CONSIDERATIONS FOR REAPPLICANTS

REAPPLYING TO HEALTH PROFESSIONAL SCHOOLS

In a recent application cycle, 53,030 individuals applied to start allopathic medical school in Fall 2020 and 23,105 were accepted—about a 43.5% acceptance rate*. The number of well-qualified applicants far outweighs the number of seats available in medical school. For those who were not admitted, there are a number of next steps to consider. This page will provide some thoughts on each of the following:

  • Do you want to reapply?
  • What areas of your candidacy should you improve?
  • In what year should you apply?
  • What are the logistical steps to reapplying?

TO REAPPLY OR NOT TO REAPPLY?

The first step is to decide whether or not you are still interested in pursuing a medical education right now. Throughout the application process, particularly if you had the chance to interview, you should have thought deeply about your motivation for becoming a physician. You have considered the time it takes to complete your education, the costs, the lifestyle it will entail, the responsibility you will have, and other aspects of the profession. If you find that you’ve lost that motivation, there are myriad other possibilities to pursue that may be better aligned with your interests, values, and abilities. Medicine will always be there if you decide to return to it. There is no need to hurry into the application process if you cannot give it your full focus and it is nearly impossible to follow through with the applications well a second time if you are not completely invested in doing so.

REAPPLICANT CONSIDERATIONS:

If you decide to continue, you will need to take a critical look at yourself and your candidacy and try to determine areas that you may need to improve before you next apply. The following are some of the most significant barriers to acceptance to medical school:

  • Metrics: Use the AAMC FACTS tables to explore the ranges of MCAT scores and GPAs for accepted applicants. Among Kalamazoo College applicants in 2020 and 2021, 80% of accepted medical school applicants had a BCPM GPA between 3.21 and 3.93 (Median = 3.61) , a cumulative GPA between 3.45 and 3.92 (Median = 3.69) , and an MCAT between 501 and 514 (Median = 511).
  • MCAT Timing: If you took the MCAT later than early June, later score reporting may have delayed your application.
  • Primary Application Timing: The application cycle requires many tasks that must be done in a timely manner to have your file completed early, and completed well, at your schools. The AMCAS processing date is one of the key elements of this timeline – you must have your personal statement, activities list, and school selections ready to submit by the first week of June so that your AMCAS is processed quickly, and you can move on to completing secondaries.
  • School Choices: You should apply to your public, state schools. You should not apply to public schools outside of your state that accept very few out of state residents. You should not apply to so many schools that you cannot complete your secondaries in a timely manner. You should consider your school list as carefully as possible – read websites, learn about the curricula, and think about the location and your happiness in different settings. Read the mission statements and descriptions of the schools in the MSAR and see if they appeal to you. Look at the secondary application questions (you can find last year’s online) and be sure that you’d be willing to fill out the secondary once you receive it. Consider applying to osteopathic medical schools, where the admissions process can be more holistic and less competitive due to the smaller number of applicants relative to the MD pool.
  • Secondary Applications: An early AMCAS means that you will have more time to write detailed, personalized secondaries. Schools often scrutinize the secondary essay responses more closely than the personal statement, so it is critical that you write well-crafted essays that answer the questions being asked and speak to your fit for each school. The more schools you apply to, the less time you have for each secondary, so it can also be problematic for those students who apply very widely to complete their secondaries in a good and timely manner.
  • Familiarity with medicine: Some of the stronger candidates academically who were not accepted did not have a strong familiarity with the clinical environment. This was probably a factor that became most critical at the interview stage, when they were asked about their motivation to work with patients, or their experience in a setting where they cared for others. If you cannot articulate your understanding of health care and patient care, and your drive/passion for medicine in a convincing way, you will be at a disadvantage.
  • “Intangible Qualities”: These can include maturity, service orientation, communication skills, leadership ability, ability to work well with others, familiarity with diverse populations, sincerity, self-awareness, and numerous other personal qualities. Think of the kinds of personal qualities you would want in a physician who was treating you or your family members, and think about how to develop these qualities in yourself, as well as how to articulate the ways in which you demonstrate that you have these qualities in your application.

Apply when you are a strong enough candidate to reach your goals, and a tangibly stronger candidate than you were in previous application cycles.

WHEN TO REAPPLY?

Now, you will need to determine when to reapply. This is a critical step – just as it is best to apply when you are the strongest possible applicant, it is best to reapply when you have made substantial improvements to your candidacy from your previous application, particularly in areas that might have been seen as shortcomings in your previous attempt. In many cases, applying in two consecutive years is not the ideal reapplication strategy, as it does not allow enough time for you to substantially improve your candidacy.

As you decide whether to reapply in this cycle, consider the following questions:

ACADEMICS
  • If your GPA was low, did you take more classes to improve it, either through a post-bac program or own your own and/or adjust your school list to better match your metrics?
  • Can your recommenders speak to your academic ability? If your numbers are low, the letters from those who know you in an academic setting become more critical.
  • Have you completed all of your pre-requisite coursework with grades of C or better? Multiple Cs can be a hindrance to acceptance – repeating courses or taking higher-level courses with better results may be necessary.
  • Is your MCAT competitive (preferably 85th percentile or above overall and in each section)? If you choose not to retake, Admissions Committees will want to know why you moved forward with your score rather than retaking the exam this year.
  • Is your MCAT score still valid? Medical schools generally accept scores dating back two or three years. If you have taken the exam previously, we recommend that you consult the Medical School Admission Requirements to check the application policies of each school to which you intend to apply.
ACTIVITIES
  • Have you continued to participate in activities, particularly those that show leadership, service, research, and/or clinical exposure?
LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
  • Will you be able to obtain at least one new letter of recommendation that supports your candidacy, preferably addressing areas that may have been seen as weaknesses in the previous application cycle?
MOTIVATION
  • Will you be able to talk about your experiences and your continued motivation for the health profession if you are invited to interview?
  • Are you really sure that this is the career for you right now?
TIMING AND QUALITY OF APPLICATIONS
  • Will you be able to have your AMCAS submitted by early June, with a new personal statement and updated activities list?
  • Are you ready to complete new secondary essays?
  • Are you financially able to apply to schools this cycle?

If you answered no to any of these questions, then this year is probably not the best time to reapply. Consult with the Careers in Health and Medicine Office regarding strengths and weaknesses in your candidacy before continuing with the application cycle.

SUGGESTIONS FOR REAPPLICANTS

If you decide to reapply, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Stay in touch with the Careers in Health and Medicine Office throughout the process. It’s more difficult being off campus and applying. Meet with the Careers in Health and Medicine Office in the winter to get organized and create a game plan. Send an email every couple of weeks to let us know how everything is going, and to make sure that you are still on track.
  • Write a new essay. Your personal statement should be new and current. While you do not need to focus solely on what you have done since your last application, Admissions Committees expect that you have gained some perspective on yourself and your motivation in the application process, and this should be reflected in what you write.
  • Apply early. This is critical. You may be scrutinized more closely as a reapplicant; you know how the timing should work, so stay on top of your application timeline.
  • Reconnect with the clinical setting. If it has been a while since you spent time working with patients, returning to a volunteer position, EMT work, becoming a Certified Nurse Assistant and working in an assisted living facility, or otherwise getting some hands-on work is encouraged. This will both demonstrate your commitment to Admissions Committees, and help you to remember why it is you are tackling this application process again.
  • Check in with current medical students. You may know a number of people who are now in medical school. Learn more from them about their schools that will help you gain an inside perspective on some of the schools you might apply to, and see if they have insights for you on the application process this time round. If you don’t have any contacts in medical school, contact the Careers in Health and Medicine Office and we may be able to connect you with others.
  • Don’t rule out DO schools. To learn more about the DO profession, start with choosedo.org, which is tailored specifically to prospective applicants.
  • If you have participated in a postbac program that offers a committee letter, consult with your postbac advisor and with the Careers in Health and Medicine Office to decide whose committee process to use.
  • Practice your interview skills. If you received interviews for your previous applications but were not accepted, it may be beneficial to work on your interview skills, and oral communication skills in general. This could include mock interviews with friends and mentors, utilizing the Center for Career and Professional Development’s resources, or taking a public speaking or acting class to help you improve in these areas.

*all national data in this handout comes from the AAMC, www.aamc.org/data/facts/applicantmatriculant/