When Should I Give Up On My Medical School Application?

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Session 315

The medical school application is a long and grueling process. If you’ve been rejected, haven’t heard anything, or are confused, listen to this podcast episode!

Check out all our other podcasts on the MedEd Media Network include The MCAT Podcast, the OldPreMeds Podcast, the MCAT CARS Podcast, and soon – the Board Rounds Podcast.

Board Rounds is what’s next for premed students. Once you get into medical school, you’ll have the Board Rounds waiting for you. It’s a podcast I’ll be doing with BoardVitals, the USMLE Step 1 and COMLEX Level 1 test prep company.

[02:20] When You Should Start Thinking About Giving Up on Your Application

As of this recording, it’s the beginning of December and the application season has been opened up for several months. What happens if you haven’t heard anything? What happens if you’ve not heard something after being interviewed? Maybe it was good and maybe it was bad. That’s what we’re going to talk about right now.

[03:00] Be a Part of Our Team!

I have another announcement for you guys. We’re arranging some things and I’m making more room to create more content and I’m hiring actual employees to help me do this. One of them is a fellow premed in the application cycle now and the other person, who has an amazing background in marketing and project management, will be driving a lot of the changes you’ll be seeing here soon at the Medical School HQ. If you want to get involved in some way, just reach out to team@medicalschoolhq.net. Whether you’re a designer, a photographer, a writer, or any skills you can bring to the table to help our team, let us know!

[05:22] Doing an Honest Self-Reflection

Still haven’t received any interviews yet? At this point in the game, it’s probably not likely that you will receive any interviews. Can you still receive interviews? Absolutely. But is it likely? Probably, not. If you’re at this point in the game and you haven’t received any interviews, the question is why. The biggest challenge students have with this whole process of failing to get into medical school with the application is the honest, self-reflection of their application. If you’re wondering why you’re not getting interviews when you’re a strong applicant, then maybe you’re not strong an applicant.

[Tweet “”If you are at this point in the game and you haven’t received any interviews, the question is why not. Why haven’t you received any interviews?” https://medicalschoolhq.net/pmy-315-when-should-i-give-up-on-my-medical-school-application/”]

[08:45] Looking Holistically vs. School’s Thresholds

So you have to go down this checklist. What’s your MCAT score. Is it low? By low, I mean below 500. Is it really low? Is there a subsection that is really low – like 122, 123 – that is potentially filtering you out?

We all like to talk about holistic admissions. In our Facebook Premed Hangout, people will post questions about their stats and applications and a lot would say you’re more than your numbers and I totally agree with that.

[Tweet “”If your numbers aren’t good enough, holistic has nothing to do with it.” https://medicalschoolhq.net/pmy-315-when-should-i-give-up-on-my-medical-school-application/”]

You need to overcome a certain threshold of GPA and MCAT score to get to that holistic application review. If you do not have a minimum MCAT score and a minimum GPA to get into the school that’s reviewing your application, then you’re not going to be reviewed. If your MCAT score is too low, the school is going to assume that you’re not going to be a good student. There are schools out there that when they accept students below 500, they say they’re more likely to fail a class or not finish school.

Schools have their own data for all of this. Hence, they have cutoffs. The generic cutoff that I throw out there all the time is less than 500, less than a 3.0, cumulative. If you have less than a 500 and 3.0, you might start thinking about taking some more classes or retaking the MCAT.

Sure, you can get in with those stats. We’ve had students on the podcast who have gotten into medical school with those scores. They either took postbac classes and maybe they have a super strong upward trend. Maybe their science GPA is high because their science courses were done during a postbac and they did well. They were maybe a history major in school and they have a couple of sciences but they slacked off and partied and so cumulative was less than 3.0 but their science is high.

[Tweet “”There are so many nuances that go into MCAT and GPA.” https://medicalschoolhq.net/pmy-315-when-should-i-give-up-on-my-medical-school-application/”]

Your story is important and that’s where the holistic comes into play. But if you can’t get past the digital shredders of filters that school set up when they download the data from AACOMAS, AMCAS, or TMDSAS, you’re likely not going to get an interview.

[10:32] Advocating for Yourself

Sure, you can reach out to the school and explain your situation. I know a student who traveled around different premed conferences and she’s got a 499 on her MCAT. She talked to schools and got face-to-face. She laid down her story and she got some interviews. Hopefully, she’ll get in. She wasn’t going to get any interviews unless she met people face-to-face.

[Tweet “”You can advocate for yourself. Go to conferences. Get in front of these people.” https://medicalschoolhq.net/pmy-315-when-should-i-give-up-on-my-medical-school-application/”]

Get in front of people. At this point in the game, it’s a little late. But if you’re listening to this and haven’t applied yet and you’re stuck in the situation, try to get to conferences. Beginning mid-October is UC Davis Conference and there are also some conferences in November. Get in front of people. Reach out to schools. Just check first how they would want you to contact them. Or do they want you to contact them at all.

[11:57] There’s Still a Chance

Some schools interview up until April so there’s still a chance to get an interview. It’s a slim chance but it’s there.

[Tweet ““There’s a lot of movement in the application cycle.” https://medicalschoolhq.net/pmy-315-when-should-i-give-up-on-my-medical-school-application/”]

If somebody has four acceptances and they finally make the decision on which school to go to and they turned down the other three schools, now the school has an open spot. And maybe they want to invite some more people for an interview. This is possible.

[12:30] Be Honest with Yourself

Again, be honest with yourself. Where are you struggling? If it’s an MCAT thing, retake the MCAT. Don’t apply again next cycle. Or if it’s just an MCAT thing and your clinical experience is great. If your extracurriculars as a whole, paint a picture of who you are, and you’ve written a good personal statement and you’ve submitted your applications and secondaries on time and the only thing you know is what’s holding you back is the 495 MCAT score, then retake the MCAT and apply again. That’s if everything else you think is there.

Back in episode 171, I did an interview with the former Dean of Admissions at UC Irvine, she mentions that one of the common reasons students aren’t getting in is lack of clinical experience. And one of the most common mistakes re-applicants make is applying too soon without fixing their application.

[Tweet “”One of the most common mistakes re-applicants make is applying too soon without fixing their application.” https://medicalschoolhq.net/pmy-315-when-should-i-give-up-on-my-medical-school-application/”]

[14:02] Are Poor Grades Holding You Back?

Now, if you think it may be poor grades holding you back, this is a long-term process. First of all, why do you have poor grades? Was there an upward trend? Or was it a downward trend or just a flatline, but still not very good grades? You have to be honest with yourself and figure out why you didn’t get into school or why you didn’t get good grades. Did you not try? Or did you try hard but you have some other learning disability?

There are lots of reasons for struggling in school. So you need to figure out why. Otherwise, it’s useless to go back and take more classes and get the same poor grades. If your GPA is holding you back, you need more classes. But you haven’t figured out why you’re struggling, then it’s useless to go back and take more classes.

There are lots of options such as taking more classes at your four-year university where you went to undergrad and just take classes as a non-degree-seeking student. You can take postbac classes, a Special Master’s Program (SMP), etc.

If you’re taking your classes, you’ll get one semester under your belt for when the applications are due. Take that full year. Get a full 3-4 semesters under your belt and get your grades up. Show a positive trend in your classwork and grades, and then you can reapply.

[16:00] Lack of Clinical Experience

Going back to episode 171, one of the most common reasons students aren’t getting accepted is lack of clinical experience. How is an admissions committee supposed to take you seriously if you haven’t stepped foot in a hospital to see, interact, to smell, and to be a part of patient care?

[Tweet “”One of the most common reasons students aren’t getting accepted is lack of clinical experience.” https://medicalschoolhq.net/pmy-315-when-should-i-give-up-on-my-medical-school-application/”]

[17:00] Other Possible Reasons

Figure out whether it’s clinical experience or shadowing that you’re missing. Or maybe you’re applying to research-heavy schools and you don’t have any research. Ask yourself those questions.

Assess if you did a poor job on your personal statement, or writing your extracurriculars. Check out The Premed Playbook: Guide to Medical School Personal Statement. I also have a Personal Statement course now. Go to store.medicalschoolhq.net and get access to private facebook group where we have office hours every other week.

Unfortunately, students automatically decide on doing a postbac because they’re not getting any interviews. But if your GPA is high, say a 3.8, you’ve already proven that you can handle courses. You’ve already proven that you are a good student. You don’t need a postbac. There’s something else in your application that is holding you up. You have to be honest with your evaluation and your reflection of your application.

[18:45] What If You’ve Been Waitlisted

If you’ve already been interviewed at the school but you’ve been waitlisted or hadn’t heard anything, there’s still lots of time. By the beginning of December, there are lots of movement with applications or acceptance list.

Some schools will rank their waitlist and some won’t Those that do will just take the top person and call him up. Now, the student has the option to accept or decline. If you don’t accept it, they’ll go to the next person until they find a student who’s willing to take that seat.

Moreover, for schools that don’t rank their waitlist, they’re going to reevaluate everybody. So there are lots of movements when it comes to the last several months of the application cycle.

[Tweet “”It’s never over until it’s over.” https://medicalschoolhq.net/pmy-315-when-should-i-give-up-on-my-medical-school-application/”]

[20:56] If You’ve Been Interviewed

So if you’ve interviewed, there’s still hope. At this point in the process, you update schools that accept updates. Continue to strengthen your application with the assumption you’re not going to get in. Reflect back on your application, what’s wrong with it, how you can improve it.

If you’ve gotten an interview, your GPA and MCAT scores are good enough. But maybe you’re lacking something in clinical experience. Try to dig deeper while you were there, maybe it was a poor interview. Back in Session 241, Natalie talked about having six interviews, six waitlists, and she did some mock interviews with me. She had 7 interviews, 6 acceptances, and one waitlist.

[Tweet “”If you’re getting the interview and not getting in, maybe you have to improve your interviewing.” https://medicalschoolhq.net/pmy-315-when-should-i-give-up-on-my-medical-school-application/”]

If you need help with this, check out my book The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview. I also have a course on this that’s being updated right now.

[22:10] Several Parts to the Process

There are so many things to this process. I am aware that a lot of other websites have students there talking about how they’ve got great stats but are not getting in. Reason that other students freak out about this.

It’s not that they are not good enough stat-wise. But it’s because there’s something else in their application that’s missing. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have perfect personal statement, extracurriculars, GPA, etc. You have to be “good enough.” So these students who have high GPA and MCAT scores are obviously falling flat somewhere else.

[Tweet “”You don’t have to be perfect.” https://medicalschoolhq.net/pmy-315-when-should-i-give-up-on-my-medical-school-application/”]

They could be failing in an interview because they don’t have social skills. They could be writing a very poor personal statement or poor extracurriculars. They may not be painting a good picture of who they are as a person. You have to understand that there are so many variables that go into this.

Or ask yourself the following questions. What kind extracurriculars do you have? What clinical experience do you have? Shadowing, volunteering? When did you turn in your application? If you threw it in on the deadline, well that’s why you didn’t get in. You need to apply early.

You don’t have to just focus on the MCAT and GPA. The first immediate reaction you should have is that you need to take more classes. But it should be, WHY did you not get an interview/acceptance? It could be poor grades, poor ECs, poor MCAT score, poor interviewing, poor personal statement, etc.

Consistency is also another key here. You may be lacking consistency with your ECs, say you have 1000 hours of shadowing but it was all from two summers during your freshmen and sophomore years and you have nothing since.

[25:30] When Should You Give Up?

If you haven’t received an interview invite at this point (December), it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to get one. It’s possible, but not probable. So start having that conversation. Where did you go wrong and where can you improve? Have this type of conversation with your advisors, or if you have none, other medical students who have gotten in. Reach out to the medical schools to see if they can do a review of your application. A lot may say no, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. You can also reach out to me on store.medicalschoolhq.net and we’ll try to do a critical analysis of your application to figure out where you went wrong.

If you’ve interviewed and you haven’t gotten any acceptances yet, again, start doing that critical analysis. Where did you go wrong? Did you interview poorly? Your application may be strong enough but still continue to work on it as much as possible. And then prepare for your interviews next time. Do better next time.

There are so many things you can do, but when should you give up? NEVER.

[Tweet “”If this is what you want, you never give up. You figure out where you went wrong and you course-correct. Never ever give up if this is your dream.” https://medicalschoolhq.net/pmy-315-when-should-i-give-up-on-my-medical-school-application/”]




Facebook Premed Hangout

MedEd Media Network

The MCAT Podcast

OldPreMeds Podcast


Session 171: Reapplying to Med School – What You Need to Know to Improve

Session 231: Third Application Cycle was a Charm for this Premed!

The Premed Playbook: Guide to Medical School Personal Statement

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview