Last week, we talked about what to do when you’re rejected from professional school and earlier this year we posted the 6 most common reasons why applicants are unsuccessful. Today, we’ll review how to remedy the most common reasons why applicants are unsuccessful.
Flaw #1 : Poor academic record
First, you have to know how you stack up against the competition, because what you may consider to be a “decent” record, may not meet the expectations of admissions committee members. Data regarding the average MCAT , DAT, PCAT score are readily available online through the appropriate testing administration sites ( AAMC, etc). Don’t make the mistake for looking for the average numbers for applicants, you are more interested in the average GPA and test scores for matriculants. If your test score falls below the average of students accepted, then retaking the test (only after optimal preparation has been made) should be on your longterm to-do list.
If your science GPA was less than the average, then you may want to consider a post bacclaureate program. There are many many programs specifically tailored to students who want to improve his / her academic record, and these programs usually offer test prep assistance as well.
Flaw 2: Narrow range of schools applied to
This is a common problem. A qualified applicant with marginal numbers, applies to too few schools and all the schools are within “the top tier”. Professional schools are created equal in that they are all required to disseminate the same basic information about a particular are of study, however, they differ in their degree of selectiveness. Applicant’s have to be cognizant of this when applying. Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you have above average numbers you don’t need to apply broadly. There are many a story of a seemingly qualified applicant who did not get accepted because they didn’t apply to enough or a varied group of schools. Some schools tend to favor in state applicants, so be sure to through the school in your home state on the list. If your numbers fall slightly below or close to the average of matriculants, it would be in your best interest to apply to more schools, to give yourself a greater chance of getting an interview the second time around. And remember, the numbers aren’t all admissions committees are looking at. It’s essential that the other aspects of your application are top notch as well. Before you apply the second time around seek out a trusted faculty advisor, physician family member or friend, church member, and get some advice on your proposed list of schools. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the applicant and matriculant data for each institution that you are considering with regards to their selection criteria. Its always wise to have a 3-4 reach schools, 6-8 schools where your stats are competitive, and then 2-3 schools where your stats exceed their requirements and you are fairly competitive.
Flaw 3: Lacking adequate experience in the field of interest
Admissions committee members want to make sure that you are aware of what you’re getting into. Have you been exposed to the rigors of your anticipated field? Do you truly know what it entails? Have you demonstrated that you have the skills that are necessary to navigate the field? Have you demonstrated that you have an appropriate level of interest? The last thing they want is someone who starts and doesn’t finish, so its important to ad coms that they know that you know that you want to be there. You demonstrate that by participating in related activities. Not only does this give you something to add to your list of extracurriculars, but it also demonstrates a commitment to your future field and provides meaningful experiences to write about in your personal statement. (The importance is a quality experience, not just 15 experiences that you didn’t gather much from)
Ways to gain more experience
- volunteer at a free clinic or health center
- find someone to shadow ( churchmember, relative, your own doctor/ dentist / vet/ optometrist, call the local hospital and see how to go about shadowing a physician there. If you’re like me, there are no family members in healthcare, and you didn’t know of any at your church, well, then you have to think outside the box, and chase your dreams by any means necessary. As a junior, I had the opportunity to shadow an ED doctor at Huntsville hospital, simply because I called and asked if that was possible.)
- medical/ dental mission trips
Flaw 4: Poorly composed written documents
Your personal statement is as important as your stats. This is your opportunity to stand out from the other thousands of applicants, so it can’t be lackluster and ordinary. You want a cohesive application that demonstrates effectively your interest in your field of choice and sparks their interest in you as a potential student.
- Definitely plan to redo your personal statement when you reapply.
- Definitely have it reviewed by multiple people before submitting and choose wisely. You want to choose people with a good handle on grammar, and who will evaluate it critically / objectively rather than just telling you what you want to hear. Better they tear it apart than the admission’s committee members
- Consider the services of personal statement writing company
Flaw 5: Late application
APPLY EARLY, APPLY EARLY, APPLY EARLY. That’ s my number one advice. How do you do that?
- Way in advance familiarize yourself with important deadlines (When does the application portal open up? Your goal should be to have your application ready to submit that day!
- Be organized and have a timeline for what needs to be done when, for example
Dec/Jan of the year you plan to apply: Start prepping outline for personal statement
Jan: Find out the date the application portal opens
Feb: First draft of personal statement
March: Have first draft reviewed / request letters of recommendation and transcripts
April: Finalize personal statement / Start entering data into application portal
June: Hit send!!!!!
Flaw 6: Poor interview skills
So, you got an interview, but did not get an acceptance letter. Take heart, that means your numbers were good enough to make the initial cut, and you merely need to work on your interviewing skills. Like all the other flaws, this can also be remedied
- Set up mock interviews. ( You could visit the career services center at a local college and university and there may be someone willing to conduct such an interview even if you aren’t a student there. )
- Familiarize yourself with the interview style of the schools you will apply to next year ( group, MMI, traditional) and the typical questions that are asked on interviews. Think of your answers, write them out, re-read and hone them. The goal is not to rehearse and memorize them before your interview but you want to be very familiar with them, and the thoughts and concepts that you want to convey so they are more articulately delivered when you go to interview again. Sure, you know why you want to be a physician / dentist / optometrist etc, in your head, but you need to be able to articulate that with fluidity.
Like we said in Rejected, Now what Part one, these major flaws can be remedied, but the key is to know which of these flaws apply to you and then taking the steps to fix them.
Final Advice: Don’t be in a rush to “fix” these problems and run the risk of re-applying too early. If you were unsuccessful for the 2013 – 2014 school year, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking the entire 2014 year and trying to remedy these issues and then applying for the 2015 entering class. It all depends on which flaw applies to your application. Some of these issues ( narrow number of schools applied to, poor interview skills, poor written documents) could be remedied in the next few months and allow the chance to reapply by June/ July for a spot in the 2014 entering class. However, improving one’s academic record, adequate test prep , gaining more clinical experience may be a challenge to accomplish adequately if you are trying to enter the 2014 class. The last thing you want to do is re-apply too early without adequately addressing these issues and risk being rejected a second time around.