Rejected? 5 Things to do now if you didn’t get into med school

Congratulations, graduates!  You’ve worked hard for the past few years and you deserve to celebrate!  But once the ceremonies, parties and barbecues have happened…then what?  Maybe you’ve already been accepted to medical school.  If you have, kudos to you.  See my post here via @wordpressdotcom on getting the most out of your summer break before med school.  When I graduated from college I had a B.S. in Biology, but had no idea what I was going to do next.  I had been rejected from every med school that I applied to and had no backup plan.  If you’re like me, you may be bewildered, stuck and unsure.  Take a look at these tips and get back on your horse.

Don’t lose heart

You are still awesome!  As long as you are breathing, you can start again.  Don’t wallow in despair for too long.  Take a breather, but set a date as to when you will start on your come back plan.  If you’re feeling depressed, seek help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has trained counselors available to talk 24/7.  You can reach them at 1-800-273-8255.

Analyze things

Send a letter or email to the schools that rejected you to see if you can get some information on why they rejected you.  You can also talk to your school’s premed advisor to help you figure out what happened.  Did your MCAT score and GPA meet the requirements of the schools that where you applied?  You can find out these requirements using the MSAR  Did you only apply to top tier schools?  Did you apply to any safety schools?  A safety school might be your state school, the medical school that is affiliated with your college, or a school where you exceed their requirements for MCAT and GPA scores.

MCAT do-over?

To retake, or not to retake?  That is the question.  If your MCAT score wasn’t stellar, it might be in your best interest to take it again.  If you can get a higher score, it will definitely improve your chances for acceptance.  If you decide to retake it, consider revamping your study plan.  If you did not take a prep course, you may want to look into that.  I took Kaplan, but there is also Princeton Review and a myriad of other courses.  Some people swear by Exam Krackers.  Their home study materials are cheaper than the live review courses.  They also have a home study plan that you can adjust to fit your needs here:  If you can’t afford a prep course, there are free MCAT materials from the Khan Academy .


Take a look at your GPA from the standpoint of a med school admissions officer.  They are actually looking at your grade point average in 3 different ways.  Your overall GPA, your science or BCPM (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math) GPA, and your non-science or non-BCPM GPA.  See what they see by using this calculator .  If you failed any classes, you may need to consider retaking them.  This is a great article that details the process and has links on how to repair your GPA .  If your science grades are mediocre, you may want to consider a post-baccalaureate program to strengthen your science background and prove to admissions committees that you can handle high-level science courses.  You can find out more about post-bac programs here

Do Something

If you plan to reapply, it may be tempting to only study for the MCAT and not do anything else.  This is not what admissions committees want to see.  You’ll need to do something to better your application for the second go around.  If you don’t have much shadowing experiences, you may want to seek out a physician to shadow or an ER or clinic that needs volunteers.  You may want to take a science course while you’re in limbo.  It never hurts to get a job, but try to make it something related to science or medicine.  I took Biochemistry and taught seventh grade Earth Science while I was reapplying.  You don’t have to do that, but don’t lie around in your parent’s basement for the next year.

If at first you don’t succeed, try…try again.  I got my acceptance the second time, but I know someone who applied to medical school 4 times before she got in.  There is hope, but you’ll have to ask yourself some hard questions and be willing to do the work once you figure out what needs to improve.  Never give up.  Good luck and Godspeed!

Am I Too Old For Med School?

Medical students tend to be fresh out of college, or just a few years removed.  According to a 2015 article in U.S. News and World Report, “The mean age of students entering medical school is 24 years”.  But what if you’ve been out of college for much longer?  What if you’re over 30, 40 or even 50 years of age?  Is it too late for you to follow your MD dreams?  Maybe not.  Just because you aren’t a 22 year old Biology major doesn’t mean all hope is lost.  Sometimes the experiences a nontraditional student has is just what an admissions committee is looking for.  But there are several things to consider as an older medical school applicant, before you take the leap.


My oldest classmate in medical school was 50 years old.  However, her sons were in their 20s and out of the house.  Do you have kids that will need childcare while you are in class or on clinical rotations?  Do you have a spouse or family member that is willing to help you?  You will also want to take aging parents into consideration.  Will they need someone in close proximity to care for them?  Keep location in mind as you are applying to schools. Decide with your family if they would be willing to move out of state with you, if you will only apply to local schools or if you will live apart during medical school.


Medical school is all consuming.  You will not have time to have a job.  Medical school is your job.  That being said, think about all the possible resources you have to cover your financial responsibilities.  You may have to use your savings, apply for loans, or try getting a scholarship or grant.  If you have a spouse, can their salary cover all of your household expenses?  If not, you may need to create a new budget, downsize or go without extras during this time.  Start with this info from the AAMC to think through it.


Medical school takes most of your time, energy and concentration.  You barely have time to take care of yourself, much less anyone else.  If you have a family, you will have to be a stickler for your schedule.  You’ll need to schedule family time, but also schedule study time and not let anything sway you from either one.  There is a huge amount of material to master during med school.  I stayed up studying into the wee hours of the morning almost daily.  You may be used to checking out at a certain time, but in med school there is a seemingly endless mountain of factoids to memorize.  You may have to learn to function better on less sleep.


Medical schools require their applicants to take a certain amount of basic science and math courses prior to matriculating.  According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website, “At a minimum, students will likely complete the following types of courses: one year of biology, one year of physics, one year of English, two years of chemistry (through organic chemistry).”  You will have to check the Medical School Admissions Requirements or MSAR to find out what the specific requirements are for the schools that interest you.  For example, some may require Calculus or Statistics.  If you did not take those courses, you may be able to enter a post-baccalaureate program.  These programs will allow you to take (or retake) those basic science courses in 1-2 years.  Try this post bac search engine from the AAMC to find a program that’s right for you.

My med school class was full of people who’d had prior careers.  There were lawyers, engineers and people from corporate America.  I taught school for a year while I was applying for a second time.  Getting to and through medical school isn’t easy, but it is worth it.  Don’t count yourself out.  Never give up.

Jarita Hagans, MD is a Family Practice physician, speaker, freelance blogger and author of “MD Dreams:  Practical Advice for Every Stage from Premed to Residency and Beyond”. Find more info on Connect with her on Facebook at MD Dreams The Book, on Twitter @doctorjarita and Instagram @jaritah

Premed Super Sheet:  30 Things Every Premed Student Needs to Know 

If you are here, then you or someone you know is probably dreaming of one day having an MD behind your name.  Here is a cheat sheet to get you started or propel you forward as you push towards that dream.  But first things first…do not allow yourself to get overwhelmed by this list.  It is not a “must do everything now” type of thing.  Think of it as forecasting.  A Farmer’s Almanac of sorts, so that you know what to expect in the future and what seeds to plant when.  I organized the tips into sections, depending on where you are on your premed journey.  You’ll also see some general tips towards the end of the list that can be useful to everyone.

High school students

  1. Summer Programs.  If you already know what you want to do in life, consider yourself lucky. Summer can be a great time to get some scientific experiences under your belt.  Go for those programs that are in your area of interest. If you’re not sure, or you have more than one area of interest, use this time to explore.  You can use these programs to find out if you like a certain career.  It’s how I found out that I hate engineering.  The website, is a great resource to find programs

2. Picking a college.  You may want to choose a college that has its own hospital or is in close proximity to one.  All premeds need clinical experience, and it will be easier on you if the doctor you are shadowing is affiliated with your university or at the very least, near your campus.

3. Scholarships.  Financial aid is fine but grants and scholarships are better, since you don’t have to pay them back.  Don’t stress if you aren’t a straight A student.  There are scholarships for everything under the sun.  You might get money for being left handed, being from your state or having one blue eye and one brown eye.  Start your search on


4. Premed Advisor.  As soon as you hit the campus you should run, not walk, to the Premed Advisor’s office.  I had a great one and she guided me all the way from freshman to med school acceptance.   If your school doesn’t have one, find a med student or doctor to mentor you.  You may also be able to get some assistance from the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions at

5. Premed Society.  Along the same vein, a premed society or club can be a wealth of information.  They may have guest speakers, information on research opportunities, test prep and can be a source of support.  If it doesn’t exist on your campus, create it!

6. Choosing a Major  Technically, you can major in whatever you want and still go to medical school.  As long as you get all your prerequisites in before application time, you can major in underwater basket weaving.  Per the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website, “At a minimum, students will likely complete the following types of courses: one year of biology, one year of physics, one year of English, two years of chemistry (through organic chemistry).”  But check the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) manual to see specific requirements for every school.

7. Summer Opportunities.  There are tons of summer opportunities that can get you the research and clinical experience you need to be a strong med school applicant.  But the one I want freshmen to be aware of is the Summer Health Professions Education Program, or SHPEP.  It’s a fantastic program, but you can’t participate in this program once you become a junior.  This program is hosted by several institutions across the country.  According to their website, “SHPEP’s goal is to strengthen the academic proficiency and career development of students underrepresented in the health professions and prepare them for a successful application and matriculation to health professions schools.”  Check out for a list of other opportunities.


8. Research. Even if research is not your thing, you have to do it.  Med schools are looking for this to prove that you can handle high level scientific thought.  They also want you to be able to contribute to the scientific community.  Visit the science departments at your university and

9. Extracurriculars. Med schools are looking for well-rounded people.  They don’t want someone who is book smart, but doesn’t interact with patients or team members well.  Find some activity, sport, club or volunteer organization to participate in.  Don’t try to do too many, though. You don’t want your grades to suffer because you were student government president, playing volleyball and organizing a free clinic all at the same time.

10. What about your GPA? By now you have a handle on what’s going on with your grade point average and know how you’re doing compared to your peers.  But did you know that admissions committees break your GPA down into total GPA, BCPM (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math) GPA and non-BCMP GPA?  Use an online calculator to check yours so you can come up with a game plan if yours doesn’t look so hot.  You may even need to retake some classes that you did not do well in, to average things out.



11. Letters of Recommendation.   Depending on what the class size is at your university, your professor may or may not remember you when it comes time for this.  Help them remember who you are.  Ask in person and give them your resume with a cover letter telling them what you need them to do and the deadline.  Put a small picture of yourself on the cover letter.  You also need to give them an AMCAS Letter Request form.  You’ll be able to print this form from the “Letters of Evaluation” section of your AMCAS application.

12. Personal Statement. This is one of the most important parts of your medical school application.  This is where you get the attention of the person reading your application and separate yourself from every other applicant.  You can start writing this before the applications open.   Go to my blog post, “Finish The Course” ( via @wordpressdotcom) for more details about this.

13. MCAT Prep There are lots of ways to prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), but you should probably start with the people who develop and administer the test, the AAMC.  Go here ( to get official test prep resources and to find out how to register for the test.

14. Fee Waiver But what if I don’t have the money to take the MCAT?  Good news, there is help! If you qualify for the AAMC Fee Assistance Program for the MCAT, then you also get financial assistance with your med school applications.

15. Application Timeline Applying to medical school is a year-long process.  If you wanted to enter medical school in the Fall of 2018, you would have to submit your application in the Spring of 2017.  That summer, you would complete secondary medical school applications and wait for interview invitations to roll in.  Your med school interviews would take place in the Fall/Winter of 2017/2018 and then you would find out if you were accepted in the Spring of 2018.

16. AMCAS stands for the American Medical College Application Service.  Most U.S. medical schools participate in this centralized application service (Texas has their own).   Their website ( a detailed instruction manual and videos about how to complete each section.

17. Choosing a Medical School  The first rule in real estate also applies here; location, location, location!  If you can’t stand the cold, then there’s no point in applying to Mayo in Minnesota.  Once you decide on an area or areas of the country, you want to check the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) to see if you meet that med school’s minimum MCAT and GPA requirements.  If your MCAT and GPA are not stellar, you will need to apply to more schools to increase your chances.  Apply to one dream school and always apply to your home school or state school.

18. Interviews If you are invited for a medical school interview, you are on the short list!  You made it past hundreds, and maybe thousands, of other applicants.  Now that you have a seat at the table, make sure you prepare.  Review sample interview questions online.  Practice with a friend or a mentor.   Make sure you learn about the institution and have genuine questions prepared.

19. International Medical Schools There are several respected medical schools in the Caribbean and other places around the world.  But before you take that leap, do your research and see if their students do American away rotations.  You also need to make sure that their graduates are not having difficulty getting placed in U.S. residencies if you are planning on practicing medicine stateside.


20. Post-Bac Programs These types of programs can be useful if you did not take the pre-requisites for med school or if your pre-requisites are too old.  Post baccalaureate programs can also be helpful if you did not do well in undergrad and need to prove to admissions committees that you can handle upper level science courses.  Some will also provide MCAT preparation, research and clinical experiences.

21. Gap Year Some students decide to take a year off between college and medical school.  But you definitely want to have some structured activities built in, so it doesn’t look like you were goofing off the entire time.  One option is a medical mission program like Gap Medics and Doctors Without Borders.  You could also travel abroad with a service oriented or language immersion program.

22. Non-Traditional students You may feel that you don’t fit the mold of a typical med student due to your age, major or previous career.  No worries.  Schools are actually looking for a diverse class with varied interests.  Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t a 22 year old with a B.S. in Biology.  You might be just what they need.

Universal Advice

23. Communicating with Professors Don’t wait until your grade is sinking to make sure your professors know and like you.  Use those office hours.  They get paid to teach you, so wear them out!  Go to them for anything you don’t understand in class.  Get them to explain to you why you got things wrong on every quiz and test.  Let them know in no uncertain terms that you want and need to do well.

24. Tutoring There is no shame in needing a tutor.  Most schools have tutors through the different departments.  If not,  just grab someone is doing well (or did well) in that class and beg.

25. Studying Everyone has different studying styles.  You’ll need to find out what yours is quickly.  I was one to walk around the library socializing when on a study break.  But when it came time to really hit the books, I needed perfect quiet.  Monday through Thursday, I was in the basement of the library from 8 PM until.  Set a schedule and stick to it.

26. Self Care If you don’t have a non-academic outlet, you will go insane.  Find something fun to do. Mine was volunteering, going to football and basketball games and poetry.  Exercise and nutrition remains important as well.  You need to keep your energy up.  I ate my fair share of crap in college, but I balanced it out with fruit and veggies.  Learning how to calm yourself is a great skill to develop now.  The website has some good tips.

27. Finances Say no to credit cards.  You do not want to ruin your credit and have that hanging over you as you try to get a loan or an apartment for med school.  If you must, get a prepaid or secure credit card that is attached to your bank account so that you can’t spend what you don’t have.

28. Mental Health Becoming a doctor can be an overwhelming process.  Don’t be ashamed of getting help if you are feeling depressed or anxious.  Most schools have counseling through student health or support services.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has counselors available 24/7 at 1(800)273-8255.

29. Social Media Be careful what you post.  Even if you have your privacy settings on friends only, those people can screenshot, save or share your pics and posts at any time.  If you wouldn’t want med schools to see it, don’t post it.

30. Stay hopeful. The best thing I ever did for myself was to work at self motivation.  I heard something once that said in order to achieve a goal, your mind’s eye needs a picture.  You need to visualize yourself becoming a successful doctor.  I used to put inspirational quotes and articles on my dorm room wall and look at them daily.  Find what works for you and never, never, never give up!

Jarita Hagans, MD is a Family Practice physician, speaker, freelance blogger and author of “MD Dreams:  Practical Advice for Every Stage from Premed to Residency and Beyond”. Find more info on Follow her on Twitter @doctorjarita and Instagram @jaritah


Back to School: 5 Things Every New Med Student Needs to Crush It!

Med school usually starts in August, and if you are a new med student you could be feeling overwhelmed. No worries.  Here are 5 tips that I wish I knew when I started.  It’s going to be awesome! Go forth, young Jedi, and conquer!

First Aid for the USMLE  

First Aid is the bible for a first year med student.  It’s one of the things that most people use to study for the USMLE (United States Medical Licensure Exam).  I don’t think I used it to its full potential. If I had it to do over again, I would read the sections that corresponded to my coursework while we were studying that topic and make some notes in it.  That way, I’d have a more complete study guide when it came time to study for step 1.  You probably shouldn’t use it alone to study for your med school courses.  Try to find out where your professors test questions come from (things said in class, the official textbook, old tests) and make sure you know that.  Then you can fill your brain with USMLE nuggets.  Disclaimer:  Do not use First Aid as your only study material for the USMLE. Go to this link: and do the self assessments so you can figure out what knowledge gaps you have towards the end of your 2nd year.  Design your study plan based on that. It wouldn’t hurt you to do these practice questions, either:

An Hourly Calendar

I was, and still am, a huge nerd and have always liked making lists and schedules.  But I took it to a whole other level during med school.  I had an hourly calendar that I printed out and filled in every minute detail of my life.  I broke down my study material into what I was going to do each night.  For example, 8-9 PM: Review today’s Anatomy notes, 9-10 PM: Read Gross Anatomy chapter 5, pg 27-32.  I even scheduled time to eat and sleep.  You don’t have to be as OCD as me and color code each activity with a different color pen, but you need some sort of system.  You need a long-range plan to help you keep up and excel.  Try this link and scroll down to find a calendar that suits you.

Pre-made meals and study snacks

I would have died if it had not been for China Wonder and Negril.  But man can’t live off of fried rice and jerk chicken alone.  Sometimes you need food and don’t have time to go get it.  I’m sorry to say that I ate a lot of Hot Pockets, Chef-Boy-Ardee and tabasco Slim Jims during med school.  Those foods and a daily Mountain Dew are probably the reason why I have high blood pressure and acid reflux today.  Meal prep was a foreign concept to me.  I wasn’t really cooking much at that time. Do better by yourself.  Cook a large batch of something (spaghetti sauce, rice and beans, soup) and put it in plastic containers on the weekend.  Even if you don’t cook, you can buy that stuff pre-made or get a rotisserie chicken.  Then get some fruit and pre-washed salad to go with it. Because believe me, you do not want to waste precious study time washing lettuce.

An upperclassman mentor

My school had a program where every 1st year med student was assigned a 2nd year pal to give them study tricks, their first year books and the old tests.  Disclaimer: don’t get the old tests if it’s against your school’s policy.  If your school doesn’t have a pal system, you may remember someone from when you interviewed.  Or there may have been a 2nd year that was part of your orientation that seems receptive.  That 2nd year student survived what you’re getting ready to go through, so pick their brain (and maybe their bookshelf).

Study buddy

You’ll want to identify someone pretty early on that has similar study habits as you.  You don’t want to pick someone who has a photographic memory and is done studying in half an hour if you need to pour over the material for half the night in order to get it.  You also need a support system to keep you going when times get tough.  But mostly, you’re going to need someone to hit you when you start falling asleep and you have 100 more Histology slides to memorize.

Jarita Hagans, MD is a Family Practice physician, speaker and author of “MD Dreams:  Practical Advice for Every Stage from Premed to Residency and Beyond”. Find more info on Follow her on Twitter @doctorjarita and Instagram @jaritah