Medical After two cycles with only waitlists to show for it, how can I improve my application?

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Catalystik

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Thanking in advance for reading this monster of a background. So far I have applied twice now so I will break up my cycles into 2 sections.

CA white student graduated 2017 with science and humanities double major at a top 30 school not in CA (according to US News) with a cGPA of 3.388 and sGPA of 3.31. AMCAS cGPA 3.4 (due to community college class). MCAT from 2016 was a 510 (127, 127, 128, 128). Did a SMP last year and got a 3.79 with a 4.0 second semester.

1st application 2017-2018 cycle (summer before starting SMP). Sent primary early June, processed early July. Applied to 19 schools, with a few reach, but most were mid/low tier. All secondaries sent within 1 week of receiving.

Extracurriculars include:
  • 3 consecutive summers worked as a Clinical Research Assistant for a total of 1100 hours with a total of 60 hours shadowing at inpatient/outpatient psych clinic
  • 200 hours meal distribution volunteering
  • 100 hours health educator for teens in underrepresented schools, teaching sex ed/healthy choices curriculum
  • intramural athletics for 3 semesters eventually becoming co-captain
  • 300 hours research assistant in GI lab that allowed 20 hours surgery observation
  • 800 hours undergrad neuro lab that led to me writing and receiving 2 grants and poster presentation
  • member -> secretary -> president of cultural club for all of undergrad
  • member -> chair of recruitment -> VP of recruitment of premed fraternity for all of undergrad
  • 250 hours of hospital volunteering/hospital research
  • 80 hours of office assistant in undergrad residential hall
  • psychology honors society
  • like to garden
  • created and taught a 10 week science curriculum for middle schoolers in an underrepresented school
No interviews until March 2018: 2 schools, 1 rejection post interview the other waitlist. Withdrew from waitlist school due to it not having full accreditation. School gives me acceptance few months after post-withdrawal. Have to make sure that it was a mistake and they ensure me that this will not be seen upcoming cycles on my record.

2nd application 2018-2019 cycle (after SMP final grades). Sent primary early June, processed early July. Applied to 35 schools.

Same extracurriculars as above but worked as Medical Assistant during the cycle; currently have 1800 direct patient interaction hours and updated schools with info. Additionally worked for food-rescue organization for around 20 hours.

Had one interview early in the cycle and one after the new year. I am on 2 waitlists currently, one of which is the school I was rejected from the first round.

Advisors told me that the SMP would have helped a ton and I should be fine this cycle (one of my interviewers also told me this).

What should I do to improve my application? I was thinking of improving the MCAT (been studying since March with a tutor) but I am not scoring significantly higher than my previous score and am worried that I will do worse.

Greatly appreciate any input and advice!

If you engaged in a true SMP, where you took classes along with medical students, I agree with your advisor that you should have gotten a better response to your application. So let's look further.

Did you challenge yourself with a rigorous course load and challenging classes?

Any unexplained gaps in your education?

Any possible red flags on LORS? Did you use a committee letter if it was available?

Any past institutional action or legal issues?

Did multiple in-the-know readers approve your Personal Statement?

Does the PS have undertones of entitlement?

Did Secondary essay quality match the PS?

Did you consistently interview well?

Did you apply to multiple med schools that sponsor an SMP (and tend to give the greatest weight to masters-level grades)?

Did you fail to include DO med schools on your application list?
 

Catalystik

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Thank you for your prompt response! My answers are bolded

Did you challenge yourself with a rigorous course load and challenging classes? Double majored in neuroscience and psychology, and the SMP was the same classes as first-year med students so yes I believe so.

Any unexplained gaps in your education? No. I did SMP right after undergrad without any interruptions.

Any possible red flags on LORS? Did you use a committee letter if it was available? I suppose I wouldn't know this but I don't think so. All my letter writers were either professors from which I got an A in their class and doctors that I did research/worked for. Yes, I used a committee letter.

Any past institutional action or legal issues? No

Did multiple in-the-know readers approve your Personal Statement? I'm assuming this means people on adcoms? No-ish, cousin who is an MD read it and my aunt who is the director of a legal recruiting firm read it. Changed the PS completely between cycles as well.

Does the PS have undertones of entitlement? Not to my knowledge.

Did Secondary essay quality match the PS? Yes

Did you consistently interview well? Yes, met with the dean of the med school that rejected after the first cycle and he said my interview was fine.

Did you apply to multiple med schools that sponsor an SMP (and tend to give the greatest weight to masters-level grades)? Yes, including Georgetown, NYMC, Tulane, etc

Did you fail to include DO med schools on your application list? Yes, I don't want to go to DO school.

Being an applicant from California puts you in a particularly challenging situation.
46,169 Total applications
26,930 Instate
19,239 OOS

754 total matriculants
616 IS for 2.29% matriculation rate
138 OOS for a 0.72% matriculation rate

- What new activities or activity hours have you added that weren't on application (#2)? Particularly I'd want to know about nonmedical community service, which had little increase in the previous application, and which is highly valued.

- What are you currently scoring on your MCAT practice tests? I think you'll need a score somewhat higher than the current one, rather than apply again with one that is below the average for those accepted.

- Does your advisor at SMP not offer application review? Have you reached out to this person for suggestions?

- In light of the odds facing Californian applicants, might you consider relocating to another more lenient state, establishing residency after one year of employment before reapplying?

- Alternatively, reconsider your stance on DO.
 
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Catalystik

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-What new activities or activity hours have you added that weren't on application (#2)? Particularly I'd want to know about nonmedical community service, which had little increase in the previous application, and which is highly valued.

Outside of
  • 200 hours meal distribution volunteering
  • 100 hours health educator for teens in underrepresented schools, teaching sex ed/healthy choices curriculum
  • created and taught a 10 week science curriculum for middle schoolers in an underrepresented school
Which was done in undergrad and used for the first 2 application cycles. I only have the 20 hours at a food rescue organization.

- What are you currently scoring on your MCAT practice tests? I think you'll need a score somewhat higher than the current one, rather than apply again with one that is below the average for those accepted.

7 practice tests have scored 506-509 (upward trending). Highest I ever scored before taking it the first time was a 506. Actually took the MCAT yesterday, I know it was risky but just have to wait to see how it pans out.

- Does your advisor at your SMP not offer application review? Have you reached out to this person for suggestions?

I actually used my undergrad application review since my committee letter is through them and did a review between my first and second time applying and they said I should be fine. Maybe using SMP this time around would be a good idea, new set of eyes to go over application.

- In light of the odds facing Californian applicants, might you consider relocating to another more lenient state, establishing residency after one year of employment before reapplying?

Been working in NYC for the last year so I guess I could use that as residency.

- Alternatively, reconsider your stance on DO.
True

"Been working in NYC for the last year so I guess I could use that as residency." This is a far better state to remain in compared to CA. Ideally, you will establish a paper trail that signals your intent to remain in the state, with NY State Drivers License, tax forms, rental agreement, utilities in your name, voters registration, car license, library card, etc. I've had all these and more asked for by med schools to validate state residency claims.
 
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