Reapplying to Medical School: FAQs

Reapplying to medical school

You have spent years preparing for the day you can click “submit” on your medical school applications: prerequisite courses, volunteering, and shadowing. Everything you have been working for has culminated into this moment. 

You know you have the grades and the MCAT score. You spent your undergraduate years collecting meaningful experiences and devoting your time to extracurriculars like research or community service. Your personal statement brought tears to the eyes of those who read it. Secondary essays were sent your way and you really had the opportunity to prove your candidacy for medical school. 

As a result, you expect to open your email to an outpouring of acceptance offers in a manner that can only be compared to letters from Hogwarts flying in from the fireplace. It is okay to have expectations, but what happens when instead of acceptances you get rejections? What happens when those expectations are not met? The first and most important thing to do is to breathe and realize that it is going to be okay (More on being met with a rejection can be found here.)

While this moment is extremely disappointing, remember that you will grow and be a better medical student and doctor for it. This may be an opportunity for you to pursue a multitude of different experiences of which you may not have been able to otherwise.

What’s next when reapplying to medical school?

The next thing is to take a look at your application with honest eyes and critically consider what areas of your application can be improved upon. The process of reapplying is a great opportunity to find where your application is lacking and take the year to improve not only your application but yourself. Questions to consider when analyzing a previous year’s application:

  • Was my writing reflective of who I am as an applicant?
  • Was my writing thorough and free of errors in the way of grammar, spelling, etc.?
  • Did my personal statement present clearly my motivation to become a physician?
  • Did I apply to schools which had minimum and average statistics in the realm of my own statistics?
  • Did I apply late in the cycle?
  • Were there areas of the interview of which I can improve upon for next cycle?

In order to answer these questions, it may be helpful to sit down with a trusted advisor or school representative in order to get the answers through another’s eyes. 

You might have more questions about where to go next. Below are a few common questions about this process, but I realize this is not a one-size-fits-all topic. If you still find yourself with specific questions about your particular situation, the MyMentor program at MotivateMD can offer you one-on-one advice from current medical students about any aspect of your premed journey.

Does reapplying look bad?

On the contrary, less than half of U.S. medical school applicants matriculate into medical school in any particular year (See the AAMC data here for more information.) Ultimately, the process is implemented to make sure the best students get in. Though when there are so many students that fit their criteria, there are going to be good candidates that inadvertently do not get selected. If someone were to get rejected and then decide to pursue a different career, maybe this action is indicative that the student’s goal was not deeply rooted. 

You and I both know this is not the case. 

Keep applying. Keep trying. From one reapplicant to another, if this is what you truly want, do not let a rejection get in your way. Admissions committees will see your tenacity and perseverance and know that you are willing to put in the work required to succeed in medical school.

When should I reapply to med school?

The answer to this depends on the difference between last year’s application and this one. Ultimately, you should apply when YOU are ready.

Applying a second year with the same application that just got rejected and expecting different results is potentially a recipe for another cycle of rejections. Even if your application was exceptional the first time around, consider that doctors are the kind of people who continue to strive for improvement, even when they are “good enough” by anyone else’s standards. 

If you start once you realize you will not be getting in this year, you will not have much time to significantly change your application. In this instance, perhaps it is best for you to take a gap year and really buckle down to make yourself the best applicant and version of yourself possible. 

On the other hand, if you had other experiences in progress as you were submitting your initial application that were not included, you might have additional entries to add as a reapplicant. In this instance, absolutely try again though remember, whether you apply again is different from one applicant to another.

Should I take a gap year before medical school?

The way I look at it and the way I present the idea to students is, how much of a delta (or change) are you going to be able to show from one application cycle to another? Often, during one application cycle, students dedicate most of their time and hard work to the application itself as opposed to pursuing new volunteering, shadowing, and research opportunities. Therefore, oftentimes students may benefit from taking a gap year in order to really take the time to pursue meaningful experiences over a greater period of time.

Should I retake the MCAT?

This certainly depends! While reflecting holistically on your application, did you perceive your MCAT to be a weaker element of your application? If the answer is yes, create an individualized plan for yourself in order to prepare and take the examination. If the answer is no, continue to harness your time and energy into other activities of which will improve your application.

My GPA is not ideal, should I take additional coursework?

Registering for post-graduate coursework in the way of a master’s or post-baccalaureate program can certainly demonstrate that you have what it takes to endure a rigorous medical education. Keep in mind, some schools and application servers delineate undergraduate vs. graduate GPAs so it may not boost your GPA, but rather serve to prove your candidacy for medical school acceptance.

Were my letters of recommendation (LOR) strong?

This is an incredibly important question to consider and sometimes, evaluating whether letters are strong or not can be difficult. First, consider your professional relationship with the person of whom wrote your letter of recommendation. Is this a strong relationship where the person would be able to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf that is strong, yes, but specific. Sometimes, a generalized letter from a reputable person can look inferior to a less reputable person writing a letter of recommendation that really paints a picture of your character and demonstrates your candidacy for medical school.

Should I expand the applications I send out?

Absolutely! Consider using multiple application servers including AAMC (U.S. MD medical schools), AACOMAS (U.S. DO medical schools), and TMDSAS (Texas medical schools). If you are financially able, increasing the number of schools on your list can certainly concurrently increase your chances of acceptance. Keep in mind that applying to 2-3 application servers can substantially increase the amount of work you will have to complete to have a successful application, so set aside a considerable amount of time for yourself. 

Regardless of which application server you decide to use, be sure to select schools of which you meet their minimum requirements. For DO schools, this occasionally includes having a LOR written by a DO physician. Be meticulous about this since schools will reject you after accepting your fees if you have not met these requirements.

Furthermore, if you have identified that applying late in the cycle was one of your shortcomings, be sure to rectify this in your next application cycle by applying 1-2 weeks within the opening date of that application server.

Writing is not a strength of mine. What should I do?

That is okay! Often pre-medical students have analytical minds and struggle with writing. First, be sure to write with the goal of painting a genuine picture of yourself and your experiences. Admissions committees are not looking for novelists but rather additional information about you so they can make a decision as to whether to interview you or not. If you find yourself struggling with writing, our editors at Motivate MD can certainly help you throughout the writing process from brainstorming to perfecting grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

What should I do to improve my medical school application?

As soon as you submit your first application, you should continue to learn and improve as well as add experiences and accolades to your CV. This is not a time to kick your feet up and wait on acceptance letters to come rolling in. Keep obtaining shadowing hours and learning more about what medicine is about. Keep doing research. Find a new community service project to get involved with. Pick up a new hobby or add additional time for your current one. In terms of experiences, consider the value of your experiences. Sometimes, quality is better than quantity though through multiple hours within an experience, you can inadvertently gain a quality experience. Dedication to a specific activity or experience can go a long way. Overall, be sure to choose experiences that you are interested in. This will make the experience more enjoyable and easier to talk about when applications and interviews roll around.

What matters most is that you can look at yourself as objectively as possible and realize that you have what it takes and that the schools you are applying to would be lucky to have you as an addition to their institution.