Medical What topic should I use for obstacles/challenges prompt?

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Oct 14, 2011
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I was taking a look at last year's secondaries and Case Western's "challenge you've faced" prompt got me thinking.

For reference: The admissions committee is interested in gaining more insight into you as a person. Please describe a significant personal challenge you have faced, one which you feel has helped to shape you as a person. Examples may include a moral or ethical dilemma, a situation of personal adversity, or a hurdle in your life that you worked hard to overcome. Please include how you got through the experience and what you learned about yourself as a result. Please limit your response to 1 page (about 3,500 characters), and leave a blank line between paragraphs.

I'd like focus on one topic that I'd be able to use for all related challenges prompts and I don't know which of these two topics is more appropriate.

1. In middle school I was "bullied" for doing karate by one guy and his group. One day he took it too far and acting out of pure emotion, I laid him out at school. I got suspended, got some flack from my parents but a lot of glory at school. It became really sensationalized at school. Even to this day my childhood friends sometimes bring this up, and when they tell the story to others who didn't know me as a kid they're really surprised I ever did anything like that. However, as a kid, I had conflict dealing with how I was supposed to feel because of the difference of opinions between my parents and my friends. Most importantly, how I acted was really against the teachings I should have picked up from doing karate and there was a lot of cognitive dissonance in that area for me. I sought guidance from my karate mentor and learned how I appropriately approach and handle conflict from this event, which really helped shape me as a person. Overall, this event has really stuck with me and has more significance in personal growth.

2. Last year my grandfather and uncle died within a couple weeks of each other. I was really close with both, particularly my uncle as he was an inspiring figure to me. This was also my experience with loss in my family, so I had to learn to deal with that. More importantly, I had to be there for my mother and grandmother. The biggest conflict during this time however was when I found out about my uncle's passing, I went to immediately see my grandmother. Since my uncle lived in a different state, my family was able to keep the details of my uncle's illness a secret from my grandmother (something I was in disagreement with). When I saw her, it was obvious she didn't know yet. I felt a lot of pressure on whether or not I should tell her. My cousin was there too and we were having a hard time hiding it and my grandmother started to pick up that something was wrong. However, ultimately I decided to wait until her daughters flew back in as it would have been best for her to hear it from them while we were all together. I have had less personal growth from this event, but it has taught me about loss, learning to deal with it, and trying to comfort others.
First, what does "significant personal challenge" mean to you? Second, what do you want the AdCom to know about you through your "significant personal challenge"?
 
Oct 14, 2011
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First, a difficult situation that revolves around me that lead to some kind of reflection and change. Second, I guess that I was able to learn and grow as a person.
Okay... so when I was advisor, I would have my advisees come up with at least four different significant personal challenges that would address different areas each person could discuss not just in essays but also in interviews. What annoys me as an interviewer is when a candidate always harps on the same story (almost always with very similar phrasing) about the "one" significant challenge they had or their "one" significant experience. You can't be a one-chord song/one-note samba.

So that said, what do you want people to know about how you learned and grew from the two experiences you listed above (the takeaway lesson)? The answers for each should be different. You should also cite specific AAMC Entering Competencies (The Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students) if you want to really boost the quality of your answer. Don't forget Challenge-Action-Result-Reflection.
 
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Me personally, I think that experiences as a child carry less water than those of you as an adult. Hence, I go for #2
I was kind of worried about this. Can you help me understand why you and some other adcoms hold this view?
 
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