Should I reapply? What went wrong?

Hi all,

Briefly, I am 45 years old, PhD in math, MA in physics. I took pre-med courses on my own (no post-bac program as I thought I could do it faster myself), got straight As, and a 37 MCAT. I have some limited clinical experience shadowing ER docs, and I applied last cycle to medical school. My goal is to be an ER doc.

I thought that with my qualifications I’d have success in getting into a few schools. At this point, out of 19 schools that I applied to, I interviewed at 4, was rejected at one, and am on the waitlist at the other three. I’m facing the very real possibility that I don’t get in this cycle and have started to think about whether or not I should reapply.

I’m a little discouraged at this point. I’ve spent two years on this journey, and have very little idea as to why I’ve had so little success with the application process. Perhaps my expectations were too high - I thought I’d get more interviews at the least. The interviews I had went really well…to be waitlisted is really frustrating. And if my age was the problem, well, I’m not getting younger as it turns out.

If anyone has any advice, or would be willing to discuss this process with me, I’d really appreciate it. I’ve found it to be impossible to consider a Plan B (i.e. not med school) because I know this is what I want to do. But the thought of another year of silence from med schools… I’d like to know that things have a chance at being different the next time around.



Yeah 4 interviews is not a bad yield.

Based on your brief description, it sounds like your clinical experience and/or volunteering was lacking. How were your LORs?

While 3 waitlists is not ideal, you have a decent chance. I’d check to see how those 3 schools view update letters and other methods of expressing continued interest. When it comes down the big May shuffle, it’d be a good thing on the top of the pile that they pull applicants from.

At least 2 of my postbacc classmates got into med school of their respective waitlists so it’s not rare.

I think the biggest feedback I got from my interviews was that I lacked volunteer/community service and clinical experience (they didn’t say that, but they heavily implied). The focus I took into interviews was how my experiences set me apart leadership-wise since I knew I had areas I was lacking in.

For one of the schools I was wait listed at, I sent in a letter of interest restating why I wanted to go to the school and what particular things about me would contribute to the uniqueness and diversity of the class. No clue if it helps, but the school wanted interest expressed in writing. For a personal touch, I printed and signed the letter and sent as an attachment instead of just writing an email. That school in particular said it took almost 1/3 of the class from the wait list last year…

If it doesn’t work out this year, I would say make sure your personal statement is about YOU, is in fact personal, includes your motivations, and has stuff in it that sets you apart from the 5000 other people applying to the same school. It has to catch the reviewer’s eye, though your numbers/education are eye catching… Make sure your experience blocks not only describe what you did, but what you learned and how you grew from the experience.

Take my advice with a grain of salt though. My interviews were so-so overall. I’m on 2 wait lists and pending 3 decisions from MD schools… I was accepted to the one DO school I applied to, and their decision seemed to be based on what my military experience brings to the class. If you haven’t yet, you should look into DO programs. Supposedly they are more accepting on non-trads.

Rob – Couple of things – getting waitlisted is really not as bad as it sounds – they were pulling people in off the waitlist during orientation at my school. Not to worry – with an MCAT and graduate degrees, that’s not a concern in terms of demonstrated ability to handle the material.

What I would look at, as others have said, is your clinical experience. So a few ideas there –

– Volunteer at your local hospital/free clinic – adcoms want to see that you understand what you’re getting into – the idealistic approach to medicine won’t fly – most people don’t want your help and very few express gratitude…it’s a business.

– Schmooze – call up your state medical association and ask for a list of physician’s who are amenable to shadowing. Cold call them and try to set up times to shadow them in clinic. After a couple of times of that, ask for LORs – work hard to befriend some of them, go to as many state medical association meetings as possible and be sure to pitch your case to everyone you come into contact with – I wound up meeting a member of the adcom that way who pitched my case –

Thank you all for your responses. At the advice of a physician that I am doing research with, I stopped shadowing and concentrated on the research. He thought publications would go farther than shadowing experience.

However, I’m starting to think this may have been a bad idea, for me in particular. My background is largely academic, and perhaps more research is not what adcoms wanted to see from me.

I will say that I found the shadowing tremendously helpful and exciting, while simply awful to set up. There’s such a demand to shadow - whether it is PAs or DOs who need the hours to apply, or new med students that are taking advantage of the (relatively) easy ability to shadow… In my experience, I needed favors from people to even get a few shifts, unless the hospital itself had a shadowing program. Perhaps that’s why I jumped at my co-researcher’s suggestion!

Thank you all again for the suggestions!!!


I would have to disagree somewhat with that advice. Schools want to know that you know what you’re getting into. As the physician I shadowed told me, they want to make sure that you understand that medicine isn’t all that it’s romanticized to be (and that’s why he made me watch some really gross stuff). At the schools I interviewed with, they made it a point to discuss my clinical experiences, and I didn’t seem to be penalized for having zero research in the last 10 years. That will, of course, be different if you’re shooting for an MD/PhD program. Some of the schools I applied to required shadowing, and the 53hrs I had didn’t appear to be enough to satisfy them.

They’re looking for well-rounded. If you have the academic thing down, you may want to explore others areas for improvement… Plus, shadowing is pretty cool.

If you can, try volunteering at a free clinic or hospice. You might get some “shadowing” while bumping up your volunteer hours.

Would you consider looking at offshore schools. I will graduate next month from Oceania University of Medicine. Oceania is based in Samoa and is the first international med school of its kind with students from all over the World. I matched into residency this year in AZ. It is tough but doable

While it’s good to examine what might have gone awry this year and what you might do to strengthen an application in a subsequent cycle, it’s also wise to maximize your chance of admission this year as much as possible. As kennymac stated it’s important to express your interest in the schools where you’re waitlisted, describe what specifically draws you to that school (and why), and let them know what you would contribute to the incoming class. Make them want to admit you! It’s also important to strike the right tone in the letter–be appropriately humble but also advocate for yourself. Hopefully it’ll work out for you this year. If not, I agree with others that it sounds as if you don’t have enough clinical work which may have made admission committees think that you did not do your due diligence to truly understand what a career in medicine entails.


Don’t underestimate the personal statement here. I don’t know what yours said, but was the format correct? And was it personally compelling? Did you adequately convey your reasons for pursuing medicine?

Also, it is worth examining your LORs. Even one wishy washy letter can sink you. I don’t know if that helps for this year, but hopefully some food for thought .