2 rounds of rejection, what to do?

First of all, I want to say that this is a great site for a great purpose, and all the posters seem like kind human beings!
I am almost 34, have worked as a NAC full time throughout my college years, and finished my BS just under 2 years ago at UW in Seattle. GPA and MCAT scores are withing the normal acceptances for the schools I applied to. I am a humanitarian and have worked directly in patient care since 1998. After the first round of rejections, I was told by the admissions committee that I have “nursing experience” rather than “doctor experience”. Did I mention that for 5 years I worked in an ER, directly under and for doctors??
I know the Doctor route is for me, and have been contemplating applying to a DO school, rather than the carribean. (Not that I would not enjoy the carribean, just too many expenses pile up.) In many ways, I feel that the description of what a DO is, according to the AOA site, is more compassionate and tends to spend more time with patients. Plus they get an additional tool to use in curing/healing patients with ailments.
I have two subjects that I would like some feedback on:
I am looking for mature, honest, professional input regarding the pros/cons of MD vs DO.
I also had a question about interviews. At my state school, a panel of 3 people interview at once. Both years all 3 were non-minority males. 6/6 made me feel there may be some underlying gender bias. While I do not feel it is overt, I did sense an underlying difficulty to connect with them. They chatted about football, for crying out loud! It is well-documented that women and men practice medicine differently, even tend to approach patients and communicate in different ways, so if I don’t ‘hit it off’ with my all-male interview committee, it may just be that I have a more feminine approach to medicine, not that I have a “nursing” outlook, can’t communicate with patients, or at all deemed unfit to practice. Since the end result is a bit arbitrary, do you think I have much of a case?
This is a very important step for me. I feel that I will be unhappy/unfulfilled for the duration of my lifetime if I do not succeed. Both my family and my future patients depend on me!

Miss C,
I’m new here, too, so take any advice I give with a grain of salt. Frankly, make that a bushel of salt…
There are many here that can give you the details of the differences between MD and DO. I think it’s prudent to keep my mouth shut and make you wonder if I am a fool.
On to your question about bias. It seems that you have only received interviews at one school; did you apply to other schools? Were the interviewers the same three men both years? Interviewers have a difficult job weeding out candidates and if your personality doesn’t click well with the three of them you are unlikely to be selected, whatever your qualifications. I have conducted numerous job interviews, and always did my damndest to turn a blind eye to applicant’s sex and color, but would hire a qualified shining personality over a bland personality with a stellar resume every time. Interviewers have to think about how well a prospect will mesh in their environment, not just whether they will be capable of the workload.
My advice? Practice interviewing. Find a coach that will help your personality shine through. Highlight your passion and excitement more than your skills and qualifications. This is a sales job–you are the product. And finally, read up on things (like football) that the interviewers might want to talk about–surprise them, and they’ll remember you.
You will win. We’re cheering for you.

Okay several questions:

How many schools did you apply to? Most will apply to 10+ to get in one.

Whats the GPAs? MCAT?

Desire is not enough, There are many factors like your exposure to health care ( seems like you have a lot) Volunteering and Competitive GPA and MCAT

I ended up with a GPA that was on the low end of competitive so I went to the Caribbean.

There are many paths to be a Doc MD or DO leads to the goal. I see no difference.

Let us know.


yes I applied to 10+ each round, interviewed only at state school despite a 3.7 gpa for the last 10 years, AMCAS decided to include grades from 14 years ago to lower it to a 3.4. I think that may be why I didn’t get any other interviews.

As for practicing for interviews…hmm…none of my friends are even college educated…my parents I have tried but they can’t help either…I just don’t know where to turn. I am a blue-collar intelligent woman who wants to be an immunologist/GP with inflammatory resp focus, I will post later on motivations for that. I don’t even know anyone to preview and edit my PS’s…I just feel so alone in all of this. A few months ago I landed a job in the Allergy dept of UW (they study asthma) and have been working there. I volunteered a little, but i HAVE to work FT. I hope that when it comes down to it that the PI (an MD) will help me with my statements and interviewing…hope

I have my own notions of md/do but I am interested in knowing out in the real world whether it really does make a difference? I see DO’s practicing every type of medicine, so I am interested in that route.

I do not know you so I am going blind here…but IF your GPA is what you stated around a 3.4 and your MCAT is competitive (did not see a score posted) around a 30 give or take a few, then to be honest there might be another red flag in your application that is keeping you from getting more interviews. Unless, you applied to ONLY top 50 schools and going by the assumption that you applied to 15-20 schools you “should” have received more interviews. How is your PS? this can make or break an application if it is poorly written or comes off as pompous. Also, your LOR’s are very important so this could be keeping you back. I am not sure what kind of healthcare experience you have are you an RN? if you have ample healthcare exposure you should be covered on that end of things adcoms look for. Do you have other “soft” components like volunteering in non-healthcare related endeavors? adcoms like to see proof of altruism (not sure if you mentioned this or not). Also, how are YOU coming off on your interviews? if you are coming off like you “deserve” to be accepted (not saying this is your case just thinking out loud) then you WILL rub folks the wrong way. To be honest and not trying to be an arse not everyone that applies will get in…and again I am not saying this is your case. Sometimes folks assume that just by wanting something that you will get it but for some reason this is not true. I am not trying in anyway to discourage you but just emphasizing that you need to take an OBJECTIVE look at your whole package and see what is missing. Although you have extensive “humanitarian” drive this is NOT enough. You have to jump through all the hoops and play the game. Look at your MCAT/GPA combo is it competitive for ACCEPTED students? if not you can work on that. Are your LOR’s lukewarm? if so you NEED new ones. Is your PS mediocre? write a new one. Have other academic folks read it! not your friends. Someone with a critical eye can help you out more than friends or family. Good luck!

Hi, Miss Compassion! Welcome to OPM. You will find an abundance of advice and support as you continue your journey to be a doctor.
I just wanted to share with you my experience with applying to med school this past year in hopes that some of what I say may encourage you. (Please, take it as only one person’s saga and not necessarily what another person can expect!)
First of all, my stats: age-51; GPA’s: BCPM–3.78, Undergrad GPA overall–3.54, Graduate GPA–3.95; MCAT score 27Q; Educational background: BA in Education, AAS in Nursing (RN), MS in Nursing (Family Nurse Practitioner). Work experience: 25 years teaching (music), 6 years RN in hospital
Application details: I applied to 36 schools (29 allopathic and 7 osteopathic). Out of those, I received 35 secondaries and returned 33 secondaries (27 allopathic and 6 osteopathic). I received 12 interview invitations and attended 11 interviews (7 allopathic and 4 osteopathic). As of this moment after interviewing, I have had 2 acceptances (osteopathic), 2 rejections (allopathic–one of those the University of Washington–I was a WWAMI applicant), am on 6 wait-lists (4 allopathic and 2 osteopathic), and am waiting to hear on one more allopathic school (will likely be wait-listed). I am holding one seat at a DO school and turned the other DO acceptance down.
Where I will eventually end up is still up in the air, because there are a couple of schools where I am waitlisted that may be more personally desireable than the school I am currently accepted due to the fact that they are close to family, and other factors unique to me. In other words, what I am saying is that I do not feel–after visiting 11 medical schools–that the quality of education at DO schools is inferior to MD schools. In fact, some of the DO schools, including the ones I received acceptances from, were much more impressive than some of the MD schools I visited! I admit that before applying I felt that DO schools were my “back-up” plan in case I did not get accepted to an MD school. Looking back, I do not feel that way at all! Last summer, I was able to work alongside some DO physicians and residents and was able to see the benefit that the patients received from OMT and to hear their testimonials. That really helped convince me that DO would be a good option–not a “back-up” or “second-best”.
I know it has been said before, but DO schools seem to be more appreciative of nursing backgrounds and non-traditional students. I found that to be the case at 3 out of the 4 DO schools where I interviewed. Your interview committee’s comment about “nursing” vs. “doctoring” background seemed odd to me–after all, how many applicants have “doctoring” background??? But, in my interview at UW, I had the impression that having a background in nursing may have had a negative affect on my application, too. (And, UW was not the only school where I felt this was a detriment to be overcome.) So, what can I say–even though you highly value your background as an NAC, the allopathic schools may not see it as a plus. One other aside . . . I heard from someone in the know that the Dean of Admissions at UW was pretty “traditional” when it comes to selecting applicants for admission. He may be looking for 20-somethings to fill his class.
In regard to the amount of weight you put into feedback from an admissions committee post rejection, you have to consider the fact that they may just be feeding you a line to get you off the phone, etc. I took advantage of one offer from a school to find out how to improve my application for next year if I would have to apply again. The answer I got was a direct lie about the school’s policy. I called her on it and said that I knew for a fact that what she was telling me was not true in all cases. She got caught giving the “standard answer” not knowing that I would have the information to dispute what she said! Only you can assess how sincere the feedback from those offices may be.
The other posters recommended that you look at your whole application (not just work exp. and educational background). I would recommend that, as well. Have you considered talking with Judy Colwell? She is a professional advisor that can help you with any or all of the steps leading up to acceptance at a medical school. I spent some quality time with Judy (she looked over my profile the year before I applied and she did a mock interview with me this year). I consider her input invaluable!!! She has such a wealth of experience from which to counsel applicants. I would imagine that she could help you identify any potential weaknesses in your application. Think about giving her a call. She is also a regular poster on this forum, so you could do a search for all her postings and gain from her advice that she has shared with OPM in the past.
Are you able to attend the OPM convention in Washington, DC this year? That is another wonderful experience, visiting with those who have walked this path in years past and learning from the presentations. I encourage you to attend if at all possible!!!
Investigate the DO schools this year before you reapply. Talk with DO physicians and shadow some of them. Find out more about osteopathic medicine and see if it might be an avenue that you have overlooked in the past. I am so glad I did! Best of luck to you in the future! PM me if you would like more information.

This an excellent post and I would like to again reiterate one point…the amount of schools sonata applied to! again you need to cast a very WIDE net to get interviews. I applied to 30+ and I am very happy I did it this way. Now, some folks have NO choice and can only apply to one/two schools due to spouse/children/etc…but IF you can move the more you apply to the better the odds you will get interviews. Apply only to schools you would go to if that is the ONLY school to accept you…good luck!

Welcome to OPM, misscompassion. I’d offer further advice, but I think those better-versed than I have already provided a wealth of information. In general, it looks to me like what you’re seeing may be an implicit bias (though nearly impossible to prove), but more likley simply interview interactions. We all present in our own ways - in life and in interviews - and some people we just don’t “click” with.
And Lu:


First of all, my stats: age-51; GPA’s: BCPM–3.78, Undergrad GPA overall–3.54, Graduate GPA–3.95; MCAT score 27Q; Educational background: BA in Education, AAS in Nursing (RN), MS in Nursing (Family Nurse Practitioner). Work experience: 25 years teaching (music), 6 years RN in hospital
Application details: I applied to 36 schools (29 allopathic and 7 osteopathic). Out of those, I received 35 secondaries and returned 33 secondaries (27 allopathic and 6 osteopathic). I received 12 interview invitations and attended 11 interviews (7 allopathic and 4 osteopathic). As of this moment after interviewing, I have had 2 acceptances (osteopathic), 2 rejections (allopathic–one of those the University of Washington–I was a WWAMI applicant), am on 6 wait-lists (4 allopathic and 2 osteopathic), and am waiting to hear on one more allopathic school (will likely be wait-listed). I am holding one seat at a DO school and turned the other DO acceptance down.

Wow… you look like a very well-qualified candidate to me! Seeing that you have not (yet) been offered any slots in allopathic schools makes me a little concerned for my less-than-pristine stats. Though if there’s one thing that OPM’s taught me…

Since I’ll just be starting school this AugustI don’t think that I can give you much info on the MD vs DO thing accept that in my opinion they generaly seem equivalent by curricula and that DO’s seem to have a bias against them from the MD side of line. This potentially making getting a residency a little more difficult. But, using OLDMANDAVE as the example, getting a competitive residency is possible.
It does seem like you have a good application. Is it possible to talk with the adcoms folks at one or all of the schools you applied to and ask them what they suggest? I did this and I believe it was very helpful in my gaining an acceptance.
Good luck!

The DO/MD thing doesn’t seem to amount to anything out in the real world. Most MD students don’t get into those super-competitive residencies or specialties either…
At the same time I’ll tell you that some of the DO literature - I almost said propaganda - makes it sound like they have some sort of lock on the market in terms of humanistic, holistic health care and that’s just silly. I and all of my MD colleagues had training in holistic health care, communication techniques, family dynamics, biopsychosocial model, whatever the current buzz words are for talking about medicine that is more than just disease-oriented. THE ONLY REAL difference between DO and MD in practice is the OMT training DO students get. The philosophical stuff is NOT apparent as a difference between my MD and DO colleagues and I’m in a residency where both are well-represented.

In re: the bigger question of how your state school responded to you: one problem is that your state school is an extremely competitive and good one–so it’s not like this is some kind of fall-back school. I’m sure you know that but I want to emphasize it. You have a tough task ahead. And all that people have said about casting your net wide makes lots of sense.
Their remark about the “nursing” background vs the “doctor” background is infuriating and represents so many things that are wrong with medicine I don’t even know where to start. Sometimes interview panels are just… Well, I know one person who’d had a life-threatening illness and talked about it in her interview. And the med school rejected her because she thought too much like a patient, not enough like a doctor.
This sort of thing makes any decent person want to scream with rage.
BUT: from the point of view of academic physicians–i.e., the kinds of folks who will interview you–there are a couple of things you might consider. First, working in a research setting, as you are doing, is great. See what you can do to get increased responsibility not only for patient care but for thinking about, refining and even developing research questions. Sit down with your PI and talk to him/her about this. I’ll explain why in a second.
Second, your OPM name, “misscompassion” suggests that you may, as a matter of course, emphasize one part of medical values–that compassion represents some important part of your identity and what you project to the world. That’s good and bad. Let me explain. (It’ll take a minute. Bear with me.)
I am someone who spent a lot of time thinking about whether I wanted to be a nurse (I was contemplating the direct-to-NP 3 year programs, or RN/PhD–see below), or a doctor. It was not an easy decision for me. I actually sometimes felt–even occasionally think today–that if the academic and biomedical worlds were arranged a little differently what I’d most like is to be an RN and a PhD, doing research and then doing shifts where I get to demonstate care for people in very direct and concrete ways.
You should think very clearly about why you want an MD and not an NP or not an expanded nursing role–beyond questions like money and autonomy. Think about how doctors think versus how RNs think–and whether that’s something you like. Think about how they work, too. When I’m in the emergency department or on a ward floor it’s often clear that the best thing I can do for a patient is to get them some water, rearrange their pillow, help them get positioned to take a pee into the urinal, and so on; or that what is most important are nursing tasks like getting bloods for the lab and getting fluids running, or getting the medicines out of the dispensing machine and checking that the docs haven’t written for dangerous doses. Often the things that the doctors and I are doing are not really the point in that hour. Well, as a medical student and I hope as a doctor I still especially do the kindness/urinal/pillow parts of the nursing job when I can, because I find it personally rewarding, and because I believe in the idea of a whole healthcare team which means everyone is oriented towards the goal of achieving the best complete care for the patient, not just their corner of that care. But it’s actually not my job. It’s even sometimes just an indulgence on my part, a way of convincing myself that I’m useful and nice, a little emotional crutch of mine that I’ll likely have less and less time for as I go on–and that’s true whether DO or MD. It may be the best thing for that patient at that time–but that means that it’s the nurse’s job to be the most important person for that patient in that hour, not mine.
It’s the road not taken, sometimes I gaze wistfully at it, but it’s not my road. My road is the road of the expert; I decided I valued that most of all, and if I can be an expert and be nice, that is my goal. But my job is to be the expert–that’s the job that no one else on the healthcare team can do. The nice part, everyone should be doing, including–but not only–me. You know this–that’s why you’re wanting to leave nursing. Right?
The way I see my job as a future MD is to help people understand the basics of the science (or lack thereof) that underlies how we understand their situations and their options, and then to help them match the science to their own values. The latter part means getting to know people, establishing rapport, being on their side, having relationships. I love that. And it means translating science into terms that people without a lot of education can understand. I love that too. But it’s a job that at the end of the day is about science.
So, if you’re going into interviews talking about compassion or the whole patient or kindness, that’s cool, but those are things you should take for granted about yourself and then build on. The reward of kindness is a larger reward, that you count for yourself; but you have to believe in that reward for its own sake, because you don’t really get promotions or admitted to med school or a residency for being kind. You might be denied those things if you were unkind–but you’re not unkind. Right?
But you also need to make sure to convey that you care about science. That what excites you is figuring out problems; that eosinophils are as interesting to you as how to teach someone to use an inhaler; that nice isn’t enough for you, and you need to be an expert.
The RN tells them “compassion”; now you need to emphasize the rest of the case.
So, going back to the research thing–this is the part about writing papers, loving science, puzzling over eosinophils–be a scientist, an expert, a problem-solver. You may not be able to do that where you work now–but you may want to consider how you could make this one part of your portfolio. Or, you could consider some advanced science courses–for instance, a seminar on allergy–where you could get some letters from people about how engaged you were in scientific papers. Or… somehow, figure out the way that’s best for you to show that you are less nurse and more doctor than they expect when they first open your file. You need to do this both to counter the anti-nursing prejudice you’re likely encountering, and to better prepare yourself for your future relationship to patients and to science.
Good luck, and welcome to OPM. We’ll be rooting for you.

Very nice post, Joe.
It reminds me somewhat of something I was thinking of last night, watching one of those “life in the ER” shows: I consider empathy to be one of my stronger traits. I expect there will be times as a professional, though, where it will be most effective to subjugate that, to be as objective and impersonal as I can, in order to be a better clinician.
I don’t think that anyone gets into this line of work without empathy and compassion, and I don’t want to set that aside as I move towards my goals. I find it interesting to think of the interesting results of that - that it may almost be considered a liability at times.

Don’t misunderstand me, though: this isn’t about suppressing empathy or putting it aside. It’s about having science be the way we uniquely express our empathy. When someone is sick, they want to know what’s wrong with them and what can be done about it; what their chances of recovery are; and how long they will be sick (or, how long they will be alive). When we have conversations with people about these topics–at least, if they are conversations that include listening to the people themselves and orienting our remarks to their concerns as well as ours–this is an empathetic act.
Empathy and kindness should be constant in our work as physicians. But like I say, that’s true of everyone on the healthcare team, from patient care assistant to housekeeping worker to nurse to doctor. It’s not what makes us unique, contrary to the sentimentalist propaganda of some doctor TV shows and self-congratulatory writings by doctors. Empathy is what makes us like everyone else, not what makes us different. Empathy when combined with science is unique and powerful not because it is empathy, but because it is empathy combined with useful and powerful information–it is empathy with tools attached.
That’s my take anyway. And, for the purposes of this discussion, I think it’s worth thinking that way about how we talk about empathy and compassion when in medical school interviews. In general, if you’re a kind and decent human being, that will shine through in your interview without you having to tell people that you’re kind and decent, which then allows you to move on to talking about tools.

Hm… again, well-said. That sits better with me.
And as your post was cited in another thread, it seems pertinent to bring that one up as well. What you say about the combination of empathy and science is correct; it’s simply something that many of us take for granted, and perhaps we should take steps to be especially clear with how we feel about it.
And since I’m one for tangents today… I wonder where in our discussion Dr. House would fall

Thank you all for your extremely valuable input.
I will certainly give the DO route a try this next round as well as another MD round. Unfortunately I cannot afford to apply to 30 schools, but I think 20 should do ok?? Here is a little more info about me in regards to applying. Unfortunately I can not make the OPM meeting due to financial/work restraints.
As for the nursing aspect of medicine, I always approach medicine (at least for interviews and applications) from a doctor standpoint. I changed from a nursing to doctor track after a few experiences while working at Children’s in Seattle. I was very intrigued by puzzling cases that even the MD’s had difficulty diagnosing, and decided that I wanted those challenges in a career.
For example, a FTT baby where no special formulas would work, no metabolic tests indicated what was wrong, and finally at about 1 year old, she had an intestinal biopsy, and turns out she has no microvilli. Sadly she died after 2 years on TPN. Another baby presented with a sort of “infant emphysema” that had never been seen before, and tissue samples were sent out to many labs to diagnose and treat his problem. (He survived) Another baby died from a fulminant case of Citrobacter meningitis, which is somewhat rare but carries a very devastating prognosis. I have actually written a paper on how I think the outcome could be bettered, but am not sure who will publish it without having it proofread by a higher-degree person.
My quest is to study the TH-2 response and how it relates to specific disease progression, as well as increase outcomes for TSS and TSS-like syndromes (most likely will also help GN sepsis patients as well) as these have extraordinarily high mortality rates.


Well, I know one person who’d had a life-threatening illness and talked about it in her interview. And the med school rejected her because she thought too much like a patient, not enough like a doctor.

I think I did this too, only mentioned it in passing, but it may have worked against me.
As for the seemed “nursing discrimination” I am fortunate to have a major that gave me much technical training so I can work in research. I had to volunteer for a while until I got hired, but the PI (who is an MD) seems really cool and I feel that I need to not mention much of my NAC experiences. Since I majored in Microbiology, I have a strong immunology background, and will use the lab and scientific approach mostly this time around. I am frustrated and astonished at the bias, I would think that opportunities to interact with patients, observe and actively listen to them, would be an asset. Plus, I have been working on my auscultations! I always read how inportant patient contact is, and actually listening to the patient, in articles in medscape and NEJM, so why don’t the admissions committee’s value this? who knows.
Thank you all again,
I look forward to getting to know all of you through this forum.

I’ve been “off site” for a bit, so behind again in keeping up here. Rather than reiterating what has been so well said by Joe and others, let me make one suggestion - which Joe alluded to already. Consider changing your email name. Everyone who reads your application will see it, and you are predisposing them to think of you in one light, while you want them to think of you in another. They see your nursing background and your email address and jump to a conclusion. And it probably isn’t “competent doctor and researcher.” It’s the subtle (and not so subtle) things like this that make a difference in the outcome of an application. (And, BTW, I recommend applying to about 20 schools.)

I don’t tend to use this email for my applications, as I have 3 email accounts, but I will certainly downplay the “compassion” bit.

I’m starting to feel bad! Compassion is good! Lots of doctors think that compassion is good! but, I think you get why in your special case you may want to spin things one way as opposed to another. And I am sure Judy (who is very compassionate and values compassion) would agree.

And all of those essays in the NEJM and the Annals of Internal Medicine and so on? They represent one faction within medicine. This may turn out to be your faction–the people you like best when you get to medical school. But on an admissions committee they will be only one portion of the many factions within medicine that are represented. The sort of doctors who write those essays write them to try to change the kinds of doctors who don’t even read them–i.e., these factions don’t always speak in each other’s language.

The challenge of the admissions process is not to identify your faction and speak to it, but to speak in a language that all the factions can relate to. For instance, in one of my interviews I talked about my experiences working as a community educator, what I thought about the role of community organizing in health, and the challenges of HIV prevention in the gay and bisexual men’s community. (Work that had occupied years of my life, by the way.) At the majority of the others, I talked a great deal more about the six months or so I’d spent at that point doing research about T-cell trafficking. Honestly there were only a couple of people in the process who were actually really engaged and interested in the first part, and many more who were interested in talking about the second–probably representative of how medicine divides up generally. My application allowed people to ask about both–I didn’t conceal either part of my life–but I think many of the people interviewing me thought that having me talk about T-cell trafficking would tell them more about whether I’d make a good medical student than having me talk about health education and community organizing. Now that I’m a fourth year I honestly am not sure I disagree, but ask me in a few years.


I completely understand. Comapssion/altruism/empathy are traits that all doctors should have, and most do, whether they openly talk about it or not, but the “technical” side probably does seem to generate the most interest. Perhaps it has something to do with the proportion of specialists vs generalists in our country, especially when compared to other nations. Or maybe it has to do with being able to know/understand details of a subject, and that relates somehow to the ability to know/memorize/understand all that they want to teach you.
you all have been very helpful and I hope that I get in somewhere this year, lest I have to repeat the mcat…

does your e-mail address really make a big impact?