MedEdits | Medical School Admissions Consulting

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

No Medical School Acceptances? What Should You Be Doing Now?

Around this time of year, I receive calls from medical school applicants who are nervous; they have only received waitlist decisions or have not received any interviews. So, if you are in this position what should you do?

If you are on a wait list, try and gain acceptance to that school. Consider writing a letter of intent that also summarizes your recent accomplishments. Some schools encourage applicants to send updates while others do not. Follow the directions provided by each school regarding their policies on sending updates. At the same time, you must also consider what you will do if that waitlist doesn't turn in to an acceptance (see below).

If you have not received any interviews yet, consider what you will do to improve your candidacy in the event that you must repply. Some common themes that may limit an applicant's success are the following:

1) Submitting a late application.

I see this all the time. Do not submit an application in late August! Applicants also underestimate the endurance it takes to apply to medical school. After submitting the primary application, students must complete secondary essays. If these are also late (regardless of when the primary was submitted) you undermine your success.

2) Submitting a weak application.

Your written documents (personal statement, application, letters of reference) are your "ticket" to the interview. Poorly composed documents that inadequately highlight your strengths can hinder your success. Ask your premed advisor or someone whom you trust what is most impressive about your background and accomplishments. An objective opinion will help to see your candidacy in a different light.

2) Poor academics.

Critically evaluate your academics and decide if you need to improve your GPA or MCAT. If your MCAT is low, estimate how long you must study to significantly raise your score. If you need to improve your GPA, consider your options. In general, students can take courses or enroll in programs that are "undergraduate" or "graduate" level. Undergraduate courses will improve your undergraduate GPA while graduate level courses will be listed in the "graduate" category on your application. The AAMC has a useful listing of these programs and identifies which programs are specifically designed for academic record enhancement and if they are undergraduate or graduate level.

3) Lack of clinical experience.

Many applicants are "dinged" because they don't have enough clinical exposure. This one is easy; find a doctor to shadow or seek out clinically related employment or volunteer work.

4) Poor interview skills.

Some applicants underestimate the importance of the medical school interview and figure that if they got a great MCAT score and have a high GPA that they will succeed. Your interview performance is the key to success and you must prepare accordingly.

Most admissions offices are willing to speak with applicants. As students prepare for a reapplication, I encourage them to call schools from which they were rejected or waitlisted to ask, specifically, what the school would like to see to improve their candidacy. At times you may receive a concrete answer to such queries that will help. However, I find that many schools provide vague and wishy washy feedback that isn't too useful. This stems from the fact that giving negative feedback is never easy which is a prevalent issue in medical training.

Finally, it is important to evaluate your candidacy objectively. Reapplying to medical school (with success!) is quite common.

If you want an honest evaluation of your candidacy, contact MedEdits.