The following situation happens to almost everyone when applying to med school. You submit your secondary application to a school, pay the $75 fee for the secondary, and less than 24 hours later, you get rejected.
It sucks. It's as if the med school didn't even read your application. In fact, you were likely disqualified before you applied, but you didn't even know it.
Most schools will use a formula to sort applicants into different piles. To my knowledge, no med schools publish their formulas (if I'm wrong, please email me; I'd love to know). But let's assume that the formula uses a combination of MCAT, GPA, and other factors the school is looking for (state residency consideration, disadvantaged status, extracurricular accomplishments, etc). Now, the formula is not the final say in the admissions process; it merely sorts applicants into one of three piles:
- Probably Yes
- Probably No
Med schools spend the most time reading the applicants on the Maybe pile. If you end up on the Probably Yes pile, you are likely to be invited to an interview after a quick read of your application (think 5 minutes or less). And if you end up on the Probably No pile, your application also gets a quick read to decide if there's a reason not to reject you.
The Probably No pile is where you find yourself if you get rejected in under 24 hours. You were on this pile to begin with, and you didn't even know it.
Med schools could make life easier on applicants and save a lot of wasted application fees by screening students before sending secondaries. According to my research, 66% of schools do not screen before sending a secondary (or they only perform a minimal screen). That's a shame, because it results in a lot of wasted application fees and extra rejections, and it makes the entire application system less efficient. But it's the way things are for now.
So what does this mean for your application?
- Apply broadly - 20 to 30 schools is a good number.
- Choose your schools wisely - the more research you do on each of your schools, the less likely you are to get rejected summarily.
- Keep your head up. It's normal to get rejected, and just because you get rejected by one school does not mean anything for the rest of your list.
And remember that even the students who are wildly successful in this process get rejected too.