In our series on getting into medical school, we discuss the application process for each school. We review what grades, test scores, and prerequisites are necessary to get in. But what we don’t always talk about is rejection. Did you know that approximately 40% of all applicants in an admissions cycle get rejected? Mekinzee Elliott, a second-year medical student at KU, got rejected her first time around. She was accepted into four different schools on her second try.
There’s no shame in getting rejected to medical school on your first try. What matters most is what comes next. If you aren’t sure whether you want to be a doctor, you might consider a different career field. But, if medicine is still your passion, we highly recommend trying again.
In this article, we’re going to discuss re-applying to medical school because we believe in trying again. We hope that this article covers everything that’s on your mind. However, if you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We provide med school admissions consulting for that very purpose.
How Do I Look As A Medical School Reapplicant?
Reapplying to medical school undoubtedly comes with some anxiety. We all wonder what others think of us from time to time, and this is especially true when we feel vulnerable.
Will they remember me?
Applying a second, third, or even fourth time around doesn’t look bad. In fact, most medical schools won’t even know that you’re a second-year applicant. The only way they’ll know that you’re reapplying to medical school is if you’re applying to the same school again and if that same school kept your application from the year before. They receive so many applications that there’s no guarantee they’ll remember you.
Data shows that over one-quarter of medical school applicants for the 2020 admissions cycle were reapplicants. These stats show that it’s a lot more common to reapply than you might think.
What are my chances of getting in as a reapplicant?
Your chances of getting in are entirely up to you. If you apply with the same scores and information as you did on your first try, then your chances are about the same. However, if you have better scores and you’ve upped your volunteer hours, your chances will be better. For this reason, we recommend reapplying with a stronger application, even if that means waiting a year to reapply. In fact, reapplying with a stronger application looks good. It means that you are continually improving yourself and working to reach your goals.
Can I reapply to the same school?
Yes, you can reapply to the same school. Like we said earlier, they might not remember your first application because they receive so many. But in the chance that they do remember your application, they’ll be impressed if you come back stronger.
Each university has different rules and policies for students, so we can’t answer university-specific questions. We recommend going to that university’s website for specific information.
How long should I wait to reapply?
That depends. If you think you already have a strong application but were rejected, you might just try applying again. However, before you reapply, we recommend having us go over your application. We can identify any areas that need improvement.
If you know your application wasn’t very strong, you might wait to reapply. Maybe you volunteered at your doctor’s office for the summer, but that wasn’t enough experience to get you into your dream school. Try volunteering for another semester–or even a full year–before you reapply.
Simply put, if you apply with a weak application, reapplying with that same application won’t improve your chances of getting in. But if you apply with a stronger application, then your chances will improve.
What about letters of recommendation?
You can reapply to medical school with the same letters of recommendation/evaluation. However, just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should. If you think you can get a stronger letter of recommendation, go for it. It’s okay to submit old letters, all-new letters or a combination of both. What matters is that the content in the letters is current and relevant to you as a student. With this advice in mind, we recommend going with what makes you the strongest applicant you can be.
You might be able to keep all of the same letters of recommendation that you had before. However, some might need to be updated. If you gained more experience at the organization you worked with, reach out to the person who wrote you the recommendation. Ask them to add a couple of paragraphs describing the full extent of your work.
Do I need a new personal statement?
You will need to write a new personal statement. Your core qualities, character traits and positive attributes can all be included in your brand new statement. In fact, you’ll want to keep the same reasons for why you want to be a doctor, or you’d look inconsistent. But the stories you told in your first personal statement need to change.
Maybe you had two different internships, and you wrote about the first one for your personal statement. You chose that first internship because of how it affected your desire to become a doctor.
While you can’t repeat that story in your new personal statement, you can write about your other internship. Sure, you might not have had the same experiences, but you can find experiences that highlight your qualities, traits and attributes.
Recrafting your essay is a lot of work, but it is an essential part of reapplying to medical school. Submitting the same personal statement for two different applications is plagiarizing yourself, and it makes you look lazy.
If writing a new personal statement gives you a headache, reach out to us. Our med school admissions consulting services include personal statements. We can help you format your essay, decide what to write about, and proofread it for you. We offer a 24-hour turnaround time, so if you’re in a pinch, we’ve got your back.
Do I need a new Work and Activities section?
There’s no requirement that you make a new Work and Activities section. We recommend reading through each part of your Work and Activities and making things stronger. Choosing action verbs that can stand on their own without adverbs makes for strong descriptions. Again, if you need help in this area, our med school admissions consulting covers stuff like this.
Of course, you’ll need to update your Work and Activities section. If you’re reapplying to medical school, you should have more experience than you did the first time around. That should mean that you have more to add to this section. Our advice about strong descriptions also applies here.
Your most meaningful experience can also stay the same if that hasn’t changed. But if your most recent experiences have proven to be more meaningful, it’s never a bad idea to write about a new experience. Don’t let the dread of writing something new prevent you from changing things up. A new experience could be what scores you an interview!
What about my secondary essays?
As a medical school reapplicant, we suggest approaching your secondary essays like you would multiple applications. It’s important to tailor your application to each school. So, if you wrote a solid essay for one university that works perfectly for the university you’re applying to now, you’re good to go.
But if you have new experiences you want to share, go for it! There’s nothing wrong with choosing to submit all-new essays, even if you don’t have to. This might be right up your alley if you were an English undergrad major.
Now, a word for caution to every medical school reapplicant. Please do not submit the same essay you wrote last time if you’re applying to the same university. When reapplying to medical school, why would you submit the same application to the same school twice, if you got rejected the first time? That would be a waste of your time and money. (Remember, you have to pay the application fee for each school!)
How can I improve my application?
This is a great question to ask when reapplying to medical school. It’s easy to second guess yourself, especially when you’re rejected on your first try for something this important to you. You might never know with 100% certainty why you were rejected the first time you applied.
It could have been your MCAT score or your grades. Or maybe the admissions committee didn’t resonate with your secondary essays. Perhaps the class size was too small, and that particular university didn’t do waitlists. Since you might never know, you’ll want to strengthen every part of your application to have the best possible shot at getting in this time around.
Ruling Out The Possibilities
While you’ll never know with absolute certainty why you didn’t get in, you can rule some things out. If your MCAT score was fantastic, then it had nothing to do with not getting in. You might have written some stellar essays that went through multiple rounds of editing and proofreading. You can rule that out, too.
But maybe you bombed your interview because you were a stuttering mess and couldn’t stop saying “uh…” instead of answering the questions. Or perhaps you missed the deadline to turn in your letters of evaluation.
By ruling out the strongest parts of your application, you can narrow down why you didn’t get in. Then, you can focus on strengthening the weaker parts. The stronger your overall application is, the better your chances of getting in.
Finding Weaker Parts
Identifying the parts of your application that could be stronger is an essential part of reapplying to medical school. It can be tough to acknowledge that something isn’t as strong as it could be. But by acknowledging our weaknesses and working to improve them, we have new opportunities for growth.
If you’re not sure where to start, reach out to us. Our med school admissions consulting services are the perfect place to start. With med school advisors from Harvard, Yale and Stanford, we have the expertise to help you make your application strong.
Tips and Tricks for Strengthening Your Application
When all is said and done, there are ways to make your application stronger. Here’s what we’ve found has worked well.
- Request feedback. There’s no guarantee you’ll receive an answer, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. If your dream school turned you down, send an email to the admissions committee. Tell them you’d like to know how your application could have been better. You want to improve it for the future. There’s a 50/50 chance that they’ll respond. It’s better to ask than to never know!
- Retake the MCAT and take more courses. If your MCAT score was on the lower end, it would be wise to study for it and retake the exam. While it’s a pain, it’s a worthwhile pain. A lot of schools place heavy emphasis on your MCAT score. If your GPA isn’t where you want it to be, consider taking more science courses. If you already have your bachelor’s degree, you can take post-baccalaureate science classes to strengthen your overall GPA.
- Participate in more extracurricular activities. We can’t say enough about this. The more involved you are in your community, the better. Gaining more experience in shadowing, patient exposure, community involvement, and scientific research will make your application shine all the more. Since you’re taking a forced gap year, you’ll want to fill your time with worthwhile, meaningful activities. Otherwise, it won’t look like you put forth much effort. And that is the last thing you want admissions committees to think.
- Be selective about where you apply. It’s important to have a mixture of schools on your list. You’ll want to apply to your dream school and a few other schools you really want to go to. But, you’ll also want to research which schools accept your GPA and MCAT scores. If you only apply to dream schools that might be out of reach, then you might be out of luck getting in at all. But if you apply to a range of schools, including ones you’re eligible for, your chances of being accepted are much higher.
- Apply early for rolling admissions. In case you haven’t heard of rolling admissions, click here to read our article about it. Rolling admissions are different from regular admissions, and they truly could make or break you getting into medical school. This is especially true if all the schools you’re applying to employ the rolling admissions system. Check each university’s website to see when their application opens and what type of admissions system they use. If they use rolling admissions, submit your application as soon as possible.
- Mock interviews are your best friend. The old saying “practice makes perfect” rings true to this day. Practice answering the most common interview questions. Develop and refine your answers. We offer mock interview sessions as part of our med school admissions consulting. We’d be happy to help you prepare!
Being a medical school reapplicant is not a bad thing. Next time you feel down about it, remember that 40% of applicants are rejected on their first try. And for each application cycle, 25% are reapplying. It’s a lot more common than you might think. There’s also nothing taboo about it. Mekinzee Elliott openly shared her experience working at Smoothie King during her gap year. Be proud of yourself for facing rejection head-on and not letting it stop you from reaching your goals. As a medical school reapplicant, you’ll have a unique story to share that will encourage others, just like Mekinzee.
Reapplying to medical school shows grit, determination and tenacity. It shows that you don’t give up when things get tough. Reapplying to medical school means you truly want to become a doctor. We’ve talked about showing vs telling on our blog, and this is an example of that. The act of reapplying to medical school is, quite literally, showing the admissions committee that you want to be a doctor.
Not sure what schools to look at for your second time around? We have a series here on our blog, where we provide comprehensive guides on getting into various medical schools. Check out our growing list, and see which ones you might want to apply to!
- UC Davis School of Medicine
- Harvard Medical School
- UC Riverside School of Medicine
- USC Keck School of Medicine
- UT Southwestern Medical School
- Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio
- University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine
- UT Austin’s Dell Medical School
- UTMB School of Medicine
- McGovern Medical School at UT Health
- Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
- McGovern Medical School at UT Health
- The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine
- UNT Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine
- University of Houston College of Medicine
- Texas A&M College of Medicine
- Johns Hopkins Medical School
- Baylor College of Medicine
- George Washington University School of Medicine
- Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
- St. George’s University School of Medicine
- Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (in Pennsylvania)
- Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University
- Wake Forest University School of Medicine
- Western University of Health Sciences (in California)
- Drexel University College of Medicine
- Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago
- Georgetown University School of Medicine
- Yale School of Medicine
- Perelman School of Medicine
- UCLA Medical School
- NYU Medical School
- Washington University School of Medicine
- Brown Medical School
As always, International Medical Aid wishes you the very best of luck in your application process. We’re here if you need help at any point along the way!