Having to reapply to medical school doesn’t mean you have failed. It doesn’t mean you won’t be a doctor, and it doesn’t mean you’re not a good applicant. There are a lot of reasons why you may not be accepted your first application cycle, but there are also just as many, if not more reasons why you will get in the next cycle.
I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who had to reapply, and not only reapply but I also took off 3 years in between my first and second application cycle. At the time I was heartbroken, and that is a normal reaction to getting rejected. However, if I were accepted into medical school in my first round, I would have done myself and my future patients a disservice. I learned a lot in those 3 years and for me, it helped me grow up, I got married, I traveled the world, I bought a house. All of the things I wouldn’t have been able to do handle at 21 years old, and that’s what is great about my story. It is that it’s my story. So, take all of this with a grain of salt. If all you take is solace that you are not the only one, believe me, you are not the only one.
The stakes of applying to school are high and the statistics of applicants to available spots are wide. The medical school journey is filled with a million ways to compare yourself to others, but once you realize your only hurdle is you, you can seek comfort in those who may have gone through similar situations and then have the courage to pave your way.
“Just because you were rejected once, twice, or even three times doesn’t mean you won’t be a doctor.“
Let’s get into some of the details. What should your first steps be after not getting in your first cycle? Before you go and grab the newest edition of the next best MCAT study material you need to dive into your application because it may not have been your MCAT score that held you back. Below are some of the steps I took to rebrand myself as an applicant I was proud of, and apparently, a few schools thought so too!
1. Reevaluate your personal statement.
Your personal statement is a very larger hurdle. It is your chance to essentially sell yourself to the schools. What I learned through research is that they don’t want fluff. They want to hear a story, but they don’t want to read a fairy tale. They want a concise, well-written story that highlights why they should invest in you. Pick a topic that represents a hardship or a learning experience that inspired you to go into medicine, a specific patient population you are interested in treating, or a family member that influenced you. These are just examples and not required so choose your own story. Just minimize the clichés, you have a word limit to make yourself stand out. Don’t waste it with other people’s words.
2. Review your activities.
The moment you start doing something for an application, a school, or because you think it’s what they want to hear you lose a part of yourself. This isn’t to say there are not certain unspoken recommendations like clinical experience, research, volunteering, etc. But, we are also in a time of a global pandemic so the people who applied before the world shutting down had different opportunities than the applicants today, so be careful about who you get your advice from (even me!). With every activity, ask yourself the following questions, and if they truly don’t answer them, then maybe you should reevaluate why you think a school should know about them:
- Did this experience make me happy?
- What did I learn from this experience, and will it make me a good student, classmate, friend, and future doctor?
- Did this experience teach me something about myself that I didn’t know previously?
- Did this achievement challenge me academically?
3. Why are you reapplying?
A lot of people apply to medical school because they are influenced by family, friends, or it’s what they think they should be doing. If you talk to any medical student or even look at them you will know it’s a rough time, we don’t sleep too much, we study all the time, we always feel behind, but in the end, we wouldn’t want to do anything else.
So, if you are reapplying you need to make sure that you’re applying because YOU want to. If you think success is defined by you becoming a doctor or for the money, you may want to reevaluate.
I think every medical student or doctor in the country will look back at their student loans and time to money ratio and laugh. You can earn a lot more money relative to the time and energy you spend doing something else. And success is whatever you define it to be. Success is waking up every day and challenging yourself to be better, and it is also taking care of your happiness and mental health. If after this self-reflection being a doctor is still in your success book, then welcome to the best but hardest years of your life!
If you start with reevaluating these three components of your application with diligent eyes, you can rebrand yourself into an amazing applicant. This process takes a lot of time, energy, and money but if it will make you happy, then it’s worth it. I wish all of you the best of luck. Just because you were rejected once, twice, or even three times doesn’t mean you won’t be a doctor. It just means they are giving you the opportunity to find yourself and in my opinion, is worth it more to you as a person and your future patients and will separate you from the good doctors and the great doctors.