Handling a Medical School Rejection
"Life is not fair"
"Most applicants to medical school don't get accepted! Applicants must have plans for this possibility."
There are two circumstances that students find themselves in when it comes to medical school "rejections":
- lack of acceptance at the school of their choice, and
- lack of acceptance at all schools to which they have applied.
Each of these situations is covered separately below.
Rejection by the school of your choice:
When there is a large competitive applicant pool, medical schools are more selective in choosing applicants with the specific "blend" of credentials they are seeking. This means that they place more emphasis on certain credentials and perceptions they have about an applicant. They specifically seek out among applicants, all of whom are qualified, those that best fit their needs. Applicants usually are not aware of these "factors" and should not take their rejections personally because the reasons usually have nothing to do with the potential of the applicant to become a successful medical student and physician. The irony of this situation is that these more specific selection factors tend to be transient and do change with time, circumstance, outside influences, and the composition of the admission committee.
In times when the national pool of applicants is high compared with the number of medical school slots, applicants with strong credentials should apply to a number of schools (4-6) so that specific selection factors that may be operating at one or two schools do not work against them by chance.
Rejection by all schools to which you applied:
Most students react with "non-acceptance" initially with shock. They may have known their limitations, but they have looked on the events of the past year in a positive light, one that was encouraging. They have envisioned success, not failure. This may be the first time that many good students have felt the sting of rejection in their lives. Rejection may initially result in disbelief and a paralysis of action. Often they do not want to face their advisor, probably one of the few people experienced with advising the rejected applicant.
Beyond the initial shock, rejected applicants tend to progress through a series of phases. They ponder the situation. Pondering the situation does not help. Rejected students may become angry and look for the causes of rejection outside of themselves. They may blame the medical school, the admissions committee, and/or the pre-medical advisor or committee. They become suspicious and may start to feel that someone was out to get them. This is not true and represents an unhealthy mental situation.
Rejected applicants compare themselves to others and become jealous of others who were accepted. They start comparing credentials, looking at their own set as being "better" than the set of others who may have been accepted. This deepens suspicions of a possible conspiracy against them.
Eventually, rejected applicants tend to become depressed and question their self-worth. This is when the student most needs an advisor to redirect attention, to re-examine goals, and explore alternatives that are available for action.
Should rejected a rejected applicant reapply?
If the rejected applicant asks the medical school the reasons for reasons for rejection, the representatives will often not give specific advice and advise the applicant to return to their advisor for advice. This is understandable because the a vast number of the applicants who applied to their school were also rejected. After rejection, the student should plan an extended analysis of his or her particular situation with the advisor. This should include a total inventory of the applicant's credentials and behaviors. If reapplication is being considered, decide on a course of action on what aspects can be improved and consider the continued effects of those aspects that cannot be changed.
After an analysis, the decision to reapply has to be individually made after all the many considerations have taken into account. One thing for certain is that the applicant must be in a position to submit a much stronger application. Certain weaker credentials need to be identified and improved, if possible, from what was submitted previously. Medical schools need to see a different kind of person when reapplying.
Usually, a student's GPA cannot be improved much by taking additional course work. If course work is taken to raise the GPA, the student's performance must be excellent. Enrolling in a graduate program may not help much unless it also provides for a "Plan B" career. A "postbac program", designed for premedical students, might be considered in some cases. Entering a different "health care educational program" is usually not recommended if the rejected applicant plans to reapply to medical school.
Some aspects can be changed although available time again may be a handicap. The student's MCAT performance can be improved a few points in certain situations, but not without a lot of commitment and hard work. In many cases, the time required to apply for and prepare for the next April MCAT may have past before the student learns of all rejections. Interview skills can be improved, but this also takes time. The student's personal statements can be improved. The student's knowledge of the medical profession can be improved. The mechanics of the application process can be improved. There are things applicants who choose to reapply can work on. Here the advisor can advise, but the applicant must make the decision and do what needs to be done.
Source: A large portion of this document was rewritten from notes taken on an article that appeared in the Fall1993 The Advisor vol. 15, by John F. Klein.
Primary web sites for pre-medical students
- Information on the 125 allopathic medical schools in the US: http://www.aamc.org/students/start.htm
- American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) for applications to allopathic medical schools.
- Information on the 19 osteopathic medical schools in the US: http://www.aacom.org
- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Services for applications to osteopathic medical schools
For more information
Contact one of the following pre-medical advisors:
Dr. Colette Witkowski* 417-836-5603, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 404
Dr. Scott Zimmerman* 417-836-6123, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 353
Dr. Richard Garrad* 417-836-5372, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 345
Dr. Amanda Brodeur* 417-836-5478, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 352
Dr. Lyon Hough 417-836-6485, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 409
Dr. Jianjie Wang 417-836-6140, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 339
Mr. Joseph Williams 417-836-6782, Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, Room 347
* indicates current member of the Pre-medical Committee
Department of Biomedical Sciences
Missouri State University
901 South National Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65897