Is the Medical School Reapplicant Disadvantage Real? (15 Things to Know!)

Got rejected to medical school and now wondering where you stand? Before getting too down about it recognize; it happens to the best of us. But now you probably want to know…

Are medical school reapplicants at a disadvantage?

No, not necessarily. How you’re viewed as a reapplicant is school-dependent. For ultra-competitive med schools, you could be. Especially if you haven’t addressed the areas of your application where you first fell short. But for state schools (where you’re a resident), it could be different.

We’ll dive into exactly what this all means in this article. Here’s what else we’ll cover:

  • If it’s bad to be a reapplicant
  • If med schools know
  • How many times you should/could reapply
  • What the reapplicant success rate is

As a med student myself, and one with quite an unorthodox story as to how I got in, I understand how tough the process can be. So I hope this article can help give some real answers!

Ready to get started? Let’s go.

Is it bad to be a reapplicant for medical school?

Let’s face it, applying to med school is very much like entering into a seller’s market. The number of places available is low, and the number of buyers (applicants) is huge. Seeing you’ve already once tried and failed, some med schools may just immediately dismiss you from the get-go.

Harsh, but true.

That’s why it’s always best to try and nail your application the first time. Be patient, don’t rush your MCAT, and take your college classes and med school prerequisites very seriously. Work on those extracurriculars as soon as you can.

Aim to apply once, with the best possible application.

Of course, that’s not to say it’s not possible to reapply to med school and get in after several tries. It is.

But you’re definitely likely to experience one of the following:

  • A lack of motivation to try again
  • A stronger interest in another career path (that’s less competitive and a better use of your time)
  • Enthusiasm for hobbies/activities outside of those typically desired by med schools

So although it’s not strictly “bad” to be a reapplicant, it definitely doesn’t play into your favor either.

You’ll need to be hugely resilient, more dedicated than ever, and highly analytical as to how to address your application’s failings.

And that’s universal for all schools. Not just state schools that are said to look more kindly on reapplicants.

Do medical schools know if you’re a reapplicant?

Only the medical schools you’ve already tried and failed to get into know if you’re a reapplicant.

That’s a big reason why being a reapplicant is not always a disadvantage!

For schools where you haven’t applied before, you’ll be seen as a “fresh applicant”. They’ll have no previous record of an application from you that they can reference. And you can apply everything you learned from failing the first time into a stronger first-time application for them.

Granted they’re not a weak point of your application, you can even use the same letters of recommendation (LOR’s) that you used the first time.

Related: Medical Schools That Don’t Require Letters Of Recommendation (10 Examples)

So you see, you have to take any idea of you being at a disadvantage with a grain of salt. There’s a certain nuance in the answer to the question – and it’s only half-true for schools where you’ve already applied.

Is it bad to apply to med school twice?

It’s not bad if you’ve actively worked hard to identify and address the weaknesses of your application.

But if you haven’t done that, or don’t know exactly where these weak points are, it can be something of a pointless endeavor.

That’s why I’d recommend doing one of the following (if you’re thinking about applying twice to the same school):

  1. Having an existing student of the school scrutinize your past application
  2. Connecting with admissions consultants and following their recommendations
  3. Asking other successful students for their opinions on where (and what) you could do better

And then doing everything in your power to follow and act on their advice.

What about three times?

Again the above applies but it’s also important to recognize how many times you’re eligible to reapply (some schools have limits, others do not).

You’ll want to pay close attention to their admissions policy, find the school-specific answer to the question and figure out if you’d be wasting your time or not.

You can usually find the answers to these questions online.

As an example, here’s what the Alpert Medical School at Brown says about reapplication limits…

Applicants who have previously been dismissed, withdrawn, or already graduated from a medical school will be considered ineligible to apply to Alpert Medical School. Applicants to AMS may apply a maximum of three times.


What percentage of med students are reapplicants?

According to the AAMC’s data from 2020, 27% of the total applications for the Fall intake came from reapplicants (Source).

What’s positive from the AAMC’s data is that the general number of re-applicants, taken from 1980 to the present (in conjunction with the number of applications), is on the rise.

Although this data doesn’t show successful matriculation figures, or how many attempts a reapplicant has made, it still goes a long way to dispelling any myth around a reapplication disadvantage.

The figure above is a clear demonstration that any disadvantage is either not believed or not deterring applicants.

So while most don’t assume that you don’t stand a chance!

Medical reapplicant success rate

Of the 53,000 applications made in the 2020 cycle, we know (from the AAMC’s data) that 42% of that pool successfully matriculated.

What we don’t know is how much of that percentage is made up of successful reapplicants (AAMC doesn’t provide this data).

But because the vast majority (73%) of total applications come from first-time students, we can safely assume that the data is probably skewed towards them.

In terms of applicants vs reapplicants, more of the first group make the cut.

So while there is an argument for reapplicant disadvantage, at least in numbers, it doesn’t tell the whole picture.

What is a disadvantaged medical school reapplicant?

Disadvantaged reapplicants (probably) fall into the following categories:

  • Poor GPA or MCAT score
  • Insufficient clinical experience
  • Badly written personal statements
  • Weak research experience
  • Less-than-desirable extracurricular experience

Related: No Extracurricular Activities For Med School? Here’s What To Do…

Of course, it’s impossible to know exactly what makes up a disadvantaged reapplicant because of each school’s specific admissions policy.

To get the best idea of why your application failed you want to go as deep as possible into what the school you applied for is said to favor/look for.

Unfortunately, most admissions policies are rather unclear in this regard. That makes understanding any reapplicant disadvantage you may have, very difficult.

Do reapplicant secondaries take more importance?

Your secondaries should definitely be revisited if you feel that’s where the weakness of your original application was.

As suggested before, it’s extremely important to get valuable feedback on your first attempt and try to figure out potential weak points.

But it’s not universal to all reapplicants.

You may have incredibly strong secondary essays that are well-written and detail important adversity, diversity, etc., but fall down on meeting an MCAT or GPA cut-off.

You need to do some information gathering and get as much constructive criticism as you can before deciding.

Where to find reapplicant success stories

Personally, I think it’s super important to go about finding success stories in order to help motivate and inspire you into reapplying.

Although I’m not a reapplicant, I do try my best to encourage people that they can make it into med despite any such adversity. I have a ton of articles along these lines!

Related: Can I Get Into Medical School With C’s? (Explained!)

Still, if you do want to look for additional encouragement I strongly suggest checking out Reddit communities like r/premed and r/medicalschool and using the search function.

Forums like Student Doctors Network are another place to find great reapplicant success stories too.

But you do need to be critical (just as you should when you read this site) when taking the advice of others. Your set of circumstances will be unique. And the times are always changing.

The information in these places might not always be accurate for your case. But you can get some important takeaways!

The medical school reapplicant disadvantage: Reddit’s opinion

On that last note, let’s take a look at some of these reapplicant stories on Reddit.

I’ve tried to collate some of the best points from users I could find here. I hope it helps!

Seek out answers

The best advice I can give, given my experience, is if you have to reapply, seek out answers for why you weren’t accepted. Whether they tell you outright (like my school did), or you have to call a dean 5,000 times to get an answer, do it!

Find out what made your application weaker than you intended, and then fix it. I had a neighbor apply 4 times because he didn’t fix the problems the admissions committee told him to fix. He finally got in though. My school saw reapplying as more of an “oh look, we told him, no but he came back for more…maybe he’s serious about this whole medical school thing.”


There’s no disadvantage, only perseverance

I got in my second cycle. The primary apps are screened by admissions officers who see reapplication as a sign of commitment and perseverance. It helps if you improve your stats between cycles. I raised my MCAT by 2 points between cycles.


Set up counseling appointments

I didn’t get in my first round of applications so I called every school and set up counseling appointments with an admissions officer (where offered)


Be conscious of the state advantage (and don’t apply late)

First off, being from a school with no in-state advantage will put you at a disadvantage compared to applicants from N. Dakota or Arkansas, or West Virginia where they have a good chance of getting in their state school…As for me, the reason I and my friend (3.9/30) are reapplicants is simply due to the nature of how bad being complete late in the cycle will disadvantage you.


Practice your interview technique

I was a reapplicant with a 3.7 35. I applied late (submitted primary in late July), didn’t really have great secondary essays, and 2/3 of my interviews in the first cycle went poorly because I did not have practice. The second cycle my app was essentially the same but my essays were sharper, I submitted much earlier (which netted 3x as many interviews), and my interviewing skills were much better because I practiced with a career advisor at my school. I ended up with 4 MD acceptances and now go to a school where I am very happy.