By now, senior prehealth students across the country and the campus are excited as they tote around acceptance /s to professional school. It’s hard to contain their excitement as they see that they are one step closer to the dream of becoming a healthcare professional. This is not the case for the majority of students however. Every year more hopeful students get rejected than get accepted to professional school. Yes, you read that right. Every year the applicant pool gets more competitive and fewer students are accepted. Don’t believe me! Check out the data right here . Looking at this data and doing a little math, you’ll see that in 2006 – 2007, 47% of total applicants were accepted, compared to 41% in 2015-2016 application cycle. So do not be discouraged, it is very very difficult to get into professional school. You’ll also notice that for each year about 25% of the applicants were repeat applicants. So I say all that to say, your goal to become a physician is not out of your reach. However in order to increase your chances of a successful application cycle in the future you have to do a few things.
MAKE AN HONEST ASSESSMENT
You’ve taken the time to mourn and wallow in disappointment, while celebrating with your friends, now its time to get to work. First thing you have to do is truly look at your application and identify the deficits. The only thing worse than not being accepted, is to turn around the submit the same application the next time your apply. You can’t improve your application unless your first identify the areas that need improvement. So, where were your deficits: a poorly written personal statement, poor undergraduate grades, less than stellar MCAT score? Inadequate shadowing experience? Poor interviewing skills? Whatever it was, luckily, it can be remedied, but only if you identify it. It’s ok if you find that there are multiple areas where your application could be improved.
SET UP A GAMEPLAN / TIMELINE
Oftentimes people talk about a gap year, but what it really turns out to be is a few years. Remember that the application for professional school is usually submitted 1 year prior to starting classes, so if you planning to reapply for the 2017 entering class you would need to submit your application this summer, which means you don’t have much time to make a lot of improvements. If you have every had a one on one meeting with me, you know I’m all about the timelines. I love timelines because they give a guide as to where you need to be, what you should be doing when. The challenge with the prehealth path is that there is a lot of pre-planning. For eg: summer plans are not made in the summer, they are researched in Nov/December, applied for in January, accepted to in March/April. If you wait till the spring to start thinking of what you’re going to do for the summer, you will find that lots of deadlines for research and enrichment programs are closed. Same for application season. Planning to take the MCAT in August, means your set a light spring semester schedule in Nov/Dec, so you can have time to study during the spring semester. So, if you are planning to reapply and join the 2017 entering class, your timeline will look like this:
March 2016: Launch plan B, since I didn’t get accepted this year
March 2016 – July 2016: Fix whatever deficit there was on my application that played a role in me not being accepted
August 2016: Reapply to medical school
August 2016 – December 2016: *Work. Complete secondary applications
December 2016 – Feb 2017: Interview for medical school
Feb 2017 – May 2017: Sort through my acceptances for medical school and pray about which to go to J
August 2017: Start medical school.
The most important part of this timeline is in bold. March 2016 – July 2016 is NOT that much time and so the deficits you noted when you gave an honest assessment of your application may not be able to be overcome in that short space of time. So, your gap year, goes from being a gap year to a gap 2 years. That is perfectly OK. Realize that many students end up taking 2 years before they start medical school, because one year is spent improving the application and the other is spent going through the process of applying, interviewing and getting accepted. The time in between undergrad and medical school doesn’t really matter. What matters is, is your application better the second time around. Do not reapply until your have crafted a more competitive application.
So what are your options? Your options depend on where your deficits are.
Poor MCAT score: Set up a detailed study plan now and prepare to take the test in August. Only do this if you will be able to devote sufficient time daily and more time on weekends to really study. If you aren’t ready to employ a hardcore study schedule, or your class schedule doesn’t permit you to devote much time to specific MCAT studying then defer your plans to start with the 2017 entering class. There is no use to retake the MCAT if you will not have adequate time to prepare well to ensure a better score. This is not the time for blind optimism. Be honest with yourself. MCAT prep takes time. If you don’t have the time, don’t plan to take the test this summer just so you can try and reapply for the entering class of 2017. If you will have time to employ a hardcore schedule, also consider taking a commercial MCAT prep course. They are expensive but can be extremely helpful if utilized appropriately, in conjunction with adequate personal study! You could enroll in the online courses available now, or plan to study on your own for the test of the school year and take a classroom course in your home town this summer.
No shadowing: Contact your home church and see if there are any doctors who will let you shadow. Contact your physician of physician of your parent and see if they will let you shadow. Shoot me an email and I can try and reach out to a physician I may know in your hometown to try and help make a connection. Contact your local hospitals and see if they have job shadowing programs – more offer this program than you think!
Poor undergraduate GPA: Retake some classes. Enroll in a post bacc program for academic improvement.
No research experience: Look for research assistant positions at local universities for full time work, you can participate in after graduation. Research summer research programs, there may still be a few that have deadlines in March.
Poor interviews: Your application was enough to get you interviewed but somehow you ended up with no acceptances. Practice mock interviewing with faculty members, family members in the summer.
Poor personal statement: Have your statement reviewed by faculty, family members, professionals. Consider revamping it if it reads like a resume and simply lists all the things you’ve done in your undergrad years. Read the following posts on the components of a strong personal statement
DON’T GIVE UP!
Finally, don’t give up. Your dream is still in reach, you just gotta work for it. Applicants who need to apply more than once have the same potential to be successful. Like this student. Allison applied 4 times! Antonio applied 3, and is now in one of the most competitive specialities. IT.IS.POSSIBLE. Know that you are not alone. During the 2015 – 2016 cycle, almost 31,000 people were right where you are now: moving one step closer to medical school by learning from their mistakes and working to develop a more competitive application.
Good luck, keep the faith and know that the plans God has for you, He will bring to fruition in his time! You are right where you’re supposed to be