By: Ryan Kelly
Getting rejected from medical school is like getting dumped. You feel fully committed and enamored with the medical field, only to find out that it doesn’t feel the same way about you. You might feel jaded or cynical. You might even be tempted to give up. It’s only natural to dwell on your flaws or wallow in the self-doubt that comes with rejection.
But that’s just one side of the coin as a reapplicant. After the initial shock and disappointment of the breakup, you will hopefully find a newfound sense of maturity, fortitude, and self-awareness. With time to reflect, you can develop better habits, correct weaknesses, and reenter the application process as a more composed candidate.
Okay, now you’re on the rebound. Congrats. You’ve gotten over that rejection, and you’re ready to put yourself out there once again. But this time, you’re going to be wiser.
This will be like trying to rekindle your relationship after “taking a break.” You’re damaged goods in their eyes, and things seem iffy at best. There was clearly something wrong with you. Otherwise you’d be together, right? The previous application will be the elephant in the room, and you’ll need to broach the topic with tact and confidence. You’ll need to convince the admissions committee that things have changed.
Without overcompensating, your essays should convey a deeper understanding of medicine, as well as a fuller sense of self. If you think your lack of clinical experience made you sound naive the first time you applied, make sure to include stories and insights from your recent hospital volunteering. If you failed to show your capabilities as a leader and problem solver, then highlight some of your newer activities that exhibit your initiative, adaptability, and follow-through. The application essays answer the questions “why medicine” and “why you.” Besides clarifying your motivations, your new additions should showcase your broadened perspective and sharpened skills.
But your actions will speak louder than words. Beyond the essays, your application should contain viable proof of your improvement as a candidate. This might mean better grades, a higher MCAT score, a Master’s degree, or substantial new involvement in medically-related activities. This quantifiable, trackable progress will show your determination and help legitimize your candidacy.
Applying to new schools will be comparable to a first date with a new person. It’s a big turnoff when your date spends the whole time talking about his or her past relationship. So when you’re sending an application to a new school, you probably don’t want draw attention to your past rejection and create an unnecessary bias against you. Be wary though. Your MCAT date and general trajectory could suggest to medical schools that you’ve applied before.
Even if you don’t broach the topic of your past rejection, you should still focus your application around your more recent experiences (since your original application didn’t work in the first place). It’s okay to reuse some of your old writing, especially for secondary essays, as long as it contains your most compelling stories and qualities.
If you feel alienated as a reapplicant, you shouldn’t. Over half of the candidates get rejected every year, and each new year, the candidate pool is approximately 25% reapplicants. No one likes to be rejected, but you shouldn’t view it as a hindrance. Yes, it might give you an additional obstacle, but it also provides you with insights that most candidates won’t have.
Our advice: medicine is a path of never-ending self-improvement, so you should treat the application process the same way. We hope this article helps you bounce back with a reinvigorated sense of purpose and drive.