Reapplying to Medical School

For many of us, medical school is a dream that must come true. Standard schools often haven an acceptance rate of ~2-5% or less, which makes an acceptance a mammoth task. I have seen the giant commitment and dedication that is required in order for one to become a medical student turn into an obsession. Personally, I have been obsessed with getting into medical school for 4 years, and at times have hated it.

“Obsession: An idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes a person’s mind”.

While being obsessive is clearly helpful to becoming a doctor, it is by definition unhealthy. A free mind may
be much more powerful and flexible than a restless and sleep-deprived mind. Mistakes happen when we loose focus – or simply focus on the wrong things. Human attention is a limited resource.

Remember Sisyphus, the son of Aeolus? Sisyphus was punished by Hades for his actions in life by being sentenced to the eternal duty of rolling a large stone to the top of a hill, from which it rolled down again, and again. It’s pointless and frustrating to obsess without lucid, supporting reason.

Sisyphus rolling up his stone in vain - an ancient Greek archetype of a worst-case-scenario.


The Perspective of a Medical School Admissions Committee

If you don’t make it the first time, applying for the second time is never a bad thing. For one, it shows that you are committed. In addition, the college gets to see how substantially you have improved. In this sense, they get to take two looks at you. If you don’t make it a second time, you may go for a third for the same reasons.

However, let me warn you: it gets harder each time. Every time you retake the MCAT and reapply, the scrutiny of the admissions board increases. Most universities do not even allow you to apply for more than three times. This said, don’t shy away from applying for a second or third time; there have been great stories of perseverance.

The same principle could be applied to the MCAT. Students shouldn’t keep retaking the MCAT to the point where it’s ridiculous. I’m talking about students that take it for the 4th or 56th time. I would say that if you are taking
the MCAT for the third time, make sure that your MCAT studying is the best it can be.

Taking Action

[adsense] If you didn’t get in the first time, it is absolutely vital for you to improve as a whole, not just with your MCAT score. This means not only to correct your weaknesses, but also to further build your strengths. A year is a long time, and you can work on all of the following areas:
MCAT score, professional experience (by getting a job in a lab or something clinically related), AAMC application, your application essays (primary and secondary), post-baccs, etc. Do not reapply with the same overall “stats”. Why expect a different outcome when you repeatedly do things without change? In any case, try to do a better job than I did by applying as early as you can :-). Medical school admissions is a rolling admissions process – first come, first serve.

Plan B

If  you realize at some point that you are not going to be admitted to either MD or DO school (difference between osteopathic and allopathic medicine), there are plenty of options with a science background. Consider becoming a PA, an RN, a lab technician of some sort, or doing research; really, the sky is the limit. All these occupations are considered to be personally fulfilling and offer fair if not great salaries. They also often offer continuing education and certificates to climb the hierarchy.

One More Thing

I think it is really important to to review your application realistically. You should not apply unless you have a realistic chance, especially if you have already been denied. Instead, make sure your application is as strong as it can be. There needs to be visible, significant change between your applications. This post is not meant to discourage anyone from reapplying; it is meant to aid you in improving your application.

The Bottom Line

If you reapply, make sure you identify your weaknesses and work on them rigorously. You may be asked about these weaknesses and changes in “stats” at an interview. Be aware that because you may be applying to a medical school for the second or third time, that school gets a deeper understanding of who their applicant is. Thus you need to be in even better shape the next time. Use your time and beef up your stew as much as you can. If you have to wait a year for the cow to get fat, wait, and butcher it the next year! (I apologize if you’re a vegetarian. I respect that. I buy grass-fed.)