By Emily Hause
Are you reapplying to medical school? Maybe you were declined from the schools you applied to, or you are coming back after some time off. Regardless of your situation, gearing up for a second (or third) application cycle requires some forethought and strategy.
How to improve your candidacy when reapplying
Getting back on your feet and reapplying can actually be very exciting—but only if you make tangible, realistic goals directed at your ultimate dream of becoming a physician.
Since medical school applications open on a rolling basis approximately 15 months before matriculation, the substance of your application usually consists of the activities or experiences in which you are involved during the full year leading up to submitting your application. Therefore, it’s never too early to start thinking about how you can change your approach when reapplying, as medical schools will be on the lookout for how you’ve improved.
Here are some pointers for strengthening your application and getting accepted to medical school after an initial rejection:
Zero in on your weaknesses
If you haven’t already, call the admissions offices of the medical schools to which you applied in order to gather feedback on your application. Why were you rejected? How can you improve your application and strengthen your candidacy? Make a list of the aspects of your application that you wish to improve and chart out a rough timeline for incorporating them into your reapplication schedule.
When it comes to medical school admissions, preparation is key. It is better to have a plan than to spontaneously work at things as you go. Don’t ignore your weak areas, but instead look at them as an opportunity and a stepping stone to get you where you want to go—which is medical school!
Get excellent recommendation letters
Letters of recommendation are just one aspect of your application, but they can speak to your character and are usually completed by a professor, mentor, or other significant individual in your school or work life. Medical schools often have differing letter of recommendation requirements, but most desire a couple of letters from science faculty, a non-science faculty letter, and a letter of recommendation from a physician and/or other healthcare professional.
Assess the letters of recommendation you submitted with your first application. Did you have a great relationship with these individuals? Were they in a position to write a positive, strong, and detailed letter about your candidacy? Strong letters of recommendation are a crucial aspect of your application and should not be overlooked when reapplying.
Reassess your extracurriculars
Medical schools like to see commitment, and therefore quality is better than quantity when it comes to extracurricular activities. Having two to four organizations or special projects in which you have served in a leadership capacity or for a long time shows your dedication and passion. On the other hand, if you have dabbled in 10+ organizations during your time as an undergraduate, the medical school admissions committee may doubt your sincerity.
Take a look at your extracurriculars and pinpoint those that enhance who you are as a person and what you’re interested in. You may have to adjust this as you prepare to apply to medical school again. Having unique experiences will allow you to stand out from the crowd.
Strengthen your MCAT & GPA
While most medical schools conduct a holistic review of your candidacy—meaning they look at all aspects of your application—your MCAT and GPA still remain significant components that carry a lot of weight. Some schools will use your academic metrics to screen you for interview decisions. It is important to have a high MCAT score and GPA, or at least a strong upward trend if you didn’t start off on the right foot.
If you know that your medical school rejections may have been in part due to a low MCAT or GPA, then definitely take the time to improve those scores. Many applicants re-take their MCAT, so if you find yourself in that situation, you are not alone. If you’ve already graduated, consider enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program to strengthen your science GPA. Some medical schools offer these programs and, upon completion, grant you an interview. Academics remains a large component of your medical school application, and your hard work will definitely pay off in this area.
There is no textbook way to successfully get into medical school, and reapplying is different for everyone—there is no “perfect applicant.” If you have commitment, time, and passion for medicine on your side, then you will achieve your goals (even if it means a temporary setback).
Ready to rebound to a higher MCAT score? Visit Kaptest.com/MCAT to view upcoming class schedules.