Say you have a low GPA and even lower GPA from undergrad. How do you improve your chances, and should you discuss the challenges behind your grades?
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[00:53] OldPreMeds Question of the Week:
“I’m considering going to med school as a 29-year-old. I graduated from undergrad in 2012 (civil engineering) with a 2.9 overall and 2.2 BCPM GPA. A few years later, in my mid 20’s, I was finally diagnosed with major depression, anxiety, and PTSD. While I probably should have dropped out of undergrad to heal (I got an F in diff EQ but retook and got a B), I toughed it out. I did make it onto the Dean’s List my final two semesters (both final two semesters were a 3.5).
I have been working in engineering/construction for the past 7 years since I graduated. I’ve been so much more interested in the mental health of the construction workers than the actual physical infrastructure itself. Thus, I feel called to work in mental health. I am currently considering being a psych RN/eventually an NP or becoming an MD/DO (either primary care, psychiatry, neurology). Med school is calling me louder than the nursing route, currently.
But, I know I have a very long road ahead. Also, before I get too far into the details and logistics, I want to know your opinion: will I have to talk about my diagnoses on my med school application? Will they work against me? I have a ton of coping mechanisms and amazing support now that have helped me see awesome recovery. But, it’s something I’ll deal with always. I do want to talk about my mental health, because it is a big part of why I feel compelled to be a physician.”
[Related episode: What MCAT Score Do I Need If I Have a Low GPA?]
[02:47] Should You Mention Your Mental Health History?
There are medical students whose mental health history is a big part of their reasons for becoming a physician. If so, then it may and should come up in your interviews and personal statement because that’s your story. That’s the reason why you’re doing this. Otherwise, the admissions committee might find something that’s missing.'You have to be authentic to your story or else it won't make sense.'Click To Tweet
[Related episode: Will My Medical History Affect My Chances at Medical School?]
[04:06] How Schools May Recieve Your Information
Mental health has a stigma associated with it that’s why a lot of students are worried to talk about it. There are two different options to take.
First, you avoid it and don’t talk about it. Then try to come up with another story. That may work but that’s not authentic to you. And you may struggle once you talk about it in your interviews.
The other option is to talk about it very briefly even if you don’t have to go into the big details about your diagnosis and your medication you’re on. Don’t go too far in-depth.
Now, you may receive two different responses. Either they might say they don’t want to deal with any sort of mental health in their school and they don’t want you there.
Or they may be WOWed by your story for having overcome a ton. They know that you’re going to have great empathy for patients struggling with similar things. And they’d love to talk to you. Which of the two would you like to be at?
Go in and be fully authentic.'Being authentic will help you go to a school that will support you if and when you needed support during medical school.'Click To Tweet
[06:35] When You Don’t Have to Talk About It
If mental health struggles are a part of why you want to be a physician, you can’t avoid talking about it. But if it’s not part of your story as to why you want to be a physician, then you don’t have to talk about it.'The goal of the personal statement is why you want to be a physician.'Click To Tweet
Diving into that story is not necessary if it’s not part of why. Remember, the goal of the personal statement is to express why you want to become a physician.
But in this case, it sounds like it is part of “why medicine?” so tell that story. And be prepared for the consequences. There are reviewers out there that are not going to like that and who are going to be scared of that. As long as you go knowing that, the more authentic you are, the better your application will be.
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