Matt is a premed with multiple acceptances to med school, even with a big red flag on his application—a DUI. Learn what happened and how he talked about it on his medical school application.
Meanwhile, we have a lot of resources available for you as you go through this path. Do check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network. Join a collaborative community of premed students on the Premed Hangout group. If you’re also interested in some readings, check out The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement and The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview.
[02:03] An Interest in Becoming a Physician
Matt knew he wanted to do something health-related since he was in undergrad. Born with a permanently detached retina on his left eye, he was able to overcome and adapt to live a relatively normal life. He didn’t have driving disabilities, and in fact, he became a high school varsity quarterback. Aware that there are so many people with these debilitating diseases and disorders that aren’t able to adapt by themselves, this was his motivating factor to go into health care.
Being able to play ball while having his disability, Matt says this involves a lot of muscle memory, where he spent a lot of time practicing. Even when he played basketball, he shot a lot of free throws to get his muscle memory down that he became the designated free throw shooter during his junior and senior year.
For him, being blind in his left eye was an extra motivator, which he felt was helpful to talk about in interviews and application.
[03:55] Talking About HIs Disability on the Application
Matt actually had his left eye removed the past semester but before that, it looked abnormal. So growing up, he would have people asking about it. So it kind of just became part of his identity and he got used to explaining. And as he learned the science behind it, he was able to explain it more. Being comfortable talking about it somehow helped in talking about it in medical school application and interviews.
A lot of his interviewers would bring this up and make a big deal about it. They’re trying to picture themselves living with one eye and how that would be different. Matt had to balance between making it seem like it’s not big an adaptation for him as it would be for them, but also try not to downplay the importance of it in developing him as a person.
[06:24] The Push to Becoming a Physician
Growing up, his family moved around a lot. And with each move, he’d get to meet a new primary care physician. He’d get in touch with an ophthalmologist he’d go regularly. So being able to see a wide range of MDs and DOs, his exposure to them at a young age was what really pushed him into that field.
Both Matt’s parents were medical technologists while his dad eventually switched to hospital administration. He considers this level of exposure as a huge help, even just hearing the stories about their jobs.
[07:55] Becoming a Physician vs. a Medical Technologist
Being a sports enthusiast, he was thinking physical therapy would be interesting. So he shadowed a physical therapist and talked to his dad about it. Then his dad challenged him to do more research on being a nurse, physician, etc. The more he was looking into it and shadowed and researched, he felt like being a physician in a multi-disciplinary, across the entire health care spectrum, leadership role fit his personality and what he really wanted to do.
Matt has been a phlebotomist for almost two years now so he has gotten to work with medical technologists for a bit but he doesn’t think there is that much level of patient contact that he would enjoy.
[09:38] The Hardest Thing in His Journey to Medical School: DUI Charges
The hardest thing for him was the past mistakes he has done related to multiple alcohol violations in undergrad. During his freshmen year, he got an on-campus alcohol violation which he just shrugged off. Then the following semester, it happened again. Matt admits the lack of maturity, without thinking about how this would affect him in the future, not only externally with jobs, but also internally, his thought process and the way he’d spend his free time.
Then he went through the sophomore year and then the summer following that, he met a couple of buddies who were on active duty military leave. They went up to one of the cabins and they went out to a bar. Although they had a designated driver at that time, his vehicle broke down on their way home so he made the decision to get in the driver’s seat to figure out what was going on. Until he got charged for operating the vehicle while intoxicated.
[12:38] Talking About His DUI on the Application
He did reach out to medical schools and asked them in a hypothetical way to find out how medical schools would react to this. Many of them said they’d still consider the application as their main focus is not so much on the mistakes but on how you’ve changed what you’ve done to learn and grow from them.
Matt found it difficult to talk about this in the primary application. Not only because there are limited characters provided, but there’s also a law in the State of Wisconsin where the first offense of driving under the influence is not a misdemeanor or felony. So it’s not a criminal charge, but just like a “very expensive” traffic ticket. But you still get your license taken away for a period of time. So he had this dilemma whether he wanted to include this in his primary application or was there a need to disclose it.
So he asked a lot of advisors but there were a lot of gray area answers, being told that no one has dealt with this before and that it was up to him. At that time, his mindset in trying to learning and growing up from this mistake was owning up to it and be honest.
Ultimately, he decided to include this in his primary application. He tried to fill the limited characters up with a detailed explanation where he could get the point across about what happened and how he has learned and grown.
In hindsight, Matt says he must have talked to a lawyer about it first just to get a more comprehensive outlook. But at that time, he was focused on his personal growth and owning up and being honest about what happened.
He marked this under the Misdemeanor. His thought process was that in other states, it would be considered a misdemeanor that’s why he included it. Then at the very beginning, he included a disclaimer that says it wasn’t considered a criminal charge or misdemeanor in the State of Wisconsin so it may not appear on criminal records.
Looking back, Matt admits he may have thought of doing it differently. He did understand what he did at that time with the mindset he had. But for the reasons of being honest and being open about it, just in case it were to come up in any search results, he didn’t want to sound like he was trying to hide it.
[17:50] Talking About DUI During The Interview Process
Matt got asked about this during two interviews. He got the chance to practice with me a week before his interview and so he was able to practice in his mind what he wanted to say to them about it, without really memorizing it word for word. And the interviewers took it positively, making him more comfortable talking about it. The second interview was a panel-type which he felt was intimidating. He had to keep his thought process going while maintaining eye contact with all of them.
For him, he had this strong desire to get into medical school which was his motivating factor. It made him realize that he had to remain optimistic amidst what happened. He has always kept this mindset of positivity that he was really going to get into medical school.
[21:42] Other Premed Struggles
Another challenge he had to go through as a premed was balance. He had to balance his leadership role, and volunteering, shadowing, along with maintaining a healthy lifestyle where he would still have time to cook healthy meals, workout, and relax.
To find that balance, he’d relax watching sports or playing video games. He also enjoys working out. He also finds naps to be helpful.
[23:27] Choosing Schools to Apply To
His potential red flags didn’t really weigh into where he went to but more on how many schools he applied to. He ended up applying to 43 schools (30 MD and 13 DO). He was living off ramen noodles since his money was directed towards the applications. Check out this medical application cost estimator tool to give you a rough estimate of how much your application might cost.
Matt got a total of five interviews and he recently rejected withdrew the rest of his applications. Matt had great GPA and MCAT scores so these were not hurting him. Other than that, it was how he worded his personal statement. He gives credit to The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement. He also made sure he had consistent volunteering and clinical experience.
Out of the five interviews, Matt got three acceptances. He ultimately chose the Medical College of Wisconsin Spring Bay Campus due primarily to proximity to his parents. Also, they focus on primary care which is something he’s strongly interested in. Plus, when he went there during interview day, he felt so at home and welcomed. He describes how personalized they were, calling him by name. Lastly, it’s a three-year medical school so he believes he can save a year of time and money.
[28:40] Talking About His Disability During the Interview
Matt got asked how being blind in one eye could impact what field of medicine he gets into, and he was just honest about his limitations knowing that there are some things out of your control. Being prepared for this question beforehand would definitely give you that reflection and self-awareness to talk about it. Matt adds you need to make sure you don’t think you’re going to be the perfect applicant or the perfect doctor, but that you’re able to talk about your own limitations or weak points and owning up to it.
This is the same as being asked what your weaknesses are, where you don’t turn them into strengths. You simply just have to be honest about your limitations. The medical school interview is not a job interview. Check out The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview.
[31:25] Final Words of Wisdom
Reach out to fellow premeds either physically or on Facebook, including the Premed Hangout group. There’s a large, diverse group of premed students out there who have the same goal as you have. And they may be able to give you advice that you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten from an advisor or family and friends that aren’t premeds.
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