SDN members see fewer ads and full resolution images. Join our non-profit community!

Mentioning Psychiatry in Med School Application Essay?

Discussion in 'Psychiatry' started by MissAmanda, Jun 5, 2008.

  1. MissAmanda

    MissAmanda 7+ Year Member

    May 11, 2008
    Hey all,

    I have asked this in a few other places, but thought I should give it a shot here.

    I was talking to a doctor the other day about applying to medical school. I told him I am interested in going into psychiatry after medical school and he told me not to say that on my application because many doctors still look down upon psychiatry/think it’s not “real medicine”. Perhaps it is just the area I am living (small town on the east coast), but I am not sure what to do now that I have heard this several times.

    So should I really be focusing my essay on psychiatry given this. Would it hurt my chances of admission b/c the person reading may look down on psychiatry? Or would it look bad to seem like I already know what I want to go into before I start medical school? I would really appreciate any honest & unbiased insight and advice you could provide me on this and anything you think I should be sure to include if I do write about my interest psychiatry. Please feel free to post or PM me.

    Thank you! Amanda
  2. SDN Members don't see this ad. About the ads.
  3. billypilgrim37

    billypilgrim37 Unstuck in Time Physician Faculty 7+ Year Member

    Apr 21, 2007
    I agree that it's probably not helpful to mention much specialty preference at all in medical school essays, but rather the sorts of things about you that might direct you to particular specialties, and the why's.

    If you want to be a psychiatrist, great. Write about how you've seen folks deal with chronic illnesses and the profundity of the psychosocial aspects of medicine and how they affect the patient's illness narrative. Read some Arthur Kleinman. Whether true or not, most med school admissions folks will probably doubt the insight of someone who "knows" what they want to be when they grow up, but they appreciate knowing someone who understands what particular dynamic processes in you would make you a good fit somewhere in medicine. The above description could place you in psychiatry, or any number of internal medicine subspecialties, vascular surgery, etc. If you come off as if your only interest is in psychiatry, then they might wonder how you'll find the motivation to work the other 46 months of medical school.

    So don't be afraid to write about psychiatry too much because it's not "real medicine," but because it's probably too narrow a focus for an admission essay. Unless you just have a profound story to tell that would be undeniable, which is possible, though unlikely.
  4. Anasazi23

    Anasazi23 Your Digital Ruler Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    I moved your post out of the FAQ section, since that thread really should be reserved for true FAQs. It's gotten off-topic of late, and I'm trying to get a better handle on it.

    To answer your question, I'll say that I feel like I live in the Twilight Zone when I hear all these stories about people putting down psychiatry. My experience has been almost exclusively the opposite.

    I was accepted to med school in part because of my expressed interest in psychiatry in my essay. It was the topic of most of my med school interviews.
  5. 2tall

    2tall 1K Member 10+ Year Member

    The essay should encompass the experiences in your life that moved you to medicine as your career choice. Your essay should focus on the development of that interest. If that includes experiences related to psychiatry, mental illness, etc, so be it.

    Last time I checked psychiatrists were allowed to sit on admission committees. During my app cycle, I was actually interviewed by one! Who'd've thunk it?
  6. swanny

    swanny Program Director 5+ Year Member

    Feb 23, 2007
    I opened my med school application with "I am applying to medical school because I want to be a child psychiatrist..." and went on to explain why. I received interviews at all the schools I applied to, was accepted, and I am now a child psychiatrist. So, I guess I don't think it would hurt to include your interest in psychiatry in your personal statement. Good luck!
  7. MissAmanda

    MissAmanda 7+ Year Member

    May 11, 2008
    Thanks everyone, these comments really help. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can say/show that, while I am interested in psychiatry, I will have an "open mind"?

    I am also a little worried as all 3 out of my four medical extracurriculars are psych, and I know at least 1 of my letters talk about my interest in psych, the person who wrote it, a psychiatrists, may have said something like "she will be a great psychiatrist" or that I plan to go into medicine. All my writers got my CV which states in the goals sections that I am interested in going into child psych.

    Not sure what to say to overcome this to make it seem I am not not narrow minded?
  8. MissAmanda

    MissAmanda 7+ Year Member

    May 11, 2008

    What did they ask you during the interview? Where were the interviews? I hear some places value psych more than others, cities more than small towns for example.
  9. MissAmanda

    MissAmanda 7+ Year Member

    May 11, 2008

    Would you mind elaborating upon a few things:

    1. "the sorts of things about you that might direct you to particular specialties, and the why's"

    2. "Write about how you've seen folks deal with chronic illnesses and the profundity of the psychosocial aspects of medicine and how they affect the patient's illness narrative"

    : ) thanks
  10. grandslam521

    grandslam521 Junior Member 5+ Year Member

    Jul 24, 2006
    I had the same question as you when I applied. I decided to take a chance and write my personal statement about a positive experience working in a psychiatric hospital as well as express my strong interest in psychiatry as a profession. Assuming you have the positive experiences related to psychiatry or a background in the mental health field, I think it would be appropriate to include your psychiatry interest in your personal statement/other essays. However, don't center every essay around psychiatry. They want to see you have other interests as well and not a provincial view of medicine.

    One idea is to incorporate the humanistic aspect of psychiatry or how psychiatry can be applied to any other field of medicine. In other words, integrate it in a way that shows your understanding of medicine in general.

    You sound like you have a passion for psychiatry that isn't simply a minor interest. In that case, interviewers will appreciate your enthusiasm for a particular area of medicine that you have obviously been exposed to and enjoyed. This will help guide the interview towards something you know about and can easily discuss. Therefore, I think it is a very positive thing to discuss in your interview as well.
  11. RaistlinMajere

    RaistlinMajere 7+ Year Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    A couple of thoughts.

    1) do not be discouraged by what some doctors who do not like psychiatry think. The reality is that psychiatry permeates throughout all of medicine whether others realize that or not. And there is a lot of medicine in psychiatry from the pharmaceutical aspect to ruling out medical causes of psychiatric issues. On my psych rotation, one patient who presented as severely depressed actually had scleroderma that was undiagnosed until my psych attending nailed it. If that's not real medicine, I don't know what is.

    2) What are your alternatives to writing about something you are passionate about? You could not mention it and have a plain vanilla essay. You could completely lie and mention another specialty, but that just seems unethical, doesn't it? Plus, what if you actually get a psychiatrist or psychiatry-friendly physician (BTW, there are many more of these people than haters)? Then your essay will shine.

    I think you should be strong in your convictions. If you have valid reasons for wanting psychiatry, then you should go for it and write about it. Essays that are personal and passionate are always better than people who don't take any risks.
  12. ApolloDok

    ApolloDok Carpe diem - Carpe noctem 2+ Year Member

    Jan 6, 2008
    Fort Worth, TX
    Already tons of great advice in this thread.

    I see no problem with you mentioning a desire to pursue psychiatry in your admission essay. But back it up with real experiences/knowledge/data/wisdom/etc. Be ready to defend psychiatry when they ask you: "Why not a PsyD or a PhD?"
  13. DebDynamite

    DebDynamite Attending 10+ Year Member

    Feb 21, 2005
    In something billowy

    I strongly suggest you consider the mission statement of the school(s) you are applying to. My school prides itself on cranking out primary care docs (IM, FM, Peds). It is a known fact that if an applicant expresses the desire to specialize in an interview, it's a strike against their application. That said, most schools are not like this. Just something to consider.

    Good luck with the application process!
  14. luft

    luft PGY-3!!! 5+ Year Member

    Jun 5, 2006
    My thought is that you should be honest about your interests and why you want to go to med school. But also realize that many people find that their supposed dream specialty really doesn't fit them at all and they end up going into something completely different. I guess I'm just saying try to be realistic with what you are telling the admissions comittee. Quite frankly, getting into med school is full of random chance and you may get someone that frankly just doesn't like you and blows your chances at that school. Or you may get someone who loves you and pushes for your application. So be honest and just do your best. And educate yourself to the gills about the schools you are applying to! And be very polite to everybody, especially receptionists. And don't spit into the wind. And don't eat the yellow snow. And don't take the brown acid.

Share This Page