Apr 17, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

If you didn’t get into med school on your first go, don’t fret. You’re not alone. Medical school is not easy to get into, and it shouldn’t be. After all, you’re training for one of the most difficult professions.

Don’t give up.

You can—and should—reapply.

Let’s take a closer look at five strategies you can use to top up your medical school application this time around.

1. Seek advice from medical schools that rejected you—or the ones where you want to apply

Ask someone else to read your application. Get a second or third opinion. Why? You need advice on your overall application this time.

Does your application reflect improvement? Does it show strength? Are you applying to enough schools?

Are you applying to the right schools for you?

Getting advice from the medical schools that you want to attend can help you gain insight into whether you’re in the ballpark.

Bottom line? You should apply to at least a dozen schools, and have a wide range of possibilities.

Not sure where to start? Ask to meet with an admissions counselor from a school that you truly thought you had a shot at—and get some help with your application.

2. Revamp your personal statement

Make that personal statement amazing.

This is more than just a few line edits. This is heavy editing. This may mean that you start over.


Start by re-reading your first essay. Think about what’s changed since then—and how your perspective may have changed.

Show growth. Medical schools want to see how you’ve changed and matured since your last application. They also potentially want to see an improved MCAT score.

Continue to show your commitment to your passion—no matter how many times you’ve applied.

Need some help? Get it. Your personal statement matters.

Talk to current and past advisors, as well as an admissions committee.

If you need to, consider hiring a personal tutor—someone with experience writing a medical school essay—to help you.

3. Use your time to volunteer and gain new experiences

No better time than now to top up your volunteer and work experiences.

What do medical schools want to see? They want to see that you understand the challenges associated with being a physician—and with the healthcare system.

If you’ve never worked or volunteered in a clinical position, then do it now.

If your previous experiences were research-heavy, think about getting some clinical experiences as a trained EMT or a scribe.

If all your previous experiences were heavy on the clinical side, try a research position.

Show your commitment, expand your horizons, and get to work.

4. Improve your academic record

It can hurt to hear, but your lack of success may have something to do with your grades or MCAT scores.

What should you do? For each school where you resend an application, you should aim to fall between the 25th and 75th percentiles.

If you fall in a lower MCAT percentile, you may want to take some time off, change tacks, or attend an intensive study program.

If your MCAT scores are ok, but your grades aren’t so hot, retake some courses.

If you need, consider a post-bac program. While those programs are expensive, they may be worth it if you definitely want to apply to medical school.

Whatever you don’t rush to reapply. Get your grades, GPA, and MCAT scores in order.

5.  Make sure your timing is right

Don’t procrastinate. Don’t wait until the deadline. Get your application in as early as you can—preferably as soon as application open.

Applying late affects your chances of admission. Why? Once the application window opens, students are accepted on a rolling basis. That is, the longer you wait, the more competition you face.

A few tips:

Send your application in June.

Line up your recommenders early.

Take your MCAT early (see #4) and again if you need to.

Send thank you notes promptly after interviews.

Submit a complete application.

You can do this. You’ve worked hard and you want this more than anything. Get the help you need and go for it.


Learn more about going to medical school

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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