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Addressing Difficult Weaknesses in Secondaries?

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ATPsynthase17

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Some of my secondaries ask me to discuss areas of my application that may worry adcoms. These are required essays. The allocated character count is pretty large, so I likely have to explain them in decent detail.

I did poorly fall quarter of my Junior year, earning no A's and even a C. I also dropped a class with a W the summer after. I was struggling with depression and having difficulty attending to my schoolwork. I also had a part time job at the time. I overcame this grade dip with strong grades my senior year, and I now have a decent GPA for many med schools (3.7).

Still, these errors stand out from the rest of my transcript. I know discussing depression is taboo, but how can I sufficiently explain the situation without being too vague?
 
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FutureSurgical

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How is depression a taboo topic? It's a real thing that affects a lot of undergraduates and it's a real obstacle to overcome.
 

ATPsynthase17

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I've heard from several sources that it's taboo because it might suggest that the student can't handle the rigors of med school.
 

FutureSurgical

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Anything that lowers your GPA could be considered as potential for not being ready for medical school. If you address it as an issue you fixed and don't linger on it, then I don't see why not.
 

ridethecliche

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Your overall GPA is good. If anything, I'd say that you were dealing with health issues during that one semester and were unable to focus as well as you usually can and had a bad semester as a result. If your grades are good following that and you've rebounded, you should say that once your issues were addressed, you were able to perform at a level that was indicative of your ability.

I wouldn't mention depression unless you wrote other essays or such about it. It's for med school, but it's harder to question 'medical issues' than it is to question 'depression'. I'm not saying that's right, but it is what it is.

I hope that you've found the balance you seek now and congrats on rebounding!
 

ATPsynthase17

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Anything that lowers your GPA could be considered as potential for not being ready for medical school. If you address it as an issue you fixed and don't linger on it, then I don't see why not.

The thing about depression is it isn't an issue you can "fix" in the typical sense. It's somewhat unpredictable and can spring up again in the future. Adcoms know this and that's why they find it concerning/may stigmatize it. Still, it's true that many med students struggle with it and that it's a common issue.

Your overall GPA is good. If anything, I'd say that you were dealing with health issues during that one semester and were unable to focus as well as you usually can and had a bad semester as a result. If your grades are good following that and you've rebounded, you should say that once your issues were addressed, you were able to perform at a level that was indicative of your ability.

I wouldn't mention depression unless you wrote other essays or such about it. It's for med school, but it's harder to question 'medical issues' than it is to question 'depression'. I'm not saying that's right, but it is what it is.

I hope that you've found the balance you seek now and congrats on rebounding!

Okay, thanks! I was originally planning on framing it as "health issues." Does that seem suspiciously vague, though, especially considering the amount of space I'm given? Worst case scenario I don't want to end up being asked to elaborate on the nature of these "health issues" during an interview. And thank you :)
 

moisne

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Your overall GPA is 3.7... don't talk about it. You can bring it up during an interview. From what you wrote... it's borderline excuses and would sound bad. Unless you can make a positive spin, I personally wouldn't mention it.

I had a 2.0 summer semester, only one interviewer asked me about it. I worked 60 hours/week and took a class that was "3 credits" but it ran from 8 am to 5 pm.
 

ridethecliche

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Okay, thanks! I was originally planning on framing it as "health issues." Does that seem suspiciously vague, though, especially considering the amount of space I'm given? Worst case scenario I don't want to end up being asked to elaborate on the nature of these "health issues" during an interview. And thank you :)

I think the committee might question anything you mention that might mean you will falter during your education. Health issues might lead to questions, but I'd say that they're addressed, which is true.

If you're asked to address them further during an interview, you can do that in a way which you cannot do during a written essay. That is, it is easier to explain these things in person.

Your success since that time speaks volumes. Don't sell yourself short.

I have a friend that was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after being admitted to medical school. The school let said person take a deferment for a year to address these issues before starting. The schools want to let in people that can succeed. It is in your best interest and theirs to have these issues worked on as best as possible before admittance.

I honestly wouldn't worry that much about it, but perhaps @Goro could say a bit more about this?
 
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FutureSurgical

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The thing about depression is it isn't an issue you can "fix" in the typical sense. It's somewhat unpredictable and can spring up again in the future. Adcoms know this and that's why they find it concerning/may stigmatize it. Still, it's true that many med students struggle with it and that it's a common issue.
So is Type II Diabetes. And before you say "it's not the same" I want to let you know I went through depression too but I got help. I can't imagine adcoms holding back you admission just because of depression unless you gave them a huge impression that you haven't found any help and looked like you're very unstable.
 
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baxt1412

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Your overall GPA is 3.7... don't talk about it. You can bring it up during an interview. From what you wrote... it's borderline excuses and would sound bad. Unless you can make a positive spin, I personally wouldn't mention it.

I had a 2.0 summer semester, only one interviewer asked me about it. I worked 60 hours/week and took a class that was "3 credits" but it ran from 8 am to 5 pm.
I'd go with this. What was your GPA that semester? Seems like if you got 1 C the rest were probably B- to B+ range which means your GPA was probably around a 3.0 ADCOMs know people have tough semesters. Almost EVERYONE has one or a couple. I wouldn't draw attention to it, your 3.7 is still competitive.
 

ATPsynthase17

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I'd go with this. What was your GPA that semester? Seems like if you got 1 C the rest were probably B- to B+ range which means your GPA was probably around a 3.0 ADCOMs know people have tough semesters. Almost EVERYONE has one or a couple. I wouldn't draw attention to it, your 3.7 is still competitive.

My GPA that quarter was slightly below a 2.7. Okay, so I don't have to address it at all? The reason I ask is because the prompt asks to address weaknesses, and I don't want it to seem odd if I don't address this.

If I do mention it, I guess I'm going to go with "health issues" like other posters have suggested.
 

Goro

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V-shaped grade trends are common. No need to explain anything in PS, but if asked about it in secondaries specifically, just answer honestly.

Some of my secondaries ask me to discuss areas of my application that may worry adcoms. These are required essays. The allocated character count is pretty large, so I likely have to explain them in decent detail.

I did poorly fall quarter of my Junior year, earning no A's and even a C. I also dropped a class with a W the summer after. I was struggling with depression and having difficulty attending to my schoolwork. I also had a part time job at the time. I overcame this grade dip with strong grades my senior year, and I now have a decent GPA for many med schools (3.7).

Still, these errors stand out from the rest of my transcript. I know discussing depression is taboo, but how can I sufficiently explain the situation without being too vague?

We're not allowed to reject anyone because of health reasons, but it does make us worry. Medical school is a furnace and depression is the major cause of my students doing poorly in their academics.


How is depression a taboo topic? It's a real thing that affects a lot of undergraduates and it's a real obstacle to overcome.
 
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