A Student's Self-Reflection After Facing a Medical School Rejection!
This article is not pleasant to write and comes at a time of the highest emotions. This article is for all those that received a post-interview EoD (Email of Death) – i.e. interviewed for a post-graduate medicine place, but did not receive an offer into medicine.
I know this because I have been there. During my undergraduate degree, I spent the time trying to perfect my GPA, I sat the March GAMSAT twice (sacrificing my summer break to yet again study) and then spent my final year attempting to master the interview. I interviewed at both the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney. Both of which ended the year with a very clear…no mate, you won’t be studying medicine. You won’t be a doctor.
If you’re in the same boat, if you’re terribly distraught, then I empathise. I know exactly how you are feeling right now. The point of this article is simply to act as a little morale boost.
TL;DR? The following year I again interviewed at the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney, but this time received a medicine offer from both of them. I repeat I got EoD’d one year and then got accepted into both universities the following year. The following article will detail exactly what happened during my EoD heartbreak.
By the time GEMSAS offers came out, I already knew I had been waitlisted for USyd. I never thought that mattered because, at the end of the day, Melbourne was where I wanted to go and somehow thought that meant it’d show and improve my odds.
Then the GEMSAS rejection email came through. The email was cold, heartless and wasn’t even addressed with my name. I was convinced this was a spam email that wasn’t actually meant for me. I got in contact with GEMSAS. Nup, you didn’t make it. Sorry.
Words cannot even describe how distraught I was. It was the night before my second exam for my final semester. How damn callous of them to do such a thing. The icing on the cake.
“I’ve sacrificed so much. How could they possibly not let me in? Had I known I wouldn’t get in, I would have accepted the MBBS when I had the chance. I could’ve been two years away from completing the MBBS by now. Why did I waste my time doing a pointless undergrad? All my friends are about to graduate and enter their own careers while I’m stuck without anything. I thought I was smart. All that time studying for the GAMSAT and interviews. All the money to sit the exam and apply to universities. What a complete joke I am.”
All-day, every day, these types of thoughts spun through my head a million times a second. It was a vicious cycle between anger and frustration. All of a sudden, nothing seemed worth the effort.
Why even try for my upcoming exams? Why even care about my part-time job? It all felt like a complete and utter waste. My dream was stolen for me!
The thoughts continued. I began to question my self-worth. I began to feel less of a human. I sacrificed so much time studying throughout the undergrad but thought the sacrifice was worthwhile considering it’d pay off and I’ll be able to make it over the hurdle of starting the MD.
But now, I have nothing to show for it. All the late nights studying, the imposition on my partner throughout the degree, the jobs I didn’t have time to pursue, the celebrations I wasn’t able to attend, all of this for what? There’s nothing to show for it. Nothing to say, look, I know I haven’t been the best companion, but at least I made it. That wasn’t there.
Compound this with the fact that I was struggling financially with no tangible prospect of that change, embarrassment is an understatement.
Once I was able to think a little clearer, I needed to look for other things. I considered honours, going straight into research, sitting the LSAT, finding a full-time job. Literally, anything to ensure I don’t stagnate and let this be the end of my academic journey. But the GAMSAT and interview preparation? No way. Not a chance am I putting myself through that hell again.
But this is where things began to change. Through many deep talks with my partner, it really did become apparent that these ‘other things’ really weren’t for me. I was trying to fill my void by settling with the heartache and accepting defeat. I knew that these would not bring me joy. I knew that it was not a long-term solution. When the rejection sank in, when the anger subsided, and when I swallowed my pride and chose not to feel embarrassed, I was able to think with increased clarity. I want to be a doctor. Nothing can shake that. So what if it takes me another year? So what if I need to apply again? Many years down the track, what will a missed application cycle mean?
I began to change my outlook. It was mid-November at this stage, one week after my final undergraduate exam. I became antsy upon sitting at home, working, but not working on myself. I needed to improve. This is where I started preparing for the March GAMSAT. Nice and early.
With purpose and with vision. My GAMSAT was already competitive (I did get an interview at UniMelb and USyd, after all), but I wanted to beat it. I wanted to jump into the next application season with greater chances. And if I fail the next round, then at least the March exam will last me one more year. Either way, I’m not finished with this. I don’t care how much of a try-hard I feel along the way. I have a vision.
Things began to change over the summer. I was still working part-time in a much-hated job, but found a nice balance between the work, between the GAMSAT prep, between connecting with my partner in a new and eye-opening way that was unencumbered by the stresses of the undergrad, between getting closer with my sister and between a more positive outlook on life. I really did begin to enjoy how things were travelling.
Yes, it was my third GAMSAT sitting. Yes, I felt old sitting next to second-year undergrad students with the world at their fingertips. But let’s just focus on me and not worry.
I took just under a month off from all things pre-med. The GAMSAT was done, interviews were quite far away. It’s time to unwind and get back in touch with reality. I travelled places with my partner, grew even closer with her, I landed an astounding part-time job that I genuinely enjoyed waking up to go to, I connected with friends and spent time with my sister. This ended up being an amazing bit of time, one which I matured and cherished.
At the end of April, I began preparing for interviews. Yes, results for the GAMSAT weren’t out yet, however even if I bombed it I had the previous year to go off and hopefully land another interview with it. I thought preparing for interviews would be arduous. Turns out it was even better than when preparing for the GAMSAT. I had so much time on my hands. A few hours a day of study/preparation and yet I was still living an amazing life.
Then GAMSAT results came out. An amazing improvement from the previous scores. An amazing confidence booster.
Again, all the way up to the USyd interview mid-year, I had an amazing time balancing preparation time, working, and truly enjoying life. I was happier than I’d ever been before. Preparing for the Multiple Mini Interviews became enjoyable.
Genuinely enjoyable. It wasn’t some taxing task that I despised doing because I failed to gain entry in the previous round. It helped me develop as a person. It showed me, on a deeper level, what being a doctor was about. It made me yearn for it even more and enter a state of self-reflection and self-understanding that I had never seen before. Never had I been so in touch with my true self. The week before the USyd interview I turned around to my partner and said if I don’t get in this year, I really don’t know if I’ll be sad having to apply again. This year has been so enjoyable that if I have to wait one more year, then so be it. This is the level I loved being on come interview season. Yearning to start medicine, but so content with life that it’s OK if it’s delayed.
The improvement in my interviews from the previous year was heart-warming.
Words cannot describe the emotions felt on the days I received an offer for USyd and UniMelb. Perspective was made. I was distraught this time last year. I felt like I had nothing to live for. Everything was riding on me being accepted and I blew it, destroying all hope for happiness. Then I found happiness irrespective of the MD. Finally, I was accepted into it and had the best year of my life along the way.
A forced gap year, I admit, however, it was the greatest imposition I could have never asked for.
I get it. It is tough and things may feel terrible right now. However, no matter what happens over the next 12 months, you will develop as a person. Accepting your setback and choosing to mature for the better may well be one of the greatest choices you can make.
GAMSAT Section 3
GAMSAT Section 2
GAMSAT Section 1