Each medical school receives thousands of applications every year and most schools have less than a hundred spots available. That means that you need to be extremely careful when applying to medical school (as a first time applicant or a reapplicant) that you don’t transgress those common mistakes that will get you rejected.
The most common mistakes include:
1. You present a low GPA with a decreasing trend.
In some cases, it would be better to complete postbaccalaureate coursework before submitting the application. Having a decreasing trend with a borderline GPA is an easy way to earn a rejection. It is essential to apply with an increasing trend in your GPA.
2. You have a low MCAT score.
If you do not have a high GPA to compensate for a low MCAT score, it may be best to retake the MCAT before applying. I don’t recommend applying before you receive your score because knowing your score will help you decide which schools to apply to. An MCAT score below a 24 can be considered dangerously low.
3. You submit weak letters of recommendation.
Submitting old letters of recommendation (letters that are a year old or older) or not submitting strong letters can substantially hurt your application. These letters are quoted and discussed at great length during selection committee meetings. They matter. Take the time to attend office hours and to form strong bonds with your mentors so that you can rest confident that you will have strong letters to support your application.
4. You include incorrect information on your application.
By accidentally listing the wrong country of your birth or wrong state for permanent residence, you can cause your application to be red flagged or to be automatically rejected by schools that only interview or accept residents. And of course, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t intentionally present incorrect information (i.e. lie about your nationality, race, or any other detail that you may think is to your advantage or disadvantage). Double check all of the contact information, personal details, and family information to make sure that it is correct. A simple but easy place to make a major mistake!
5. You don’t use every space available.
Many applicants do not list everything that they have done or do not use all 15 activity descriptions. Use every character allowed and complete each description requested, even if it is optional. Demonstrating that you have put the time and effort into the application to help them gain a stronger idea of who you are as an individual will make all the difference. On the other hand, don’t just ramble on or word-stuff simply for the sake of filling up space. Make sure that what you say is substantive.
6. You misrepresent your activities.
Don’t lie about what you haven’t done. If you do not have significant clinical, volunteer, leadership, or research experience, sign up for some immediately! The strongest applications have a balance of activities that represent all three or four of these categories. (Research is optional for many medical schools.) Using an app (like MDTracker) can be helpful in keeping a big picture perspective of the distribution of your activities.
7. You submit sloppy primary and secondary essays.
The essays that raise more questions than they provide answers often confuse and frustrate their readers. If your essay is challenging to read, most application reviewers will not read it all the way through. Take the time to create outlines and thoughtfully approach your writing. You can use these essays as a rare opportunity in your life for deep assessment and reflection. The more you know about yourself and how you approach life, the more gracefully you will be able to transition into medical school to take on the responsibilities of a healer.
8. You have a weak interview.
Taking the time to submit an excellent application that earns you an interview, but neglecting to prepare for the interview with mock interviews can seriously jeopardize your spot in the entering class! Mock interviews can help you develop the skills required to give a strong interview. Most people struggle with public speaking and interviewing. The difference between those who interview well and those who do not is practice.
You can navigate these mistakes gracefully by adapting a strategy that will highlight your strengths so that your weakness will not be viewed so harshly. Working with a professional consultant can make a dramatic difference.
Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs. Want Alicia to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
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