Your deepest fear has come true. You have officially been rejected from every medical school you applied to. You are feeling lower than low. You feel lost, ashamed, confused and alone. One big question lingers in your mind…now what?
First things first. Allow yourself to grieve. You have worked so hard to get to this point and despite your best intentions, you did not get the outcome you dreamed of. That is a big emotional hit and not something you will recover from overnight. On top of that, you will likely be surrounded by peers who are excitedly talking about the next steps in their journey to become a doctor, while you are feeling left out and left behind.
Surround yourself with the people who believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. Read stories about others who have overcome setbacks. We know it’s hard to believe, but trust us that your lowest points in your darkest hours will one day be what draws people (including your patients) to you. Everyone struggles at points in their lives, and your struggle is what makes you human. It is your failures and imperfections that make you relatable, that mature you, and help you see the world in unique ways.
Maybe it takes a few days or maybe it takes a few weeks of moping before you are able to start coming out of the haze. But eventually, you will be in a place where you are able to gather back your focus, take a step back and think about what to do next.
2. Consider Your Options
It’s natural to reconsider your choice of becoming a doctor after facing rejection from medical school. Your first choice is whether to apply again or not.
If you decide not to apply to medical school again, our hope is that you do not make that decision from a place of fear. Fearing you simply aren’t “good enough” to become a doctor or that you are simply dreaming too big is not a good reason to give up on your aspiration. However, you may find through additional exploration that alternative careers are a better fit for your interests including public health, pharmacy or business for example. In short, there is a difference between not re-applying because you have already convinced yourself you will fail and because you legitimately believe another career path is a better fit. If you feel you are called to be a physician and a physician alone, then prepare yourself to get back in the saddle.
3. Determine What Part of Your Application was Sub-Optimal
If you know you are sure you would like to re-apply, it is imperative that you work to gain perspective about why you had the outcome you did during this application cycle.
Did you apply to only “reach” schools in your application or less schools than you wanted to due to financial constraints? Are you a nervous interviewer who was not able to articulate your interests and motivations well on interview day? Was your science GPA or MCAT score lower than you’d like? There are many reasons medical schools reject an applicant. Therefore it’s worthwhile to review your application critically and try to determine where things got off track.
Our advice: consider contacting the schools you were rejected from and ask for pointers on how to make your application stronger for the next application cycle. Do not get defensive and remain polite when speaking to the admissions team members. After a few conversations, it is likely you will note common themes arising, in regards to the reasons you were not accepted. Use this information as a jumping off point for developing a plan to make your application stronger for the next round. Your goal is to set yourself up well for reapplying.
4. Formulate A New Plan of Attack and Take Action
Based on the areas of weakness you identify through speaking with the admissions team and your own critical review of your application, the next step is to formulate a solid plan to improve your application. Examples of action steps include:
- Taking time to research potential programs and create a revised list of schools to apply to from all levels of competitiveness. Consider broadening the criteria you use to make your list, such as considering locations in all parts of the country
- Enrolling in a post baccalaureate program or taking extra classes to strengthen your science GPA
- Creating a schedule to submit all of your application components well ahead of deadlines
- Taking time to save up money to apply to a wider range of schools or to pay for an MCAT preparation class
- Retake the MCAT
5. Make Your Comeback
You have lived through the emotional roller coaster that is an unsuccessful medical school application cycle. You are down but not out. You have taken the time to review your previous application, spot areas for improvement and, ultimately course correct. Your application is so much stronger than it was during your last cycle. You still feel fear but your also know that you have much more experience with applying at this point than your peers. You will not fall into the same traps as you did before. You are strong and you are resilient. It’s time for a comeback!