Are you an anxious medical school applicant wondering why you have no medical school interview invites? First of all, don’t worry – you’re not alone. The period after you submit your secondaries and before you receive an interview invite is actually the most mentally draining during the medical school application timeline. If you’re lucky, this will only last a few weeks. But if you’re unlucky, then this period could go on for many months. Not knowing why you’ve been rejected or put “on-hold” can be very frustrating.
In this blog, we will help you analyze why your application may still be in the “waitlist” pile for interviews, and why you should still prepare for your interview, despite not receiving a medical school interview invite yet. We will also discuss how reaching out for help to medical school admissions consulting companies may help you during this difficult period of waiting.
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When Do You Usually Hear Back?
Trying to understand why you have no medical school interview invites can be an incredibly stressful. For many students, the greatest source of anxiety after submitting their application is the sense of helplessness they feel. While application submission is going on, you’re busy writing your medical school personal statement and medical school secondary essays and there isn’t much time to sit and worry. But once all applications have been submitted, there’s suddenly a lot more free time and most students spend it worrying!
We give a detailed outline of what you can do to increase your chances of getting in in our “When do you hear back from medical schools for interviews?” blog, so make sure to check it out. But we will give you a quick recap here:
First, it is important to keep in mind that the dates for interviews can vary depending on the school. For instance, programs with rolling admissions usually have a longer interview season starting as early as July and ending as late as March. Check your schools’ admissions websites to confirm the exact timelines for their interview season. For your reference, we’ve provided a general interview timeline as per the overall schedule that most schools employ:
As you can see from the above, there’s actually quite a large period of 8 months during which medical school interviews are conducted. Remember that the period we’ve indicated includes the overall interview period for all medical schools in the US and Canada. Most programs in the US limit their interview season to no more than 3 or 4 months. If they start interviews in October, for instance, they will generally conclude them by the end of January. In general, the busiest interview season is from late September to January. Most programs in Canada, since they do not have rolling admissions, send out their interview invites after all the applications have been received and reviewed. In Canada, medical schools hold interviews over 1 or 2 weekends in the fall or the winter.
Would you like to practice some med school interview questions? Test yourself with these!
So, how do you know when it’s too late to get an interview? Again, this is something you need to confirm by checking the website of the school in question as every program has a different policy. Some do not want applicants reaching out for information and instead have a set date (usually in March) by which time they communicate some kind of decision: rejection, waitlist, or invited for an interview. Others may not directly communicate with every rejected applicant but will still specify a certain date as the “deadline” for receiving interview invitations. If this official deadline has gone by, it’s certainly too late and you shouldn’t expect an interview invite. But many schools are more vague about their admissions process, opting for a flexible approach that allows them to adapt their dates and schedules as per the specific requirements of application season.
As a general rule of thumb, when it comes to medical school interview invites, no news is good news – it means they might still be mulling over your application, and you are still in the mix. Even if many months have passed since you submitted your application, you could be on a “pre-interview hold”, which is essentially like being waitlisted before the interview. Your application could be picked up for review again and even issued an interview invite if more spots open up or you can favorably impress the admissions committee via additional communications.
Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Interview Invites
The first logical step in questioning why you are not getting medical school interview invites is “what was wrong with my application?” It is absolutely crucial that you reflect on this moving forward. Why? Firstly, because even if you do get invited to interviews later in the season, you should reflect on whether anything in your application can raise a “red flag” for the admissions committee. Secondly, in case you do not get any interview invites this season, you will be aware of your own mistakes and not repeat them again for the next application cycle. So, let’s dive into what you should consider when you analyze your application:
Did your stats meet the standards of the schools you applied to?
While you might have ensured that your application meets the “minimum” medical school requirements for the schools you’re applying to, that’s not enough to get an interview invite. Medical schools receive thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands, of applications every year. Only the brightest and most talented students actually receive an interview invite. You should check MSAR, as well as the admission websites of your schools, to confirm the average accepted stats for the schools you’ve applied to. If your GPA and MCAT score are lower than their average accepted GPA and MCAT score, that could be a critical reason why you haven’t received interview invites. You must always check these statistics before you apply! If you did not do this in this application cycle, you must be sure to do this next season.
Did you emphasize the right extracurriculars?
If you have amazing statistics including a high GPA and a great MCAT score, then the reason you’re probably not getting an interview invite is your less than impressive list of extracurriculars. Most medical schools look for certain types of extracurriculars: clinical experience, shadowing experience, volunteer work, and research activities. However, the extent to which one experience type is valued over another, and how much experience is required, could vary from one program to the next. For instance, you should check how many hours of shadowing experience the schools you’re applying to require. Some may not have “requirements” but could recommend a certain number of hours be completed. Other schools that have excellent research facilities and integrate mandatory research components in their curriculum, could rate candidates with research-related extracurriculars as higher. Many medical schools also place an emphasis on community engagement and service, so lack of any type of volunteer experience in the AMCAS Most Meaningful Experiences section could get an application waitlisted or rejected. So, if you’re not getting an interview invite despite a seemingly robust list of extracurriculars and a solid academic record, it could be because your activities and experiences don’t represent you as a suitable candidate for the program.
Want to see a few of our key points summarized? Take a look at this infographic:
Did you emphasize your clinical experience?
Clinical experience is a critical extracurricular for medical school. One of the most common reasons applicants are rejected is because of their lack of clinical experience. This could be simply because you don’t understand what constitutes “clinical” experiences. Remember that your shadowing hours for medical school, even if they’re completed in a clinical setting, do not count as clinical experience. Shadowing is a more passive activity, and while it can be useful and an impressive addition to your medical school resume, it’s no replacement for clinical experience. Volunteer hours in a medical environment that do not involve clinical work, or an administrative job in a hospital, also do not count towards your clinical experience requirements.
Clinical experience is crucial not just as a “checklist” item to buff up your AMCAS Work and Activities section, but also as a means to meaningfully explore your interest in medicine and actual suitability for the medical profession. Admissions committees are looking for individuals who not only have that “passion” for medicine but can back that up with insight gained during their clinical experience. This kind of experience can also help you write a more coherent, well-informed medical school personal statement as well as more tailored medical school secondary essays that reference clinical experiences and skills.
If you know that your application lacked the inclusion of meaningful clinical experience, you might want to search for more opportunities that allow you to gain such important skills. Conversely, if you do have great clinical experience, reflect on whether you did a good job of demonstrating this in your application. Often, students struggle with how to present their important life events and experiences in their medical school app components. Reread your personal statement, the activities section, and secondary essays, and consider them objectively – do they translate the significance of these experiences? Are you excited to read about them in your application? If not, then maybe neither were the admissions committee.
Looking for more important details you should know about med school interviews? Check out this video!
Was your application weak, late, or rushed?
This closely ties to the previous point. Reflect on whether your application was the best it could have possibly been. Think about whether your essays demonstrated your best skills, most significant activities, and generally, presented a holistic picture of makes you the right candidate. It’s not enough to simply list a series of impressive clinical activities or boast about your academic achievements. Your application should tell a story of your journey to medical school. It should captivate the admissions committee and remain memorable amongst thousands of other applications.
Late applications are also usually not as competitive as the applications that were submitted on time. This is natural: if your application was late, it was almost inevitably rushed. This often hurts the quality of your application because you are not as careful about following the instructions, answering the essay prompts directly, and generally, paying attention to grammar and punctuation. Nothing will get your application thrown out quicker than grammar issues in your essays! Even if it’s the most compelling story in the world, errors and structural mistakes in your application will not be tolerated.
Why You Should Still Do Interview Prep
One of the most common mistakes students make during the med school application process is to wait until they receive their interview invitation to start interview prep. While it’s natural to want a breather after submitting so many essays and documents, don’t forget that that the application process isn’t over yet. Rather than sitting around worrying about the status of your application, why not utilize this time to prepare for the next step?
Remember, even if you have no interview invitations yet, you could receive them later in the season. At that point, it’s likely that there will be fewer spots available so it’s even more crucial that you give an amazing interview performance. And that will only be possible if you’ve put in some time and effort towards interview prep! Some students receive interview invitations mere weeks after submitting their application, which is great in terms of alleviating their anxiety, but doesn’t leave them with much time for interview prep. The silver lining of your situation is you can spend plenty of time mastering the critical communication skills required for an interview. You may receive your interview invitation less than a month before the actual date, and you don’t want to be in a position where you’re taken by surprise with little time to prepare, especially for a late season interview. That’s why we recommend starting your interview prep as early as possible, even if you haven’t received any interview invites yet.
Medical school interviews are typically quite challenging and require students to demonstrate superior communication skills, as well as the ability to think quickly under pressure. These aren’t skills that can be built up overnight, but once you learn them, they stay with you for life. In the short term, even if you don’t get that coveted interview invite, these interview skills could help you land prestigious extracurricular experiences and opportunities to brush up your resume as you’re waiting. In the long-term, if you decide to apply again next year, these skills can give you a competitive edge next season, or for any other future interviews in your academic and professional life.
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How to Prepare for Interviews
Preparing for medical school interviews isn’t as easy as simply looking up some commonly asked questions. We suggest following a three-step approach:
The kind of strategic, long-term interview prep we’ve outlined above isn’t just about knowing how to approach different interview questions – though of course, you will start by learning just that – it’s about helping you gain both confidence and communication skills that will stay with you for life and will be useful no matter what you do.
You can check out our blog about how to prepare for a medical school interview for more tips and detailed interview prep strategies.
If your interviewers ask if you have any questions for them, make sure do ask questions! Check out this video for inspiration:
Additional Things You Can Do
Work on gaining some additional experiences, skills, or achievements
As we’ve explained above, one of the main reasons students with otherwise impressive applications don’t get an interview invite is their lack of meaningful extracurricular experience that shows their suitability for medical school and for the specific program they’re applying to. If you’re feeling a lot of anxiety about your application chances and can clearly identify your extracurriculars as an area of weakness, then focus on adding some really impressive activities to your resume. Try to achieve the balance between being strategic and picking activities that align with your top choice programs’ values and vision and picking the activities that excite you the most on a personal level. Most crucially, focus on boosting the weakest areas of your application. If you already have plenty of meaningful, high-impact research experience but not enough clinical experience, then try and get some clinical work experience at a hospital or clinic. If you have already completed shadowing work but one of your top-choice programs also values community service, consider taking a volunteer job for a cause you’re personally committed to.
It's not easy finding impressive and meaningful extracurriculars. Positions related to the most demanding or prestigious activities are frequently quite competitive. But remember that if you were smart and chose to start your interview prep early, you’ll find it easy to ace the interviews for these extracurriculars!
You can communicate additional experiences and achievements to your school via your letters of update and letters of interest.
Submit an update or a letter of interest
Sending additional communications to a school is a good idea, especially later in the application season. It helps your application and candidature stay fresh in the admissions committees’ minds and it also provides you with a means to communicate the additional skills, awards, and experiences you’ve gained since applying. This can also prove to the admissions committees that you have the initiative, determination, and motivation to keep working towards improving yourself.
There is a difference between an “update” and a letter of interest. An update could be a simple modification or addition to your profile information and application (as far as it is permitted by the school in question – remember that some aspects of your application cannot be updated) and is a more informal communication. It is usually focused on just providing details of the updates to your application. This could include details of your non-academic experiences as well as academic updates such as the transcript for the fall semester.
On the other hand, a letter of interest is a formal letter that re-affirms your interest in that specific program. This letter can also include a re-iteration of your unique qualities, experiences, and strengths that make you an ideal candidate for their program, as well as details of additional experiences and activities gained. When writing this letter, try to keep it succinct and tailor the content to focus on the theme of what makes you such as great candidate for XYZ school. Include thoughtful details about the curriculum, program, school vision, inspirational alumni, etc.
Which one you chose to submit will depend on the specific requirements of the school. Some have a prescribed template or process to submit updates and don’t accept any other communications, while others only allow updates to be communicated via a letter of interest or a letter of intent.
Submit a letter of intent
A letter of intent is a more specific letter that you will only send to a single school. This explicitly confirms that the school you’re addressing is your top choice and if offered a place, you will definitely accept. You should only send one letter of intent and ideally, we would suggest waiting to send this letter after you’ve been interviewed, and if you’re waitlisted at your top school. However, if February arrives and you still haven’t received a single interview invite, you don’t have much to lose by sharing a letter of intent. Most schools keep a strategic eye on their matriculation figures and would naturally want to issue interview invites and acceptances to students who are most likely to accept. By reaffirming your singular commitment to the school even before the interview and adding relevant details about your love for their specific program and your unique suitability for it, you could give yourself the slight edge needed to land an interview invite at last.
Conclusion: Prepare a back-up plan
It’s also important to plan ahead and prepare for the worst. What will you do if you receive no interview invitations? While this possibility can be frustrating to contemplate, remember that it’s not necessarily the end of your medical dream. Use this opportunity to self-reflect and identify the key weaknesses of your application. Think about what you do to upgrade your application and consider if taking a gap year before medical school can help you. For example, many students use the gap year to complete a post-bacc program or a special master’s program to improve their GPA and get a stronger foundation in science subjects, while others opt to build their extracurriculars with more clinically or medically focused experience. Remember that your school selection also plays a critical role in your acceptance chances. Maybe you simply haven’t maximized your chances of success by targeting the schools where you are most likely to be accepted. At this stage, you can also consider hiring a medical school advisor to give you expert guidance about selecting the right schools and how to improve your acceptance chances.
1. What is the last date to receive a medical school interview invite?
This depends on the specific application timelines set by the programs you’ve applied to. Generally speaking, medical school interview invitations can be issued as early as July or as late as March. The busiest season for interviews is September to January as most schools issue invites and conduct interviews in this period.
2. I have a high GPA and a great MCAT score. Why haven’t I received an interview invite yet?
If you have a solid academic record and yet haven’t received an interview invite, it could be because of your list of extracurriculars. A lack of clinical experience is one of the most common reasons why otherwise strong candidates aren’t invited for interviews, especially in top schools like Ivy League medical schools. Additionally, you could be getting medical school rejections because your activities don’t show your unique suitability for the specific programs you’ve applied to.
3. What can I do to improve my application while I wait for my interview invite?
There are several things you can do as you want for your interview invite. First, consider gaining additional, meaningful extracurricular experience that could make your application stand out for admissions committees. You can also utilize the waiting time to start your interview prep to ensure your interview performance is memorable and impressive. As it gets later in the season, start working on your letters of interest and update letters. By January, share these with any schools that haven’t communicated with you yet. In February, if you still haven’t received any interview invites, send out a letter of intent to your top choice school.
4. When should I send the update letter or letter of interest?
You should send your letters of update or interest by January to all the schools that haven’t yet issued you an interview invite.
5. How many schools should I send a letter of interest to?
You can send letters of interest to as many schools as you want. If you have significant new experiences or achievement to share, you can even send a letter of interest communicating this information to all your schools.
6. Can I submit a letter of intent to multiple schools to boost my chances of getting an interview invite?
No! A letter of intent should only be submitted to a single school, as it confirms your intention to attend that school if accepted. Sending more than one letter of intent is essentially dishonest, and we would recommend avoiding such a strategy as medical school admissions committees highly value integrity and honesty in applicants.
7. What should I do if I receive a rejection without being interviewed?
If you receive an outright rejection before being interviewing at the school, you might be able to appeal the decision by submitting an appeal letter with additional supporting materials including your latest achievements. Not all schools offer this option, but if available, you have nothing to lose!
8. Should I still do interview prep even though I have not received any invites?
Yes! We highly recommend that you start interview prep as early as possible. Don’t wait till you receive interview invites! The skills you need to excel at interviews take time to build up. Depending on the schools you’re applying to, you might need to prepare for different types of interviews, including the challenging MMI format. Also, interview prep isn’t just a step you need to fulfill for medical school – when done right, it can actually help you build important skills that you’ll need in various areas of your life.
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