Eary Decision -> A good decision? (long!)

First of all, Congrats to all of you that have been accepted this year and are that much closer to fulfilling your dream. I have been lurking here for months absorbing the wisdom of this group. It was very helpful!
I myself was not successful in my application bid – I just found out for sure a few days past. In part it might be because I decided later in the process to apply – but it may be related to other weakness in my application I would like to apply again, but I want to make sure I do it as intelligently as possible (if possible!).
A quick history might help with later questions:
I finished undergrad in 95 and was in grad school till 99 . Did decent in school 3.7 overall, 3.9 science undergrad, 4.0 as a grad). My degrees are in biochemistry and physical chemistry. My experiences lie mostly in basic and clinical research. My clinical experiences have been mainly through shadowing and volunteering though I some of my early clinical research was in a GCRC in a hospital with some patient contact.
I applied and was accepted into a medical school in 2001. I did not attend however. Why?! – immaturity mostly? Certainly a bad decision in hindsight! The decision was related to a relationship I was in – I don’t think the details are important here, I just know how bad this looks on my record.
It took sometime to realize that I was absolutely miserable not pursing the dream I once had. I decided in mid 2003 that I should do this, retook the MCAT (total score 38), applied to 8 schools, got 2 interviews, got stuck on the waiting lists, and eventually cut.
Currently I am working in a contract to the Division of AIDS in their global AIDS studies. A good experience but I can be traveling 80-90% of my time, which limits volunteer time.
I’d like to take advantage of an Early Decision process, but I’m afraid there really isn’t much different between my application now and a year ago and that application didn’t get me anywhere. I could take time to better my application with experience, but I’m not sure what else I can do to enhance my application (suggestion welcome!).
I feel my biggest weakness in my application was my previous acceptance and decision not to attend. But I really don’t know what to do about that.
Other issues might be
-My time out of school. The prerequisite classes are about 9-10 yrs old, but I did teach a lot of pre-med classes in grad school. I could take additional refresher courses but I still feel pretty knowledgeable in the prerequisite courses. Should I look into this anyway?
-Lack of current references. I have about 7 letters in my file from teachers and investigators I’ve worked with over the last ten years. My only recent reference (in 2003) was from my current supervisor. I have a committee letter but it is from 20001 (other letters are from that era as well). I don’t know how to go about getting a more recent committee letter (I no longer live near my college). Should I get more recent recommendations from my old teachers? – I don’t think what they would say about me as a student would have changed.
-Lack of recent clinical experiences. I work in clinical research and deal with medical professionals everyday, but not with patients. My only outlet is that my dog is a therapy dog, and we go to children’s hospitals and nursing hones. I can only do that about once a month though with my work. I don’t know what I else I could do. Any ideas?
Sorry this is so long, I appreciate any assistance.

Well, first, see if you can find out exactly what got you rejected. Contact the schools that rejected you and see if they can offer any advice on how to improve your application. Some admissions officers may actually tell you what you need to know, and then you can address it.
You do have a good sense of some of the red flags in your package. How did you address them in your personal statement? How late did you apply?
It might be worth going back to talk to old references who knew you well and see about getting your letter updated. Even if the only new information is that you talked to them about your reasons for pursuing medicine now and not when you were admitted before, I think that could help. It just seems as if you’d want to have recent dates at the tops of those letters.

I would say that if you were rejected last time around, you don’t want to go early decision this time. That locks you into one school (possibly one school that rejected you before) until October or so, and if you get rejected then, that puts you behind the 8-ball at the other schools that may interest you. Instead, you may be well served by applying to a few more schools, but bright and early.

Anyway, these are just some ideas for you to kick around. I’m still finishing prereqs myself. Good luck!

Like the previous poster stated FIRST find out WHY you received rejections then and only then can you focus on HOW to improve. I think and this is just my personal opinion that not attending medical school after you were accepted is the main issue but hopefully I am wrong and whatever it is can be remedied. Good luck.

Thanks for the info. I have been trying to weigh the early decision vs. early normal application. Some of the statistics I’ve seen show a relatively small percentage of matriculated student coming form the early applicant pool.
I am in the process of contacting the schools I interviewed at to gain feedback. In my personal statement I did discuss my decision not to attend earlier but not in great detail. I ended adding that information in the additional explanations section of the AMCAS. During the interviews I was prepared to discuss the issue but the interviewers only spent about 30 seconds on it. I had the impression they more interested in why I was applying now as opposed to why I didn’t go before.
As far as lateness in my applications, Primaries at Oct and early November – so right at the window for many schools – Stupid me was under the misconception that applications could not be sent in till MCAT results were in hand.
Updating the recommendation seems like a good idea too. I wonder how I can get a more recent committee letter. Or perhaps that wouldn’t be as helpful as I may think.

Hi there,
You need not spend tons of time addressing why you did attend medical school earlier. A brief explanation such as “obligations that had to be met” is enough. You may want to spend tons of time explaining why you are a good candidate at present. In other words, spend most of your PS, selling yourself and your abilities at present.
If you apply Early Decision, you can only apply to one school and that school must give you a reply (yea or nay) before you apply to other schools. This is generally not a great idea unless you are totally set on attending one particular school and are an “slam-dunk” candidate for that school. Since you have rejections already, I would cast a very wide net with a new and improved PS that sells you in a very positive light and not take the “Early Decision” option.
Your volunteer experience with your therapy dog is fine but try to work it into your application as clinical experience. You are performing in a clinical environment. Since you are far from undergraduate, get some individual LORs and don’t worry about the committee letter. Once you have past the undergraduate level, you don’t need a composite letter.
Get all of your application in as soon as possible. If you can, try have your application complete by end of June. October is pretty late unless you are forced to take the August MCAT. As for the dates of your pre-recs, if your schools are happy with them, then you are fine.
As others have said, find out why you were rejected or waitlisted. I suspect that there was something in the way that you came across in the interviews that is killing you. You would be surprised at how much the interview affects the admissions process. Most folks have problems with the GPA/MCAT but you have those bases covered. You can upgrade your interviewing skills very easily so be prepared to do some practicing.
Good luck!