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Medical Should I talk about personal events in update letters?

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Goro

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    This past fall, I went through a very stressful series of events that left me homeless for three weeks. I lived out of my car and stayed at friends' houses as much as I could. When I was finally able to get back into my house, my roommate moved out, leaving me to pay both of our rents. Since then, I have experienced a lot of financial trouble, to the point that I regularly skip meals to pay my rent and keep from getting evicted.

    Despite all of this, I have remained a full-time undergraduate student, finished the fall semester with a 4.0 GPA, and continue to work and stay involved with a wide range of extracurriculars. I have also gained a greater sense of compassion for people who are in tough situations, and I have been investing more of my time into others. I applied to 21 medical schools last summer, and interviewed at four schools throughout early-mid fall. I was hoping for an acceptance from at least one of these schools, but I have now been waitlisted at every school where I interviewed.

    Two of the schools where I am waitlisted take a lot of people off the waitlist and are very receptive to continuing communication from applicants. I plan on sending update letters/letters of interest to these schools at some point in the near future. Considering the gravity of my situation, would it be okay to talk about it briefly on my update letters? I don't want to come across like I'm looking for sympathy, but rather, I want these schools to see that I can work hard and succeed even in the face of extreme hardship. I have heard that schools like to know students have faced struggles in life, and I think this situation is a great example of how I have evolved as a person and learned to persevere in the face of hardship. However, I know this isn't really the kind of information students usually put on update letters.

    I know this may be a stupid question, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask. Despite how terrible my situation has been lately, I am really proud of how well I have been handling it, and I know the persistence I possess would be a good fit for the medical school environment.
    Very sorry to hear about this. It's a tough question to answer.
     

    Mr.Smile12

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      Speaking as an admissions officer who would likely receive my share of update letters, this one is tough because I don't know what to do with this information. Do I share it with my committee, and if so, what do we do with that information? I can imagine some of my faculty scoffing at this as a play for sympathy. Other faculty will wonder if we did wind up extending an offer how it would affect the applicant's ability to pay. If hypothetically you had been accepted to medical school, what difference would this information make? I don't think we could do anything with your financial aid package. It's not something that is a major change when it comes to a CBC or GPA calculation directly. If this were a post-acceptance situation, I may ask someone to call you to see how this would affect your ability to hit our deadlines for financial aid and tuition payments.

      Basically pre-acceptance updates are for the purpose of giving more complete information that can shed a more positive context on your application. Easiest updates are about publications and awards since applying. We'll get grades with transcripts, and midterm grades are as useful as practice test scores. My opinion is NOT to bring it up unless there is something you would like the school to do in light of this information.

      Good luck getting through this situation, and I hope you have support at your undergraduate institution such as emergency loans to overcome these challenges.
       

      MusicDOc124

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        It would depend on how it's written, and the individuals reading it.

        On one side, one might see resilience. On the other, one may see poor decisions or something similar that could have otherwise been prevented or circumvented (I obviously dont know the situation to know if it could be taken this way or not, but you get the point).

        The other issue is whether or not a gap in the application needs filling - i.e. pre-req that was missing previously, or a late MCAT score, etc.

        Going out of your way to tell this information isn't filling in a gap, and thus begs the question, "why the update?" This is what will lead to the thought as to if this is for sympathy or not.

        I'd err on the side of caution and tell you that what you went through/are going though is tough, and it speaks for resilience, but it will not necessarily do you favors for going out of your way to mention it.
         

        MusicDOc124

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          just mention that I’ve had a very difficult time lately

          Being vague is worse IMO, as it would sound questionable and confusing without some additional detail.

          things I have accomplished in spite of the hardships

          Again, unless the accomplishments were that of completing pre-reqs, getting MCAT back, getting published, etc, things that stick out or were incomplete rather than maintaining a 4.0 in classes that are not requisite, then it isn't worth the update.
           
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