Rejected From Medical School: Reasons Why and What To Do Next

By February 10, 2019 February 15th, 2019 Admissions Advice

Rejected from Medical School:
Reasons Why and What To do Next

Are you a medical school applicant worried that you have not received enough or even one interview invite? Depending on the your application and time of the year, you can still boost your chances of getting an interview invite. Read our blog “”No Medical School Invite? What to do next.” or contact us for questions. 

BUT if you’re one of the unlucky many who were rejected from medical school everywhere… Keep on reading. 

Rejection is a horrible feeling. When you have put in as much time and energy as is required to craft a solid application to medical school, not getting in can be a huge emotional setback if you let it.

But don’t despair! There are some things you can do after learning you are rejected from medical school that can help ease the pain and make you an even stronger applicant the next time around.

In this blog, you’ll get tips on:

  1. Why people get rejected from medical school
  2. What you should do if they have been rejected from medical school
  3. Rejected from medical school, now what?

First, you have to try and understand WHY you got rejected to medical school. 

Top Reasons Why People Get Rejected from Medical School:


Rejected from medical school reason #1: Grades or MCAT scores are too low

Although medical schools value individual applicants’ personal qualities, the reality is the most important thing when applying is your academic record. Many application are rejected from medical school because of their grades. Some schools (such as the University of California system’s medical schools) screen applicants based on minimum GPA and MCAT scores during the primary application, before secondary applications are ever sent. Successful medical school applicants do not have low GPAs and MCAT scores. Applicants with disadvantaged status or other special circumstances may be specially selected to interview, but they need to be prepared to address any academic shortcomings and provide logical reasons for those shortcomings.

If you had other personal circumstances occur that resulted in a dip in grades, showing an upward trend in GPA in later years can help draw attention away from your checkered academic past. MCAT scores are another area of the application that can end up being very black and white. Medical schools rely on the GPA and MCAT score as an indicator for whether the student will be able to handle the academic rigor of medicine, where faulty knowledge could potentially cost a patient her life.

Rejected from medical school reason #2: Essays and Extra-curricular activities didn’t stand out
Medical schools like to see that applicants not only know what they’re getting into with medical school (i.e. the medical profession), but also that they’ve demonstrated both commitment and some leadership while they’ve been undergraduates. Medical school applicants don’t need to choose a specific specialty, they need to be able to talk about their aspirations in an informed way, and also need to show a sustained track record of involvement in activities. Joining habitat for humanity the spring semester before you apply to medical school, for example, is NOT going to impress an admissions committee. Extracurricular activities pursued half-heartedly or without sustained commitment will not stand out on your AMCAS application or your personal statement. Weak activities lead to weak AMCAS application mini-statements, and even worse, a weak, forgettable personal statement. As a reminder, our book has 50 examples of essays that did stand out. Learn from successful medical school applicants so you are not rejected from medical school!

Rejected from medical school reason #3: AMCAS Application submitted too late

Unfortunately, every year, there are students who don’t apply early enough or to an appropriate range of schools and are subsequently rejected from medical school. Submit your AMCAS application as early as possible! We cannot stress this enough. As time goes by, interview spots start to fill up, and by the end of an application cycle, you may be rejected from medical school simply because most of the class is already filled. Applying early gives you the best chance of maximizing your credentials and possibly sneaking into one of your reach schools.

We know a student who applied in September / October. He had a 40 on his MCAT and a 3.8 GPA from an Ivy-League University, and admissions officers told him that if he had submitted his AMCAS application earlier, he would have been granted an interview offer!

As an aside, students may want to consult the AAMC’s Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) webpage to get an idea of the range of schools to which they should apply.

There are many reasons applicants are rejected from medical school. However, here at Cracking Med School Admissions we have advised thousands of students and have seen that these are the most common reasons for rejection. Successful medical school applicants apply early. Fortunately, these issues are also very avoidable, and proper planning and guidance plus some hard work will help ensure these reasons don’t apply to you.

As always, we welcome any questions you may have! Shoot us an email at or fill out our contact form down below. 


What should you do next?


So if you are rejected from medical school, what should you do next? 


1) Do a post-mortem review and analysis of your application: Take stock of everything that happened during your application process to determine weak points in your application. Did you botch your interviews? Who did you ask for recommendations? Are there any glaring weaknesses in your grades or test scores? Take a step back and look at things rationally and objectively. This is where a third party can be immensely helpful, since they are able to give you an unbiased account of your application. Here at Cracking Med School Admissions, we do just that with our application reviews.

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 programsfor 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.” 


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.


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!

After all,

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint Exupery

Rejected from medical school, now what?


1) Don’t re-apply immediately: Universal rejection from medical school is a sign that something is missing in your application. Don’t rush back to the front line of battle right away before identifying what your weaknesses were the first time around and Improving Upon Them

2) Plan your next move: You’ll want to re-apply once you’ve had a chance to improve weaknesses in your application, so make sure your next move is an experience that will indeed improve these weaknesses while providing you an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the larger applicant pool. If your MCAT score is the problem, taking an MCAT class is probably a good idea. If you need more research experience, working at a biotech company could be a great way to make this a strength while putting some extra money in your pocket. If you want to make yourself stand out, public health programs or fellowships abroad are a great way to do so.

As we said before, a careful re-evaluation of what went wrong the first time around will be very important. The answers you come up with will help you chart a path for the next 1-2 years. Cracking Med Admissions offers analysis of your application if you get Rejected From Medical School. We’ll tell you exactly where we think you went wrong, and what you can do to fix it.

As always, feel free to ask us anything?

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