The Reason Why I Was Rejected from Medical School

Getting accepted to medical school is no easy task. AAMC provides data (Table A-1) that shows how many medical school applicants there are in a cycle compared to how many of those applicants matriculate. In 2016-2017, there were 53,042 applicants and only 21,030 matriculants. I’ve often heard that getting into medical school is the hardest part of a career in medicine – and after applying twice, I definitely believe it.

My first application cycle ended in a round of heartbreaking rejections. I was shocked, saddened, and felt defeated. Applications cost hundreds of dollars. You have to take the MCAT, send transcripts, travel for interviews, buy dress clothes, and many other tasks that cost money. You have high hopes when you press submit on AMCAS. Your hopes dwindle a little after you see someone you know on Facebook share that they received an interview invite while you’re checking your inbox every 5 minutes. Your hopes skyrocket when you receive your very own interview invite only to be dropped back down when you are put on the waitlist. You’re still hopeful, I mean, you are on a waitlist – you weren’t flat out rejected! Months of hoping, praying, and wishing came to an end for me in August, once all 3 schools I had been waitlisted at had started classes. My rejection letters were coming shortly.

So how did I receive three interviews yet not one acceptance? I believe I was rejected to medical school because of a lack of confidence. It seems so silly now looking back. How did I still feel so inferior at interviews when I should have felt validated? I remember getting an interview at my dream school and thinking to myself, “there’s no way I deserve this, I’m below their average MCAT”. I want to let applicants in on a little secret… if you are even applying to medical school, you deserve an interview. You’ve taken all the prerequisites, written dozens of essays, hundreds of hours were spent building up to your application – you deserve an interview. If you receive an interview, OF COURSE you deserve that interview! You were handpicked by the committee. That school has a spot for you. It is now your job to sell yourself on why you deserve that spot.

I knew I needed to bring confidence to my interviews. I knew what I needed to do. But I still came up short. My whole educational career, I’ve always downplayed good grades and achievements. I never wanted to come across too boastful or arrogant. I pride myself in being a humble person. Medical school interviews are not the time to downplay your achievements. There are ways to talk about yourself confidently and assertively without coming across negatively. I now know how to come across this way thanks to my gap year.

My gap year gave me time to think about what went wrong during my first application: I was too timid, lacked confidence, and felt inferior. Knowing what I didn’t know then, I was ready for my second set of interviews. I knew how to talk about myself more positively, assertively, and confidently. I can recall one interview (to the school I currently attend) where I spoke about myself in a very eloquent and confident manner. I actually believe it was this moment that led to my acceptance.

The interview with two faculty members was almost over after only about 15 minutes but I hadn’t yet discussed a main point I wanted to sell about myself. The new addition to my resume, working as an nurse aide, was something I desperately wanted to share. This new job of mine was hard but gave me a perspective on healthcare that I had never seen before. So when one of the faculty members asked if there was anything else I would have liked to add, old Madison would politely say no and then run out the door thankful to be done. New Madison asked if she could shed some light on a new experience that she believed made her an even more qualified candidate. It might not seem like a huge moment to you, but it was the biggest deal for me. I talked about myself and what I could offer to the program in a way I had never done before.

If you’re about to apply to medical school for the first, second, third, or whatever time, please know that there are other people who have struggled through what you are about to go through that can help and guide you in anyway you need! Please know that you are deserving of an interview and a seat in a class. Sometimes, luck just doesn’t go your way. So don’t give up on your dreams after one failed attempt! Try and try again! And remember, you have to be your own advocate because no one else will be fighting for you.

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Update: I had originally said there were 830,016 applicants. There were actually 830,016 applications and 53,042 applicants. (Thank you to an instagram follower who helped with the correction!)

 

 

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Personal Comments (Statement) Tips

So the title was originally going to be called “Personal Statement Tips” but I guess it’s now called Personal Comments. Sounds so weird to me! ANYWAYS, this post will share some tips on arguably one of the most important parts of your medical school application.

Click HERE to see what AAMC has to say about writing your personal comments essay.

How are you supposed to write why you want to be a doctor, how you stand out, what makes you you, what you bring to the table, life experiences, etc. in 5,300 characters?! It’s hard. That’s why my number one tip is to:

  • give yourself TIME

It’s currently March and the earliest you can submit your application is June. That is a little under 3 months to write your essay, edit it, completely change it, edit it again, erase half of it, and FINALLY finish it. Seriously though, I changed my essay a ton before I was 100% satisfied with it. That being said, editing is very important…

  • have at least one outside person edit your essay

I had my dad tear my essay apart multiple times. It was so difficult because just when you think you have it perfect, there is another flaw. It’s frustrating, you want to cry, but this really is the main part where your voice and unique character is heard. This is how you stand out! Something that I didn’t do, but would have been super helpful…

  • write your essay in a text pad or some program that has ZERO formatting.

I wrote mine in word, of course not listening to the AAMC directions above, and then noticed that some commas or periods were weirdly formatting. I had to go through my entire essay erasing every type of punctuation and retyping it. This could have been avoided if I simply followed directions.

Try to remember that by saying you want to be a doctor because you want to help people isn’t groundbreaking. Isn’t that for the most part the reason why all of us want to be doctors?

  • think outside the box!!! remember, most people know that you want to become a doctor because you want to help people…

I applied to med school twice, therefore I had two completely different essays. My first essay was about myself doubting if medicine was for me after a troubling volunteering experience, how the experience shaped me, and how I transitioned into knowing medicine was for me. My second essay was about how my love of puzzles and how that transformed and now relates to my belonging in medicine.

Enough about me, remember this essay is all about you. It might feel weird talking about yourself but this is the whole point.

  • narrow down your essay to one theme, not all over the place!

One page is all you have so you might feel inclined to list everything that comes to your mind about why you want to be a doctor. I advice that you pick one thing, and really dig deep into it rather than having a million things in your essay.

Writing is tough, but you can do this!!! Hardest part of becoming a doctor is literally just getting in. So if you can do this, you can do anything!

 

Undergrad Timeline for Applying to Medical School

Applying to medical school is a very lengthy process. So here to help is a timeline of things to do during your undergraduate career so that you are on top of the application when it comes time to submit.

Freshman year:

  • start taking prereqs
    • prerequisite classes generally include:
      • one year biology
      • one year general chemistry
      • one year organic chemistry
      • one year physics
      • one year English
      • one semester of biochemistry
    • to see the exact prereqs for each school, check out >> MSAR << from AAMC
  • join a few clubs you are interested in
    • these can be non-medically related
  • start volunteering early on
    • I would recommend getting early exposure to the hospital setting
  • shadow multiple professions in the medical field
    • this helps you see the options you have besides medical school

Sophomore year:

  • finish up prereqs
  • continue shadowing, volunteering, etc.
  • maybe take on a leadership position in a club or become a TA/mentor
    • leadership roles are great experiences
  • start research
    • again, this does not have to be medically related
    • keep an eye out for emails from your college, talk to professors asking if they need help in a lab, or email doctors at your school sharing your interest for starting research

Junior year:

  • continue volunteering, shadowing, research, etc.
  • study for MCAT
    • I recommend taking a Kaplan/Princeton Review course
    • I bought mine in May of sophomore year and saved $500
  • take MCAT
    • I took mine in January after a fall Kaplan course
  • prepare personal statement
    • this is your big essay on why medicine, why a doctor!
    • try to make it unique – we know that everyone who becomes a doctor wants to help people… let the admissions committee learn more about you.
  • ask for letters of recommendation
    • if they were your teacher, make sure you got an A in that course!
    • ask my email if you don’t see them too often, ask in person if you see them all the time
    • ask for a positive letter of recommendation
    • have a CV/resume prepared to send to them, usually they ask for one
    • give 4-6 weeks for these letters
    • send thank you notes afterwards!
  • request transcripts
  • submit application first day AMCAS opens
    • it is a rolling admissions – meaning the sooner you get it in, the better chance you have!

Summer between Junior and Senior year:

  • continue volunteering, shadowing, research, etc.
  • pre-write secondary essays
    • sometimes a quick google search can provide past secondary essays! 
  • submit secondary essays very soon after you receive them
    • but remember, you want your essays to be clear and coherent… so don’t rush your editing

Senior year:

  • continue volunteering, shadowing, research, etc.
    • this is important if you end up not getting in this cycle
  • interview time!
    • dress appropriately, be on time, review common interview questions, ask questions!
  • have fun! it is your senior year of college after all 🙂
  • May: make a decision if you are accepted to multiple medical schools

Summer after graduation:

  • do nothing
    • this is the last time in your life that will be able to do this – so relax and enjoy 🙂

 

All these steps might seem daunting. Just remember to take each day at a time, talk to professors, advisors, and mentors for help, and have fun! College is such a great experience and will help you grow in so many ways.

If you have any personal questions, comment below!!