Reapplying to Medical School: How to Succeed the Second Time Around


03.01.2018

Bumps in the road don’t throw you off. You expect them, and this has helped you become pretty resilient over the years. You may not have gained acceptance to medical school on your first attempt, but you’re not ready to give up.

Though you aren’t intimidated about the prospect of reapplying to medical school, you want to make sure you do everything in your power to stand out as an impressive candidate this time. But what does that entail? How can you make sure your application is stronger?

We spoke with medical school admissions experts to help uncover the secrets behind succeeding while reapplying to medical school. Keep reading to see how you can become a more competitive candidate.

6 Tips for reapplying to medical school

You should first evaluate your overall application to find out which portions could use some improvement. Once you have a sense of where you should focus your efforts, take a look at these suggestions. You might uncover some pointers to improve your odds of receiving an acceptance letter or two.

1. Improve your academic performance

Maybe you were a late bloomer in college. Or it could be your MCAT performance wasn’t as impressive as you thought it would be. “I would strongly recommend improving both lackluster grades and MCAT scores before reapplying to medical school,” says Dr. Bernard Remakus, an internist, former medical school faculty member, and author.

"I would strongly recommend improving both lackluster grades and MCAT scores before reapplying to medical school."

Taking additional courses or even obtaining another degree are good options for improving your grades. Make sure you focus on science classes since medical schools evaluate your science GPA in addition to your overall GPA. You also might want to consider taking classes at a school you’ve never attended before.

“Taking grad school courses at a different institution allows the student to break the cycle of academic mediocrity that could have developed during the student’s undergraduate experience,” Dr. Remakus explains.

You also have the option of taking the MCAT again. You may want to revise your study habits and take some practice exams to help simulate the experience. Dr. Remakus also suggests taking a prep course specifically designed for the MCAT.

2. Ask for help

Perhaps you didn’t get accepted to medical school despite a great academic track record. It can be tricky to figure out where you went wrong, so don’t be afraid to reach out for some assistance. Dr. Remakus recommends setting up a meeting with an admissions counselor at a school where you previously applied.

“Such a meeting would give the student a better idea of what is required to gain acceptance to medical school on reapplication and potentially allow the student to gain an advocate who might be impressed with their motivation and perseverance,” he explains.

"Such a meeting would give the student a better idea of what is required to gain acceptance to medical school."

For those who need even more guidance, it’s a good idea to contact a medical school admissions consultant. Dr. Remakus says these professionals can help applicants figure out why there aren’t getting accepted and understand how to make themselves into more competitive candidates.

3. Acquire the right experience

Make sure you’re taking a focused approach when choosing the experiences you’ll ultimately include on your resume. Health-related volunteer opportunities of all types can be wonderful, but most admissions teams want to see that you’ve interacted with patients during your work experiences. “Hands-on patient experience is very powerful,” mentions Bob Ryan, dean of admissions at St. George’s University (SGU).

"Hands-on patient experience is very powerful."

You should also consider how your extracurriculars can help you stand out from the crowd. “Every medical school admissions committee is impressed by unique experiences,” Dr. Remakus says. Even athletic accomplishments could give you an edge.

4. Get your timing right

Being early is generally good when it comes to medical school applications, but it is possible to be too early. U.S. News & World Report points out that you aren’t likely to succeed if your application during the next cycle looks exactly the same as it did the first time. You need to make sure you give yourself enough time to make the necessary improvements.

If you need more clinical experience, for example, a four-month internship is going to make you a stronger candidate than a four-week internship would. If lackluster grades were a problem, you’ll need to complete enough coursework to give your GPA the boost it needs.

5. Revise your list of schools

Did you select only the most prestigious programs during your first application cycle? A lot of students make this mistake, so don’t be embarrassed if you count yourself among them. You can get a better understanding of where you would be most competitive by looking into a program’s student population.

“Set your sights on what schools are taking students with similar backgrounds, academically and experience-wise,” Ryan suggests. You can accomplish this through research, speaking to admissions departments, and chatting with current students at the programs you’re evaluating.

"Set your sights on what schools are taking students with similar backgrounds."

While eliminating some medical schools from your initial list is likely a good idea when reapplying, you don’t necessarily need to discount all of them. Dr. Remakus says reapplying to a program that didn’t initially offer you a seat could prove rewarding if you were successful in meeting with an admissions counselor who offered some guidance.

6. Step up your interview performance

You should feel pretty excited if you receive interview invitations from medical schools, because it means they’re seriously considering you. You don’t want to ruin your chances of getting accepted by coming into the interview unprepared. Ryan says demonstrating that you know a lot about the school is extremely important.

Practicing your interview skills is also critical for success. You want to be comfortable talking about all aspects of your background and application, even if they seem irrelevant or don’t highlight your positive attributes. “Be prepared for questions that may be intended to throw you off track,” Ryan recommends.

Come back stronger

You can see there are a lot of ways to make yourself more competitive when reapplying to medical school. There are available courses of action that can give your application a boost no matter which areas need strengthening.

All of the tips we highlighted above can be helpful, but you’d be wise to pay close attention to interview preparation. These face-to-face conversations are one of the most important components of your application package. Get ahead of the game by reading our article, “How to Prepare for Medical School Interviews: Steps for Success.”

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