Each year, thousands of medical school applicants are turned away and forced to reconsider their career paths. According to a report (1) by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the acceptance rate for U.S. medical school applicants in 2012 was a mere 43.1 percent. To increase your own chances of acceptance to the medical school that’s right for you, it would be helpful to consider the most common reasons why applicants are rejected.

1) Unimpressive numbers. While medical schools are ultimately seeking out individuals who have the whole package, nothing can replace a solid academic record and a high MCAT score. To pass the initial screening process for medical school admission and receive a secondary application, applicants must fulfill minimum GPA and MCAT requirements. Medical school enrollees typically have higher grades and MCAT scores than the average applicant. Take a look at last year’s numbers:

    Average GPA of applicants: 3.54
    Average GPA of matriculants: 3.68
    Average MCAT score of applicants: 28.3
    Average MCAT score of matriculants: 31.2

2) Lack of clinical experience. It’s not easy to convince admissions officers that your passion lies in medicine if you have no experience in a clinical setting. To get some exposure to the medical world, try shadowing a physician or volunteering in a local clinic or hospital. This will help you figure out if medicine is really the right path for you, and give you something solid to talk about in your personal statement and interview.

3) Poor interview skills. A recent AAMC report (2) noted that when deciding who to ultimately admit to a medical school, admissions officers rely most heavily on the interview and letters of recommendation. The medical school interview is your chance to display interpersonal and communication skills essential for a career in medicine. It also gives you an opportunity to express your motivations behind this career choice and get a better feel for the school environment. Practice talking about yourself prior to your interview, whether with a friend, a pre-med advisor, or yourself in front of the mirror.

4) Unrealistic application strategy. Qualified medical school applicants may not get any acceptances if they don’t apply to a wide enough range of schools. Meet with a pre-medical advisor to get a better idea of where you have a good chance of getting accepted. While you should certainly shoot for your dream schools, be sure to focus your attention on schools in which you are competitive in terms of grades and MCAT scores. And submit applications to schools in which you are much more competitive than the average enrollee to increase your chances of acceptance.

(1) MCAT Scores and GPAs for Applicants and Matriculants to U.S. Medical Schools, 2001-2012
(2) Medical School Admissions: More than Grades and Test Scores (2011)

More on your medical school application

How are med school applications evaluated?
What makes a strong medical school application?
How to strengthen your chances for medical school admission.
Understanding the medical school application timeline.

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