It goes without saying that applying to medical school is a competitive process. In the 2017 AMCAS® application cycle, of those students who applied, about 40% were accepted [See Applying to Medical School: 2017 AMCAS® Medical School Applications by the Numbers]. If you applied and didn’t get accepted on your first try, don’t be discouraged! Many students before you have applied more than once before they were accepted to medical school. So what can you do to strengthen your application? Before you dive headfirst into a new application cycle, we asked three medical school admissions officers to share their best advice for students who are reapplying. In summary, self-reflection is key.
“Applying to medical school can be a very stressful process, and this stress can be magnified if you don’t get accepted. If this happens to you, first, take a deep breath and put it in context. The average acceptance rate to U.S. MD-granting medical schools has ranged from 40% - 42% for the past few years. Give yourself some time to work through whatever feelings you may have, and then take a good, hard look at your application and at yourself.
There are many reasons why an applicant may not be accepted, including low academic credentials, poor interview performance, the timing of application submission, weak exploration and understanding of medicine, or poorly written essays. The first impulse for some candidates who have not been accepted to medical school is to reapply immediately in the next cycle. In reality, it is very important to slow down and to consider whether any changes you need to implement will take more time, such as retaking the MCAT exam, bolstering a suboptimal GPA, or increasing medical exploration. It is also important to seek advice from pre-health advisors and/or medical school admissions representatives to help you better understand your application weaknesses and to more fully understand how and which improvements may need to be made.”
--Lina Mehta, MD, Associate Dean for Admissions, Associate Professor of Radiology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
“The first step to being a successful medical school re-applicant is reflection and self-assessment. Take some time to thoroughly review your application. What are your strengths? What are your areas for further growth? In addition to assessing your application on your own, consider reaching out for help. Has your pre-health advisor reviewed your application and given you advice? Have you asked the schools where you were not accepted if they offer feedback? Have you reviewed the medical school’s websites to really understand what they are seeking in their applicants? Note that some medical schools even publish self-assessment guides for applicants.
Once you have identified areas of growth, take the time to grow! Rushing into another application cycle when you have more work to do may not be the best route. Attack the gaps in your application with excitement and energy. How can you learn from further studies or experiences to help you become an exceptional future health care provider? Journal about your experiences. What stories can you tell about your journey? Reflect on the opportunities you’ve had, the people you’ve learned from, and the kind of physician you want to be. Remember, the end game is not to get into medical school, but to provide much-needed care to patients. How will you become the type of physician you would want to care for your loved ones?”
--Christina Grabowski, PhD, Associate Dean for Admissions and Enrollment Management, The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine
“Every year, many more students apply to medical school than are accepted. What can you do if you are one of the students who needs to reapply? Take a deep breath and remind yourself why you are doing this!
There are four things to consider before you resubmit your application. First, the Holistic Review paradigm developed by the AAMC can be your guide on how to improve your application. Carefully look at your Experiences (E), Attributes (A), and Metrics (M). Where in these three areas are you not the best you can be? Where in the three areas are you not in the range of students that were successful the previous year? Second, how well did you articulate your commitment to medicine in your application? Is your commitment well supported by your various activities? Third, timing is important. If your application has not changed significantly from the previous submission, the likelihood of a different outcome is small. Admissions committees want to see noticeable changes in a re-applicant. Finally, reach out to the medical schools you previously applied to for advice on how you can enhance your application. Many schools may not have the resources to provide you with this information, but it does not hurt to try. Lastly, consider sitting down with your pre-health advisor who will have the most comprehensive understanding of what successful applicants from your school look like and can offer suggestions for improving your application.”
--Leila Amiri, MA, Director of Admissions, University of Illinois College of Medicine
As you prepare to reapply, it can also be helpful to see how other applicants overcame not being accepted on the first try and then ultimately matriculated to medical school. The AAMC’s Inspiring Stories is a collection of interviews with medical students about their path to medical school where you’ll find that many involve multiple application attempts. It can also be helpful to know what medical schools are looking for in their future students. The AAMC’s Anatomy of an Applicant breaks down applications of current medical students and shares what led these applicants to acceptance.