medical schools when they work us. Need help improving your medical school applications? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, pinpoint potential areas of improvement:
Timing: This adage has been bled dry, but the earlier you apply, the better your chances. It is possible that you had a great application, but didn’t get in because it wasn’t seen early enough. From the author’s personal experience, APPLY EARLY. In past application cycles, the AMCAS system can get overwhelmed. Here’s an anecdote: In the 2013-2014 cycle, the AMCAS applications took 6-8 weeks to get processed, meaning if you submitted your primary application in early July, it wasn’t verified until late August, meaning you were receiving secondary applications in September, when schools were already sending interview invites. By that point, no matter how stellar your application, it had a dismal chance of securing an interview.
Number of schools: How many schools did you apply to? This is a burdensome factor to consider, especially because medical school applications AREN’T cheap and, depending on your financial situation, may limit the number of schools you can apply for. However, with medical schools getting increasingly competitive, our recommended baseline number of applications is 25 schools (including secondary applications). If you found that you applied considerably less than this number, you may have to cast a wider net during the next cycle. Again, this is a financial strain that may not be available to all applicants. But the AAMC does have fee assistance programs for eligible applicants. Ultimately, it is safer to apply wider a second time than to undergo the process a third time.
Interview: Did you receive any interviews, and if so, how many? An applicant who applied to 30 schools but did not receive any interviews differs from the applicant who interviewed at ten schools, but failed to garner a single acceptance. For the latter applicant, the problem may revolve around their interviewing skills, personality, and/or presentation on interview day, which are addressed in one of our previous blog posts: “3 Tips to Ace Medical School Questions.”
Rejected from Medical School? Rebounding from Med School Rejections Tip #2: Contact each medical school and ask for feedback
Call up medical schools that you applied to and ask to set up an appointment to go over your application. Some medical schools offer this and will be willing to discuss potential ways to improve your application, or highlight potential pitfalls to address. Ideally, you would want to do this with every school. Realistically…do this with at least one school, 3-4 preferred. That way, you can compare the responses and gain a better perspective of what was lacking in your application. One analysis may be subjective to that particular school (some schools are more research heavy, whereas other schools like Harvard/Yale lean towards leadership). But, if you receive multiple responses, then that allows you to triangulate your areas of improvement. Some schools, such as University of California San Diego, offer post-bac programs for applicants as a means of admitting them in the following year. See if this option is offered, and determine if this is right for you.
Contacting each medical school’s admissions office is also a great way to establish a rapport with someone in admissions, particularly it the school is one of your top choices. Remember, these people are human too, and they ultimately want to help you out.
Rejected from Medical School? Rebounding from Med School Rejections Tip #3: Determine your timing and trajectory.
Is it too late to apply this next coming cycle? For example, if you received the tail-end of your rejections in April, will you be ready to submit again in early June? Likely not. Take another year. Don’t let the first rejection hijack your panic into a second wound. Apply early in the next cycle with a pristine application! I don’t know anyone who’s last dying words were “I wish I had gotten into medical school one year earlier.”
That being said, make sure that you make the most of your year. Make sure your application is actually different, which, unfortunately, means that you’ll have to revise a new personal statement and/or work activities. Furthermore, if there are aspects of your application that are lacking, i.e. clinical experiences, leadership, etc., then use this year to build on them! Have a plan!
“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint Exupery
Looking to improve upon your medical school application for another admissions cycle? Contact our Cracking Med School Admissions team at email@example.com to analyze your med school application and optimize its potential for future cycles. We can help YOU stand out from the rest of the pack: from planning your pre-med career to editing your AMCAS and secondary applications to preparing with you for interviews. Check out our various packages here. By working with us, we will help boost and refine your chances of getting accepted!