Three Common Reasons for Medical School Rejection

Rejection letter

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After months of waiting and hoping, you get the word: Your application to medical school was rejected. It’s never an easy email to read.  You’re not alone, but knowing that doesn’t make it easier. Get angry, grieve, and then, if you are considering reapplying, take action.  Medical school applications are rejected for a wide range of reasons. Often it is as simple as too many stellar applicants and too few spots. How do you increase your odds of gaining admission next time? Learn from your experience. Consider these three common reasons why medical school applications may be rejected.

Poor Grades
One of the best predictors of achievement is past achievement.  Your academic record is important as it tells admissions committees about your academic capacities, commitment, and consistency. The best applicants consistently earn a high grade point average (GPA) in their general education classes and especially their premed science curriculum. More rigorous courses tend to be weighted more heavily than less challenging classes. Admissions committees might also consider the institution’s reputation in considering an applicant’s GPA.  However, some admissions committees use GPA as a screening tool to narrow the applicant pool, without considering applicants’ coursework or institution.  Like it or not, have explanations or not, a GPA of less than 3.5 can be blamed, at least partly, for being rejected from medical school.    

Poor MCAT Score
While some medical schools use GPA as a screening tool, the majority of med schools turn to Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores to weed out applicants (and some institutions use a combined GPA and MCAT score).  Applicants come from different institutions, with different coursework, and different academic experiences, making it difficult to draw comparisons. MCAT scores are critical because they are the only tool admissions committees have for making direct comparisons among applicants – apples to apples, so to speak.  A minimum MCAT score of 30 is recommended.  Do all applicants with MCAT scores of 30 get accepted or even interviewed? No, but 30 is a good rule of thumb as to a reasonable score that can keep some doors from closing. 

Lack of Clinical Experience
The most successful medical school applicants obtain clinical experience and relay this experience to the admissions committee. What is clinical experience? It sounds fancy but it is simply experience within a medical setting that allows you to learn something about some aspect of medicine.  Clinical experience shows the admissions committee that you know what you are getting in to and illustrates your commitment. After all, how can you convince a committee that medical career is for you if you haven’t even observed medical personnel at work?  Discuss this experience in the activities and experience section of the  American Medical College Application (AMCAS).

Clinical experience can include shadowing a physician or two, volunteering in a clinic or hospital, or participating in an internship through your university. Some premed programs offer opportunities for premed students to acquire clinical experience. If your program doesn’t offer help in obtaining clinical experience, don’t worry. Try speaking with a professor or visit a local clinic or hospital and offer to volunteer. If you go this route make contact with someone at the facility who will supervise you and consider asking a faculty member at your university to establish contact with your supervisor. Remember that obtaining clinical experience is great for your application but it is especially helpful when you can specify site and faculty supervisors who can write recommendations on your behalf.

No one wants to read a rejection letter. It is often hard to determine exactly why an applicant is rejected, but GPA, MCAT scores, and clinical experience are three critical factors.  Other areas to examine include recommendation letters, also known as letters of evaluation, and admissions essays.  As you contemplate reapplying, reevaluate your choices of medical schools to ensure that they best fit your credentials. Most important, apply early to have the best odds of admission to medical school. Rejection Is not necessarily the end of the line.

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Your Citation
Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "Three Common Reasons for Medical School Rejection." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. (2020, August 28). Three Common Reasons for Medical School Rejection. Retrieved from Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "Three Common Reasons for Medical School Rejection." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 2, 2023).