Marcion

2+ Year Member
Jun 24, 2015
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Hi guys,

So as a non-trad applicant I have two years of exceptional post-bacc performance under my belt. In undergrad though I was fairly unmotivated and didn't know what I wanted to do with my life; the result is my semester GPA fluctuated in a range from 2.4 to 3.5 for my first three years of college, though I finished senior year rather strong. Would it appropriate to bring up ways I've improved on my past immaturity in prompts that ask about "adverse circumstances" that might have impacted your grades, and in prompts asking about "other information you'd like to share?" I don't really have a good reason for previous bad grades other than immaturity, so it might not 100% fit the "adverse circumstances" prompt, but I feel like this is the most relevant area to bring up issues with academic performance.

Thanks,
Marcion
 

Goro

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Jun 10, 2010
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Don't even think about trying to claim that your immaturity was an adverse circumstance.

You'll have better luck with the "anything you wanna tell us?" prompt. The risk is that it will end up sounding like an excuse.
 

ndafife

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Jun 16, 2014
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Think about it more this way...

Explain your recent good grades as opposed to explaining your past poor performance.

You don't have an adverse circumstance or any meaningful to talk about related to why your grades were erratic/poor. Draw attention to your improvement.
 

NotASerialKiller

2+ Year Member
Jul 7, 2015
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I've seen a lot of prompts that simply ask you to explain discrepancies or drops in your GPA. For those, I think you can probably reflect and come up with a better answer than immaturity. Maybe you were in school for the wrong reasons, but then discovered your passion for medicine when you started taking particular science courses and got some clinical experience, and the rest fell into place. You'll be able to come up with a nicer way to phrase it that is also true if you think about it a while. I wouldn't write this for prompts that ask for external challenges that explain why you couldn't keep your GPA up, though. Even phrased nicely this sort of answer is not what they're talking about.
 
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Marcion

2+ Year Member
Jun 24, 2015
172
145
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Pre-Medical
Don't even think about trying to claim that your immaturity was an adverse circumstance.

You'll have better luck with the "anything you wanna tell us?" prompt. The risk is that it will end up sounding like an excuse.
I figured it was dicey, but also thought it might be better to put it there rather than shoehorning it into a totally unrelated prompt or leaving my academic record as a big question mark. Good to hear your thoughts on the issue, I'll just leave it out.

Think about it more this way...

Explain your recent good grades as opposed to explaining your past poor performance.

You don't have an adverse circumstance or any meaningful to talk about related to why your grades were erratic/poor. Draw attention to your improvement.
This is what I've done; 1/4 of my response is mentioning reasons why my grades were poor and 3/4 is mentioning how and why they improved. I know what they really care about is knowing that any past problems won't be an indication of future ones.

I've seen a lot of prompts that simply ask you to explain discrepancies or drops in your GPA. For those, I think you can probably reflect and come up with a better answer than immaturity. Maybe you were in school for the wrong reasons, but then discovered your passion for medicine when you started taking particular science courses and got some clinical experience, and the rest fell into place. You'll be able to come up with a nicer way to phrase it that is also true if you think about it a while. I wouldn't write this for prompts that ask for external challenges that explain why you couldn't keep your GPA up, though. Even phrased nicely this sort of answer is not what they're talking about.
Mostly I just didn't know what I wanted to do with my life and didn't have the maturity to soldier through classes I thought were "boring" (after all, I thought, it's not like I'm gonna apply to med school... LOL). Once I figured out what I wanted to do in life (first academia, later medicine) I found the drive to excel and force myself to find ways to be interested in the "boring" stuff, since I never know when it might come up again in my future career.
 
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NotASerialKiller

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Mostly I just didn't know what I wanted to do with my life and didn't have the maturity to soldier through classes I thought were "boring" (after all, I thought, it's not like I'm gonna apply to med school... LOL). Once I figured out what I wanted to do in life (first academia, later medicine) I found the drive to excel and force myself interested in the "boring" stuff, since I never know when it might come up again in my future career.
That's already starting to sound a little bit better. Obviously don't call the classes boring and try not to emphasize the part where you don't try if you don't see the usefulness of the material, they won't love that. Focus on the part where you describe your newfound drive. You're not lying, just putting a different spin on it. No one wants to hear that you could have had a better GPA if you cared enough, they want to hear about how you found your niche and were driven to excel because of it!
 
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Marcion

2+ Year Member
Jun 24, 2015
172
145
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Pre-Medical
That's already starting to sound a little bit better. Obviously don't call the classes boring and try not to emphasize the part where you don't try if you don't see the usefulness of the material, they won't love that. Focus on the part where you describe your newfound drive. You're not lying, just putting a different spin on it. No one wants to hear that you could have had a better GPA if you cared enough, they want to hear about how you found your niche and were driven to excel because of it!
Oh trust me, this is one of the essays I'm editing most carefully and having other people look over. I have a ~200 word essay talking about it (and parts of my PS about my journey to medicine touch on it too). I talk about how I matured and came up with a plan for my future, which along with a passion for helping others, inspired me to find the discipline and focus to succeed. I don't want to quote the whole thing on SDN so my description here is more of a "tl;dr" version.

Part of my issue writing this is that I was diagnosed and treated for depression junior year, and it almost certainly played a role in my bad grades prior to that. I don't want to bring it up though, because I am told mentioning mental health issues can be the touch of death for some adcoms.... so I kind of have to dance around it. It's true I "didn't know what I wanted to do with my life" ... in large part because I was depressed.

As an aside, it it considered a bad idea to talk about academic issues for a "tell me about a time you failed" prompt? Because if I had a time machine I'd sure like to go back and give 18-yo me a kick in the butt.
 

NotASerialKiller

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Oh trust me, this is one of the essays I'm editing most carefully and having other people look over. I have a ~200 word essay talking about it (and parts of my PS about my journey to medicine touch on it too). I talk about how I matured and came up with a plan for my future, which along with a passion for helping others, inspired me to find the discipline and focus to succeed. I don't want to quote the whole thing on SDN so my description here is more of a "tl;dr" version.

Part of my issue writing this is that I was diagnosed and treated for depression junior year, and it almost certainly played a role in my bad grades prior to that. I don't want to bring it up though, because I am told mentioning mental health issues can be the touch of death for some adcoms.... so I kind of have to dance around it. It's true I "didn't know what I wanted to do with my life" ... in large part because I was depressed.

As an aside, it it considered a bad idea to talk about academic issues for a "tell me about a time you failed" prompt? Because if I had a time machine I'd sure like to go back and give 18-yo me a kick in the butt.
I've read that using academics for a failure essay is not the best idea. This makes sense in your situation, because you'd end up highlighting the things that I said in my last post that they don't want to hear. I'm not sure how well you could spin that one.

As for depression, it's probably in your best interest not to bring it up. It doesn't really change much, it sounds like you already have a way to talk about your poor grades and academic turnaround. There's really no need to call attention to something that might be a future concern and as you pointed out might be considered an excuse by some.
 

medshoes

7+ Year Member
May 24, 2011
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I have erratic grades, and immaturity might be part of the reason. But I'm going to say that it's mainly because my father was falsely diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo surgery, which led to adverse consequences, and that made me lose motivation in wanting to be a doctor and getting good grades after my vision of medicine sort of fell from its pedestal. But after wanting to be a doctor for so long, I had no idea what else I could do, hence losing my way. And financial instability and family instability... and I also took time off from college, which I would have to explain, sigh.