Five Tips on Tackling the Hurdles that Lies Ahead a Medical School Application
Most students recognize that judgment improves with age and that some of us will hit rough patches in our early adult years. Medical school admissions committees agree with that. They also want to know what applicants have learned from troubling experiences.
Here are five areas for prospective med school students to consider when weighing how to address personal or academic blemishes in the medical school application process:
- Criminal offenses.
- University disciplinary actions.
- Time gaps in college education.
- Course withdrawals or incompletes.
- Poor grades.
1. Criminal Offenses
A med school applicant should notify prospective schools and describe any Criminal Offences he or she has involved in upfront. Being honest and humble is the best approach. If a record of a crime has not been expunged, for example, don’t count on that happening. It can backfire if expungement does not occur.
An arrest is not the same as a conviction, and prospective med schools should be willing to listen to your perspective on a situation. Letting your schools of interest know what you learned from the situation and how it influenced later behavior will be appreciated. Avoidance of future occurrences is the bottom line.
2. University Disciplinary Actions
A similar approach can be helpful in addressing a school disciplinary action. These errors are more forgivable as a freshman than during the last six months of college, when the applicant should be focused on his or her future career. Being upfront and humble about mistakes and lessons learned, and improving subsequent behavior, are appropriate steps.
3. Time Gaps in College Education
Time gaps when the applicant did not attend school deserve an explanation and will likely be asked about during a med school interview. Some interviewers might believe the applicant was trying to hide the reason. If it was a mental health concern, consider how that could be answered before the question is posed during the interview.
Being honest does not mean that the applicant should give every detail. Carrying a red flag or painting at target on one’s back is not the goal. It is possible that too many courses and activities with too little sleep led the student into depression.
Students will be asked about their greatest challenges in life. It is wise to think ahead how you will give a sincere answer, whether on the application or in the interview. A minor and insignificant issue won’t sound realistic. If it was the only challenge for the applicant, then there might be worry that he or she has not been tested by stress adequately to predict success.
4. Course Withdrawals or Incompletes
Course withdrawals or incompletes on the grade transcript may imply that the applicant does not realistically know what he or she can handle. Especially if there is a repeat occurrence, there should be a good explanation. How will the individual handle medical school, which is a much heavier academic load?
If the applicant was unexpectedly hospitalized or experienced a tragic accident, his or her withdrawals and incompletes will be understood. Remember, the committee looks for unexplained holes in the application. Do your best to mend, and early.
5. Poor Grades
Poor grades, especially in science courses, deserve a considerate explanation. If the applicant had an unfortunate semester, that deserves some attention on the application. Why did it happen? What was learned to carry forward?
One course usually doesn’t matter that much.
Seemingly Minor Details
Some small points or general errors on an application include things such as typos and poor grammar. The applicant is producing a professional document, so these things matter. There are too many well-written applications to select over one that is not carefully prepared. After the applicant has performed spelling and grammar checks, it is helpful to ask someone else to review the application.
Part of humility on an application can be relayed by giving people appropriate credit for helping you. For example, research mentors, teachers or activity leaders should be mentioned.
Don’t forget to mention the medical school by name in the secondary application. Perhaps referring to its mission and its relationship to what you hope to achieve is a good idea. Think beyond cutting and pasting the same essay for multiple medical schools.
You have been working toward this goal of medical school for many years. A past mistake does not mean you can’t be an exceptionally fine physician. Use this advice to jump a hurdle and finish the race to medical school matriculation.