Premeds—Avoid These 6 Common Medical School Application Mistakes


We interact with hundreds of premed applicants every year who are eager to gain admission to medical school and take the next step in their journey of becoming a doctor. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation out there, which results in several common medical school application mistakes that hinder your chances of getting accepted.

In this post, we’ll share 6 of the most common mistakes premeds make and what you should be doing instead. Please don’t take this advice lightly; otherwise, you may end up needing to reapply next year.


1 | Applying Before You’re Ready

A surprisingly common mistake amongst premeds is going through the application process without actually being ready. Applicants often decide to apply while knowing full well that they may not get accepted and would be a stronger applicant next year.

After all, if it doesn’t go well, they can just reapply the following year with a bit of practice under their belt. Seems like a good idea, right? Wrong. This is actually a terrible idea for multiple reasons.

First, and most obviously, it is a significant waste of money. When you apply to medical school, you’ll likely be using the American Medical College Application Service, also known as AMCAS. AMCAS facilitates the first step in the application process: the primary application.

For 2023, AMCAS costs $170 for the first school and $43 for each additional school you apply to. With the average applicant applying to 15-20 schools, that brings the total cost to between $772 and $987. And that’s only for the primary application fees.

Wondering how many medical schools you should apply to? Read our guide: How Many Medical Schools Should I Apply to?

After receiving a primary application, most schools also require a secondary application. Secondaries require additional essays and are often subject to additional fees, which vary by program. There are then more additional fees for submitting your transcript and letters of recommendation from your college.

Then there’s the interview process, and between airfare and lodging, the cost adds up quickly. In total, it’s safe to say you’ll easily spend more than $2,000 or $3,000 just to apply to medical school.

Second, the application process is not something you want to do more than once. Certain aspects, like the interview process, are particularly fun and rewarding, but most if it is quite tedious. You’ll be writing countless essays, handling administrative aspects like score reports and letters of recommendation, and likely finding yourself somewhat stressed during the process.

Lastly, and most importantly, being a reapplicant decreases your chances of acceptance. If you apply and don’t expect to get in, understand that next year you’ll be earmarked as being a reapplicant. Schools will know you applied in the past and didn’t get in. You’ll now have to overcome the additional hurdle of explaining how you’re an improved applicant this cycle and why you deserve a second chance, which will also require a complete rework of all your essays.

Learn more: 6 Steps to Reapplying to Medical School.

This is a position you should avoid, if possible. That being said, if you do find yourself as a reapplicant, our team specializes in finding the weak spots and crafting a compelling narrative throughout your application to maximize your chance of an acceptance. We’ve helped dozens of reapplicants become successful medical school matriculants, and we have the highest satisfaction rating in the industry.

Now, rather than applying to medical school and expecting yourself to reapply next year, it’s best to strengthen your application over an extra year and apply only once. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Apply to win!

2 | Misunderstanding or Going Easy on Deadlines

If you were to check the application deadlines for most medical schools, you’d find dates listed between October to even February of the next year. Does that mean you’d be fine to apply any time before that? Absolutely not.

Applying early is one of the most important medical school admission strategies.

Why is this? Unlike college or university admissions, most medical schools follow a rolling admissions process, meaning applications are reviewed sequentially as they arrive. If you are late in submitting your application, many interview slots may already be filled, which means you’re now competing for a smaller number of open spots.

You may even find yourself in a position where you don’t make the cut but would have been offered an interview had you applied earlier.

AMCAS opens up for data entry in early May, with application submissions opening in early June. Once you hit submit, your application isn’t immediately sent to medical schools. AMCAS has to verify your application first. If you submit early, expect the verification process to be relatively quick. If, however, you wait until July, it can take several weeks.

Medical School Application Timeline

Apply as soon as possible; ideally, within the first two weeks of June. July is not optimal, but is fine in most cases. Applying in August is borderline, and September is considered too late. Of course, exceptions exist, and that’s something that our advisors can take a look at with 1-on-1 guidance.

Read: How Late Can You Submit Your Primary Application? (Without Consequence)


3 | Not Understanding the Other Side

Put yourself in the shoes of a medical school admissions committee member. They are bombarded with thousands of applications every cycle, yet they only have 100 or 200 seats to fill. Of all the hundreds of highly qualified applicants, why should they pick you?

Imagining the perspective of someone from the other side is one of my favorite tools, not only for medical school and residency admissions, but even as a strategy to perform better on the MCAT or USMLE Step 1. As a medical school admissions committee member, what would you care about? What would concern you or make you apprehensive about an applicant? What would you want to see?

Once you understand these principles, it becomes more readily apparent why certain elements and narratives are more effective in a medical school application compared to others.

Demonstrating commitment to medicine, maturity, resilience, and the ability to handle the rigors of a medical school curriculum are going to go a long way to improving your odds. Effectively communicating these and other traits in a nuanced, indirect, and interesting way is much more effective than simply stating you possess those qualities.


4 | Going Caribbean When It’s Not Necessary

I’ve come across far too many premed applicants who are surprisingly nonchalant about the idea of going to a Caribbean medical school. Sure, gaining acceptance to a Caribbean medical school is quite easy, but there’s a reason it’s easy.

To get a more in-depth understanding of the pros and cons of going Caribbean, be sure to first watch our video/article covering the pros and cons of Caribbean medical schools. I’ll give you a hint: there aren’t many upsides.

Rather than going the Caribbean route, we advise most of our premed clients to do two things:

First, work on strengthening your medical school application. Most applicants are surprised how much can be done in a single year. And second, apply to DO schools if you are unable to secure a US MD acceptance.

Learn more in our AACOMAS Application Guide for DO Schools.

For most students, I only recommend going the Caribbean route after one or more failed attempts at applying to US allopathic and osteopathic medical schools.


3 | Being Overconfident

It happens every year: a student with stellar numbers, a 3.99 GPA, and a 99th percentile MCAT score doesn’t get accepted. Usually, they have very few interview invites, which points to poor primary and secondary applications. Less commonly, they can have several interview invites but no acceptances. This points to weak interview skills.

We had a few students approach us who were in this exact position. After working with us, they didn’t only get accepted, but they are now attending prestigious programs. How did that happen? It’s a matter of understanding the application is multi-faceted, and your numbers are only a piece of the picture.

A big part of an optimized medical school application is conveying an effective narrative that explains why you will be an excellent future doctor and asset to the program, as well as how you will bring value and diversity to the upcoming medical school class.

Learn How to Develop a Cohesive Narrative for Medical School Applications.

Conveying this story starts with a nuanced and strategic personal statement, AMCAS application, and secondary essays. Congruence in the interview along this narrative is also required to get an acceptance offer.

You cannot rely on phenomenal grades and MCAT scores alone. Never allow yourself to become overconfident in the process. It only takes one mistake to trip up highly qualified  candidates.


6 | Not Getting Advice From People With Adcom Experience

It’s great to have another pair of eyes looking at your essay, whether that’s your mom, friend, aunt, or mentor. Improving your writing is never going to be a bad thing. While effective storytelling and writing skills are important, they’re just one element of the application and personal statement. You also have to consider what admissions committees are looking for.

Last cycle, we had a student with a relatively well-written essay. The essay opened, as many do, with a personal anecdote related to medicine. While what was written was completely innocent and well-intentioned, the physician advisor who was editing the student’s essay pointed out that the anecdote could remind some physicians of drug seeking behavior. A negative association like that is something you absolutely want to avoid in your personal statement.

For those unfamiliar, drug seeking behavior occurs when patients present, most commonly to the emergency department, with the desire to obtain painkillers. It’s a massive headache and not something you want your admission committee member to be thinking of while reading your essay.

If you’re a reapplicant, it’s even more important to get the soft elements of your application right—the personal statement, AMCAS or AACOMAS or TMDSAS application, the secondaries, and, of course, the interview.

If you need help, look no further than Med School Insiders. Our team of advisors has served on medical school admissions committees, so they know firsthand how to make an applicant stand out and how to get applicants accepted. Learn more about our pioneering approach and why we have the highest satisfaction rates in the industry.

Learn more: How to Choose the Best Medical School Admissions Consultant.


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