Journeys with Joshua: Joshua Wienczkowski walks us through med school at East Tennessee’s College of Medicine with his monthly blog updates. Get an inside look into med school down South through the eyes of a former professional songwriter with a whole lot of clinical experience — thanks Joshua for sharing this journey with us!
Update: Congrats to Joshua on his new position as student adcom member at ETSU Quillen College of Medicine — we know that with his admissions insight, he’ll be a great addition to the team!
“Dear Incredibly Hard Working Pre-Med and Hopeful Doctor,
Our admissions committee has met, and we regret to inform you that you were not selected as a student for our entering class. There were many qualified blah blah blah…”
I worked hard
My GPA was great!
I gave everything I had for that stupid MCAT.
What do I tell my parents?
What do I do now?
How you handle rejection says a great deal about your character, but getting turned down from your dream of becoming a doctor can hit hard to even the sturdiest of leaders. So, what should you do in the event of getting a rejection letter from all the schools you applied to? Aside from drinking the beer(s) I hope you have open, keep reading, and I’ll walk you through my plans B, C, D, and everything I laid out in the event I didn’t get accepted to medical school.
VERY first thing to-do is contact admissions at every school that turned you down, and see if an admissions counselor will walk you through their decision to not select you. Tell them you want honesty, so you can work hard at becoming competitive for their institution. Take notes, cross-reference, and find common holes in your application. Was it GPA? MCAT? Shadowing? Letters? Just not ready? Maybe they wanted to see more upper division sciences? Personal statement? Interview? You really need to dig, and have a few mentors go through your application with you to find the weak points that hindered you.
What I’ll do next is walk through scenarios, and offer solutions that I had planned out in the event they were the weak areas. Also, to clarify, I only applied to MD schools.
MCAT and GPA are baselines that every school uses for initial cuts. The hard numbers are that an MCAT below 24 (at least 8 in every section) generally won’t be looked at for MD schools. I know everyone says get a 30, but realistically, you can get accepted with less. If MCAT was the issue, I’m inclined to tell you to reassess why you didn’t achieve the numbers you are capable of attaining. Taking a prep course does not guarantee a certain score, just like simply going to medical school doesn’t make a good doctor. Why did you not achieve your potential? Skim through new study materials. Research all of the available resources. Find the best fit for your learning style, and stick to it. If you’re a black and white, quick and simple person (like me), Exam Krackers is perfect. If you like longer explanations and want to know the “why” behind things, Kaplan or Princeton Review are killer for you.
A GPA less than 3.2 will not get you into medical school. So you blew your GPA in the first few years of college? No one can blame you for this, but if you couldn’t show an upward trend, I think it’s time to consider a Post-Bacc. or a 1 year Master’s to show you can handle the course load. If the admissions counselor at your top choice strongly urges you to think about a Post-Bacc. or 1 year Master’s at their institution, take that as a great omen they like you, and want to see you reach your full potential. It can sometimes be akin to a “conditional acceptance,” but make sure you’ve communicated with the program extensively.
Not so Shadowy Shadowing
A common issue I’ve seen is lack of shadowing, because shadowing shows your interest in medicine, and ensures you understand what you’re dedicating the rest of your life to. The only solution here is to cold call, network, and find an opportunity to shadow more. Many hospitals offer summer programs for Pre-Meds to essentially shadow/intern at their hospital for a summer or extended period of time. If you can’t obtain long-standing shadowing, working at a hospital where you have patient contact and care is often a great way to increase exposure to the field.
Anything that contributes to your exposure to medicine is perfect. An admissions counselor at my school that helped me a great deal once said to me, “if you love fishing, why aren’t you out on the lake right now? If you love patient care, why aren’t you in a hospital every chance you get?”
There are often times that the person represented in an application doesn’t quite shine through as the person a medical school meets on interview day. It’s a stressful day, and can often hinder your ability to truly represent yourself and the incredibly qualified individual you’ve worked to become. If the interview is what made an admissions committee say no, there are three reasons for this:
1. They just didn’t feel like you were a fit for their school and community. Don’t take it personal in any way. Just like a first date, sometimes the fit isn’t quite right.
2. Maybe you choked. It happens to even the greatest of athletes in the final seconds of a game when everything relies on one last play at the very last inches. Pick yourself back up, practice harder, and find out why you weren’t able to be yourself on the big day.
3. The person in the application was not who they met on interview day. If someone else
writes your application (yes, I’ve seen this happen, and been offered interesting things to pen med school applications), it’s no wonder the application and you were two different people!
Regardless, find out why your interview was the reason, address the reasons, get back on that damn horse, and try again.
So, what if I haven’t addressed an issue for why you didn’t get into medical school?
Sometimes admissions are vague. Sometimes there is no concrete answer. This is frustrating. I implore you to take the feedback you’ve been given, and consider why you chose to pursue medical school. Was it to help people? That’s cool, but you can help people in so many facets.WHY do you want to help people? And WHY as a physician? Why not as a Physician Assistant? What about Physical Therapy? Why not Pharmacy? Don’t give up, by any means, but this timeframe should be a solid gut check that allows you to stand firmly on your statement, beliefs, and reasons for why you absolutely believe you should become a physician.
My backup plans were to call every school that said no, find out exactly why they said no, cross-reference the results, and find common themes. In the meantime, I was going to study even harder for the MCAT, and retake it to blow it out of the water. I was going to apply to every hospital around town and work in any position they would give me, which would allow access to physicians that I could shadow and gain more knowledge from as well as letters. My plan was to call every professional admissions company, like Accepted, and find someone there I felt could empower me, and help me craft my application and interview skills into something unstoppable. I even researched every admissions company, their success rates, and budgeted accordingly (ironically, look who I’m writing for).
You WILL get into medical school.
If you have specific questions, or just want to chat through your application in hopes of gaining some insight as to what the next step might be, feel free to reach out to me or anyone else at Accepted.
Good luck! You’ll make a damn good doctor, I’m sure of it.