5+ Year Member
Mar 19, 2012
Hi all,

I spent hours searching past threads and read countless posts about appropriate failure/challenge secondary questions, but I'm still conflicted if my essay will show me in the best light.

the prompt is: Please describe a personal situation of failure, significant challenge or a major obstacle that you have overcome. Include a description of your coping skills and lessons you learned about yourself from that situation.

I drafted a response about how last year after working, studying, taking the mcat, and preparing for the application cycle, I got sick and ended up in the hospital. I present it as a challenge that I had to overcome the illness, but also the difficult decision to delay a year when I'm a non-trad and I've already waited so long. It was also a failure in that I didn't heed my body's warnings and kept striving to achieve my ambitions without prioritizing my health. The lessons include taking care of myself like I want to do for others, patience, and also that I had the fortitude to succeed as I accomplished a lot while being quite ill. I address coping by relying on family and support network, focusing more on volunteer work to take my mind off myself, and learning as much as I could about preventing future health issues.

My concern is that 1) schools will worry my health will affect my ability to handle med school, even though I state the issue has been resolved and 2) that since I don't emphasize the actual health challenges, the challenge and disappointment of waiting an extra year may seem shallow/immature.

Is it a bad idea to bring up a personal illness? And if I do, would I have to be specific about what the actual illness was or can I refer to it in vague terms like "health issue"?

As far as alternative topics go, I considered writing about a failure involving taking my dad to the hospital, waiting in the ER for hours, and not being more proactive when he started showing signs of a stroke. The lessons there are fairly clear and the coping mechanisms would be the same, but 1) I don't if this would be seen as too dramatic and blaming myself and 2) it's a topic that's harder for me to talk about so I'd have to work on coming across calmly and professionally. I would greatly appreciate any advice or input offered.

Thank you


10+ Year Member
Aug 5, 2009
Never Neverland
Resident [Any Field]
Fudge it a bit and say you got pneumonia.

But they won't care.
One of the guys I went to school with had Crohn's and used that in all of his essays as to why he wanted to go to medical school and why he wanted to GI.

I'm pretty sure they can't exclude you over a health issue. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.


medical shmedical
2+ Year Member
Mar 16, 2017
Medical Student
I talked about having a chronic illness in my apps, at the recommendation of a friend who is a prof involved with admissions. If you sound like it's a thing you can handle, they probably won't worry too much, and showing that you have experience as a patient isn't a bad thing.
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