This post is written by Harleen Saini, a third-year medical student at Tufts University School of Medicine. She went to Arizona State University for her bachelor’s in Biological Sciences. She then completed her master’s in Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University before starting medical school. She loves learning languages, dancing, cooking and baking, and photography!
It has been a long application cycle. You likely submitted some time in summer and filled those secondaries, waited for the interviews, and maybe even went to a couple of them. You may still be waiting to hear back or possibly already heard back from some schools. Rejection and waitlists can be especially difficult to receive when you have put in so much effort. I have been there too and with this post, I hope to support you with some concrete steps as you prepare for the next steps in case this application cycle doesn’t go as planned.
#1: Process the Experience
One of the most important steps after receiving a rejection or being placed indefinitely on the waitlist is to process everything. The rejection does not mean you are not worth it or not good enough. Sometimes it just means that values did not align, or something just didn’t click with the programs. I hear you – the rejection still hurts regardless. Process those feelings – whether that means a crying session, talking to someone you trust, writing it out in a journal, or whatever else brings you comfort. Applying to medical school (and the medical journey itself) is stressful and brings on plenty of emotions. It’s important you don’t box these away and feeling them will ultimately help you regain strength to start working towards the next steps.
#2: Engage in Self-Reflection and “Soul Searching”
Once you have processed the emotions, it’s time to start building your next plan. To start, it’s important to reflect on yourself, your values, your work up to this point, and what you want for the future. Realize that the journey in medicine is a long one – from completing undergrad, to the application process, to being in medical school, and then applying to residency and so on. Reflect on why you want to pursue medicine in the first place. Understand what pushes you to work so hard towards this. Explore all your options and what you feel will bring you fulfillment. I find writing these thoughts down or sharing with someone, such as a friend, mentor, or advisor, to be helpful. This step is important in helping realize what you envision for the future, but also will be extremely helpful if you decide to reapply – you can even talk about the process during your interviews!
#3: Critically Evaluate your Application
If after self-reflection you decide that you would like to reapply to medical school, it is time to critically evaluate your application. You can do this on your own, with a mentor, or with an advisor – or even all the above! I strongly encourage you to discuss with someone you trust and who understands the process of applying to medical school regardless. Sometimes it is helpful to first go through your application on your own and then meet with a mentor or advisor to see their perspective as well. This process can evoke some emotions and sometimes be difficult to process, so be kind to yourself during this.
Evaluate any pitfalls of your previous application and be honest with yourself – did you lack research, was the MCAT score lower than the average for programs you were aiming for, are you missing some important experiences, could you have spent more time on your descriptions and personal statement, could you have conveyed yourself better during the interview, etc.
#4: Strengthen your Weaknesses
Once you have identified potential improvement areas, it’s time to work on them!
- If you need more clinical experience, consider reaching out to a local hospital or a pre-med health association at your school for current opportunities.
- If interviewing was difficult, ask a mentor or advisor if they know of any mock-interview sessions or even search online for possible sessions.
- If your grades were not matching with the programs you would like to go to, consider retaking some classes or possibly taking the next level for those subjects to show your progress.
And so on.
There is no perfect recommendation for improving on the medical school application because everyone is different, and your application is uniquely you! Evaluate and pursue the activities that you feel would be best for you and ones you would want to talk about at your future interviews.
Optional #5: Consider a Post-Bacc Program or Special Master’s Program (SMP)
In cases where you need to improve your GPA or need extra help on improving on experiences such as research, a post-bacc program or special master’s program (SMP) can be helpful. A quick mention about the differences:
- a Post-Bacc program typically includes undergraduate level courses which can help boost your GPA if you do well in the classes
- an SMP includes graduate level courses and in some cases may reflect the same courses you will take in your first year of medical school. These courses may not directly improve your undergraduate GPA, but if you do well, you will have a stellar graduate GPA to include on your application as well as a master’s degree.
You may be asking yourself – which one do I choose? Again, there is no perfect recipe for everyone and it is worth talking to a mentor or advisor to see what would work best for your situation. Understand that Post-Bacc and SMPs require you to take additional gap years and this may not be ideal for some. Further, they can be costly and stressful depending on intensity of the program.
Review the program websites and consider contacting their admissions for more information. Make a list of programs and look into their deadlines as they can vary from program to program. Note that some programs require an MCAT or GRE score and personal statement. Again, be sure to check out the program websites you are interested in to ensure you have met their requirements before applying.
Keep at it!
The medical journey is long and one of the biggest hurdles is getting into medical school. I know it is stressful and you may be feeling down, but know that you are not alone! There are resources and people here to support you. I hope this post will at least give you a starting point for your next steps. Don’t lose hope, we believe in you!
Leave a comment if you found this helpful! Share something that has been helpful for you during the application process!