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Each year the number of qualified applicants exceeds the number of positions available in our medical school class. If you applied to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH) and were not accepted, you are not alone.


Many successful physicians at one time received the news that their application was rejected, including some who are now on faculty at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. They re-evaluated their application, they worked to improve it, and they subsequently were admitted to medical school.


First, before anything else, you need to ask yourself some questions:

  • Is a career in medicine really right for you?
  • Do you know and understand the demands of both medical school and the career of a physician, and is it what you want to do for the rest of your life?

If you answered yes to these questions, and you are willing to work hard and persevere to do what is needed to be successful, then keep reading.


The second step is to objectively evaluate your strengths and weaknesses as an applicant and how you presented yourself in your application and interview. You cannot do this by yourself. You must seek help from trusted family or friends as well as professional advisors. Use the pre-medical advising services on your home campus. Our admissions staff is also available to provide insight to you and give you feedback from the Admissions Committee.


Two thirds of applicants accepted by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health are also accepted by other medical schools. Your goal should be to have your choice of medical schools, not to just get accepted somewhere. How far you progressed through the admissions process this past year may determine the amount of work and type of preparation that you need to do before your next application.


If you did not receive any invitations to interview, then you have a long way to go to improve your qualifications, and you may need to examine your life experiences, medical exposure, or academics. If you had multiple interviews and were placed on an Alternate List then you are much closer to your goal and need to think about what will get you over the top. Make sure that you visit our website and read the section titled Before you Apply.


What have successful applicants done differently than you? Are they better prepared and more qualified than you, or did they simply present themselves better in their application and interview? You need self-awareness as well as honest feedback from others to answer this question so that you can improve your next application. For example, admissions offices often find it difficult to tell applicants that they were denied due to a poor interview, but it won't do you any good to raise your MCAT score if the problem is your communication skills.


Take another look at your essay. Were you able to show your motivation for medicine? Consider your letter writers. Did you choose writers who really know you and are able to comment on your qualities and characteristics? (Please remember that if you reapply, we recommend that of the four required letters, you should submit two new letters of recommendation - one academic and one nonacademic. Other letters may be resubmitted and/or updated and resubmitted; or you can submit a total of four new letters.)


The UW School of Medicine and Public Health Admissions Committee, like committees at most other schools, does a holistic review where an applicant is considered based on the entirety of their application. Applicants who simply list their accomplishments in a checkbox fashion are less likely to be accepted than applicants who are able to tell about the life journey that brought them to the point where they are now ready to start their medical education and become a physician.


Successful applicants are often those who are able to show admissions committees that they are special in some way. They are able to effectively communicate about the academic and life experiences that have shaped them as a person who is going to be a great doctor. What makes you special? What characteristics make you stand out from the thousands of bright, high achieving, altruistic applicants who want to be doctors?


Nationally, over 40 percent of applicants are accepted to at least one medical school. The average applicant applies to 12 schools. Well-prepared applicants who put together a strong application are usually accepted to more than one medical school. It takes time and research to choose the schools to which you are going to apply. Applying to too many schools or the wrong ones will be a waste of your time, whereas applying to just one or two may decrease your chances of acceptance.


At the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, residents of Wisconsin currently have a 1 in 4 chance of acceptance and non-residents have a 1 in 40 chance. However, this is not the case for the MSTP (MD/PhD) program, where residency is not considered.


Be realistic with your plans. What will you do if you are not accepted again? Most interviewers will ask you this question and you should be prepared with an honest answer because you have given serious consideration to the issue. How will the classes that you are taking or experiences that you are gaining apply to a different career? Will it be in healthcare or another field?


Be patient and allow enough time before you reapply. You will need to act on the advice that you are given and develop a plan. Then do it. Following your plan can be the difference between achieving your goal or continuing to dream. Understandably, you may feel that you must reapply in the next admissions cycle, but submitting an application which is essentially the same will produce the same result. There should be significant improvements in your application before reapplying. This might mean not reapplying the very next year. The most common error made by reapplicants is that they submit their next application too soon.


Remember that going to medical school is the start of a lifetime career. Many successful reapplicants comment on how much better prepared they were to make that commitment, in part by having had to cope with the rejection from their first attempt. The time you spend preparing yourself is short compared to the rest of your life and will go a long way in helping you reach your goals. 


Last updated: 04/20/2016
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