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Why was I rejected from medical school?

March 26th, 2013  |  Published in Applying to Medical School  |  34 Comments

Explosion

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

Extra-curriculars

I moved and had to stop my extra-curriculars shortly after submitting my application. This made me look like a quitter.

GPA

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.

 

 

GPA BCPM Other Cumulative
Freshman 2.99 3.96 3.63
Sophomore 2.26 3.82 3.30
Junior 3.00 2.85 2.86
Senior 2.17 2.73 2.47
Cumulative 2.46 3.28 3.03

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.

–Thomas Edison

*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%.

Responses

  1. elizabeth says:

    May 8th, 2013at 1:40 pm(#)

    You are brave and an inspiration. Don’t give up! If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth it.

  2. Jennifer Isaacs says:

    May 13th, 2013at 8:17 pm(#)

    Thanks Elizabeth, I needed to hear your encouraging words today. I agree, few things that are easily attained are worthwhile 🙂 I’m looking forward to following your blog. Best of luck on your journey!

  3. Tobin Richardson says:

    June 25th, 2013at 3:30 pm(#)

    I work with pre-med and other pre-professional students and this is a fantastic real-world portrayal of your experiences. I know this account would be so helpful to those who have considered or decided on pursuing a degree for professional school. Thank you so much for your honesty; few would be willing to be so open about their experiences in order to help others. Very brave.

  4. Jennifer Isaacs says:

    June 27th, 2013at 2:44 am(#)

    Thanks Tobin! That is very kind to say; I don’t consider this as a very brave act though 🙂 but I guess others may perceive it that way. Surprisingly, documenting my failures hasn’t been too scary. I do hope that everything I have experienced can motivate others so that the either (a) don’t get as bad of a GPA or (b) become realistic about how far a bad GPA can take them. Hopefully I will have a success story at the end!

  5. Mel says:

    July 12th, 2013at 7:15 pm(#)

    I really hope that you continue on and apply to medical school when you feel you are more than ready. You are brave and that counts for so much. I wish you only the best.

  6. Jennifer Isaacs says:

    July 21st, 2013at 6:38 am(#)

    Mel, I’m planning to apply in May 2014! At that point I will have completed my postbac and be ready for another application season 🙂

  7. Jane Tilney says:

    July 15th, 2013at 10:07 pm(#)

    Hi there 🙂

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I too am hoping to study medicine, so this post helped me to gain a realistic view of how competitive med school is. I just have 2 questions:

    1) What extracurriculars did you participate in?
    2) What did study for undergrad?

    Keep working towards your dream! Your determination and refusal to give up is truly inspiring. As Thomas Edison once quoted:

    I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

  8. Jennifer Isaacs says:

    July 21st, 2013at 6:35 am(#)

    Thanks for the encouragement, Jane! To answer your questions, my extra-curricululars were: college radio station (DJ and officer), business owner, tutoring, medical scribe, NIH research intern, hospital volunteer, part-time jobs (nonmedical), theatre, and honors programs at my university.

    I studied Business Admin as an undergrad.

    Hope this helps! I do like that quote but hope I don’t have to try 10,000 times haha.

  9. Michele says:

    August 1st, 2013at 10:46 pm(#)

    I am so glad I found this site. I graduated with a low GPA (2.54 ugh) 3 years from undergraduate. Although my trend was slightly upward, I still know it is not enough. I struggle everyday trying to plan my future, knowing that medical school is really the only place I want to be but convincing myself that I could do research as well. I’ve been working at my undergraduate university prepping and teaching the biology science labs and taking graduate classes. I have excelled in all my graduate classes and I know I could do well in medical school, it is just a matter of can I convince others to see that. I enjoy reading about your journey and all the great insight you offer. I wish you luck!

  10. Jennifer Isaacs says:

    August 3rd, 2013at 10:13 am(#)

    Good to hear that you did well in graduate classes after undergrad. I am feeling a little nervous for my postbac coming up and it’s nice to hear that someone with the (almost) same gross GPA has had success in grad coursework! Make sure you do some clinical volunteering before applying again and I think you’ll be golden for your applications. Good luck and stay in touch 🙂

  11. celine says:

    August 4th, 2013at 5:01 am(#)

    Hi Jennifer,

    i find your blog truly inspiring and I commend you for your efforts to help others through your experience. I am hoping that I will eventually one of those; I am an incoming sophomore psychology major and pre-med. My freshman year didn’t go as well as I wanted it to be due to personal reasons. I am now suffering with an extremely low gpa (2.1). Despite the tragedy of my academic career, I am more motivated to do well. I only took one science and math class so far, which i am hoping to retake. Can you please help me out with any advice? I am starting the semester hopeful and motivated to be better; would a significant upward trend be helpful? I also have been starting to look up MCAT- I will be a part of the guinea pig class with the new MCAT.

    your feedback would be truly appreciated, thanks in advance!

  12. Jennifer Isaacs says:

    August 4th, 2013at 11:17 am(#)

    Hi Celine!

    Sorry to hear about your academic troubles. I guess the good thing is that your low GPA is due to personal reasons and not because you thought your classes were hard! I think the best thing to do is make sure the personal reasons are behind you; if you don’t feel ready to take on another semester you should definitely take a leave of absence from school as long as the personal reason is not something you are too embarrassed to potentially discuss in medical school interviews.

    Secondly you need to decide if you really enjoy psychology; if you enjoy psychology continue your major, but if you think part of your low GPA was partly caused by disinterest in your courses you should change majors. A significant upward trend would be very helpful. If you can make a 3.5-4.0 in all the semesters after this then I’m sure the adcoms will blow off your initial 2.1 to just being “freshman jitters.”

    You need to take really easy science and math classes but also fulfill the premed requirements. Go to ratemyprofessor.com and myedu.com to look at the ratings for professors at your school and pick the ones with the best and easiest ratings. I also recommend that you ask around and see which courses are easier science classes. At my school a “human sexuality” class was reportedly easily and a popular choice amongst premeds. I’m sure there is something similar at your school! Make sure you continue the prerequisites (gen chem, bio, etc.) but if you see any sign of struggle you need to hire a tutor. Go to office hours as often as you can and be very disciplined with reading the textbook, doing homework, reviewing your notes…whatever study system works for you.

    I’m a little on the fence about retaking. Most schools I have spoken with say don’t bother retaking unless it is below a C. I think anything higher than a C is a waste of time to retake. I have retaken C- classes. But ask your premed adviser what s/he thinks about retaking the courses you want to retake, they should give good advice.

    If you want to discuss more you can contact me through my blog contact page (top right!)

    Good luck!

  13. tim says:

    March 3rd, 2015at 10:05 pm(#)

    he doesnt have academic troubles.. he is having trouble swimming through the B.S. that these medical school. every freakin doctor was not a 4.0 student…lol

  14. Scott H says:

    August 21st, 2013at 10:22 am(#)

    Excellent blog, Jennifer. It sounds like you are determined to get into medical school despite all the rejections. Your determination and tenacity is inspiring to others. Don’t give up! Best of luck to you and keep up the outstanding blog posts.

  15. Jennifer Isaacs says:

    August 21st, 2013at 3:36 pm(#)

    Thanks, Scott. I am quite determined. I am starting a postbac program now (first day is tomorrow) so I’m feeling better about my prospects when I reapply.

  16. Oscar says:

    August 21st, 2013at 10:47 am(#)

    Come to the UK to do medicine. You’d probably get a place with those grades and we’re cheaper to do a degree, plus the NHS is kinda awesome.
    If you can’t do that, then do a degree. Then come to the UK and do a graduate course. There’s 8 Americans and 2 Canadians on my course.

    But one thing… DO NOT GIVE UP!

  17. Jennifer Isaacs says:

    August 21st, 2013at 3:33 pm(#)

    I was tempted to go to the UK a while ago! I was considering Australia too, but now that I’m married my husband wants to stay in the US so I’m here. I bet those Americans in your class have a higher GPA than me though, lol. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!

  18. Janice says:

    October 18th, 2013at 1:52 pm(#)

    I am so glad that I found your blog. I have similar academic challenges, but I am motivating my self to push through. Finding blogs like this just increases my flame. I am so grateful. Your honesty is refreshing. Thanks again!

  19. Jennifer says:

    October 19th, 2013at 6:13 pm(#)

    I’m glad you’re finding motivation! Keep working towards the dream. I’m not there yet, but now that I’ve started my postbac it’s just one step at a time until med school 🙂

  20. helpful says:

    January 28th, 2014at 12:28 am(#)

    Hi there! I am so happy that I came across your blog – I feel like I’m in a similar boat and your determination is refreshing – I wish you the best of luck in your post-bac program and I can’t wait to hear about your success!

  21. Jennifer says:

    February 4th, 2014at 5:24 pm(#)

    Thanks! I actually ended up having to drop out of the program after I had my baby because I had no time to study. It was a sad decision and one I intend to blog about soon…

  22. Jen says:

    April 30th, 2014at 4:49 pm(#)

    Hofstra said you had good extracurriculars- what were they?

  23. jen says:

    April 30th, 2014at 4:51 pm(#)

    And how long did you do each?

  24. Jennifer Isaacs says:

    June 28th, 2014at 2:35 am(#)

    I was a scribe for 9 months (until I moved), volunteered at a hospital for a summer, did an internship at NIH for a summer…those are the big ones I can remember lol.

  25. Chris Porter MD says:

    May 12th, 2014at 10:55 am(#)

    Excellent post. You’re a credit to future doctors. Best of luck!

  26. Jennifer Isaacs says:

    June 28th, 2014at 2:34 am(#)

    Thanks Chris! Kind of on the fence now about applying again since I have a cute little baby now but we’ll see I guess 🙂

  27. Martina P Callum MD says:

    June 28th, 2014at 2:18 am(#)

    Great post! Don’t give up….I bet if you could write a personal check and pay the tution without blinking you’d get in…nobody says it but I believe ability to pay is also a prerequisite!

  28. Jennifer Isaacs says:

    June 28th, 2014at 2:46 am(#)

    Thanks! And lol I wouldn’t go so far to say that writing a check would get me into a medical school despite my crappy GPA hahaha.

    But yes, a major barrier to entry to medical school for many students is the cost. Many students with low-income or those who are supporting families may not apply to medical school because of the cost (of both time and money). This pre-med game is certainly not one for those with many responsibilities and/or little money. Sad but true.

  29. Rose says:

    August 22nd, 2014at 7:54 am(#)

    Im nervous because I am the opposite. I have a pretty good GPA and science GPA (3.5 and a 3.1). I was able to complete the 15 work activities on the application. Im just nervous about the MCAT (in 2 weeks for me). I cannot remember nothing and I keep trying to study for it, but I just want to cry. That test should be optional. I hope you get in. I hope I get in. Every vision has it appointed time. Just wait for it.

  30. Jennifer Isaacs says:

    October 14th, 2014at 12:51 am(#)

    I hope you did well on the test! Consider the MCAT a prepatory step for the years of testing ahead of you between USMLEs, board exams, etc. Try different tricks to improve your memory and research study tips online. Different people need different methods to study 🙂

  31. tim says:

    March 3rd, 2015at 10:02 pm(#)

    F*&^^%K american medical schools. F*&^^their entire Bull*&^ MCAT. Its biased and no one has it but America. as long as you have a C average you can do the work in Medical School. Go to a foreign medical school. A GPA is NOT indicative of who will be a good doctor. They have foreigners who come from other country’s who don’t even have a GPA system, nontheless a command of the English language go to medical school. So don’t give up.

  32. Jennifer Isaacs says:

    January 16th, 2016at 3:17 pm(#)

    Lol! I’ve definitely known people who have considered going to medical school in India and then coming back here because they can pay their way in with American dollars and they are smart enough (or think they are!) to pass the USMLEs. Certainly one way to go about it if you are persistent.

  33. BusyT says:

    January 23rd, 2016at 4:11 pm(#)

    So, did you ever get in? What happened???

  34. Hellen Hilson3 says:

    August 14th, 2016at 9:37 pm(#)

    Creative suggestions – For what it’s worth , others are wanting a a form , my wife filled a template form here http://goo.gl/OvKFOi

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