What If You Don’t Get In?

Last Updated on June 27, 2022 by Laura Turner

Unfortunately, roughly half of all applicants to American allopathic medical schools will not receive an acceptance letter this spring. If your application process has concluded in this disappointing manner, ask yourself these questions before you decide on your next course of action:
1. Do I truly wish to become a physician?
Perhaps the most important factor to consider is whether you truly wish to become a doctor. Healthcare as a whole is becoming more and more specialized, and non-physician clinicians and ancillary staff play an increasingly significant role in patient care. It can often be worthwhile to explore alternative career paths that will still provide you with the satisfaction of caring for others. Such roles include nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physical therapists.
2. Where was my application deficient?
If you decide that you do want to pursue a career as a doctor, review your application and honestly assess where you were deficient. One of the most common reasons for rejection is a subpar academic record – in other words, a GPA that was below average for the schools to which you applied. Other aspects that could have lead to your rejection are a low MCAT score, a lack of extracurricular activities, or insufficient experience in medicine. Speak with your pre-medical adviser or another mentor, and ask him or her to help you evaluate each component of your application for weak spots.
3. How can I address these weaknesses?
Once you have identified the areas where your application was lacking, make an honest effort to improve your weak spots. For a low undergraduate GPA, you can complete a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program to demonstrate to admissions committees that you can handle the academic rigor of medical school. Another option is to earn an advanced degree, such as a Master’s or PhD, in a related field (e.g. biochemistry or clinical epidemiology). If your MCAT score is holding you back, aim to retake the exam after a period of focused review.
To address deficient extracurricular involvement, seek out opportunities in student or community groups that you are passionate about, and then dedicate a significant amount of time to these endeavors as you reapply to medical school. Another option is to complete a biomedical research project, which demonstrates your commitment to advancing the medical field. Often, students will need to pursue not just one, but instead a combination of improvements in order to successfully bolster their applications for the next cycle of admissions.
4. Have I reached out to those schools that rejected me?
Making contact with admissions offices can help you gain an even better understanding of how you can improve your application. Take the time to email and/or call each admissions office. Politely ask why you were rejected. You may learn that your interviewing skills were underwhelming, or that your letters of recommendation did not speak highly of you. Use the feedback you receive to further improve your application. If you apply to the same school(s) for a second time, explicitly demonstrate to them how you have quelled their initial concerns.
5. Can I widen my application net?
As you prepare to reapply, try to send your admissions portfolio to a broader range of schools. Specifically, ensure that you apply to a greater number of less competitive programs – ideally ones where your application will be above average. After you have completed the above steps to improve your application, you will likely find that you receive more interview requests. Hopefully, you will also be holding an acceptance letter the following spring! Speak with your mentors, peers, and advisers about which schools are less competitive, or consult sources like the Medical School Admission Requirements.
Though having to reapply to medical school for a second time can often seem demoralizing, think of it as an opportunity to analyze your achievements and performance thus far. Critically evaluate your application both by yourself and with the help of your mentors, and reach out to programs that rejected you for more feedback. Then, set aside the time and effort to address these weak points in order to better your chances for success. If you are careful to apply to more appropriate schools, you will likely succeed in your desire to become a physician. Good luck!