9 Reasons Medical Schools Will Reject You!

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PMY 408: 9 Reasons Medical Schools Will Reject You!

Session 408

Have you been rejected from med school? Are you wondering what the reason could be that you could get rejected? Today, we cover 9 reasons why you get rejected.

For more podcast resources to help you along your journey to medical school and beyond, check out Meded Media. Check out the OldPreMeds Podcast and The MCAT Podcast, The MCAT CARS Podcast, and Specialty Stories to know more about the different specialties out there. Also, be sure to check out Mappd.com for more premed help!

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

[02:20] Reason #1: Poor GPA

Having a GPA that does not reflect your ability to do well in medical school is an easy opportunity for a medical school to not accept you.

“Having a GPA that doesn't show academic ability to get into and through medical school will give the medical schools no reason to invite you for an interview.”Click To Tweet

Remember, at the end of the day, the goal of the medical school admissions process is to evaluate students not only from a statistical standpoint but also from everything else.

That being said, GPA and MCAT are the only two that most applicants think are the things that matter when it comes to applying to medical school. But your story is much more important than just MCAT and GPA. MCAT and GPA matter, but they’re not the end all be all.

In a recent episode of Ask the Dean on Mappd.tv with Dr. Scott Wright, the former director of admissions at UT Southwestern and a former executive director of TMDSAS, the question came up. They have a 2.9 GPA and already have a degree. They have already done 32 credit hours of postbac and their GPA is still a 2.9. They’re asking what to do with that 2.9. 2.9 is a poor GPA. But when you look just at that number, it doesn’t tell you the story behind the scenes.

The trend in your GPA is much more important, not just that total number. But so many students continue to fall on that total number and they get discouraged. And when you get discouraged, it defeats the purpose of everything you’re doing. You continue to struggle in your classes because you have that kind of mindset.

Remember, schools get every single data point. They’re going to chop and slice and dice and look at all of the data points on how they want to look at it. And so they may ignore all of your data except the last 40 credit hours, and maybe the last 40 credit hours for this student is not a 3.9, but maybe it’s a 3.6, and that’s decent.

“A poor GPA is going to get students rejected. But it's not just that total number. The trend really matters as well.”Click To Tweet

[07:09] Reason #2: Your MCAT Score

Unfortunately, when you go to medical school, it’s a test after test, after test, after test. And there are plenty of students out there who are amazing test-takers in school but are poor MCAT test-takers.

“The MCAT is unlike any other test you will have taken or will take in the future.”Click To Tweet

It’s a completely different beast. The board exams test your knowledge. The MCAT tests your ability to critically think and understand the English language. They test your ability to understand the nuances and games the MCAT wants to play with you.

And your inability to do well on the MCAT, unfortunately, shows medical schools that you’re not a good test-taker. I totally don’t agree with this. But that’s what schools will do. And so let’s look at the nuances with the MCAT score.

A lot of students freak out with subsection mismatches where they get great scores in the other sections, except for CARS. Look at the total score, don’t look at those subsection scores. And yes, there will be a few schools out there that will screen out based on a certain subsection score. But understand that most schools are just looking at your total score to understand who you are.

A poor MCAT score is going to close a ton of doors. A lot of schools have a 500 as a minimum cut off, even DO schools (except for some exceptions). 

[11:36] Reason #3:  Not having a story

Many students think that this whole premed path is just about checking the boxes. And that a great GPA and a great MCAT score are all it takes to get into medical school. Unfortunately, that’s not how medical school works. The admissions process is there to build a cohort of students that are going to interact well together for the next four years.

The interview process and the whole application process are built to make sure that our future generation of physicians are competent, not only academically, but culturally sensitive.

Patients don’t resonate with physicians with no bedside manner. In fact, a lot of those kinds of physicians who are out right now in the workforce are doing a lot of harm to their patients and not connecting with them.

We want the best of both worlds. We want physicians who are smart enough to be able to understand everything that’s going on with us. They can communicate well and connect with us. They have empathy.

But if you have been a patient, you understand that bedside manner. Empathy is everything.

“Not having a story that goes along with why you want to be a physician is not going to resonate well with the application or with the admissions committees.”Click To Tweet

You have to have that story to help you understand. Check out The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement to help you understand your story. Understand why you’re doing this.

You have to reflect on everything that you’re doing and this is a big part of this Mappd software that we’re creating. We now have over 1,500 students in there using it and learning to build it into their process and workflow. So when they come home from their shadowing experience, they’re able to reflect on that.  Mappd allows you to have little diary entries and reflect on your experiences so you can keep track of your story.

[14:47] Reason #4: No Clinical Experience

Many students apply with a 4.0 GPA and a 522 MCAT score, and don’t get into medical school. And one of the biggest reasons for this is they lack clinical experience. And the downstream effect of that is now they don’t have a story to tell. They don’t know why they want to be a physician.

We want physicians who understand that medicine in America is messy. It’s not great. There are lots of issues and you have to want to get into this. Don’t think that just because you’re smart, means you should be a physician.

Just because you like science doesn’t mean you should be a physician. You have to have the clinical experience. You have to be around patients to really understand that this is what you want. Understand why you are doing this. So go out and get clinical experience.

“Clinical experience is getting close enough to smell the patient.”Click To Tweet

Clinical experience is not sitting at the information desk. It’s not working in the gift shop at the hospital. It’s not being a janitor in a hospital. It’s not cleaning rooms in a hospital. It’s interacting with patients.

[17:32] Reason #5: No Shadowing Experience

Shadowing is important because it exposes you to the realities of medicine from the physician side of things.You are literally the shadow of the physician for the day, for the week, or however long you’re shadowing.

You are there watching as the physician is interacting with the ancillary staff, the nurses, and the PA is and the NPs and the the PTs and then the OTs and whoever else. You’re there as they’re calling the insurance companies dealing with them and the nurses. You also get to see their frustrations.

Try to shoot for a minimum of about 100 hours of clinical experience and a minimum of about 40 or 50 hours of shadowing.

But again, that doesn’t mean go check off the box, get 100 hours of clinical experience between freshman year and sophomore year and then call it quits. You need some consistency there as well.

[19:20] Reason #6: Arrogance

Arrogance is an easy rejection for the majority of schools out there. Don’t bring arrogance into the conversation but come from a place of being humble and wanting to learn. Show them that you are willing to learn and you’re willing to take the time to listen.

When you put everything together in the whole application, it’s very easy to see who those students are. So leave the ego at the door, bring some humble pie, and really understand that at the end of the day, your goal through this process isn’t to show how amazing you are. It’s to show who you are, and why you want to be a physician. And through that process, you’ll show them that you’re willing to learn and that you’re going to be someone they can teach.

“Your goal through this process isn't to show how amazing you are. It's to show who you are, and why you want to be a physician.”Click To Tweet

[21:39] Reason #7: Applying Late

The far majority of medical schools in the U.S. and Canada are different. Canada doesn’t have rolling admissions at every school. But the far majority of schools in the U.S. has rolling admissions.

The earlier you apply, the earlier your application is verified. The earlier you get secondary essays back, the earlier you can submit those secondary essays. The earlier you interview, the earlier your file is available for review and potential acceptance.

“The earlier everything is complete in your application, the earlier you can be potentially invited for an interview.”Click To Tweet

Every medical school has a certain number of seats of interview spots and acceptances every year. And when they meet those numbers, they close it down for the year. Then there’s some waitlist movement and everything else. But for the most part, that’s how it works. So the later you apply, the fewer seats are available and there are more applicants later.

I call this a giant game of musical chairs where you are applying in a sea of thousands of other students and the numbers of seats are going down and down.

“It makes it much harder to stand out as an applicant when there are so few spots available.”Click To Tweet

As we’re still in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic, we’re having virtual interviews this cycle. This may potentially change the game with how medical schools are going to interview students into the future. Maybe they’ll interview more students, but we don’t know.

Applying late can kill a really good application and applying includes not only submitting your application late, but making sure that everything is in on time as well. 

As application has to be complete before it is typically reviewed. Complete means primary application, secondary application, letters of recommendation, MCAT score, transcripts. etc. All of that stuff has to be in. If you apply early, don’t take your first MCAT until September because that’s really late and that may be an issue.

Either applying late or having a late complete application can kill a good application. I had Dr. Greg Polites on the podcast four times now. He’s an admissions committee member at Wash U. He’s an ER doc and he talks about seeing amazing applications mid-October and they can’t do anything about it since there were no more interview spots. So they have to apply again the next year.

[25:09] Reason #8: Poor Interview

You may have an amazing application, you applied early, you have shadowing and clinical experiences, and you have a great story. You have great GPA and MCAT scores. But you’re horrible at the interview. You need to practice interviewing to build your interview skills.

“Interviewing is a skill that you can build and learn.”Click To Tweet

Make sure to do mock interviews with your career counselor office with your prehealth office, or with a mentor, or with your parents. Or go through our Mappd one-on-one advising, which is an interview platform where you can go and record yourself.

And if you’re not doing any of that, then you’re not preparing for the rest of your life. You need to have these interview skills to be able to show the schools that you can communicate and you’re going to have a great conversation. That’s the goal of the interview. Unfortunately, a lot of great students with poor interviews end up on a waitlist.

[27:05] Reason #9: Nobody Knows

There are students out there who we think they interviewed well, their MCAT and GPA are great. They have a good story. They have clinical experience and shadowing experiences. They’re not arrogant. And they applied on time. But they still don’t get in. And they didn’t get in because we just don’t know why – and that happens.

That’s why this whole process is frustrating for students because there is no guarantee you could get into medical school. It all comes down to the humans on the other side who are reviewing your application, who are interviewing you, and who are talking about you in these admissions committee meetings as they figure out who they want to build a cohort with.

Sometimes, you’re just that last one who didn’t get in and medical schools don’t give us that information. You can reach out to schools and ask them, find out why you didn’t get interviewed. Find out why you didn’t get an acceptance if you were interviewed. A lot of schools are going to tell you nothing. Some schools may give you some information. But unfortunately, that’s part of it when we have humans in this process.

There’s really nothing we can do about it. But that’s life. We have that sort of subjectivity in life around us all the time.

[29:25] Bonus Reason #10: Poorly Constructed School List

“Where students make the biggest mistake is they look at MCAT and GPA, and they ignore all the other factors that make a strong school list.”Click To Tweet

You need to do some research on how to build a school list. You have to look at private versus public. If it’s a public out-of-state school where you’re not a resident, check if they accept out-of-state students. And a lot of times, the GPA and MCAT scores of those out-of-state students are a lot higher than their in-state students.

When you’re building that school list, ignore GPA and MCAT. Look at the mission and the vision of the school. Those can get very boring because they all look alike. But look at the fit of the school and how that school is going to help you get there.

“Fit is very, very important.”Click To Tweet

Dr. Sunny Nakae from the University of California Riverside School of Medicine talked about this back on Episode 342. And she talks about how their school very much looks at the fit because their school is built for their mission of serving the area known as the inland empire.

And if you’re coming from New York City and you’re applying to UC Riverside because you think it’s an easy school to get into and because you have great stats, Dr. Nakae said they’re not going to interview you. They know that you’re just using them as a “safety” school. You’re not likely going to come to them so they’re not going to waste a spot on you. So fit matters when you’re looking at medical schools.


Meded Media



The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement

Dr. Greg Polites on the podcast

PMY342: Discussing the Application Cycle with an Admissions Expert