One of the good things about WordPress is that under blog stats, you can see what search terms have gotten people to your site. Granted, practically every tracker in the world has that these days (as far as I know), but it’s still useful considering the rest of their tracker stats are pretty darn bare-boned. (My favorite has always been eXTReMe Tracking, because despite their crazy 14-year-old girl capitalization, they are free and give you an amazing number of stats.)
Er, random website plugs aside (I don’t get paid, folks!), apparently someone got to my site today by searching for: “what do to after medical school rejectio.” (I’m going to assume that should end with an N.)
Okay, so reading that broke my heart a little bit. For all my constant complaining, I really am very lucky that I’ve gotten into a med school at all. And I can’t imagine what I would do if I hadn’t gotten in anywhere. Even though I often (still) question whether or not my motivations to be a doctor are strong enough, I had already put so much hope and planning into going to medical school in the fall that it would be a huge blow to not be able to.
So, I have never been in the situation, but here is my advice (completely from my limited personal experience, having never been an advisor of any kind, being only a lowly early-20s med school applicant just like yourself) on what I would do about not getting into medical school.
1. Re-evaluate. Decide once more if being a doctor is truly what you want. I’m not questioning anyone’s motives, of course. But, if there was someone kind of on the fence (er, not mentioning names or anything) who had not gotten into medical school, perhaps it could be one of those “blessings in disguise” I always hear about. Basically, decide if being a doctor is something you are so passionate about that you’re willing to go through the whole grueling application and interview process again.
By the way, the search term was general enough that it might’ve been someone who had simply been disappointed by one school, but had gotten in somewhere else. As my medical school advisor would evilly tell you, if you’re accepted at a school, you should likely go. If becoming a doctor really is that important to you, you should go. There is always the (admittedly miniscule, but still tangible) possibility of transfer if you really hate that school.
2. Get over the disappointment. I’m sure I’m entering into obnoxious territory right now, as this is probably way, way harder than it sounds, or than I could imagine. But, it must be done. In all probability, you are not a bad candidate. But we all know when we apply to med school that we’re up against some crazy cats. (My school keeps an anonymous book of med school applicants’ stats and where they got in, and one person had gotten a 4.0 in science and 3.9 overall. WHO DOES THAT?!) Something like not getting into medical school should not be a permanent blow to anyone’s ego.
3. Figure out why. That is, if you still care at this point. Maybe you decided you don’t want to be a doctor after all and screw the man, yeah, dude! But otherwise, this is probably a useful step — and again, probably way harder than it sounds. But figure out every weak point in your application, and go over every weak moment of your interviews. If possible, talk to your undergraduate career office, which should have assistance for med school applicants even after you graduate. Have your friends and family read over your med school essay, especially if you didn’t have them do so beforehand.
4. If you still think it’s important, plan to re-apply. What’s tough is that you’re going to want to offer medical schools more than you did this year, if at all possible. So attack all the stuff you and your advisors thought was weak in your first application. Do practice interviews with “interviewers” of all kinds (mean, nice, existential) in preparation. Use your undergraduate career office as often as you want; make them sick of you, who cares, it’s their job to help you and they’ll be happy to. Maybe even work into your essay your unfortunate experience of getting rejected, and how it subsequently fired up your passion for medicine even more than it had before. You also might want to include more schools that are easier to get into this time around, just in case.
Re-applying might also mean doing something you never wanted to do. I’m thinking of one thing. Retaking the MCAT. God, I don’t know about you, but when I took that fucker all I knew at the end was that I sure in hell never wanted to go through that again (excuse the sudden reappearance of curses, the MCAT will do that to you). But if you and your advisors and your friends all go through your application and think the MCAT was the weakest point, you may decide you have to retake it. And if that is the case, I am truly sorry … but good luck. On the plus side, the new one is reported to take up to two hours shorter, and … er, sorry, but that’s all the positives I can see.
5. Figure out your plan. If you’re not going to re-apply, that is a pretty large order, and I’m bad with career decisions, so I’m not even going to pretend to have help there. If you are re-applying, then it’ll likely just be one more year. Obviously, if you’re currently working, you’ll probably want to stay there. Otherwise, my pre-med career advisors sent out a lot of “year-off before med school” type of job advertisements, so perhaps they could help you with finding a job, or at least identifying something you want to do for that time. I hate lab work, but wanted to do something at least vaguely involved in medicine, so I now work in clinical trials. I eventually found my current job off monster.com. And my mom sent me about a bajillion postings, so yeah, if you’re on good terms with them, get your family involved.
Besides, in my opinion, it was a very good thing for me to take a year off, so if you were a senior applying and may have to re-apply, it won’t be the worst thing in the world. You may end up being more financially secure and ready for medical school in that respect, at least. And I loved being able to live on my own in an apartment, with a real job that didn’t follow me home at night in the form of papers or studying, for the first time in my life. I think it was a really valuable thing before med school.
I don’t know. This could all have been a bunch of b.s. and a huge waste of my last half an hour (in which case, rock on, since work sucks!). And I’m sure I’ve missed some important things. But I think the most important thing is to stay positive.
That’s all I got.