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Rejected From Medical School: What You Need To Do Next

Rejected From Medical School: What You Need To Do Next

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

Getting rejected from medical school can feel like a major setback in your journey to becoming a doctor.

It’s natural to feel disheartened, but it’s crucial not to lose sight of your ambition and to remember that rejection doesn’t mean you’re never going to get there.

What you might not know is that I was actually rejected from 3 out of the 4 medical schools I applied to.

It was these rejections that ultimately motivated me to learn more about the medicine application process and so start this website.

The key to overcoming this obstacle is understanding the reasons behind your rejection and using that knowledge to improve your application for future attempts.

Understanding The Reasons For Rejection

If you don’t take the time to understand why you were rejected from medical school in the first place, you’re just going to make the exact same mistakes the next time you apply.

Why Applicants Are Rejected From Medical School Pixel Infographic

Academic Performance

If the worst does happen and you’re rejected from every medical school you applied to, I think a good place to start is to take the time to reevaluate your academic records.

University admission panels generally put a lot of weight on factors such as your A-levels, GCSEs and UCAT score, so it’s essential that you meet or surpass their expectations.

It is crucial to focus on improving your grades and UCAT score if this is the reason behind your rejection.

Consider investing in UCAT preparatory classes or seeking additional help in subjects where your grades were lower than desired.

If you do find that your grades or test scores are lower than the average for accepted students (you can often Google this), consider dedicating time to improving them before reapplying.

Lack Of Clinical Experience

Another reason you may have been rejected is a lack of clinical work experience.

Medical schools want to see that you’ve had hands-on exposure to the medical field before starting your studies.

If you haven’t, how can they be sure you actually understand what you’re signing up for?

To increase your chances of acceptance in the future, seek out opportunities to gain more clinical experience, such as volunteering in hospitals, shadowing doctors, or participating in research projects.

Medical schools value these experiences and a minority even require a certain number of clinical hours for admission.

Poor Interview Skills

Lastly, poor interview skills might have contributed to your rejection.

To be honest, I think this is what let me down when I originally applied.

I don’t think I gave my medicine interviews the respect or preparation they deserved, leading to the majority of the medical schools that I applied to rejecting me.

An applicant’s personal qualities are essential as medical schools often assess your ability to communicate effectively and handle difficult situations.

A young lady sat in a medicine interview
A medicine applicant undergoing her interview

To improve your interview performance, consider engaging in mock interviews or working with an interview coach.

Practising your answers to common medical school interview questions and refining your communication skills will increase your chances of impressing future interviewers and therefore getting that offer the next time around.

Improving Your Medical School Application

Once you’ve identified some of the weaknesses of your previous application, your next step is to improve it for the next application cycle.

Strengthening Your Personal Statement

Your personal statement is a crucial part of your medical school application.

To improve it, reflect on your motivations for pursuing medicine, and make sure these are presented clearly and effectively.

If you’re unsure about your writing, consider seeking help from a mentor, academic advisor, or professional editing service.

Ensure you’re addressing these key points:

  • Why you’re passionate about medicine
  • Relevant personal experiences and what you learned from them
  • Your motivations for selecting a particular medical school

Break your statement into clear, well-written paragraphs for easy readability and you’ll be well on your way to having a killer piece of writing.

Gaining More Clinical Experience

Gaining more clinical experience is essential in showcasing your commitment to the field.

If you’re going to take a year out to apply to medical school again, you can very rarely go wrong by adding in some extra work experience over the year.

To enhance your application, consider engaging in the following activities:

  • Shadowing physicians in various specialties
  • Volunteering at hospitals or clinics
  • Becoming a certified healthcare assistant

Keep track of your experiences, and add them to your application to demonstrate your dedication to medicine.

Enhancing Your Interview Technique

The interview is an important part of the application process, as it allows schools to assess your interpersonal and communication skills.

If I’d had to reapply to medical school, it’s the area I would have focussed most of my time on.

To improve your interview technique, consider these tips:

  • Practice answering common questions and reflecting on your personal experiences
  • Conduct mock interviews with friends or mentors
  • Research the specific medical school and prepare targeted responses

Remember to maintain eye contact, be confident, and engage in active listening during the interview.

This is of course all a lot easier said than done, but the only way you’re going to get better is by putting in the practice hours in the lead-up to the next interview season.

Alternative Pathways To Medicine

While most students will go straight from school to university to study medicine, there are actually a lot more ways that you can go about becoming a doctor.

Graduate Entry Programmes

If you’ve been rejected from medical school, consider applying for a graduate entry programme (a.k.a. GEM).

Graduate entry medicine is designed for graduates with a bachelor’s degree who wish to pursue a medical degree.

These programmes are accelerated, typically lasting four years instead of the traditional five or six years for undergraduate medicine.

They are available at the majority of UK medical schools and could be your second chance to get into medicine.

Overseas Medical Schools

Another option to consider is studying at an overseas medical school.

There are lots of alternatives to the UK for studying medicine around the world that offer high-quality medical education.

By broadening your search, you may find a medical school that suits your needs and accepts your academic qualifications.

An outside view of Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School in America

Countries like Ireland, Australia, Canada, and the United States have well-regarded medical schools that could provide you with an excellent education and a chance to explore a new culture.

There are even medical schools in Europe that have established links with British hospital trusts, meaning foreign graduates are regularly recruited into the NHS.

Medical Science Degrees

If you’re determined to work in the healthcare field but uncertain about securing a place in medical school, a degree in Medical Science might be the right fit for you.

These degrees offer in-depth knowledge of human health, disease, and the medical field.

You can use this knowledge to find a fulfilling career in healthcare, or potentially use your degree as a stepping stone to reapply to medical school in the future.

Options include Biomedical Science, Physiology, and Pharmacology degrees, among others. A few of these courses even offer a transfer to a university’s medicine program in their second year.

Just try to remember, being rejected from medical school is not the end of your journey to becoming a medical professional.

Alternative pathways like these present valuable opportunities to continue pursuing your passion for medicine.

Reapplying To Medical School

If you have gone done the road of reapplying to medical school after an initial rejection, there are a few factors that I recommend you consider.

Choosing The Right Universities

When considering reapplying to medical school, it’s important to evaluate the universities you’re applying to.

The choices you make for your 4 UCAS slots can be one of the most important determinants for whether or not your application will be successful.

Research each university’s culture, location, and curriculum to ensure they align with your personal values and goals.

Additionally, examine their average grade requirements and UCAT scores to gauge where your application stands compared to their accepted students.

Create a list of schools you believe would be a good fit, and make note of any application improvements you can make to increase your chances of being accepted.

A balanced list might include reach, target, and safety universities. Remember, if you’re reapplying to the same school, they’ll likely still have a record of your previous application, so it’s crucial to demonstrate growth and improvement since your last attempt.

Timing Your Application

Timing is key when reapplying to medical school. You don’t want to jump the gun too soon.

One crucial aspect is ensuring you’ve taken enough time to address any deficiencies in your previous application before submitting a new one. 

Rather than hastily reapplying, take the time to strengthen your application by:

A lot of students choose to split a gap year between working on their application and travelling.

This is absolutely fine but just be careful you don’t set off on your travels before you’ve done enough to strengthen your application!

In summary, carefully choose the universities to which you’re reapplying and ensure you’ve allocated enough time to strengthen and submit your application.

By being strategic and focusing on improvement, you’ll improve your chances of success in your second attempt at getting into medical school.

Consider Other Medical Careers

While being a doctor is great, it’s definitely not the be-all and end-all of a happy life. There are plenty of other careers that will likely meet the same reasons that you’re applying to medicine.

Healthcare Related Professions

If you have been rejected from medical school, it’s essential to explore alternative career paths that align with your interests and passion.

One option is pursuing a career in healthcare-related professions. Some of these options include:

  • Nursing: As a nurse, you will provide patient care, educate patients about their conditions, and offer emotional support. Registered nurses (RNs) often work in hospitals, clinics, or nursing homes, and require a bachelor’s degree in nursing or, in some cases, an associate’s degree.
  • Physician Associate: Physician associates (PAs) work alongside doctors, treating patients under the supervision of a physician. They can perform many of the same tasks that doctors do, such as diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medication. To become a PA, you’ll need to complete a master’s degree in a physician associate program.
  • Occupational Therapist: Occupational therapists work with patients who have physical or mental disabilities and help them develop or regain their ability to complete daily tasks. They typically require a degree in occupational therapy.

Biomedical Science Careers

Another option for those rejected from medical school is to delve into biomedical science careers. These roles often involve researching and developing treatments, diagnostic tools, or medical devices. Some biomedical science careers include:

  • Biomedical Engineer: Biomedical engineers apply engineering principles and materials technology to healthcare. They can work in areas such as medical equipment design, tissue engineering, or developing artificial organs. A bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering or a related field is required.
  • Pharmacologist: Pharmacologists study how drugs interact with biological systems, conducting research to develop new medications and improve existing ones. They typically have a background in life sciences, such as biology or chemistry. A PhD in pharmacology is often needed to advance in this field. (You could also consider pharmacy.)
  • Clinical Research Associate: Clinical research associates are responsible for monitoring and overseeing clinical trials. They ensure that trials are conducted ethically and in compliance with regulations. A bachelor’s degree, often in a life science subject, is necessary.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, receiving a rejection from medical school may feel discouraging, but it doesn’t mean the end of your dream of becoming a doctor.

Understanding the reasons behind your rejection is crucial for improvement. Evaluating academic performance, seeking more clinical experience and honing interview skills are all essential steps to enhancing your application.

Additionally, alternative pathways to medicine, such as graduate entry programs or studying abroad, offer valuable opportunities to achieve your goals.

What you do after your rejection from medical school will very much shape what the coming year will look like for you. Follow the steps I’ve laid out in this article and I’m confident you’ll be in with a good shot of getting in the next time around.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.