Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A: 8 Common Med School Application Mistakes

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts

Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A: 8 Common Med School Application Mistakes

Session 81

Not getting any medical school interview invites? Let’s look at the 8 most common areas students make mistakes in their medical school application.

Our episodes are recorded live on Facebook at 3pm ET on most weekdays. Like the page to be notified.

If you want help with the MCAT, check out

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[00:24] Question from Miriam

Miriam is curious about what can go wrong even if your application is good. Let’s say, you have a perfect GPA, a good MCAT and a decent personal statement, why will med schools invite someone else for an interview over you?

“There are lots of gotchas along the way with the application.”Click To Tweet

If it’s a good personal statement, the question is how do you know if it’s a good personal statement?

There are some questions to ask. Actually, I’m in the process of finishing up my book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Application.

In the book, I run through this process of evaluating post-application if you didn’t get in. What does that look like? How do you evaluate? How do you run through a postmortem, so to speak on your application to figure out what went wrong?

So the breakdown would be if you got an interview, or didn’t get an interview. And if you didn’t get an interview, then there are a lot of things potentially that can go wrong.

These are the things that you need to be evaluating on:

  1. GPA
  2. MCAT score
  3. Personal statement
  4. Secondaries
  5. School list
  6. Activities
  7. Letters of recommendations
  8. Timing of the application (hint: apply early!)

[02:19] Letters of Recommendation

You could have a great GPA, great MCAT score, great activities, great personal statement, great secondaries, and applied early. But if your letters of recommendation aren’t good, then you’re probably not going to get an interview. 

“There's this whole secret language around letters of recommendation.”Click To Tweet

[03:11] Timing of Your Application

The majority of medical schools in the US are based on rolling admissions, which means the earlier that you apply, the better your chances are of getting into medical school. And by the time the deadline rolls around, there’s probably not a very good chance that you’re going to get an interview.

[04:12] A Number of Reasons for Not Getting In

Please check out six episodes of a new series for YouTube called Application Renovation, where I actually go through an application with a student, I look at their AMCAS application or their AACOMAS application. And I give my thought process on what went wrong and how to improve it for next time.

[06:23] What Makes Somebody with Bad Scores Get Into Medical School

If you either have bad scores or a bad GPA, you have to show some improvement, or some level of recognition of those issues. Then put in place fixes of those things.

If someone started off college with a poor GPA. So they have a 2.5. Freshman year, then a 3.0 sophomore year, and then they have 4.0 junior year, and 4.0 Senior year. Then they’ve improved their chances of getting into medical School.

“Even if you have red flags on your application, prove that you’ve overcome those issues.”Click To Tweet

Give medical schools the assurance they need that you’re going to be able to get through medical school.  

[07:30] How to Put Your Story Out There

Start journaling everything that you’re doing. This includes every clinical experience, volunteer experience – journal it. Talk about what you did and how it made you feel and what your takeaway was from it.

If it’s something clinical, how did it potentially further strengthen your desire to be a physician to go on this journey? 

“Step one is journaling.” Click To Tweet

Check out my book The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement where you will find those list of questions you need to be asking yourself.

The story of your personal statement is all about why you want to be a doctor. What is that story that led you to be interested in healthcare? What is that story that led you to really reaffirm in your mind and give you confidence that this is what you want to do?

The narrative that you focus on for your personal statement really has to talk about your journey to medicine. If you have red flags along the way, you can potentially talk about those any sort of hiccups along the way.

[09:52] Writing Your Secondaries

You really have to be careful writing those secondaries to not make them generic and just copy and paste all the secondary essays about why the school should accept you.

You really need to focus on the schools individually about why you want to go there and why they should accept you, etc. 

Learn how to tell your story from a show-don’t-tell perspective. This is a common storytelling technique. It draws in the reader to make them understand what you’ve been through, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.

Too many students try to sell themselves. But you’re never going to prove to the admissions committee that you are more empathetic than anyone else. So just tell your story, let your story tell the reader, the interviewer, who you are, where you’ve been, the experiences you’ve had and what you’ve learned from those things.

[12:02] Shadowing and Clinical Experience

We have a project, hopefully coming to fruition soon called find Just put in your zip code and see if there are physicians in your area that will allow students to shadow.

Miriam worked in a hospital the whole summer last summer. She was a patient transporter. She was in charge of moving around patients from their room or from one department to another.

To transport is a very common thing that students are able to do. Some schools actually don’t like it as a clinical experience. But there’s nothing you can do about that. They just don’t feel like it’s enough interaction to be pushing around a gurney to a different location in the hospital.

But you’re talking to patients, you’re interacting, you’re hearing their stories. It’s also interacting with doctors and nurses from ICU. The doctor would always have to come along and get with the patients.

Additionally, Miriam is doing a summer internship in cancer research.

[13:40] Preparing for the MCAT

Miriam is using Kaplan book for her review and planning on getting the QBanks. It sounds like she’s getting everything lined up appropriately. Then it’s just a matter of once January rolls around. If she’s taking the MCAT in January, great. Then she can start focusing on starting her personal statement and starting to ask for those letters of recommendations. Then just start that whole process as well.


Meded Media

The Premed Years Podcast

MSHQ Facebook Hangout Group

Application Renovation

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement


Click here to subscribe



Crush the MCAT with our
MCAT Secrets eBook



DOWNLOAD FREE - Crush the MCAT with our MCAT Secrets eBook