Now that I have been rejected from all the medical schools to which I applied, I have begun to create a game plan for re-applying. First, I made myself feel a little better by looking at some statistics. Only 43%* of all medical school applicants matriculated; thus, there must be many other students in the same situation as me! (That is 25, 748 other people, actually.)
I took the advice of a physician I met on Twitter, and began calling schools to ask for a File Review. A File Review is when they look at your application and tell you why you didn’t get in. I went down the list of schools I applied to and was rejected from, and this is what they said:
|Med School||File Reviews?||How?|
|Albany Medical College||No|
|Cooper Medical School at Rowan University||No|
|Drexel University College of Medicine||Yes||Email director of admissions to request|
|Georgetown University School of Medicine||Yes||E-mail admissions director to request general advice|
|Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine||Yes||Call at end of March & request|
|Morehouse School of Medicine||Yes||Call & make appointment|
|Mount Sinai School of Medicine||No|
|Oakland University William Beaumount School of Medicine||Yes||Call & make appointment|
|Quinnipiac University||Yes||Call in early May to make appointment|
|Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science||Yes||Call and ask; they will call same day or next day|
|The Commonwealth Medical College||No|
|UCLA/Drew||Yes||Call in July & make an appointment|
|University of California–Riverside||?||?|
|Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine||Yes||Call & make appointment with admissions counselors|
What happens during a file review?
No school will read your application reviewer’s notes, but they will give you general advice as to how to improve your application. From this conversation you can get a feel for what the school wants in an applicant.
My file review with Hofstra
I called Hofstra and was called back by an admissions officer within an hour. He looked over my application and told me that although my MCAT (30T) is decent, my GPA (2.54 sGPA) is quite low. He did say that they had accepted students with lower MCATs but that they generally had higher GPAs. He stressed the importance of having an increasing GPA trend, and recommended that I pursue a post-bacc program to improve my GPA. He stated that if I chose to retake the MCAT, this would be okay because many applicants take the MCAT multiple times. He recommended that I continue my extra-curricular activities up throughout the application cycle, and that the extra-curricular activities I was doing during the application cycle were good.
My file review with OUWB
I made an appointment with OUWB for a file review; we discussed my application on the phone for about fifteen minutes. The admissions officer states that in order to make my application stronger I need to work on my GPA. I need a 3.0 or higher science GPA and a 3.2 or higher overall GPA. OUWB likes to see applicants do a post-bacc program instead of a second bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree program in order to improve their GPA. The admissions officer recommended that I repeat science courses in which I didn’t get a B or higher. OUWB matriculants have (on average) a science GPA of 3.5, an overall GPA of 3.6, and a 31 on the MCAT. To be a competitive applicant I need to have meaningful medical experiences but shadow a physician as well. A history of community service is important to the school. They like students who are well-rounded and have leadership skills, but know how to work on a team. They suggested that I put more personal reflection into the experiences section of the application and noted that I had some grammatical mistakes on my personal statement. I was somewhat alarmed that I had made mistakes, but I guess I need to have a better proof-reader in the future. Most importantly, they recommended I apply early in June/July because by the time I had applied in October, they were almost done with interview invites.
My file review with Morehouse
The admissions director stated I had a very strong MCAT score but that their main concern was my science GPA. Like other schools, they would like me to do a post-bacc program in order to indicate that I am prepared and can handle medical school coursework. Although I have shown I have good test-taking skills, this is not the same as being able to do challenging coursework. They like post-bacc programs instead of undergraduate and graduate school programs because they are more structured and are a better use of a premed’s time. They said that retaking science coursework in which I had done poorly is not adequate to indicate my ability to succeed in medical school; what is really important is that I am accepted into a postbacc program. However, I should retake courses in which I have a D or an F. They like that I have had a plethora of experiences with exposure to all different fields including medicine. Community service is important to the school; they recommended that I get as much exposure wherever I can and said that volunteer work does not necessarily need to be medically related. They look down on science coursework that is done online and wouldn’t recommend it, although math classes can be done online.
My file review with Virginia Commonwealth University:
This started off a disaster. I had made an appointment to come in-person to VCU because I live about 20 min from the university now. I went to the office only to find that there was not a single person in the office and that all of the tables and shelves were empty. I went around panicking, shaking on locked doors and peeking through dark rooms (now I was late!) until I finally found a person who looked like they worked there. She told me that the entire admissions office had moved to another building. Of course, this was not updated on the website and I never thought that I should call and confirm that the address is correct because who does that? Anyways, I called them to let them know I was indeed coming and then huffed and puffed my way in the hot sun down one block and couldn’t even jaywalk to save time because the place was crawling with police officers drinking coffee. There were no signs in the new building and the place was one of those austere modern designs that apparently believes room numbers interfere with the aesthetic. I had to call the receptionist again to tell her I had no idea where to go now that I was in the building and of course the office was just hidden behind these massive elevators and stairs. Walking in everyone already thought I was daft because I didn’t know the office was in a new location and then of course because of that I was late.
I had to wait a little while to see the admissions officer and it was a little awkward because she had her own small office, but the receptionist’s even tinier was attached to hers and the door was open. When it was time to see me instead of coming to greet me she just yelled out “Let her in!” and then I walked inside and hoped I wasn’t all sweaty and disgusting from my near-sprint. We exchanged the usual pleasantries and then I sat in her dark office. I explained I was there for a file review and told her I had brought my AMCAS application.
She read it and popped out a highlighter. As she went down my transcript she highlighted my Cs and Ds (and then mused in surprise when she got to my A in Organic Chemistry II–yay me!) she saw my MCAT score and then said she was surprised again because my GPA was low but my MCAT was decent. I made the usual joke that this is my “one redeeming quality” and then she kept reading. When she was about to read my personal statement she started laughing. I was really horrified. Then I realized she was just laughing at my work experience–at a banquet hall. I don’t know what is really funny about someone spending 6 years (part-time) of their life picking up other people’s trash…unless she thought the place I worked was amusing… She read my personal statement without any more laughing so I was relieved.
After reading my personal statement she asked me to explain why I wanted to go to medical school. This caught me off-guard because this is basically a “medical school interview question” and I attempted to compose myself. I explained my interest in primary care and serving underserved populations. She told me that my essay did not convey this well and that I spent too long focusing on my poor academic record. (In this moment I was cursing the honors professor at my college. He helps all of my college’s students apply to prestigious things like Fulbright and he criticized my essay for not spending long enough on my academic demise.) She told me to not go into so much detail about why I have poor grades but to just be vague and keep going. Keep it to one sentence or so. She said that I should write a new personal statement after I finish my postbac and that I should write about my motivation for medicine and describe how my clinical experiences led to my interest in primary care. She said that the only negatives I should have in the essay should discuss my original intention to go to medical school, my academic low period, how I realized this disaster wouldn’t help me reach my goals, and my decision to complete a postpac program.
She also criticized me for not having had any clinical experiences since August 2012. She recommended not going far beyond one year without clinical experiences. I tried to explain that I had just moved here and had a hard time finding places; she wasn’t very sympathetic (so don’t try to use that as an excuse when you apply!) but she did recommend a place to volunteer.
At the time of my file review, I had not been accepted to the postbac program yet. She recommended that I try doing the undergrad-level postbac certificate program that VCU offers. Even though this program says that it is for students who have not completed any of the prereqs she said that the program can be customized and I could do the program but take different courses, like upper level biology. (I ended up being admitted to the graduate-level postbac and never found out if this is actually true. I’m skeptical that it is.)
I also asked her how VCU views community college coursework since I couldn’t afford to retake biology at a university in Virginia (I’m still reeling from sticker shock after the lovely low tuition rates in Texas.) She said the school still hasn’t decided how to view community college coursework but they are thinking about accepting it because of the economy.
Silently, I thought really?? Just now they are considering the economy? The economy has been bad ever since I was a senior in high school. Now I’m one year out of college and VCU is supposedly just realizing the hardships of tuition prices in the state of the economy? I doubt it! Many colleges do not accept community college coursework, or they say the “accept it” but they prefer university work. Make sure you call your medical schools and ask them if they will accept your prereqs from community college. If not, save yourself and don’t apply.
Anyhow, we also discussed my difficulty finding clinical experiences and I mentioned wanting to do clinical volunteering. She said that if I can’t find any clinical volunteering or if I can only do non-clinical roles in a clinical setting, then this will be okay. That was at least one less thing to worry about! Ultimately, my VCU file review reinforced the same problems that the other schools mentioned. I need to improve my GPA and also find more clinical experience. I am going to do a postbac at VCU in the Fall, so this program (which includes a “clinical rotations” course–likely shadowing…more details later) will allow me to work on my weaknesses. Watching her read my AMCAS application provided great insight into how adcoms view your application. They read your essay in seconds and pay very close attention to Cs, Ds, and Fs…not so much to whether you got an A-/A/B/B-…in the first round of reading anyways. I’m sure they scrutinize the applications later once they have a smaller pool. Although doing a file review in person was uncomfortable, I’m glad I did it!
My weaknesses: a self-assessment
I moved and had to stop my extra-curriculars shortly after submitting my application. This made me look like a quitter.
I did not have an upward trend; I had a downward trend towards a horrific academic failure. I am embarrassed to post this, but since you already know I did not get into medical school, I’m sure you’ve imagined the nadirs my GPA has brushed.
Academic performance is used as an indicator for medical school success, and although I know I am capable of doing well, I did not show this. I had a lot of personal challenges which affected my ability to dedicate myself to school and this is reflected in my GPA. I am not at all surprised that I have been rejected from every medical school to which I applied!
Although at first I felt that my dream career had burst into flames in front of me, I know that I do not need to get into medical school the first time I apply to become a physician. But, I do need to get in! So, try, try again…
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
*A note on the statistic quoted in this document. This data was obtained from https://www.aamc.org/download/321442/data/2012factstable1.pdf.
The total number of applications in the 2012 cycle was 636,609; because applicants submit multiple applications, there were actually 45,266 applicants (persons). Of these 45,266 persons who applied to medical school in 2012, 19,517 of them matriculated, or 43%.