Every pre-med student’s biggest nightmare is to have worked really hard for years and then still receive a rejection letter or no interview invites at the end of interview season. If you are someone in this position, read ahead based on the category that fits you best.
No Interview Invites
It is very important to take some time to reflect and dissect through why you did not receive any interview invites this season. I will talk through a couple of the most common causes for not receiving interview invites.
You applied to only competitive programs
Many of us would think why would anyone only apply to competitive programs and not apply to a bunch of safety programs? Most of us just want to get in and apply broadly. However, this is not the case for everyone. If you only applied to select programs because you did awesome on your MCATS and your GPA is near perfect, this does not guarantee that you will get into a top-notch medical school. When you are applying to the competitive programs, remember that you are dealing with a completely different situation because most other people applying to these programs also did very well in undergrad and are competing with you for a spot. It is hard to figure out how admissions committee’s decide between these highly qualified applicants but it is always better to not bank on the idea that one of the 20-30 prestigious medical schools will accept you. You should always apply broadly in the sense that you should apply to “safety schools” because you never want it to be the end of interview season and not have received an interview but got a 35+ on your MCAT (not entirely sure how that number would translate on the new MCAT).
You applied to a very limited geographical region
By a very limited geographical region, I mean 2-3 hours from your hometown which consists of a maximum of 5-10 schools. As more and more students are trying to get into medical school it is getting more and more difficult. You need to give yourself more opportunities by casting a wider net. It is more than okay to apply just to the East Coast or just to the West Coast. In the East Coast (encompassing New York to Florida), there are at least 40 medical school programs to apply to. The reason it is important to apply to a large geographic region is because there are different types of premed students that apply to different schools based on regions. Your application may look more favorably in a different state or city because people from your state/city do not generally apply to say for example the West Coast. This is not always the case but it is important to think about this. Also, I have seen students from the West Coast be given an interview because the types of extracurricular activities he/she has participated in are completely different from the types of activities that students participate in on the East Coast. This is bound to attract an admissions officer. Do not get me wrong, if you are from the East Coast and would like to stay on the East Coast, do not feel the need to have to apply to the West Coast. I was born and raised on the East Coast and only applied to medical schools on the East Coast but I was able to grab interviews from the South that I did not expect I would get.
You applied to few programs
Applying to medical school can be so expensive and it may be difficult to justify applying to 30+ programs especially when it costs so much. If you believe you are a pretty competitive applicant and your premed adviser agrees, then the best thing to do is close your eyes and just apply to a bunch the next time around. The reason I say this is saving a couple hundred dollars may seem worth it to you when you are initially applying but having to wait a whole year to apply over again to more than you applied the year before does not seem worth it. In order to save some money now, you may end up spending more later if you decide to apply again.
Interview Invites, No Acceptances
So you looked good enough on your AMCAS application but something happened during the actual interview that did not convince interviewers you are ready for medical school or that you are a good fit for the school.
You did not prepare prior to the interview
I am not one of those people that practice interview responses prior to an interview because I generally am able to come up with responses right on the spot. However, what I mean by this is that you did not really look up information regarding the school prior to your interview. You do need to be prepared for the types of questions that all interviewers ask such as:
- Why did you apply here?
- What makes this school different?
- Why are you interested in medicine?
- What makes you different?
These types of questions are sort of universal to all interviews and it is a great idea to think about the way you may answer to a question like this in preparation for your interview. You do not need to practice per say but you do need to be aware and prepared. If you have not looked up the school then it will be very difficult to tell your interviewer what makes their school different or why you applied to the school. Many students get frustrated by having to answer the “what makes this school different” question because premed students generally apply everywhere and then wherever they get an interview they go there. But still, sometimes you have to accept that there is sort of a ritual and you have to play the game they expect you to.
You did not practice with your premed adviser or someone else to give you feedback
I remember my pre-health committee had an interview day where you could come and practice with the premed adviser. I went to the practice interview session and remembered leaving it frustrated because the adviser did not ask me any of the typical med school interview questions. After I had cooled off the next day, I thought about what she said after we finished and I realized the purpose of the practice interview was not just to practice questions that may come up during an actual interview but rather to prepare me for difficult instances that I may become flustered in. I think more and more medical school interviewers are asking difficult questions in order to see how you will respond to the question rather than asking you about yourself which is something they can read about on your application. Even with the new MCAT changes you can see how they are trying to evaluate premed students based on the realm of behavioral and social issues. Practicing interviews with another premed student or anyone that you can get your hands on is a really good way of getting some of the glitches out of the way before you actually interview.
Waitlisted, No Acceptances
This is a really annoying situation to be in because you were so close. You got the coveted interview and were liked enough to be wait listed but eventually you were not accepted. This is one of those instances that it is hard to determine why you were not accepted and I think for the most part it is okay to send an email to the admissions committee asking for reasons why. And you also want to make sure that you put in your email that the reason you are asking is because you would like to apply again next year and continue to remain interested in their medical school.
This is a good time to reflect on your interview experience and your application. Maybe make a list of things about your application that are strong and things that are negative. Also at this point you are at a crossroads because you need to decide how much Medicine is worth to you. Is Medicine still the dream that you wish to pursue or after the lack of acceptances you are no longer interested in pursuing Medicine?
You still believe that medicine is your one and only passion
Resilience is a wonderful characteristic to have and will treat you well during your journey in Medicine. Medicine is not for the faint. You will be required to push yourself and prove yourself over and over again. So it means that you will not let something like not being accepted one year stop you from pursuing you dream. Since you have decided to continue to pursue your dream, there are a couple of things to take into account. You will be applying in the summer time and interview during the Fall and Winter. It may seem like a good idea to only work on applications during your year “off” but remember you want to prove to medical schools that you are an even better applicant than you were last year. So try to plan to do something during your year off and this does not have to necessarily be something Medicine related but it most definitely can be. I know people that pursued post-bacs, did research, volunteered abroad, etc. and were able to get into medical school the next year. I know others who pursued journalism, businesses, and masters. Basically you want to let medical schools know that you will not be wasting the year that you are taking off and you want to work hard.
You are confused as to whether or not you still want to pursue medicine
If this application cycle has left you confused or overwhelmed by your decision to pursue Medicine this would be a really good time to make sure that Medicine is exactly what you want. The reason I say this is because now you have a year before you potentially start medical school and you can use some of that time to make sure that this is what you want. There were a couple of medical students in my class who realized during week one or week nine that medicine was not what they thought it was or not what they wanted anymore. They wished they could go back to before starting medical school to do more shadowing so they could really know what they were getting themselves into. If you know someone in medical school, ask to hang out with them a couple of days (preferably not right after a test because you will get a skewed sense that Medical School is all about partying).
You realize medicine is not what you want to pursue anymore
Medicine are intelligent, caring, hard-working, and so much more and these traits will help you succeed and excel in anything you wish to pursue. There are so many different careers to pick from and those traits that you cultivated in preparation for your future will help you wherever you decide to go. Do not fret over your decision but be happy that you were able to try and pursue a very difficult career.