Ways to Play Up Your Strengths When Reapplying to Medical School

It may seem like the greatest setback in life. After years of hard work, intense studying, and a great deal of sacrifice, you apply to medical school and do not get accepted. It is a demoralizing experience for many that often leads to internal questions about aptitude and abilities.

But for those who have not been successful in gaining admission to medical school, the prospects are not as grim as they may seem. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, in 2017, less than 50 percent of medical school applicants were successful in getting accepted to medical school. Many of those who secure admission to medical school are second or even third time applicants.

If you have not been successful in your first attempt, you should not be totally disheartened. Instead, focus your energy and drive on your passion for medicine and draw on your perseverance to modify your approach before you reapply.

Identify and fix deficits in your application. The first step any individual should take when reapplying to medical school is to determine what went wrong the first time. The best way to gather this information is to speak directly with the medical schools and ask for their feedback. If you cannot get this information from the school directly, work with your college adviser or an outside consultant to get a clear sense of what areas need improvement.

[Read: 4 Common Mistakes That lead to Medical School Rejections.]

Don’t take this feedback personally. Often, people who don’t get into medical school have many impressive aspects to their application. Instead, identify areas of weakness and come up with a realistic plan to improve on those areas before you reapply.

If your GPA was the factor that held you back, consider enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program to improve your academic record. If you did not have sufficient clinical exposure, come up with a plan to gain clinical experience to demonstrate your commitment to medicine. Make sure not to rush to reapply until you have taken time to fully improve on the weaknesses in your application.

Modify your narrative. Your narrative is your story or account of why you want to be a doctor and what qualities make you qualified for medical school. This narrative is what goes into your personal statement, your secondary applications and your responses in the interview.

Keep the tone of the essay upbeat and make sure to highlight your positive attributes, even if you have already done so in the prior application. However, also consider how your perspective on medicine has changed since your prior application.

Reflect on experiences you included in your prior application but also discuss how new experiences have modified your view of the medical profession and made you further realize that medicine is your calling.

[Read: Revise a Medical School Personal Statement Before Reapplying.]

While your narrative should evolve, the core needs to be consistent with what you initially presented. For example, if you previously explained an illness in a family member as being the key pivotal factor in your decision to pursue medicine, it may raise questions if you leave this out entirely and present another factor as the main impetus.

Maintain consistency while showcasing new experiences that have further solidified your passion for medicine, such as a new clinical volunteer experience or a research position.

Emphasize your strengths. Although the bulk of your effort as a reapplicant should be to strengthen your weaknesses, it is prudent to not ignore your strengths. For example, if you have a longstanding history of research experience, and you presented that as a strength in your original application to medical school, continue to stay involved in research and play up this strength.

You may scale back the research to focus on an area that needs improvement, such as the MCAT. However, maintain some involvement in research while you study for the MCAT, or come back to it when your MCAT preparation has ended. In doing so, you will show the admissions committees that your passion for research is genuine and not merely a desire to impress admissions committees.

It is especially important to continue to maintain involvement in clinical work, even if that was a strong aspect of your original application. Sustained participation in clinical activities will show medical schools that you are truly passionate about medicine and want to stay engaged in patient care.

[Read: 5 Steps to Take if You’re Reapplying to Medical School.]

As you get ready to reapply, keep in mind that MCAT scores and some courses may expire. Before reapplying, make sure to check with the medical schools and consider retaking the MCAT or those courses if they are no longer valid.

While being a reapplicant may be challenging and at times demoralizing, some of the greatest physicians did not get accepted to medical school on the first go. A second application to medical school is not a negative if you can demonstrate that you have made a concentrated effort to improve your background since your prior application. It can also be used as a strength to showcase your perseverance and resolve to pursue medicine, which can impress admissions committees and land you the spot the second or even the third time around.

More from U.S. News

5 Things to Do Before Applying to Medical School

3 Considerations for Humanities Majors Applying to Medical School

5 Factors to Build a Medical School Application List

Ways to Play Up Your Strengths When Reapplying to Medical School originally appeared on usnews.com

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