Over the years, I’ve noticed that reapplicants to medical school share similar characteristics. They tend to rush the process and miss opportunities for improvement. Many students end up reapplying because they are over confident—it may be the tone reflected in their essays or in a lower than average number of activities or both. Reapplicants also tend be unorganized. They don’t take the time to plan their approach or essays and lack strategy in their school selection. Most reapplicants share one or all three of these characteristics in common.
Since Harvard School of Medicine is no longer accepting applications from students applying a third time, you really don’t want to reapply to medical school more than once—if possible. This change in policy at one school, and such an influential one at that, may become a trend with more schools. In my own experience with over a decade in admissions advising, I’ve never seen a student receive an acceptance the fourth time they’ve applied. I’ve heard rumors about it. It does happen—just not very often. If you do apply a second or a third time (to schools that accept third time applicants—unlike Harvard), evaluate what you did in the first application that didn’t work out and change your approach. The best advice that I can give you is to ask for help when you need it.
1. Start early—don’t put yourself in a position to be in a rush
If you rush the process, you may not give yourself enough time to complete each step to the best of your abilities, ask for help when you need it and use good judgment. Reapplicants are often too busy or important to ask for help so they try to do everything by themselves – at least the first time they apply. Since medicine is all about teamwork, even the application process itself tests your ability to look to others for guidance when you need it. It’s such a long and complicated process that it’s virtually impossible to do it all on your own. At some point, you will need to order transcripts from your university, request letters of recommendation and talk to a pre-med advisor or call the AAMC with questions.
2. Be confident but not over-confident
Today I read an activity description that a reapplicant was preparing to submit. She wrote about how she had millions of dollars available to her through her position at a company. The sentence she used was beyond over confident. She was openly bragging about the importance of her current job. The problem with being over confident is that it can be a red flag that may convince a reviewer to reject the application. There’s a fine line between confidence and over confidence—just state the facts. Often, it’s helpful to have another person read your essays to make sure that your content and tone are appropriate. It’s easy to reject someone who comes across as a cocky braggart!
3. Get organized
Take a minute or two or three to think about how you are approaching your application. Consider the process—not just the content of the application. Taking the time to look at the big picture and to actively decide how to maximize your approach will put you in a far better position to make good decisions that will lead to an acceptance. Use excel spreadsheets to track your progress and compare statistics. Create your own system or method to stay on top of each part of the application process. It’s rare if not impossible to be too organized.
Simply following these three steps can make a huge difference in your chances of acceptance! Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare still rings true—“slow and steady wins the race.”