Postmortem on the Med School Application Process

First of all, I am very blessed that my daughter will be attending medical school in the fall (state school but as OOS student). But I am by nature a curious person, so I wonder why, out of 30 applications, she got three waitlists (all state schools), and one acceptance from those. I thought she had really good stats: 3.96 GPA (Honors College of state school) in biology, 3.95 sGPA, 516 MCAT, EMT, ER Technician, Cardiology Technician, shadowing, research, volunteering, LOR from the Fire Chief, tons of guidance from undergrad school to write the application, etc. Was she missing something? Was her MCAT low compared to her GPA? Or does everyone who applies have this resume and there was really nothing that made her stand out?

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Did she take a gap year before applying? That seems to be the routine these days. I’m actually just trying to bump your thread. I don’t have an answer for you.

She graduated a semester early, took the MCAT in the spring and applied after that, so yes, she had one gap year before matriculation.

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Despite squeezing a lot of experience into a very short time, the adcoms might still have thought she was a tad young. A lot of med school applicants these days have been in the workforce for years. My GP didn’t get his diploma until he was forty.

Still, it’s an odd question to try to answer. It’s like asking why you didn’t win Powerball as well as Lotto.

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My understanding is that getting accepted to med school is incredibly competitive, with only 40% of applicants being accepted. Sounds as though she did well though because she was accepted.

Maybe @WayOutWestMom can shed some light.


Congratulations on your D’s acceptance.

Most med school applicants don’t get accepted. Of those who do get accepted, most only receive one acceptance.

Good luck to your D.

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That is scary. She sounds like she did absolutely everything she was supposed to! I am curious, how many schools gave her interviews? What month did she submit her applications?

No. Medical school admission is so competitive that only about 40% of those who apply get any admissions, and about 70% of those who get admissions get only one.


FWIW, a friends’ child had a 3.99, was the very top of her college class, 518 MCAT, research, volunteering, shadowing, yada yada…also only had one acceptance to a state med school. (I think she had two wait lists as well but they didn’t come through).

From what I’m hearing in my circle it’s par for the course and everyone celebrates that one acceptance.

Congrats to your daughter!


Echoing others: most only get 1. The very highest-level applicants will get interviews almost everywhere and still end up with “only” 2-3 if they are lucky. I went to a very competitive top-5 type med school (almost everyone there had 98-99th% scores, converts to 519+ today) and less than half of us got to “pick” among multiple acceptances. Congratulations on getting in! That is all that matters. You can be a highly successful physician from any US med school.


She had interviews at the three schools that waitlisted her. I know she started her application the first day that she could. She applied in waves, so she wouldn’t get too many secondaries at once. I think she was done by July or mid-July.

This thread is eye-opening, and I am awed by her achievement even more now!


One item I noticed that you didn’t mention–she doesn’t seem to have any non-medical volunteering—i.e. long term community service with disadvantaged groups.

Med schools are looking for evidence of altruism in applicants.

Also, did she have any leadership roles in any of her activities? Demonstrated leadership skills are another thing that adcomms expect applicants to have.

It’s not just about stats. Hasn’t been for a long time now. Adcomms are looking for good stats, PLUS a whole list of desirable traits, PLUS mission fit. It’s a buyer’s market; adcomms can afford to be picky.

Med school is incredibly competitive right now. Last cycle (2020-21) admission rates were down with only ~37-38% of applicants getting an acceptance. (Data for 2021-22 is not yet available.) Admission rates haven’t been that low since the mid-1980s.

Also the majority of applicants now take one or more gap years to burnish their CVs. In fact some 69% of 2021 matriculants reported taking 1 or more gap years before starting med school.
Matriculating Student Questionnaire (MSQ) | AAMC

But she got 3 interviews–and that’s great. She did better than most applicants.

Getting waitlisted after 3 interviews generally suggests that her interviewing skills are what was holding her back.

(Also FWIW, adcomms generally don’t read LORs from people like Fire Chiefs, volunteer supervisors or physicians a student has shadowed because those letters are almost universally “nice” and don’t supply the type of information med schools want about an applicant.)


Pretty much everyone who applies to med school has a portfolio that looks like hers.

For an accepted white applicant, the median GPA = 3.79, sGPA = 3.72, MCAT = 513

This applicant’s stats were a bit better than that. I’m wondering if things will change if the supreme court bans consideration of race in admissions, based upon the case that’s before it now.

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@NoelMaple first, congratulations that your daughter landed an acceptance off the waitlist. And this soon! We know someone who was accepted off the waitlist two days before classes started.

When were your daughter’s interviews?

Here’s the stats from 2021-2022

Of the total number of applicants (62,433), (22,666) matriculated, meaning just over 36% started. From the graph, you can see that med schools can receive thousands, perhaps over 10k applicants, to fill a class of 100-200 students, with some less than 100, others more than 200. There is just not enough room at the inn. Med schools have to make some very, very tough decisions and many qualified applicants get rejected. Don’t lose any sleep over your D’s only 3 waitlists. Your D has 1 acceptance and she will be an MD in 4 years. I read some place that approx. 50% of people who start med school only receive one acceptance anywhere. Your D has accomplished something few who start ever attain. It’s quite an amazing feat. Congratulations to both your D and to you.


Just dropping this in here for future med school applicants - consider teaching math or science in high school for a few years instead of a gap year or other work. We need you! We have had two people do that over the years. Many states have waivers for certification for high demand content areas. There are head hunters that place top graduates into long term temp teaching jobs to cover maternity leave and other FMLA leave - like AP courses, etc…

Good luck!


Wow, would never have thought of that as an option for those gunning for med school. Teaching high school is very different from anything that med schools are looking for; in fact, teaching high school is a completely different career track. It would be one thing if someone who had wanted to become a teacher, and had trained for it and done it, eventually were to decide to do a post-bac program and go to med school. It’s quite another thing for someone who is hell-bent on med school to take time to teach for a few years. People trying for med schools don’t take gap years to grow up. They take gap years because it’s pretty much impossible to accomplish all that is required for application to med school by May of one’s junior year of college, including having crammed for and done well on the MCAT. Even after applications go in, one needs to be available to go for interviews, and be continuing to compile the record that would improve one’s applications the next year, in case one doesn’t get in the first year.

I can attest that this is a great idea for the right person. Being a doctor, at least in the specialty I work in, involves a lot of the same skills as teaching does. Medicine needs more doctors with good public speaking skills and doctors who understand social determinants of health, which you learn a lot about working in schools.