by Cassie Kosarek, MD Candidate, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College
Each year after the medical school application cycle is complete, thousands of medical school hopefuls are left without an acceptance to an MD or DO program. The number of students who didn’t receive an acceptance is large enough that the AAMC keeps data, broken down by various criteria, on how many people made or didn’t make the cut each year.
If you are in the unfortunate position of having received a rejection notice from every school to which you applied, you may be asking yourself if reapplication to medical school in an upcoming admissions cycle is worth the effort. Do you have a reasonable chance of getting into medical school? Are the less attractive aspects of your application ones you can fix? While the decision about whether to reapply to medical school is a personal one, considering the following criteria may help you gauge whether you are likely to be successful in subsequent admissions cycles.
1. Are your GPA and MCAT score strong enough for admission?
The first application screening that medical schools do is typically one that concerns the numerical aspects of your application. If your GPA and MCAT score fall below the mean of matriculants for the programs you’ve chosen, you may be at a disadvantage before your entire application has been read. Medical schools seek evidence that prospective students will be able to handle the academic rigors of a medical education. A low GPA or MCAT score may portend a low USMLE score or subpar performance in academic coursework. Realistically evaluate how numerically competitive you are for medical school. If you are not competitive, consider bolstering your MCAT score by taking the test again or improving your GPA with new coursework, such as in a postbaccalaureate program.
2. Are you lacking clinical experiences?
One of the more “fixable” aspects of a weak application is a lack of clinical experience. While your GPA and MCAT score might be competitive, medical schools can be skeptical of a candidate who hasn’t stepped foot in a clinical setting. After all, how could you possibly know you want to be a physician if you’ve never taken the time to work or volunteer with patients? If your strongest clinical experience on your current application is, say, an hour or two volunteering in the emergency room for several months, it’s time to find your way back into the clinic. Consider becoming an EMT or a scribe, or find a long-term volunteer position that will demonstrate better understanding of—and commitment to—medicine.
3. Are there any black marks on your record, including any criminal history or institutional actions, that may preclude you from admittance?
A history that shows evidence of a lack of judgment, endangerment or lack of concern for the wellbeing of others, negligence, or dishonesty is a hard sell to medical schools. Though the event in question may have occurred a long time ago, and though you may have matured since the incident, it is important to acknowledge that depending on the severity of your transgression, it may not be worth your time to reapply. If you believe that you can account for your mistake, be sure to thoroughly explain what happened and demonstrate how you have grown since the event in subsequent applications.
4. Have you made meaningful changes to your application since your last unsuccessful cycle?
Submitting the same application and hoping for a better outcome in the next cycle is unlikely to work. Schools can see your prior application and are able to evaluate how you have improved your readiness for medical school in the intervening time. Add additional research or volunteer experiences; improve your numbers; craft a new personal statement. Your new application should reflect meaningful change in your admissions profile since you last applied.
About the Author
Cassie Kosarek is a professional tutor with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Bryn Mawr College and is a member of the Class of 2020 at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.