Applying to Medical School

Medical School Application Mistakes To Avoid

Applying to medical school is an incredibly stressful process. Even if you have an amazing GPA or MCAT, there are still no guarantees that you will be accepted into a medical school. More than 50% of applicants do not get into a single school. Because of the sheer difficulty of acceptance, the last thing you want to do is ruin your chances by making silly mistakes on your primary or secondary application. Unfortunately, many applicants do make small mistakes that end up really costing them in the long run. Read this list of common medical school application mistakes to avoid to make sure that you’re not one of those applicants.

Grammar and spelling errors

Since there is so much writing involved in the application, there is a lot of room to make grammar and spelling errors. But that is no excuse, your application should be completely grammar and spelling error free. Be especially careful with the grammar on your primary application because every single school will receive that application. If there is a mistake on your personal statement or works/activities section, every school’s admissions committee could potentially see it. The best way to avoid these errors is by having other people read your applications, both primary and secondary. Revise your application multiple times and triple check before you finally submit.

Not having the right letters of recommendation

Most schools require you to have at least three letters of recommendation, two from science professors and one from a non-science professor. Nevertheless, each school may vary on these requirements. Some schools have a maximum or minimum number of letters permitted or required. Other schools may require additional letters from non-professors, especially research supervisors. Make sure you have the correct number of letters and the correct type of letters for each school.

Putting the wrong medical school on your secondary application

This is probably one of the most common mistakes. Since most applicants want to minimize the amount of work they need to do, if two or more schools have the same essay prompt in their secondary applications (usually a common question like “what makes you unique), applicants will copy and paste the same answer into both applications. Since you too will most likely do this, make sure you make the proper adjustments when it comes to the different school names. You do not want to paste your NYU answer (with NYU’s name in essay) onto Columbia’s secondary. This is not only embarrassing, but will also ruin your chances of getting an interview from the school you made a mistake on.

Formatting errors on secondary application

Some schools have secondary applications that specifically require you to not copy and paste your essays from a word processing program such as Microsoft Word. Copying and pasting may create formatting errors that make it impossible for admissions committees to read your answers. If you need to copy and paste from somewhere, save in Rich Text Format or use programs like TextEdit or Notepad.

Not including all your extracurricular activities or important accomplishments

This may seem intuitive but applicants actually do forget to include significant extracurricular activities or important accomplishments in the works/activities section. Avoid this by preparing a comprehensive list in chronological order early on. Check the list regularly and make sure it is accurate and up to date. These precautions will make filling out your application very easy. Make sure you receive credit for all the hard work you did in college.

Not writing anything in the optional section on a secondary application

Some schools, such as Boston University and UCSF, do not have additional essays on their secondary applications. However, they do have an “optional” section, where you can include an update or additional information. Although it is not necessarily an error to not fill out the optional section, it is probably in your best interest to write something there. If the secondary application has no other questions, the optional section is a good opportunity to write about why you want to go to that specific school.

Edward Chang

Edward Chang is the Co-founder and Director of Operations of He graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is currently a urology resident at the University of Washington. He also attended UCLA as an undergraduate, graduating with a major in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. If you are interested in contributing to, please contact him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @EdwardChangMD and Prospective Doctor @ProspectiveDr.

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