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Medical School Reapplication Considerations

What Happens After You Apply

A. Waiting

If you apply to medical school under the Early Decision Program and are accepted, you will get the good news on or before October 1. Otherwise, the earliest you can hope to hear is November 15, and the notification process drags on through April. Generally speaking, schools will request interviews and send out admission notices starting with the students they consider the best qualified. The earlier you hear, the higher you were on their list. Admission procedures and policies vary considerably, however. You should also keep in mind that the sooner you get your completed application in, the sooner the medical school is likely to act on it. Most schools begin processing applications well in advance of their deadlines for accepting them.

You should not despair if a fellow pre-medical student gets an interview request or admission notification to a school to which you have also applied before you hear anything. This does not mean that you have been rejected. Medical schools do not send their notifications out in one big batch; sometimes one student will hear several months before another. There's not much you can do except be patient and try not to fret.

B. Acceptance

If you are accepted by a medical school, you will usually have two weeks to respond. In order to hold your place in that school's class you will have to put down a deposit. If the first school that accepts you is your first choice, then you have no problems. If it isn't your first choice, you should send the deposit anyway in order to play it safe. Most schools will refund your deposit if you choose to withdraw. As soon as the school you most want to attend accepts you, you should withdraw applications at the other schools on your list.

Assuming that you are accepted before you graduate, your acceptance will be conditional on your completing your remaining courses with passing grades and obtaining a diploma.

C. Alternate Status

You may be informed that you are on the waiting list for admission. If anyone drops out of the entering class before the first day of classes, the school will fill the empty position with the highest person on its waiting list. You could be notified at any time so you should keep your plans flexible. Usually a school will tell you where you are on the waiting list and approximately what your chances are for getting a place.

If you are designated as an alternate and do not get in, it is worth reapplying for the following year. You should use the intervening time to strengthen your application by working in a medical field or attending a graduate program.

What To Do If You're Not Accepted

Rejection is a possibility you must consider; it is, after all, the fate of 60% of all medical school applicants. The first decision is whether to reapply. You should realistically assess your qualifications; if your grade point average and/or your MCAT scores are low, you would probably be wise to give up on medical school and get started on a different career. If you did not get interviews at the schools to which you applied, you did not meet their basic requirements for admission, and you must either take heroic measures or give up.

If your academic qualifications are within the range of those of accepted applicants, you should try to strengthen your record and apply again. If your MCAT scores were low, study industriously and take the exam again. You should be warned, however, that if you re-take the MCAT and fail to raise your scores, you will be in worse shape than you were before. The Admissions Committee might be willing to overlook one set of mediocre scores on the grounds that you had a bad day or a runny nose; two sets of mediocre scores will confirm their suspicion that you are a mediocre student. If your grades are less than awe-inspiring, register for graduate work and get straight A's. Any medical experience you can get will help prove your seriousness and dedication to a medical career. If you do not take any action to improve your record between your first application and your second, your chances for success are less the second time than they were the first. The powers-that-be will give you credit for stubbornness but not much else. If you raise your MCAT scores by a couple of points, take graduate courses in some medicine-related discipline and work as a hospital orderly, a medical school is more likely to reconsider your application favorably. Your chances of succeeding on a third (or fourth or fifth) try are very slim. If you don't get in on the second attempt, you probably won't.

A second possibility for a rejected applicant is attending a foreign medical school. This is not an alternative that can be recommended highly if your ultimate goal is to practice medicine in the United States. For a variety of reasons, entrance into the nationally-supported medical schools of Western European countries is extremely difficult for foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens. The foreign medical schools open to U.S. students are generally in Mexico and the Caribbean countries. Characteristically, these schools have large application fees and high tuitions. Instruction, usually in the native language, is frequently by large group lecture, with little opportunity for laboratory or clinical experience. Most U.S. citizens studying medicine abroad either plan to transfer back to a U.S. medical school or to enter graduate medical education in this country. You should be warned, however, that only 30% of such students pass the National Examination, Part I, the test required for transfer to U.S. medical schools. Only 36% of U.S. graduates of foreign medical schools pass the certification examinations necessary to practice medicine or do graduate medical work in this country.

In summary, the chances for a United States citizen to obtain a quality medical education abroad are very limited, and the possibility for being exploited by schools catering to the U.S. student market is great. Most students are better off considering alternative careers.

If your interest in medicine focuses on research or teaching, then you should consider entering a graduate program in your major or a closely related field. If your main goal is to work with people in a helping role, you might find a rewarding career in hospital administration, clinical psychology, guidance counseling, social work, or teaching. If you want to be involved in health care, you should look into the other health care careers summarized in the preceding section.


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