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Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by DoctorBob, Mar 2, 2007.
Dear Super Docs,
I can see both sides of this coin. On the one hand, you are not that far away from your days of "alcoholic debauchery" and are still pretty young in the non-trad scheme. You will be expected to explain the disparity in your grades and what happened. I would be honest when asked directly. Should you write it as your PS? I think that depends on how artfully you can write. Sure, it will close some doors for you but could possibly open doors- particularly if you have an interest in psych and addiction treatments.
I'm 8 years sober, a nontrad postbac premed, and I'm leaving it out of my personal statement. It's a can of worms. I'd love to be able to share what I've learned in rehab and in AA, I'd love to let them see that part of me, the amazing tools of acceptance and gratitude, how much of the world's underbelly I've met and held hands with, how easy it is to put myself in another guy's shoes now. I honestly think my recovery, more than anything else, is what's going to make me a good doctor.
But people not in recovery don't get recovery. There are some anonymous eyeballs looking at the personal statement, scanning for red flags, scanning for great stories. Totally up in the air whether it's a red flag or a great story to these eyeballs. Then you (hopefully) get about 30 minutes of interview time where you get to sell yourself, and that's not enough time to even get started with the uninitiated about alcoholism and how you're handling it. And if it's in the personal statement, you pretty much have to be amazing talking about it. Total crapshoot.
If you're working a good program, and doing a good job of being a premed, you'll have enough other relevant experiences to set you apart. There are plenty of other applicants who have a bad patch on their record that has no better explanation than "partied too much." You have to have a fantastic list of what you learned and how it made you a better person.
I'm not worried about the adcoms who would think I'm another DUI waiting to happen - they wouldn't waste time interviewing me. I'm worried about the adcoms who would want my story to be just like a Lifetime movie with Melissa Gilbert and Meredith Baxter, where there are tears and broken friendships and strong words, but that's all over now, we can go back to being pretty. It ain't pretty, there's no cure, and yes I do hope to do AA my whole life.
Best of luck to you.
Totally agree. Leave it out. It's tempting to put it in your personal statement because it's a part of who you are and has made you a stronger person, but keep in mind that your application will be read by probably a dozen people or so. Any one of them could sink it if they feel that you're at risk for a relapse, especially having been sober for less than 3 years (I'm not trying to take anything away from that, it's a great accomplishment. But be aware that the people who look at your application might think it's too recent). Congratulations on getting this far. I don't think you'll have a problem getting into med school. But when it comes time to talk about that period in your life, just suck it up and say you were "unfocused" or "finding yourself" or whatever.
Congratulations to all of you on your sobriety. I am an adult child of a father sober 23 years now. I attend meeting frequently with him and although I have never drank, AA has been a wonderful influence in my life.
I would leave your issues with alcohol and addiction out of your personal statement. Although these events and circumstances have obviously tremendously affected your life, I agree that including it would risk having adcom members question your future stability.
I do encourage you to be open with your peers about your alcoholism after starting medical school. I have been involved with educating students re: substance addiction as part of the MS2 curriculum at my school. All MS2 students are required to attend an AA meeting and there is an alcohol and substance abuse panel who discusses their experiences for the students as part of the clinical medicine course. My father and I have served on this panel for the last 3 years. Currently my father and some of his AA buddies are starting a new meeting on the inpatient pysch unit at UConn health center as well.
Best of luck to you with the application process!
I agree with the others. I would leave it out of your personal statement, but when asked about it in interviews you should be open and honest. Adcoms discriminate against many things. I am a mother of a very young baby, and rather than have some unenlightened jerk pass over me because of it, I chose to leave it out. I did mark 1 dependant on my AMCAS primary because I didnt want to lie. It wasn't hard for me to leave my son out of my PS though, because he was only 3 weeks old when I graduated and therefore had not really influenced my life yet. You can see my mdapps, I received interviews at some very good schools. I spoke about my son at the interviews, and so far it hasn't been a problem. I am not comparing alcoholism to parenting (so please no flaming); I am just suggesting that it is best to leave controversial stuff out of your personal statement.
I would also like to applaud you on your sobriety. I think you will be an even more empathetic doctor because of your struggles. I wish you all the best.
Thank you all for your prompt replies and support.
To the OP- I have a really similar situation and am leaving it out. I am a similar age and the messages I've gotten are that people don't believe people as young as we are have truely learned and made a permanent change. I also get the impression that they would doubt if we could handle med school with out relapsing.
I've decided to keep quiet about my past until I am an established and respected physician at which point I'd really like to start talking to people about the difficult road I traveled and the many things I've overcome.
I don't know you but I am really happy that you made it through. A lot of people have no idea what its like being young and addicted but I understand how hard it really is. Good luck on your road to med school!