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  • Writer's pictureJessica Beresford

If At First You Don't Succeed...

How To Deal With Med School Rejection.. with Dr Pode

The path into med school is by no means an easy one; with around 65% of applicants facing rejection, the competition is tough and not getting in first time is common. Whilst it can feel pretty soul crushing, rejection can give you time to reflect on your decisions, build your skill set and come back stronger - whether that be in medicine or something completely different. Today we speak to Dr Megan Pode (Megs), founder of Medics and Me, about the knock backs she faced and how it’s helped her be the doctor she is today. 

Megs’ Journey 

Megs describes how her natural skillset didn’t initially correlate with applying to medicine, preferring English and History to science, and that her school had advised her not to apply. 

‘I felt so far behind everyone else. I felt like the other people who wanted to do medicine were so clever, and I wouldn’t be able to do it because I can't get A's in biology and chemistry… ‘

However, her enthusiasm and determination meant she applied anyway and landed her dream offer from Leeds. This was a massive confidence boost, but she then found out she hadn’t made the grades.


‘I had all of the will in the world, but not quite all of the execution. So when it came to exams, I missed the grades. It was heartbreaking’. 

With this setback, she decided to study a pharmacology degree, and reapplied to postgrad med landing a spot at Manchester. Now, two degrees and a lot of determination later, she’s a practicing F1 doctor in Preston and loving life. Here’s what she learnt about handling rejection, and how to move forward from it.

Give yourself a breather!

The temptation might be to get straight back on the horse, re-writing personal statements, buying a new UKCAT revision book or preparing for retakes. But, Megs described the importance of taking a step back:

‘It's okay to need time to heal because when you put your heart and soul into an application it's a big rejection and it's really hard to take’

Giving yourself space to process your emotions in a non-judgemental way can be a difficult but extremely worthwhile exercise - remind yourself of the hard work you’ve put in and know that it will be rewarded whether in medicine or elsewhere. This puts you in a better headspace to make decisions about what you want going forward. 

'you don’t have to have to bounce from it straight away or have it all figured took me a year and a half to get over this!’

Explore your options 

There are a variety of options moving forward: taking a year out/resitting then reapplying, doing a related degree and trying for post grad medicine, or finding something else that fits your strengths and career aspirations. There are some great resources linked at the end to explore your next steps.

Also, sometimes when life gives you lemons, you realize you didn’t like lemonade that much anyway; Megs advises to think carefully about whether medicine is still what you want. If it’s something you’re really passionate about and can see making you happy long term then go for it, but if not it’s better to figure this out now!

Don't be afraid to do what is best for you. It’s so much more important to fill your life with what gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling. Life is short and time goes quickly, what is a life if you're living it for other people?

Reflect on strengths and weaknesses 

Mistakes are only mistakes if you don’t learn from them - getting a rejection can become an invaluable learning opportunity and a leg up in future applications. Here’s how:

  • Identify weaknesses and work out ways of overcoming them. If you got to interview stage, some med schools allow you to apply for feedback so you can see where you lost marks. If you didn’t get offers, consider taking time to boost your personal statement with work experience and volunteering.   ‘I recognized that when I was 18, I was great at chatting and communicating, but wasn't such a good listener. So, I reflected on that, and volunteered teaching refugees English where I had to speak more calmly and be really patient and empathetic’

  • Identify strengths and put these into action - this can be a massive confidence boost and reminds you you’ve got assets other people would admire, even if it doesn’t feel like it. This can include taking up teaching roles, joining school societies or leading sports teams. When thinking about reapplying, make sure to carefully check med school policies on resits, UKCAT, interview styles and pick the ones tailored to your strengths.  ‘Everyone's an expert in something and by supporting other people with what they struggle with you build up your confidence, you feel like you are capable’

Come back stronger! 

Gearing up to start again can seem daunting. If you decide you want to give it another shot, it’s important to use what you’ve learnt along the way, mistakes, rejections, missed grades and all. Each set back will have taught you what you want and how you can work best to get there. 

  • Use what you’ve done in the time of reapplying to boost your application, emphasizing skills learnt and how this is relevant to medicine. These new experiences and applied knowledge will set you apart from other applicants! ‘The route less traveled will bring so many exciting opportunities that will make your experience varied and make what you have to offer different to everyone else’ ‘being able to reflect on what you've learned in your first degree about the way you study, critical thinking, research - all those skills help you get the edge.

  • Trying again shows commitment; make sure to emphasize this in personal statements and interviews as dedication is always a green flag for examiners.  ‘to be able to pick yourself back up and put yourself  in a position to even be considering it, shows you can deal with hardship, you can bounce back when you fail, you can manage stress- that shows resilience and strength’

Megs biggest tip however, was to be kind to yourself throughout the process, and remember not getting in first time is not an accurate marker of your worth or intelligence. 

'I think the biggest thing I would say is be proud of yourself..If all you do is talk down to yourself, how will you ever achieve that thing? And if you achieve something, the long way round, you have learnt so much…it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. You should cherish that in yourself, that you have that strength of character'

You can absolutely do this, and if you decide it’s not for you then you’ll do amazing things with what you’ve learnt along the way. Good luck! 


By Jess Beresford, with Dr Megan Pode 

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