Application Disappointments

Hello to OPMs. I have had a crushing application cycle and am looking for advice from those of you who have been here before as I look on to the disappointing task of reapplying. I applied to ten schools, all levels, got one interview back in November which I will hear about “by March 15.” All other schools have rejected me, without an interview. My biggest disappointment is that I don’t know what was wrong with my application. I had good grades in prereq courses, lowest being a B in Ochem I and B+ in Ochem II. My MCAT scores were competitive, and my ochem prof wrote a strong letter indicating that I performed quite well on the national Ochem exam despite B’s in the course. I had my essay read by several people of all walks of life, including one very straight forward bio prof who doesn’t fool around with protecting the ego of others. All she said about it was that, “you are a very good writer.” I don’t mean for this post to sound like I am in any way bragging, or that I am trying to justify anything. I just can’t figure out why I had such poor results and it is really, REALLY discouraging to think of having to do it all again, with no guarantees that I will have any better luck. I have volunteer experience teaching CPR and First Aid through the Red Cross, as well as being a Spanish translator at the ER in my hometown. During school I was a stay at home mom of two toddlers and worked part time. Am I not appealing as a non-trad because I have not had a "real career?"
Any advice, or anyone who has been there and still gotten in, I could sure use your help. I worked, as all of you, really hard and made a lot of sacrifices to go back to school and aim for med school. Now I feel like I have put all the energy and hope into it for nothing but a big student loan.
My “plan B” is to stay home with my girls another year, as I am due with number three in July. I will reapply this summer if I get my last reject letter in March. I would like advice on whether or not there is any way to make my application more appealing the next time around. Thank you all for being there.

Hi Angie,
Sorry to hear about having a disapointing application cycle. The good news is that you still have one application pending. If you don’t get accepted, you may be wait-listed, which may keep this application alive until August.
As you asked, let me try to make a couple suggestions. I talk about this some on my web site under the topic “Second Chance”.
1. I don’t think you “lack appeal” for not having a traditional career before medical school.
2. You may need to apply to more schools. You only applied to 10. The average medical student applies to 12 schools. The general rule is that the less optimistic you are about your chances for acceptance, the more schools you should apply to. I applied to about 24 programs.
3. I don’t know what courses you took or your GPA, so here are some general comments. If either your overall GPA or your overall science GPA was less than 3.6, then simply taking the 8 premed courses may not be enough. You may need to complete a quick graduate degree (getting as close to 4.0 as possible) to make up for low grades in the past.
4. Regarding the MCAT, if either your overall GPA or overall science GPA was below 3.6, you may need to do above-average on the MCAT (above 30, preferably above 33).
In summary, you may need to apply to more schools, take some more courses, or retake the MCAT. Talk to your premed advisor about this and see if this person can give you advice about how to improve your application.
Best of luck.

When did you take the MCAT? whend did you submit AMCAS? when did you submit secondaries? if any of the above were done later in the cycle that could be why you have had a lack of success. I agree with the above poster although some folks cannot apply to more than one school or two, it seems that you could apply to more so maybe applying to ten hurt you? most people do apply to about 12-15 with a broad range. Also what was your GPA and MCAT? if the GPA is less than the accepted average then your MCAT really needs to kick in…if OTOH your GPA was astronomical and your MCAT was okay then that could be a problem. Do you have a lot of clinical experience? I saw that you mentioned ER translator how long was this for? you may just be lacking EC’s and that is what held you back but there is no way of telling. I would call every school that rejected you and ask what you can do to improve your application for the next cycle. This will give you an “objective” picture of why you did not gain admissions. Obviously (if these schools did not deem you competitive there is something…)there is something that you can do to become competitive. BTW you still have a shot of getting in so just hang in there you never know. Another thing, you may have everything in the right place and it is just as simple that you applied late so do not second guess yourself, it is still early in the game wait and see. Good luck.

Thank you both, for the advice. I applied early, had my AMCAS in right away in June and secondaries were in within a week or two after I got them in the late summer early fall. I was held up by having to retake the MCAT in August, so scores were not in until mid October. I had a 29 S. I know this isn’t stellar, but is still within the mean of many of the schools I applied to. My overall GPA was only a 3.33, because I wasn’t planning on med school the first time I went to school. However, my postbacc/science GPA was a 3.7. In addition to the 8 regular premed courses, I also took biochem and developmental biology. In addition to the ER translator experience, I have also shadowed a family doctor on several occasions for clinical experience. I live in a rather rural area, so other options are few and far between.
Is it my scores and grades that are problematic? I know they aren’t stellar, but I didn’t think they were horrible. I had good LORs, too, as I got along very well with most of my premed profs. As for EC’s, I was in the Spanish honor society and a few art organizations first time in college. Postbacc, my EC’s included my daughters and part time job. I also taught community nutrition classes in the evenings, and have taught for the Red Cross.
I don’t know if I can afford to apply to so many schools again! I thought 10 was going all out, but maybe I need to suck it up and choose a few more schools? I still have a lot of hope for my state school (U of Iowa), which is the letter I’m waiting for.

A few schools held onto my application for awhile before deciding to deny me an interview, which makes me feel like I was a “boarderline” candidate. I just wish I knew for sure where the lines are. Is it worth retaking the MCAT to attempt to bring it up one point to the magic 30?
When is a good time to call schools to inquire about the problem with my application? I know some places ask that a person wait until after the application cycle is complete. One school told me in the rejection letter not to ask, because they won’t tell me!
Thank you all for advice. Let me know what you think of my grade situation, and if there is any hope for me.

Hi Angie,
Let me join the other posts expressing disappointment at your news. However, you must keep trying! It’s not like you had a 2.9 GPA and 25 MCAT scores.
I think you should write down the schools that turned you down and rank them according to how well your rapport was
with the admissions folks. Then send them your exact letter with a notation that you will be calling in a week and would like their impressions and advice as to how to strengthen your appliation. Your self deprecating personality will get some information and such will be very helpful.
Also some of the national, private premed advisors charge a fairly reasonable hourly rate to evaluate one’s application. I know of Dr. Lewis, at, in California. I am fairly new to this list, but believe I have seen another person mentioned.
You have enviable objective scores and just have to see how to best present the "Angie total package."
Best of luck and let us know what you find out.

Hi Angie,
First of all, the overall number of applicants to medical school this year was higher and the number of non-traditional applicants was through the roof. That being said, medical schools will often look at the total numbers meaning GPA totals (>3.6) and MCAT should be above 30 to be competitive.
The other things might be where you stood relative to the other candidates at the schools that you chose. Ten schools is a pretty good number but if you applied as an out of state applicant to state schools, you need to have higher averages than the in-state applicants. Did you apply to DO schools? They generally have a great record of considering the entire application picture in context of your recent performance as opposed the whole average.
It is not unusual to have to apply more than one cycle in order to gain admission. I was fortunate but I know that I was in the minority of students. As others have suggested, contact the schools and find out where you might strengthen you application. I would use those terms as opposed to "where did I go wrong?"
There are many things that are totally out of your hands when applying to medical school such as the total number of applicants. Some schools received record numbers this year because the economy has been bad especially for the computer science folks. This trend is not expected to change so find out how you can make yourself a better candidate. Sometimes just reapplying shows that you are dedicated to finding a career in medicine.
Also, do not discount the value of having a professional counselor to help you with this process. In todays climate, I would consider them a must-have for a non-traditional student.
Good luck

Like Nat said if the schools were mostly state schools then applying as an out-of-stater will already put you behind the power curve unless you have excellent numbers (well over what the school average is for in staters). Other than that your numbers seem pretty solid like you said you had a good post-bacc GPA, the only thing is your MCAT, although it is good do not get me wrong for some out of state schools it will have to be above a 30 to appeal to them. So that could be an issue, although for your state schools you should be fine with a 29…Again your best bet is to call or better yet first write a letter and see if they are receptive to that. I would word it in terms of “how can I make myself more competitive for the next application cycle at your school” Good luck and keep us posted.

Hi Angie,
Can I ask a few more questions? What is your undergrad degree in, and when did you graduate? Did you have any LOR’s besides the two you mentioned? Where did you take your post-bacc courses? And, I hate to ask, but were you visibly pregnant when you interviewed?
You still have one live school, so I think you should get aggressive. Call them and ask about sending in additional materials. Get a letter from the doctor you shadowed, and also from a doctor at the ER. Send a letter to the dean of admissions with all the reasons that you want to attend school at Iowa. Tell them they are your #1 choice (not your only choice!), and it doesn’t hurt to say that you want to stay and practice in-state after you finish. If you have updated transcripts, that’s another good reason to write a letter.
I also totally agree with calling the schools that rejected you and finding out how to strengthen your application. I have heard many times that if you’re going to apply again you should have something different to offer. That means taking more classes, retaking the MCAT, getting more clinical, or something that will change your application from last year.
I had a similar app cycle when I applied - although I only applied to three schools. Everyone told me I wouldn’t have any problem getting in and I got one rejection and two waitlists. I was sending stuff to both waitlist schools every couple of weeks. I got called by Baylor on May 16, so either it worked or they were going to call me anyway.
It’s really hard to know in this process what really works or doesn’t. The idea of professional counseling is a good one - I had already set up an appointment with Judy Colwell when I got the call. But, you probably don’t need to do that until you know for sure how this cycle is going to turn out.
Best of luck!

I’ll tell you everything if you think you can help me. My undergrad degree was in Fine Art (double emphasis in graphic design & pottery). I had a minor in Spanish. I graduated in 1999. I had LORs from three profs, two chemistry and one biology. I also had a letter from the physician that I shadowed, as well as the manager at the place where I worked during my last semester of postbacc. My first degree was from the University of Northern Iowa, my postbacc was done at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, a small, private liberal arts college that has a pretty impressive premed program with 92% acceptance rate.
I was literally a few days pregnant when I interviewed at Iowa, I didn’t even know it at the time. I wrote a letter of intention to Iowa about a month after my interview, letting them know that the school was my first choice. I have also exchanged a few emails with the assistant director of admissions, expressing my enthusiasm and dedication. They know I am waiting for their letter.
I’m trying to keep in mind that there is still a chance for this year, but I’m still a little frustrated with the total rejection of the other applications. I’m just trying to get things in order before I think about having to apply again. I looked over my application today, and I am wondering if my PS was too ‘personal goal focused’ and not enough 'what I can contribute to medical science '.
As for the MCAT, I am not opposed to retaking the test in August, however, I’m concerned about how it would look to take the exam for a third time. The first time I wasn’t feeling well during the physical sciences portion and ended up with a 6 on that section, even though I got a 10VR and 11BS. I brought the physical science up to a 9 the second take, and the other scores were both 10s.
My biggest frustration is that I didn’t even get INTERVIEWS at any of the other schools I applied to. Most of them were state schools, and I know how that goes as far as scores, but I was also turned down at non-state schools like MCW after submitting my secondary. Seven of the schools I applied to asked for secondaries, some that prescreened and others that didn’t. Can anyone give me some ideas of private schools that I may take a look at, other than the big schools that I know I don’t have a chance at (ie Havard, Stanford…)
Again, thanks for all the advice here.

Gosh I really feel for you but the game is not yet over so keep your chin up. Angie do you think that your LOR’s were strong? sometimes we think that X or Y person will write a good LOR by their demeanor towards us and then the LOR is awful (poor grammar, not enough details, very generic) so that may be something that could have affected the adcom decisions. You did mention applying to a mostly state schools right? so that is for sure not good for they are mostly interested in in-state folks. Some of the private schools that were receptive that I can think of (and if any state school gets in this list is because they take a huge amount of out-of-state people) were Temple, Jefferson, Drexel, Creighton, MCW, and Meharry. I would highly suggest if you do not have this already is purchasing the MSAR with all the stats of every school and how many out of state vs in-state they take, etc…

Oh yeah, the PS is a huge component of the application process and I think it can truly make you or break you in some cases. If it was way to “I want to do this and I know for sure” type of PS versus here are my strenghts this is why you should pick me, this may have played a role as well. Adcoms have commented when they come to my school for pre-med sessions that a poor PS can mean an immediate do not interview this person reaction. Now of course the adcoms were expressing when PS are way too cocky, poor grammar, very generic, or too trendy. I would for sure check out (if this application cycle does not work out for you) the services of Judy Colwell just to make sure that your PS is conveying what you want it to convey.

Well, Angie - it seems that my advice was redundant. You’re really on the ball. I can’t say what’s going on. Unfortunately, I found the whole process very frustrating and seemingly random. You’ve done the things that (to me) rationally make sense to do. I don’t know what else to say.
I’d wait until March, and see what happens. If you don’t at least get waitlisted, I would talk to a professional (although it is $$, it will save you money in the long run). They have more insight into the process than most of us. Or hopefully someone else here can find the “red flag” in your application - I have no idea what it might be.


…I would highly suggest if you do not have this already is purchasing the MSAR with all the stats of every school and how many out of state vs in-state they take, etc…

Gosh, I’ve missed a lot of interesting discussion while I’ve been out of town. I’ll jump in here and there with some disjointed comments and see if I can catch up a bit. So for the MSAR, just remember that you are NOT seeing important information - you are not seeing how many OFFERS of admission were made, only how many interviews were offered, and how many people matriculated. For instance, in 2001, Harvard interviewed 721 applicants, made 241 offers of acceptance for a class of 164. That’s a “yield” of 68%, probably about the best in the nation. For comparison, Stanford had a yield rate of 45%, Duke 42%, U. Chicago 37%. And so on. I don’t know the information for any state school, but I suspect that you can assume that an average yield rate is approximately 40-50%. As for out of state vs. in state, for private schools it isn’t really much of an issue. It is for state schools, however.


Oh yeah, the PS is a huge component of the application process and I think it can truly make you or break you in some cases. If it was way to “I want to do this and I know for sure” type of PS versus here are my strenghts this is why you should pick me, this may have played a role as well. Adcoms have commented when they come to my school for pre-med sessions that a poor PS can mean an immediate do not interview this person reaction. Now of course the adcoms were expressing when PS are way too cocky, poor grammar, very generic, or too trendy. I would for sure check out (if this application cycle does not work out for you) the services of Judy Colwell just to make sure that your PS is conveying what you want it to convey.

First of all, thank you for the vote of confidence. :slight_smile: Now to the important stuff. Personal statements can be tricky. I, and others (but not all), feel that a PS won’t be an application deal-breaker if it’s honest, relatively well-written, and conveys “who” you are. Rarely is a PS so well-written that it brings goose-bumps to the reader. (Those folks probably got T’s on the MCAT essay.) What IS a deal-breaker with a PS is one that is either naive or has a touch of arrogance or self-aggrandizing language/content.

Thank you all so much for your comments and suggestions. I did indeed use the MSAR when choosing my schools, and of the state schools that I did choose, I chose those with the highest out of state acceptances. However, I am realizing now that I relied too heavily on those schools and not enough on private schools.
As for my essay, I realize it is difficult to be objective about ones own work. However, I do know that there was not a problem with grammar or mechanics, I made sure of that(BTW, I didn’t get a “T” on my MCAT essay, but I did get an “S”). I felt, and was told my those who read it for me (both those who knew me and those who didn’t) that it was engaging and told of my dedication to the field. I talked about things that influenced my decision to enter medicine, as well as experiences along the way that grounded me in my interest. I did NOT, however, talk about school, science, or specific medical issues. I thought my grades and MCATS showed that I jumped through the hoops and didn’t see a reason to go into that. I also felt that those were issues to be discussed during interviews. I’m fairly certain it wasn’t “cocky,” I’m not really that type of person.
As for LORs, I’m fairly certain that those from the MD and my profs were grammatically correct. I have had a lot of support and encouragment by those people in my work, so I don’t believe that any of them would have secretly written a poor letter. The one from my manager may not have been perfect grammatically, but I’m sure the letter was supportive.
Thanks again, everyone. Your comments and suggestions have been quite helpful. I feel like I did everything I could, and it doesn’t seem that any of you can come upon any major problems in my application, which helps me to be a little more confident in the one I am waiting to hear about despite the other disapointments. I was told that I will either be accepted or waitlisted, so Judy, you comments on the number of actual acceptances given really made me feel better. If I do have to reapply, I will continue to seek advice on how to improve my application. Thanks so much!

Remember that strengths in one area can balance problems in others. For example, I don’t think my PS was particularly good, but I think a good MCAT score rescued me at a lot of schools. So focus on strengthening the areas that you have control over.
If there is any way to build up your clinical experience, I would do it. I got a lot of brownie points for 100 hours of shadowing different doctors in a variety of practices (including 60 hrs with one FP doc), and 200 hours of patient contact through volunteering at a community clinic. Interviewers felt that I had really looked carefully at what I said I wanted to do, and understood the challenges involved. One said she was pleased that I had not just gone and volunteered at the ER because I thought that was what I “should” do, and that I had chosen activities related directly to my interests

Hello again. I wanted to update my status here. I received my letter from the University of Iowa today, as I’m sure others did as well. I have been placed at number 26 on the alternate list. Does anyone know whether or not this is a good place to be on the list? Time to wait some more, I guess!!

Wow, the school actually tells you where you are on their list. I didn’t know any schools would do that.

Minnesota does. They even have a “wait-list hot line” where you can call and see what number they’re on. It also tells you who dropped off.
I love this school.

Iowa has two alternate lists. One for in-state and one for non-residents. They rank each separately, and the class is filled in order from each list. One out of state person drops, and a person is added from the out of state alternate list…etc. They update their list and send it out every two weeks from March 15 until the class is full.
Has anyone else received a letter from Loyola about their one year M.A. in Medical Sciences, meant to boost the med school application for borderline candidates? Sounded really good to me, but I can’t just uproot my family to Chicago for a year. It got me to start looking into online programs. So far, I have only found one other one year program that would work (a graduate certificate, not Master’s). I don’t really want to commit to more than a year, since I don’t want to put off beginning med school any longer than I have to. Any suggestions would be appreciated.