10 Common Mistakes
Now the most difficult aspect of the application process, you must wait until the admissions committee makes a decision. The wait could be days, weeks, or in some cases, months. During this period it is an optimal time to develop contingency plans, short range and long range:
- What will you do next year if you don’t get admitted?
- What other careers are of interest to you not as alternatives but fully compatible with your interests, abilities and academic record?
Make sure the different institutions have your current phone number,
address and email. You may be told you have been accepted or not accepted, put on a“wait” list or an acceptable holding category. If accepted you will have a designated period in
which to decide on accepting or rejecting the acceptance. A student can usually hold multiple acceptances for a defined time period and then make a decision, selecting one school. For example, medical schools require applicants to select one medical school by May 15th. In contrast, dental schools do not require students to select one school by a defined date but will require deposit to hold your place in class. Financial Aid applications are usually made early in the process and it is not wise to wait until the very end of the decision process.
If students are not accepted it is beneficial for them to contact the school in the
summer to set up an appointment to discuss why their application was unsuccessful. With
the trend at some schools towards older students, age and/or experience may be a major
factor. Reapplication is encouraged at most schools, and in some cases, a necessity to gain admittance. Students should determine what has changed in their approach or application before reapplying. A list of suggestions from Pfizer concerning unsuccessful medical school applicants is reprinted below and may be useful to students though not premed. Students must demonstrate that they are different and have made the recommended changes. If not accepted, it is an opportune time to reassess your career goals and develop long range plans.
Many students benefit from a free year between college and a health professions program. This year is usually called a "gap year" and can be very beneficial. Many students in their senior year have not totally defined their career goals and need some time to reflect and explore what is available. Parents tend to be very anxious about students taking a gap year. Suggestions on what to do and how to have a productive gap year are discussed on the Piper Center's website.
10 Common Mistakes
Reprinted from Pfizer Medical School Manual
1. Inadequate preparation for MCAT exams. MCAT performance mirrors SAT performance. If you are an average standardized test taker, consider an MCAT review course.
2. Late application. Submit applications early. This requires excellent planning and coordination of transcripts, MCATs, recommendations, and applications. Ideally, you should begin planning two years before you intend to enroll.
3. Poor performance in core sciences. To be competitive, A’s and B’s in core science courses are generally required. An occasional C gets by, especially if accompanied by excellent MCATs.
4. Lack of volunteer or health service experience. It has become a general expectation that candidates will pursue experiences that demonstrate growth as a caring, service-oriented individual in the field of health care. This experience exposes your understanding, and commitment to, a life of medicine.
5. Poor choice of references. A single poor reference, even subtly stated, can send an application off track. Nurture relationships with future references early. Carefully assess the level of an individual’s support for you. Consider choosing those who have already demonstrated concrete support for you through grades or other forms of recognition.
6. Poor personal essay. Write a clear, concise, well-organized and interesting statement. Check its grammar, punctuation, spelling and clarity. Seek qualified or expert critique and revise accordingly.
7. Failure to monitor application status. The application process is complex and requires sequential coordinated actions. Ensure that your completed application materials are submitted and confirm their receipt by July or August.
8. Inadequate research of school. Some of the 145 medical schools will ideally suit your personality, interests and talents; others will not. Thoroughly research medical colleges by reviewing literature, visiting campuses and conferring with pre-medical advisers, alumni and current medical students. Also consider factors such as in-state versus out-of-state admission rates.
9. Inadequate preparation for your interview. Although the interview commonly carries a quarter of the decision weight, and can actually collapse an otherwise qualified applicant, many students continue to “wing it.” Careful research, preparation and performance are a must. The cardinal sins: appearing arrogant or disinterested.
10. Lack of post-interview follow through. In some schools, all verbal, written and physical contacts are captured in your application file. A thank you note to the Dean of Admissions and your interviewer is always appreciated. Gratitude is a becoming attitude in everyone, and a thank you letter leaves a favorable impression on the people who may accept you. Occasional respectful contacts to check on the status of your application are generally received as an expression of continued interest.