Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by Laura Turner
Let’s be honest: it’s really hard to get into medical school. Each medical school receives thousands of applications every year and most schools have less than a hundred spots available. Which means that if you’ve just received the blow of a med school rejection, you are far from alone.
That doesn’t make it any easier or feel any nicer, we know! Especially when med school is a goal you’ve worked hard for, and when it’s just the next step in your long-term goal of becoming a physician. We understand that being rejected can shake your confidence and leave you wondering what went wrong.
That’s where we can help. At Accepted, we’ve worked with thousands of med school applicants, so we know what committees are looking for – and which applicant mistakes can lead to that dreaded rejection. The first step towards crafting a successful reapplication strategy is understanding what went wrong this time: Did you make a mistake in your application strategy? In the content or execution of your application? Were you overly optimistic about your competitiveness?
Here are some of the most common mistakes we’ve seen:
- Your GPA is too low or shows a decreasing trend.
If your GPA is too low for the schools you’re targeting, it would be better to complete postbaccalaureate coursework before applying. Also, a borderline GPA with a decreasing trend is an easy way to earn a rejection. It’s better to show stronger achievement in your most recent work.
- Your MCAT score is too low.
If you do not have a high GPA to compensate for a low MCAT score, it may be best to retake the MCAT before applying. I don’t recommend applying before you receive your score because knowing your score will help you decide which schools to apply to.
- Your letters of recommendation were weak, out of date, or unhelpful.
Submitting old letters of recommendation (letters that are a year old or older) or not submitting strong letters can substantially hurt your application. These letters are quoted and discussed at great length during selection committee meetings. They matter. Take the time to attend office hours and to form strong bonds with your mentors so that you can be confident that you will have strong letters to support your application.
- Your application included errors or incorrect information.
By accidentally listing the wrong country of your birth or wrong state for permanent residence, you can cause your application to be red flagged or to be automatically rejected by schools that only interview or accept in-state residents. And of course, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t intentionally present incorrect information (i.e. lie about your nationality, race, or any other detail). Double check all of the contact information, personal details, and family information to make sure that it is correct.
- You didn’t take full advantage of the application.
Many applicants do not list everything that they have done or do not use all 15 activity descriptions in the AMCAS application. Use every character allowed and complete each description requested, even if it is optional. Demonstrating that you have put the time and effort into the application to help the reader gain a stronger idea of who you are as an individual will make all the difference. On the other hand, don’t just ramble on or word-stuff simply for the sake of filling up space. Make sure that what you say is substantive.
- You misrepresented your activities.
Don’t lie about what you haven’t done. If you do not have significant clinical, volunteer, leadership, or research experience, sign up for some immediately! The strongest applications have a balance of activities that represent at least three or preferably all four of these categories. (Research is optional for many medical schools.) Using an app (like PreMDTracker) can be helpful in keeping a big picture perspective on the distribution of your activities.
- Your essays were sloppy, not well-thought-out, or poorly edited.
The essays that raise more questions than they provide answers to often confuse and frustrate their readers. If your essay is challenging to read, most application reviewers will not read it all the way through. Take the time to create outlines and approach the writing process thoughtfully. A strong personal statement requires thought and introspection. The more you know about yourself and how you approach life, the more gracefully you will be able to transition into medical school to take on the responsibilities of a healer.
- Your interview didn’t help your case.
Taking the time to submit an excellent application that earns you an interview, but neglecting to prepare for the interview with mock interviews can seriously jeopardize your spot in the entering class! Mock interviews can help you develop the skills required to give a strong interview. Most people struggle with public speaking and interviewing. The difference between those who interview well and those who do not is practice.
Was one (or more) of these errors the culprit in your med school rejection? It doesn’t need to be the end of your med school plans. Take some time to regroup, analyze what went wrong, and create a strategy to improve your application for the next time.
Linda Abraham is the founder and CEO of Accepted, the top-tier admissions consultancy that helps you unlock your competitive advantage. She founded the Admissions Straight Talk podcast in 2012. She has discussed admissions in numerous publications and media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, US News, Poets & Quants, Business Because, Inside Higher Ed, Bloomberg, and CBS News.