The Case of Multiple Withdrawals on Transcripts

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Session 194

Today, our poster is concerned about which part of the application should they be discussing issues like assault, withdrawal, and transferring to another school.

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Also, check out our YouTube videos, which consist of two series: Ask Dr. Gray Premed Q&A and Application Renovation.

In Application Renovation, I meet with a student who didn’t get in to medical school. I look at their application and talk to them. Then I try to offer my thoughts on why they didn’t get in to medical school as well as advice on how to improve their application for the next cycle.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[02:04] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“I’ve been listening to your podcast for the past two years – you’ve been a tremendous support to me and I am eternally grateful for your wisdom and guidance. 

I am a 31-year-old nontraditional student. I completed my BA in Environmental Science in 2012 and an MA in Clinical Psychology and Global Health in 2017. I am now enrolled in a DIY postbacc. program, with one more year of coursework before I take the MCAT May 2020 and apply that same cycle. My overall GPA is a 3.72 and my science GPA is a 3.89. 

I work as an advocate for survivors of sexual assault in the emergency department. I am the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships to complete independent research in refugee health disparities in my community. In addition, I also volunteer in an emergency department.

I began my undergraduate career studying film and theater at a well-known university in New York City. My grades were As with the occasional B+. Without going into much detail, Fall of my junior year, I was assaulted in my apartment by a stranger. 

After a period of emotional and psychological distress, I choose to withdraw mid-semester from my classes and leave New York City with the hope of one day returning to finish my degree. Instead, I transferred to a liberal arts college to finish my Bachelor’s.

I have been told that a semester’s worth of Ws on a past transcript is a serious red flag. This event occurred in 2009 – 10 years ago. How and where in my application should I address the reason for my abrupt withdrawal mid-semester without going into too much detail or embarrassing the admissions committee?”

[Related episode: DIY Postbac or Second Bachelor’s Degree]

[04:01] Where to Bring It Up in Your Application

It sounds like you’re doing amazing and I want to congratulate you on your success given the past challenges. With that said, this is something you really don’t have to bring up in an application.

It would be easy to see all As in your first school and then Ws at school A, then starting at school B and finishing a degree there. It’s going to be obvious to anyone looking at that application that something happened.

'There are a million and one reasons somebody would withdraw and transfer to another school.'Click To Tweet

Withdrawing from your classes and transferring to another school is not a serious red flag. It’s just something that may be asked. Instead, be prepared to talk about it. However, you don’t need to bring this up in your applications.

In secondary applications, you would usually have the opportunity to chat about this. This is actually a very common secondary prompt and you can discuss that in this section. You don’t have to go into painful details or specifics.

Unless it’s a very strong reason as to why you wanted to become a physician then you may bring the assault up in your personal statement. But a semester-worth of Ws is not an issue. It’s completely obvious.

In fact, I had a talk with an admissions committee member and said that a semester worth of withdrawals, in fact, shows a bit of wisdom. It means you owned up to the fact that something in your life is not going right so you’re smart enough to know you should probably withdraw.

[Related episode: 6 Secondary Essay Mistakes and How to Avoid Them]


If you’re currently shadowing a physician, please send them to Whether it’s a mentor, friend, a parent, or whoever it is, please let them know about this resource. We’re hoping to get some physicians on board.

[Related episode: How Should I Prepare For My First Shadowing Experience?]


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