The U.S. Medical School Application cycle is in full swing for the 2014 Fall enrollment and many would-be medical students who did not gain admission for the coming year are likely pondering their options: re-apply and wait a year; enroll in a graduate program and re-apply in a year or; look outside the U.S. system.
How do you evaluate the options?
First, contact the admissions office of the medical schools where you applied and find out if they can provide any details as to specific areas where you fell short. Do some research on your own, visit the AAMC web site and review the information on recently accepted students to see if your MCAT score and GPA are outside of the ranges where the largest percentage of of admissions were offered.
You should also consider where you applied. Did you focus on schools in the State in which you have legal residence? This is a signficant factor, more so for State Universities, but a double edged sword. Your State may be one with greater competition and thus even greater hurdles to overcome with your application, however applying to a State or school where the admissions are known to be lower may not help if you're not from the region.
Use the feedback, whether from a non-accepting school or through your own findings, and take a good hard look at how you compare and what your applications' short comings were. Is your MCAT score lower than the current median for acceptance? Where does your GPA place you amongst the competition? Did your personal statement blow them away or make them yawn? Your chance of successfully securing admission as a re-applicant is not based on tenacity or sympathy but in making significant corrections to the aspects of your credentials that previously held you back.
GPA and MCAT scores do not offset one another, successful applicants are strong in both areas.
If your MCAT Score is the issue, rushing out and re-taking the exam isn't likely to solve your problem unless you know that your performance was hampered by illness or another factor that won't be a factor the next test day. According to the AAMC, re-testers tend to score higher their second time around but the amount you gain depends on how you did the first time. The average gain when the original score was between 5-29, when taken again in the the same year, averaged only a two point increase. when the score was above 29 initially, the average gain dropped down to just one point. To make great improvements on a MCAT re-take, an applicant should consider months of study combined with a formal MCAT preparation program or re-taking courses that may bolster the area of weakness.
If your GPA is on the lower side and you've determined that as the potential reason why you were not accepted, there is no quick fix. Re-taking one Biochemistry class to replace your earlier C when your overall track record is primarily B's is not going to have the needed effect. In fact, even if your University has a grade replacement policy, AMCAS requires that all instances of a course be listed and calculated in your GPAs. To significantly alter a GPA you're likely looking at a two year return to school commitment. At least one (or more) year(s) in a post bach or graduate program before you re-apply so that your course work can be included in your new application.
Now perhaps the hardest assessment of all... What is your ultimate goal? If your end goal is to gain admission to a U.S. Medical School then you may want to consider the advice of the Director of Admissions at Ohio State University and his approach to re-applying. However, if your bigger picture goal is to become a Physician, then consider an alternate path to earning your MD, one that does not greatly extend your timeline or tack on additional debt from graduate or post bach programs.
Many people are simply unaware that some International medical schools and Caribbean medical schools in particular are structured to mirror the curriculum, timeline and clinical experience offered by medical schools in the U.S.
Like in the U.S., Caribbean medical school students spend two years devoted to the foundation of medicine, the Basic Sciences. To become licensed in the U.S., International medical students will complete the same Medical Board exams (the USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK and CS and Step 3) as are required by U.S. medical students. The second half of the MD degree program takes place in the U.S. where core and elective clinical rotations are conducted and students from national and international schools may round together.
After earning an MD and with strong scores in the USMLE Step exams, U.S. and International students can apply for a Residency through the National Residency Match Program and vie for their top ranked programs where they'll gain the experience to pursue their specialty and be on their way to becoming practicing physicians.
If after careful consideration of your credentials, you determine that the time, expense and uncertainty outweigh the investment in resources needed for going another round in the competitive U.S. Admission cycle, then consider an alternate route to achieving your goal, one that you could potentially begin the next September, January or May.