How to Discuss Trauma in Medical School Interviews

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How to Discuss Trauma in Medical School Interviews

Session 229

If you’ve experienced trauma, this one’s for you. I’ll share what to say, what not to say, and how much is too much for your med school interview.

Questions answered here on the podcast are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum over at Please go ahead and register for an account, ask your question, and have fun with the community. If you haven’t yet as well, be sure to check out our community on Facebook at Premed Hangout.

Also, please be sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as we try to bring you as many resources as you need on this journey.

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

[01:45] OldPreMeds Question of the Week


So this is a little hard for me to discuss, but I know it’s something that’s going to come up if I’m fortunate enough to get an interview, and I’ve wanted to ask someone about this but I didn’t know who or how, and I recently stumbled across this site, so I’m going to try because this seems like the best forum I’ve come across.

I’m a 26-year-old female and I have a BS in mathematics (graduated when I was 22, but finished my math degree when I was 21), with a 3.46 GPA. When I was 19 (after my freshmen year), I watched one of my professors bleed to death with the rest of my class in another country, then less than nine months later I was raped by a guy I would see for the next three years until he graduated and left (I went to school in a pretty small town, and he was part of my extended friend group). Having witnessed the lives of other close friends get ripped apart when they reported sexual assault and not wanting to hurt my parents (it would wreck them), I never reported anything. For about a year after our professor’s death, we were the pity of everyone who saw us, and it drove me crazy.

My freshmen year of college, I was in all sophomore classes, and I got straight A’s, but then after all of the above happened, I got straight B’s and two C+’s (one of which was in microbio because I had a class in the same building as the guy, and I didn’t attend as much as a should have for that reason). As soon as he left (also around the time I decided to take premed courses), I began getting good grades again, but not all of my premed courses are good grades (most are, and ochem and biochem I got A’s in).

This was a trend I noticed in the last year or two since looking back on my life and experiences. I think I was a bit depressed and withdrawn from everything (I focused on rock and ice climbing as a form of therapy), but now I’m fine. Since there’s a clear trend in my undergraduate grades, I’m expecting to be asked about it, but I have absolutely no idea how to respond without coming off as a delicate flower/unstable or something. I’m not delicate or unstable, and I’m very level-headed and logical, but my reactions as an early 20-something may make an interviewer think otherwise. What happened was pretty much out of my control, but it’s been affecting my life since the day both things happened. I don’t intend to write about any of this in my personal statement or mention anything before an interview since, while it’s something that has happened and is a part of me, it’s not what defines me.

Any advice? Thank you.

[04:34] Should You Write It in Your Personal Statement?

“There are lots of avenues and angles that any student can take when it comes to dealing with red flags.”Click To Tweet

And this is whether or not you dealt with a traumatic event that you don’t want to talk about, or really anything in your life that you don’t want to talk about. Another common thing that comes up a lot is addiction issues.  Students from all backgrounds that have had traumatic events have affected their grades. 

If this is not a part of why you want to be a physician, then you don’t need to throw it in there. 

A 3.46 GPA is not a bad GPA. Having a good upward trend is great. So you don’t need to throw in that red flag in your personal statement. You don’t necessarily have to say that.  Although it still may come up in an interview for the interviewer to ask about what happened with your grades. Especially if it’s an open interview where they can see your grades and your trends and everything else.

[05:44] What to Say

You can just say you had a lot of stuff going on in your life then that you weren’t able to handle it then as you do now. It’s just a simple statement. You don’t have to get personal about it. You don’t have to get specific about it. And hopefully, the interviewer will take a clue. 

“Most of us are very empathetic people. We can see that the person we're interviewing is potentially a little bit shy about talking about that subject.”Click To Tweet

If it’s not a huge issue, they hopefully won’t push it. But if they do go down that path, you can just say it’s some personal stuff that you’re not very comfortable talking about. It’s been dealt with, so it’s not an issue.

That part of your life is over. You’re just really excited that you took a lot of lessons from that time and you’ve shown that you’ve been able to rebound. So you just talk about as much as possible that it’s not an issue anymore and it’s not going to be an issue in the future. It’s over with. So it’s not a problem.

[07:41] Talking About Your Takeaways from That Experience

When it comes to an interview and an application wherever it else may be, the goal is always what did you learn? The more that you can do that, the better you’ll be without really necessarily going into all of those details.

“What did you take away from that situation?'Click To Tweet


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