Updated: Jan 11, 2020
"Why didn't I get an acceptance letter?" This is a question that, perhaps, more and more pre-meds will be asking themselves in the very near future.
A recent article reported that medical school applications are on the rise. Even with more medical schools being built, pre-meds are not getting into medical schools at a higher rate. The AAMC alone has seen an applicant increase of 35% over the last ten years. In 2016, over 53,000 applicants applied to allopathic schools and just over 21,000 matriculated. The AACOM reported that entering class of 2016 osteopathic schools matriculated just under 7000 from an applicant pool of over 20,000.
A common myth among medical school applicants is that if they apply to enough schools, they will surely get in somewhere. Unfortunately, with more than 60% of applicants receiving rejection letters, the odds are against the majority of medical school applicants in any given year.
But, what about the 40% of applicants who do get into medical school? Maybe they are all traditional pre-meds coming right out of college, and they all have perfect GPAs and MCAT scores, right? That's not necessarily the case.
Ok... so if everyone isn't a blemish-free applicant, then what are they doing to get into medical school. I know I'm always harping about strategy, but how else are you supposed to beat those odds? So, here are 5 strategies that will help you to make more strategic moves and increase your chances of getting into medical school:
Do your homework Before applying to medical school, look at the trends for applicants and matriculants. This will give you better insight as to whom medical schools are accepting. You can find much of this information on the AAMC and AACOM websites. Attending pre-med conferences is another way to have face-to-face time with admissions officers and get all your questions answered. Understand the lay of the land ,so you're not entering unknown territory.
Apply when you are competitive
Once you know what medical schools want, start mapping out a plan to get there. Review your transcript to see where you need improvement. If you have had some academic blemishes in college, consider doing a post-bac or Masters program. The key is to do much better in these classes than you have in college. Apply when, and only when, you have shown significant improvement in your academic status.
If you need to retake the MCAT, retake it when you know you are ready. One way to gauge that is if your practice exam scores are on point. Don't forget to get clinical, volunteer, and maybe so research experiences in, too. Be realistic with yourself about your competitiveness. If you aren't ready to apply, keep plugging away until you are.
Choose schools that will choose you You might have a dream school, but is that school dreaming about you? This is where many pre-meds that I encounter get hung up. Again, be realistic about your competitiveness. That's not to say that you shouldn't apply to your dream schools, but don't stop there. Review the student profiles of each and every medical school. Yes! Every last one. You might be overlooking a school that would have accepted you all because it wasn't on your radar. That means broadening your horizons. Maybe you have to apply to schools on the opposite coast or in the South, or in the Midwest - basically far from home. Your goal is to become a doctor, not to go to school in a certain geographical location. Prioritize your goal and you just might find yourself holding an acceptance letter!
Apply early, dammit! I'm going to keep this one short because I've said this a million times. The later you apply, the lesser your chances of being accepted. Hit the submit button on AMCAS and AACOMAS in June for your greatest odds.
Don't sit on secondaries I can't tell you the number of applicants that submit their primary applications on time, then wait weeks to months to submit their secondary applications. Medical schools want to read your answers to your secondary applications before they invite you for an interview. Submitting a primary application without submitting a secondary application is like mixing cake batter and not placing the batter in the oven to bake. Submit those secondaries as aggressively as you submitted the primary applications. A one week turn around should be your goal on secondaries.
Getting into medical school is challenging, but not impossible. With almost 30,000 applicants matriculating every year, why can't you be one of them? For even more strategies, be sure to pick up my FREE cheatsheet: 5 Strategies you're currently NOT using to get into medical school!