How to Write About Red Flags in Your Secondary Essays

How do you talk about something that maybe you are embarrassed of and you’re scared that it’s going to keep you out of medical school?

We’ve all had shortcomings in our lives and through our academic journey. 

But if you have something that is going to come up in an application, there may be a question in your secondary essay about red flags.

Defining a red flag is up to you. 

Medical school red flags exist on a spectrum. Repeating your MCAT is not a red flag, nor is a C in one class. But an arrest or an F is typically a red flag.

Whether or not you want to define something in your transcript or resume as a red flag or not is up to you.

When you’re writing about medical school red flags, understand that you have to take ownership of whatever happened.

Take ownership.

Too often, students try to blame someone else for their shortcomings. 

“The teacher was terrible—that’s why I got an F” or “I was falsely accused of cheating.”

If there’s cheating on your academic transcript, this means the school probably went through a thorough investigation and determined that you cheated. 

To say that you were falsely accused at this point is just wasted breath. 

Instead, it’s just going to cause the admissions committee to not give your application a second chance.

How have you become better?

If you’re not taking ownership of your shortcomings from your past, you’re not going to get very far in the application. 

Talk about what you’ve learned, how you’ve overcome your shortcomings, and how you’ve become better.

The more you can cite specific steps you’ve taken or specific signs that you’ve successfully turned things around since then, the better.