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How to Handle a Medical School Rejection Peacefully

Medical School Rejection

Every year, thousands of applicants are rejected from medical school. It may have been you or someone you know. I’m sure everyone can think of someone who had perfect grades, MCAT scores, great extracurriculars, plenty of research and a great personality that was rejected from medical school. This isn’t uncommon. In fact, not being accepted into medical school is the norm. It’s the expected statistical outcome; there are way too many applicants for too few seats. All applicants should have been aware of this.

However, it’s hard to believe that an admissions system run by smart and supposedly fair people can turn away amazing applicants year after year. We try to justify these seemingly arbitrary decisions in many ways. He must have bombed the interview and did poorly, she chose the wrong people to write her references, their grades just weren’t competitive enough. You application was poorly put together and there were just too many better candidates than you.

But that’s not true, you are still a good person.

Despite a rejection, I believe that if you worked hard during undergrad, maintained good grades and balanced activities, and know how to interact with people, you are still a good candidate. You would be just as good of a doctor as those who were admitted.

Obviously there will be applicants that did not stand a chance in the first place. These people usually know it; their grades are poor, they haven’t done anything to show their interest, they put together a sloppy application. But if your grades are above previous year’s admitted average and you have talked to medical students who have confirmed what you are doing is enough, you are still just as good as you were before.

It wasn’t your fault you were rejected

It truly isn’t. If you have done everything right and you were still rejected, don’t feel bad for yourself. There were factors that were out of your control that lead to that rejection. I know of friends with degrees from Harvard and Yale who were rejected from some medical schools.

Most medical students have rejections from medical schools.

If you sample any medical school, an overwhelming majority will have had at least one rejection letter. Only a very small number of people will have no rejections and all acceptances. A good number of medical students have applied more than once, some even twice or more. You are not alone.

Take advantage of setbacks, learn to grow stronger with them.

Realize that facing adversity and rebounding from failure in the long-term is good for you. Take the time you have from the rejection to re-evaluate your own personal goals and make yourself a better person. Don’t do it to improve your application, but do it for yourself. If you haven’t thought about your motivations for being a doctor seriously before, you have now been given one of the best times to do so.

Sooner or later, we will all encounter failure

And learning to deal with failures appropriately is the key to future success. Even if you get in on your first attempt, you will eventually make mistakes as a medical student. It is inevitable that you will slip up or make an error as a resident that might cost someone’s life. Your rejection now is just a glimpse of what is to come. Don’t feel dejected from it, it happens to everyone.

If you are dedicated and passionate enough, you will get it.

Whether it’s this year, next year, three years down the road or more, if medicine is something you truly want to do, you will eventually get it. If you are one of those stellar applicants who are in shock because they were missed this cycle, it’s only a matter of time before you get in. If you feel like you should have got in, you most likely will sooner or later. Take this rejection from medical school as fuel for your future endeavors.

Over the last few years, I have kept every acceptance and rejection letter I have received. All my university, scholarship, and job application letters are stored away in a box. From time to time, I empty out its contents and look over the successes and rejections I have accumulated. And time and time again, I realize it’s my missed attempts and failures and how I dealt with and overcame them that fill me with pride.

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  1. Perani
    Perani June 13, 2009

    Thank you for this post. This year I have had many (almost everything I’ve applied for..) rejections coming my way. Although none of them were rejections from medical school (i’m a gr.12 student) I still put a lot of effort, time, energy and love into my applications. You’re post has helped me gain my self-confidence that I lost slowly throughout the course of this year. None of my friends or family have been able to understand the feelings I felt each time I got a rejection letter. Maybe it was because I didn’t tell them of my feelings or maybe it was because, unlike me, they all got what they applied for and what they wanted. I was the only one that didn’t although I thought I really did deserve to get many of them (maybe not all..but many). No one told me though that “It’s not your fault.” Rather they attempted to either over analyze my rejection or they made light of the issue. That just made my wounds deeper. Throughout this year though I have grown greatly as an individual. I have begun to realize who I really am, my potential and areas in which I need to grow. Your words have greatly helped me in my healing process. Thank you.

    • Xantara
      Xantara May 15, 2011

      That’s more than snsielbe! That’s a great post!

  2. Gavin
    Gavin May 27, 2010

    Thanks for the advice!

  3. […] Finally, applying for schools and deciding which school to attend is two different things. You should always apply to all the schools that you can see yourself attending. The more schools you apply to, the better your chances are for an acceptance letter. Deciding on the right one depends on which schools have accepted or rejected you. (See: How to Handle a Rejection Letter) […]

  4. Andy
    Andy September 29, 2011

    “If you are dedicated and passionate enough, you will get it.”

    Excellent advise …. as the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going …. and going through medical school is tough indeed.

    Thanks for the great post.


  5. Ally French
    Ally French March 25, 2012

    It’s much easier to become a doctor in Europe…

    • Lauri Lähde
      Lauri Lähde April 3, 2013

      Depends on the country…
      In Finland you can only apply to ONE med-school per year, and if you decide to apply to the best, which has an acceptance rate of 6% you will compete against students who study 8h a day for 9months.

      over 90% of the accepted have tried more than once…

  6. […] everyone who may have recently been rejected from medical school, sometimes it’s not your fault. You did everything you could and the numbers just didn’t land in your […]

  7. Luposolace
    Luposolace January 13, 2014

    Thanks for this! I was feeling really down when I got my rejection notice from med school. But I guess you’re right, these things happen so that we can learn and grow from them. I’m going to keep trying my best and reapply and never give up!

  8. Sara
    Sara June 10, 2014

    I know the feeling. I’ve just received a letter from my medical school with the grade I’ve scored on the test to get in. It wasn’t that good and I even know some people who have lower grades for their GCSE than I do.. Many grades are all really good on my GCSE but here in Europe that really doesn’t matter anymore because everything depends on the test for med school. You can even get in if your average score on your GCSE is 5.5. So you see how kind of unfair it is sometimes.. I will try to make the test next year and hopefully I will succeed than. Thanks for your article though, it gave me hope.

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