Pre-Med Academics

The Truth About Getting into Medical School

Applying to medical school was an eye-opening experience. There’s so much more to consider beyond your stats on paper. Here’s a little insight into my experience in hopes that it will help you set your expectations for the process. 

Having been through the process of applying to medical school and getting accepted, I realized a harsh truth no one had warned me about before. While my application experience may have ended positively, this realization helped ease the pains of rejection that I still felt along the way.  

The truth is, getting accepted into medical school is not as straightforward as you may think. Here’s a little insight into my experience in hopes that it will help you set your expectations for the process. 

Categorize Your Schools, But be Prepared to be Wrong

Going into my cycle I was given the advice to categorize my “school list” in terms of “reach schools,” “mid-range schools” (ones that I felt I was a competitive applicant for), and “safety schools” (ones that I felt I was a shoe-in for). 

Turns out, I was sorely mistaken! The outcome of my cycle revealed to me that there is really no such thing as a “safety school” and that a “reach school” might not be as far away as you think.

Out of the 17 schools I applied to, Harvard Medical School was by far the largest reach. In my mind, getting accepted there felt like a far away dream, especially considering my stats were not up to par with their typical incoming class. On the other hand, the state schools in my area and a few other schools whose metrics I aligned with felt much more feasible. I was a strong applicant and had faith that those schools would pull through for me. 

So what happened? I got rejected or put on hold by a state school and several other “mid range” schools, but got accepted into Harvard Medical School (HMS)!

How I Got Into My Largest “Reach” School

HMS was the very last school I got accepted into. So believe me when I say that I was aching over every rejection before that. After I got the good news, I was dumbfounded! How could I have earned an acceptance to one of the top medical schools in the country, but gotten rejected by so many others? 

The answer is simple: getting an acceptance is about more than having the right MCAT score or the perfect list of activities. Sometimes your core values and goals just align with one school more than another. That was at least the case for me and so many others I met along the way. 

The 2020-2021 cycle was unlike any other, and more so than ever students were being evaluated on subjects that went beyond their grades and accolades. Things like the VITA interview, the CASPer Exam, and other situational judgement tests were being administered, and the landscape of the application cycle had changed. I think these changes are here to stay.

You Can Never Dream Too Big

So, what does this mean for future applicants? You can never dream too big! Continue to give this process your all and put forward the best application that you can, but remember that we have entered times that require more than impressive numbers. Those might help you get the interview, but your personality, passion, and energy are going to get you the acceptance.

Need Help Finding Your Best-Fit Med Schools?

Applying to medical school was an eye-opening experience. There’s so much more to consider beyond your stats on paper. If you’re trying to figure out which schools to apply to, the amazing experts over at MedSchoolCoach can help you build your personal narrative, select the best-fit schools to apply to, and guide you to an acceptance. Schedule your free consultation for admissions advising services today.

Olivia Brumfield

Olivia is a senior at the University of Rochester where she expects to receive a B.S. in neuroscience. She is an aspiring physician with expertise in program management, clinical care, and REDCap with intermediate fluency in American Sign Language. She a Clinical Research Associate at the University of Rochester Center for Health + Technology, as well as the host of the PreMeducation video series.

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