Dealing with rejection from medical or dental school can be extremely tough. When you’ve worked hard for so long and pinned your hopes on success, not getting any offers can be disappointing. However, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean it’s the end of your journey.
Did you know that 15% of medical school applicants for 2024 entry were reapplicants? Check out how the number of reapplicants compares to first time applicants over the past few years:
In lots of cases, having extra time before entering medical or dental school is advantageous. It allows applicants to gain additional life experience and maturity, which can make it easier to cope with some of the challenges that lie ahead. That being said, you need to make the most of the time you have to ensure this strengthens your next application. You should analyse your previous application to see where you can improve, and use this time to address your weaknesses and build on your strengths.
Try to stay positive throughout – remember, your past does not define your future. In fact, you have one crucial advantage over other applicants: you’ve already gone through the admissions process. In this article, we’ll take you through how best to approach reapplication for dentistry or medicine, including how to utilise your past experience.
Table of contents
The reapplication journey:
It’s important that you honestly assess how you did in the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT). It’s likely you had stronger and weaker sections, as well as specific question types that you struggled with. You may also have some mistakes when preparing for the exam. For example:
We discuss all of this and more in our article on resitting the UCAT as a reapplicant.
You may need to resit some or all of your A-levels or Scottish Highers to improve your medicine or dentistry application. Before exploring this route, keep in mind that resits won’t be accepted by all dental or medical schools, or will only be accepted with reasonable extenuating circumstances.
If resits are accepted, there could also be specific criteria to meet. For example, some schools require resits to be taken within the same sitting. Make sure to contact the admissions office of schools you’re interested in to check what the resit requirements are, or to confirm that your extenuating circumstances will be accepted.
If you decide to retake your exams, first think about what might have gone wrong previously. For example:
Whatever it is, spend some time analysing your approach to exam preparation, as well as your mindset throughout this period. You should then think about what the solution is to overcome the issue. For instance:
If you feel that your grades are negatively affecting your application but resitting your exams isn’t a possibility for you, check if your current A-level or Scottish Higher results meet the entry requirements for other universities. You may also be eligible for widening participation schemes for some dentistry or medicine courses, so make sure to research this too.
Another consideration is graduate entry medicine or dentistry as the academic requirements are usually lower. This route involves completing another undergraduate degree before studying dentistry or medicine.
If you take a gap year, use this as an opportunity to create a stronger application. For example, you can undertake work experience, gain life experience, or volunteer. Before you decide how to spend your time, assess your previous application to see where it might be lacking. If you can, get in touch with the universities you applied to and request feedback. This may be limited, but it can be useful to know if they think you don’t have enough work experience, or if your volunteering wasn’t relevant enough.
When gaining work experience, try to secure placements in a variety of settings if possible. For instance, if you apply for medicine, you’ll benefit from having placements in both GP and hospital settings in different specialties. To help you appreciate a wide range of roles, consider shadowing other healthcare professionals or members of a multidisciplinary team. This shows that you can be an effective team player, which is essential in medicine and dentistry.
Volunteering or paid work for an extended period of time can also be extremely helpful if it showcases relevant attributes such as empathy, resilience, and teamwork.
You could also use this time to take a course that interests you as this demonstrates an ability to self-motivate, learn, and evolve. Developing specialist interests during your gap year shows a deeper engagement with medicine or dentistry, thereby boosting UCAS applications and interviews. Remember to reflect actively and deeply to make this year meaningful. Note down what you did, but focus mainly on what you learned:
The personal statement is likely to change to a set of questions in the future, however more details are yet to be released.
Rewriting your personal statement can seem like a daunting task. If you’re worried about this, you could apply to study at universities that give less weighting to your personal statement. However, keep in mind that your personal statement still requires some focus. In the event that your interview score, UCAT score and academics are the same as someone else’s, it could be your personal statement that swings the decision in your favour.
The best way to start the process of writing your personal statement is to gather as much feedback as possible. Contact the universities you applied to and request feedback on your personal statement. You can also send it round to teachers, family members, friends and peers, and ask for their advice. If you’re in need of some inspiration during the rewriting process, explore medicine and dentistry personal statement examples.
If you’ve gained additional work and/or life experience since your last application, make sure to include this in your personal statement. Pick a few key examples and really reflect on them by asking the following questions:
There are common mistakes that people make when writing a personal statement. These include:
Read through our personal statement guide for dental and medical schools for a comprehensive overview of what to avoid in your personal statement, as well as how to structure your personal statement and how to reflect deeply on your experiences.
The interview stage is one of the most stressful parts of the admissions process. If you’ve had an interview before, you should reflect on areas for improvement and make sure to address these in your interview preparation. Whether you’ve experienced an interview before or not, make sure you give yourself as much time as needed to prepare as effectively as possible.
We recommend first learning about/refreshing your knowledge on the different types of medical and dental school interviews and NHS values. If you haven’t already, read relevant books and articles such as Good medical practice, and stay up to date with current affairs. After this, you should think about your strengths and weaknesses and list these down, make a skills bank with examples of certain skills, and write a checklist of topics that you’ll need to read up on ahead of your interview.
Although you’ll be asked questions on various aspects of your experience, motivation, knowledge, and skills, there are some common interview questions to be aware of, such as:
While it’s important to make sure your preparation covers these questions, be careful that you don’t over-rehearse, such as learning responses word-for-word and simply repeating it out loud. Make sure to also reflect on your personal experiences wherever possible, rather than providing a generic response.
Once you’ve got the basis for preparation, it’s critical that you translate this into practice. This is key for mastering the interview phase as it allows you to get used to formulating answers on the spot while improving your competency and confidence over time. We also recommend practising with different people to help you identify your perfect interview style.
While preparing, try to avoid common pitfalls such as:
Check out our dental and medical school interview guide for more information on how to excel in your medicine or dentistry interview.
Reapplication to medical or dental school shouldn’t just be a repeat of your previous application. Use the time you have to grow and develop, and gain new skills and experiences, then weave this into the admissions process wherever you can. The key to success lies in identifying where things went wrong last time, and making necessary changes so that you don’t make the same mistakes again when you apply to university.
If you need support throughout your reapplication journey, check out the following courses: