Applying to Medical School

Why Applicants are Rejected from Medical School

Applying and getting accepted into medical school is a rigorous process. There is no “guarantee” that any applicant will get accepted. If you are thinking of applying or re-applying here are the top 5 reasons why applicants are rejected from medical school.

Getting into a US allopathic (MD) medical school is not easy. Out of 45,266 applicants in 2012, only 19,517 (43%) were accepted into at least one medical school. Therefore, if you have already applied to medical schools but have been rejected, there is no reason to be ashamed. More than 50% of applicants are in the same boat as you are.

If you are thinking about applying to medical school for the first time, you must make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. The applicants who were accepted were chosen for a reason. If you are not prepared, don’t expect to get lucky. With that being said, whether you are applying to medical school for the first time or hoping to see why you were rejected the first time you applied, here are the top 5 reasons why applicants are rejected from medical school.

1. A combination of subpar grades and/or MCAT score and poor choice of schools

Unfortunately this is the most common downfall for most applicants. Many applicants think that they will be the exception to the rule when it comes to the median GPA and MCAT. Their statistics are lower than the averages but decide to apply anyway. If you want to avoid being rejected mainly because your grades and MCAT score were not good enough, choose the schools you apply to carefullychoose the schools you apply to carefully Do not apply to schools where you will not be competitive. And if you are not a particularly strong candidate, apply to 20-30 schools. For those of you who simply need to improve your GPA, go to a post-baccalaureate program, Special Masters Program (SMP), or get a master’s degree in science.

2. Lack of significant extracurricular activities

This mainly applies to those who have good admissions numbers but insufficient experience. Schools want to see that you have the qualities of becoming a doctor. They want mature, intelligent, and well-rounded individuals. You can’t just tell medical schools you have those qualities; you have to show them. You also need to show them that you are not just arbitrarily deciding to become a doctor. Being involved in extracurricular activities such as research, volunteering, shadowing, etc is the main way communicate your passions. If you have a great GPA and MCAT score but have very little extracurricular experience, your chances of getting accepted to medical school are still slim.

3. Poorly communicating through the primary and secondary applications

Bad writing leads to many rejections. You may have amazing experiences that you want to share with the admissions committees but if you do not know how to tell your story, the admissions committee is not going to understand. Being unable to properly explain why you want to be a doctor through your personal statement places a big red flag on your application. Write your personal statement well. Be smart on your works and activities section. And lastly, do not underestimate the power of a strong secondary.

4. Weak letters of recommendation

Some people think that letters of recommendation are not a big deal. They are just a “checklist-type” requirement. Although letters of recommendation are not the most important part of your application, they can still heavily influence admissions. The medical admissions process is a game of inches. Any advantage you can get is beneficial. Any potential harm will put you behind your competition. The letter of recommendation can be the difference between a waitlist and an acceptance. Don’t neglect it.

5. Bad interviews

The interview is the final step in the admissions process. If you receive an interview, that means the school is interested. Unfortunately applicants ruin their chances at acceptance at the interview stage, due to poor preparation, nerves, or sheer bad luck. Do not be that person. Be thoroughly prepared and have confidence knowing that you are wanted. It is up to you to show the admissions committees that you are who you say you are.

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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