“Hopeful, but Grim” – Preparing to Reapply to Medical School

It seemed as though everyone around me had no problem gaining admission to various medical schools and ended up matriculating at reputable schools too. However, when I ventured online, I realized that my sample pool may have been biased because NOT getting into medical school actually happens…to a lot of people. It really is competitive, nothing is guaranteed, and even great applicants don’t do as well as you think in the application year. When my application year wasn’t looking so good (really, I wasn’t getting interview invites), I had trouble accepting the fact that I might have to reapply the next round. I spent so much time and money into applying that I wasn’t ready to “give up”. I was so uncomfortable with the thought of reapplying that I REFUSED to create a back-up plan. However, I realized that making a back-up plan was NOT synonymous to throwing in the towel on my dreams. You can still remain hopeful and continue to have a positive mindset, but it’s good to have a back-up plan so you can start working to boost your application for the next round as soon as possible in case nothing falls through for you this round. This is what I did to help myself get ready to reapply to medical schools:

1) Get your mind right: I did a good amount of beating myself up when I wasn’t receiving interview invites and seemed to only land on waitlists. I thought, perhaps I wasn’t cut out for medical school, maybe I wasn’t good enough to get into medical school in the first place. I felt so inadequate and unworthy. It was as if I could not separate my identity from how successful or unsuccessful I was. I then realized how ridiculous and unhealthy it was for me to tie my daily affect to how I was faring with medical schools. “I’m a pretty awesome person. There are other things in my life that are going good…” I thought to myself. Why should the way I feel about myself be so dependent upon medical schools? This was the first step I took: separating “me” from medical school admissions. Once I did this, I was able to handle rejections better, and begin to think of a back-up plan because I wasn’t holding on so intensely to this application year as if I was holding on to my life and my whole being.

2) Get pumped: Applying to medical school is exhausting. Believe me, I know. Even worse is when you think it was all in vain because you failed to gain acceptance somewhere. This can dampen your spirit, instill doubts, and you might lose your motivation to apply again. However, you should remind yourself that you have come so far in the process: starting from college when you were working extra hard to get that GPA up, to when you turned down a friend’s party because you had to study for the MCAT, to filling out all those secondaries late into the night. You’ve done ALOT, and you should be proud of what you have achieved thus far. And it has not been in vain. You were just continuously working towards a goal that you can still achieve. Not gaining acceptance this round just means another year or two-year delay, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that much. So, do what you need to do to recharge. Maybe you need to take some time off from thinking about medical school. Start a new hobby, travel, or even explore other career options. It can give you perspective and remember why you wanted to go into medicine in the first place. I remember for me, applying to different jobs made me realize how much less fulfilling some of these jobs would be for me, compared to being a physician, and it made me want to jump back on the proverbial horse.

3) Get feedback from medical schools that have rejected you: If you reapply, you will have to wait an extra year, or maybe more depending on when you decide to reapply. The extra time can be used to boost your application to increase you chance of gaining admission and/or engage in other hobbies (a.k.a. have fun!). Schools would probably want to see a significant difference or improvement from your last application. And there is nothing more crystal clear about what you need to improve on for your application than to receive feedback from the schools that have rejected you. I talked about this in another post here: “It’s not you, it’s me” – Dealing with Medical School Rejections. I’ve copied the contents below:

⌈Some schools offer to give applicants real feedback on their application, and I think this is invaluable information, especially if you want to find out concisely what is holding your application back. How do you go asking for feedback from schools? I e-mailed admissions (or, hit “reply” to the sender of the rejection e-mail) and or called them if they weren’t responsive by e-mail (I found that it works best to call them). Then I schedule an appointment to talk over the phone (for 15-30min) with someone from either someone on the admissions team, or an admissions counselor. Schedule an appointment ASAP- they fill up quickly. For UCI and University of Louisville, they were booked for the rest of the month. Some schools don’t offer counseling until May (UCD and Loyola- Stritch School of Medicine). And some don’t offer counseling at all (Albany) ⌋

4) Make a plan of action: Now that you have received feedback from schools, make a plan of action! Or if you haven’t, I’m sure you can speculate what you can improve on – no one’s application is perfect, right? It actually helped me to write down a plan of what I was going to do with the additional year. It just materializes it and motivates me to stick with it. What I did was write down at the top of a blank paper “Areas to improve” and listed what I thought my application needed polishing up on (this was before I received actual feedback from schools- I didn’t want to wait). Then at the bottom of the page I wrote a month-by-month timeline leading up to the start of the next application cycle. I would put the items under “Areas to improve” under the months that I would be doing those “improvement” things. For example, if I was going to retake the MCAT AND plan to get more clinical experience in, I would put “Study MCAT” under the months I plan to study for it, “Take MCAT” under the month I plan to retake it, and “Clin Experience” under months that I would hope to be gaining some clinical experience. Once you have this plan in front of you, then you can start making phone calls, emailing, researching online, or do whatever you need to do to make this plan come true.

These things may be obvious to you, but I know it may be difficult for some to move on and start considering the next application cycle. So for those are coming to grips with applying again, I hope this helps.


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