Getting into med school is the dream of many students, but it’s also a challenge that gets harder every year. According to 2021 data from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the number of applicants for 2021-22 set a new record; they increased by a staggering 17.8 percent.
There were 62,443 applicants across the US (almost 10,000 more than in 2019-20), and 46,758 of these applications were from students trying for the first time. With these numbers, it’s no longer enough to think about your MCAT score. Getting there will just take a little more work and commitment.
Let’s take a look at the five most common reasons for application rejection for medical programs and how to avoid them.
Poor Interview Performance
Students are invited for an interview when they’re considered promising and qualified candidates for that institution. Congratulations: it’s already a great start if you received the invitation. The problem is: if you don’t stay focused, the interview can be disastrous.
No one gets called in for an interview for no good reason so that you can push away feelings like anxiety or insecurity. The school trusts your potential, and you need to be confident and look prepared – without sounding arrogant, however.
Here are some tips on how to prepare for an interview:
- Prepare a convincing answer to the question, “Why do you want to be a doctor?”
- Research controversial topics in medicine because it’s normal for interviewers to ask how you would act when faced with any dilemma.
- Avoid using a defensive posture when facing challenging questions, such as hiding something or lying when you don’t know how to answer something.
- Likewise, avoid answering with ready-made or memorized sentences.
- If one of your faults is pointed out, keep calm, accept it with humility and talk about how you could correct it.
The best time to apply is between June and July, while applications received in August and September are already considered late. Leaving it to the last minute is never a good approach to med schools because their admission process is quite complicated and demanding.
Most US med schools use the rolling admission system. Instead of waiting for all applications to be evaluated, the admissions committee analyzes them as they arrive and separates the most promising candidates.
So the sooner you apply, the better as more places will be available.
A good application starts with showing a complete picture of who you are, the path you’ve walked so far, and your achievements along the way. But it’s your essays that will tell medical schools if you fit. Weak or poorly written essays leave the reader with more questions than answers.
There is no better or worse topic for writing your essay. What will be evaluated is your knowledge of the subject and how much you understand it or have the authority to speak/write about it.
Get away from those cliché topics everyone is writing about, or you’ll have to work even harder to stand out. The best tip is to choose a theme that you are familiar with and include particular experiences that can demonstrate your understanding of the subject.
Low MCAT Test Score
The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is the leading indicator med schools use to assess whether they are sufficiently prepared. A really good MCAT score can set you apart from the competition. On the other hand, if yours is too low, you may be rejected immediately.
The highest score is 528, and 500 represents the average score. According to recent data from the AAMC, among the 2021 candidates, the average MCAT score was 505.9. Among students enrolled in the same year, the average was 511.9.
As the competition is big and the averages are high, you should improve your numbers before applying. Study hard and look for the best MCAT prep books to help raise your score (and your chances).
Your past extracurricular activities show med school selection committees your interests beyond school and medicine. Experts claim that this often makes you stand out.
Choose activities that you like and where you can show your talent. It’s better to have fewer activities that you can relate to than many that don’t add anything to your curriculum.
Some extracurriculars valued in a med school application are:
- Any volunteer work in a medical clinic
- Community service
- Tutoring other students
- Hobbies like music, sports, or writing
- Leadership in student organizations or clubs
Your Application May Require Medical Attention
Let’s face it: medical schools are highly competitive, and the national acceptance rate is challenging (about 43 percent, according to the AAMC). But if you’ve worked hard to prepare yourself for this moment, it’s time to pursue your dream.
By knowing the top reasons people don’t get into med school, you can be even more prepared to make a great application and stand out.
Sometimes, as in medicine, you need a little medicine or treatment here and there to improve your chances.