VTBuc

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So I'm noticing on a lot(or all) of my secondaries I've received I get a question something along the lines of:

"What is the most difficult obstacle you've faced"...or something of that flavor.

And I'm realizing now I'm going to struggle with this. I attend Virginia Tech and I was a freshman when we had our horrible shooting. I lost a friend and nearly lost another. The entire experience was far and away the most difficult moment of my life to date. Now, the problem is...I feel guilty writing about it.

I know this is what Medical Schools want, but I can't help but feel guilty knowing that me writing about this will increase my chances at admission. It's something I could write passionately about and it would also explain the slight dip in my grades the semester following. But, I feel like it might be disrespectful.

Has anyone else experienced tragedy and had similar feelings? I want to know how ya'll handled it when it comes to essay writing.
 

not so calm now

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So I'm noticing on a lot(or all) of my secondaries I've received I get a question something along the lines of:

"What is the most difficult obstacle you've faced"...or something of that flavor.

And I'm realizing now I'm going to struggle with this. I attend Virginia Tech and I was a freshman when we had our horrible shooting. I lost a friend and nearly lost another. The entire experience was far and away the most difficult moment of my life to date. Now, the problem is...I feel guilty writing about it.

I know this is what Medical Schools want, but I can't help but feel guilty knowing that me writing about this will increase my chances at admission. It's something I could write passionately about and it would also explain the slight dip in my grades the semester following. But, I feel like it might be disrespectful.

Has anyone else experienced tragedy and had similar feelings? I want to know how ya'll handled it when it comes to essay writing.
If you're worried that you're exploiting your friend's death by writing about it in order to gain admission to med school, stop. Just write about it. I think it'll be understandable.

I had to write the "give an example of your altruism" in the Ohio State 2ndary and wrote about a time when I gave someone help without expecting anything in return...I guess that act ceased to technically be "altruism" at that point. I wrote a (brief) wry sentence making this point. We'll see how well that goes over.

Good luck, and sorry for your loss.
 

Mattabet

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I think you should write about it.

In my opinion, people only paint themselves into a corner on stuff like this when they try to bend an essay topic to fit their response. Ie, they want to go into medicine because of TV footage of 9/11. If you stretch the prompt too much, it starts to feel cheapened and exploitative.

But no one would argue that what you faced (and the fallout afterwards) wasn't a huge challenge, especially having known people directly involved. You're not going out of your way to mention it - it's just the truth. Because you experienced it, you'll be able to write passionately about it. To try to ignore it and contrive another essay only does you, and your application, a disservice.
 

Exalya

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Though it wasn't for that specific prompt, I answered a question about my hometown by talking about the unexpected death of someone very important, to myself and everyone back where I come from. I felt the same way you did for a while. However, I read the essay, and I think writing about this man was a way of honoring his memory. His life and death truly did make an impact on me, as I'm sure is true with your friend. Write of them with respect, and you won't go wrong.
 

Vulcan

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If this awful event truly made an impact on you, and it sounds like it has, then you should write about it. It's not insulting them to say how much it affected you.

My condolences for your loss...I lost a dear friend this year as well and its the worst feeling possible.
 

fMRI

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Dec 30, 2008
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So I'm noticing on a lot(or all) of my secondaries I've received I get a question something along the lines of:

"What is the most difficult obstacle you've faced"...or something of that flavor.

And I'm realizing now I'm going to struggle with this. I attend Virginia Tech and I was a freshman when we had our horrible shooting. I lost a friend and nearly lost another. The entire experience was far and away the most difficult moment of my life to date. Now, the problem is...I feel guilty writing about it.

I know this is what Medical Schools want, but I can't help but feel guilty knowing that me writing about this will increase my chances at admission. It's something I could write passionately about and it would also explain the slight dip in my grades the semester following. But, I feel like it might be disrespectful.

Has anyone else experienced tragedy and had similar feelings? I want to know how ya'll handled it when it comes to essay writing.

Hi VTBuc

How about writing about the "difficulty of writing" about it, about the very act of telling the story respectfully. That you are unsure that this is a story you want to share, that you are reluctant, how you feel that writing about it could be seen as belittling the memory of your friend, but that sometimes, writing/speaking honestly is all you can do.

Am I making sense? If not, please say.


There is a lot of trauma and survivor literature, where the act of witnessing is reflected upon. It's not popular psychology but a fairly strong theoretical approach in English literary theory that takes into account lots of European Post-War literature. Many people are asking the same question at one point in time, "how can we go on after [this] happened?" (Fill in: Shoa/Holocaust, September-11, murder, hurricane Katrina/Andrew, torture, Hiroshima, …) But this isn't "just English Lit", the overlap with "medicine" are the Yale Holocaust archives (survivors and witnesses telling their stories), a few (retired) psychiatrists keep being involved there. The work of Robert Lifton (Harvard) chimes in. Research on post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. Vietnam/Gulf veterans, etc. You're not alone out there unsure how to talk about "it"...
Welcome in the great tradition of the difficulty of talking about "it" and the silence that imposes itself.

Whatever you say, it will be just right.


 
Last edited:

TopSecret

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So I'm noticing on a lot(or all) of my secondaries I've received I get a question something along the lines of:

"What is the most difficult obstacle you've faced"...or something of that flavor.

And I'm realizing now I'm going to struggle with this. I attend Virginia Tech and I was a freshman when we had our horrible shooting. I lost a friend and nearly lost another. The entire experience was far and away the most difficult moment of my life to date. Now, the problem is...I feel guilty writing about it.

I know this is what Medical Schools want, but I can't help but feel guilty knowing that me writing about this will increase my chances at admission. It's something I could write passionately about and it would also explain the slight dip in my grades the semester following. But, I feel like it might be disrespectful.

Has anyone else experienced tragedy and had similar feelings? I want to know how ya'll handled it when it comes to essay writing.
If I were in the committee, I would read it just out of curiosity.
 

CopToEM

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I don't see any need to feel guilty for the hardships that you have faced. What if there were someone who had recently lost a friend in a car accident who asked you to talk. You would likely talk about how you went through the loss of your friend and how you coped with it. The reason you did so was for the personal gain of another person. In this case, you're going to talk about the same thing, except this time it's to your advantage.

If anything, I would imagine your friend would look down on you and be proud that you thought of him/her when you were asked about the most difficult time in your life. I, personally, can't say that I would be hurt in any way if someone were to use my death in the same context.

Now, I've never applied for med school yet, but I do want to make another point. The tragedies around that day are a very heavy topic. I would consider it important to further discuss how you used that tragedy to make a difference in your life (through appreciating it more, etc.) and the differences of others. Make sure that you relate it back a positive thing. It's not positive that your friend lost their life but the lessons learned and the strength that it gave you are positive outcomes from it.
 

CopToEM

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If I ever get a secondary question asking what the hardest thing I ever had to overcome, I wouldn't know what one to chose from. I've been homeless (2x), unemployed (2x) (My momy and dady don't pay for my existence like some of you pre-meds), had to pay for college all on my own (worked third shift full-time), had to go from being a semester away from getting kicked out of college (did bad my first semester in college) to getting a strong GPA the next semester. After college I couldn't get a job. Started my own business. Can I request an additonal 5,000 character limit so I can answer this question? lol :laugh:
I'm kind of in the same boat minus the homelessness. Never been a 'debbie downer' but it'd be difficult to pinpoint which obstacle I'd want to use!
 

red10

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My friend Austin died at VT. I've thought about writing about losing her but I couldn't do her justice and I didn't want to have them ask me about it and me get into a funk for the rest of the interview.

If you write about it, they will probably ask you about it in an interview, not to be mean, but because they're just curious. If you think you can handle that, then write about it. I think they'd appreciate your honesty and I know it would be a very moving essay to read among all the standard essays. If you need to explain your dip in grades in one of those optional essay boxes you can just say that you went to VT when the tragedy happened and leave it at that.

Don't think you're exploiting your friend's death. You aren't. It was a real experience that really affected you. And besides, I'm sure your friend would want to help you get into med school if they were still with you. I know my friend would have, so if I do decide to talk about her, I know she won't/wouldn't mind.