How to Handle Medical School Rejection

When your medical school application cycle doesn’t turn out the way you’d hoped, it feels like everything you’ve likely spent the past few years preparing for and working towards has resulted in nothing. All of the time and energy you’ve spent striving towards this goal probably feels for naught, maybe even a waste. 

First and foremost, you’ll want to acknowledge that even though rejection frequently feels this way, the effort and time you’ve spent developing your skills, understanding and passion for medicine are still worthwhile. You’ve likely grown. Not just as a pre-med, but as a person as well. However, allow yourself to be frustrated and upset for a bit so that you can later emerge without any resentment and instead with continued determination. 

We frequently equate rejection to failure. However, to successfully overcome this bump in the road, it’s best to instead view it as an opportunity for reflection. Be sure you’re confident in your decision to pursue this field; be sure you’re passionate about this vocation of service, an occupation that becomes part of your identity, and one that is both mentally and emotionally challenging. If you walk away from that reflection knowing with absolute certainty that you can’t see yourself doing anything else, then take some time to dissect your application and consider ways in which it can be improved for the next cycle. 


  • Consider any gaps you may have in your application that are related to common evaluation metrics, things like GPA, MCAT score, extracurricular involvement, etc.
  • Consider gaps that might be less clear cut, things like maturity, understanding of the healthcare system in general, understanding of common dilemmas, challenges and problems in medicine, and clinical experience. 
  • Take time to re-evaluate your essays in your primary and secondary applications, as well as your personal statement. It is impossible to effectively convey the entirety of a person into 5300 characters, but the reality is that you want to be intentional about illustrating a genuine depiction of yourself, your reasons for pursuing medicine, and your capability. Do you feel you were successful doing so?
  • Consider if the schools that you applied to were good fits. Did you fit with their average evaluation metrics and did you personally resonate with their mission and goals? Were your secondary responses well-tailored to each school?
  • If possible, consider contacting the schools you applied to and ask for feedback on your application. 


Ultimately, it is human to feel frustrated, dejected, and disappointed about your rejection from a specific school or during an entire cycle. As someone who has experienced just that, who took multiple medical school application cycles to be accepted, I acutely understand that challenge. However, the reality is that if you continue down a path of improvement, of working to achieve this goal, you will be better for it. When you are accepted, you will walk into orientation having had your dedication to medicine challenged and having come out triumphant. Challenges that you’ll face regarding this in the future will be less catastrophic, as you’ve hopefully developed a really strong “why” that will continue to motivate you throughout your journey. You will walk into orientation with skills or perspectives you likely wouldn’t have if you’d been accepted earlier. These things will make you a better physician as a result, maybe one who can better relate to your patients and their challenges. You will walk into orientation a better person because of this experience and developed resiliency.  

Finally, trust in yourself. Whether you’re someone who believes in things like fate or not, trust that you’ll get there. Trust that you’ll achieve this goal of becoming a doctor. Trust your ability to persevere, and be a better person for it. This is just a bump in the road, a stepping stone in the trek across the stream. The reality is that 30 years from now, no one is going to care if you’ve been practicing 24 instead of 25 years; you’re going to be a doctor. 

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