Writing about being not accepted into medical school last year for "Failure" essay

purplepancakes897

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I have a couple prompts that asks about my biggest failure and how I learned from that failure, etc. The thing is, I've never actually failed at anything because it's simply not accepted by my family and there's a lot of cultural pressure to be perfect. If I know I'll fail at something, I simply won't do it or I'll only attempt things I know I can succeed at. I'm not trying to make myself seem perfect or successful in anyway, there's just a lot of consequences for failing in my family so I try to avoid it as much as possible.

That being said, the only thing I've ever failed at was getting accepted into medical school when I applied last cycle. I just want to know if it's okay to talk about reapplying on a secondary essay or would that make me look bad? I'm not sure what is the right way to address being a reapplicant and I'm worried that this might make me seem less attractive as a current applicant. Not getting into med school is a really big deal for me because I felt like I disappointed everyone I know (especially my parents), there was so much pressure and I became really depressed for a couple of months following all the rejection letters. In theory, this would make a really good essay, I just don't know if it's a taboo topic to talk about.
 
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A_Knowbody

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You’ve really NEVER failed at anything else?

- You’ve never been rejected for a date?
- You’ve never told yourself you’re going to the gym today but felt too tired after school?
- You’ve never set a New Year’s Resolution and not followed through?
- You’ve never driven above the speed limit (I.e failing to follow the law)?
- You’ve never cooked something that tasted bad?
- You’ve never been late (I.e failed to show up on time)?
- You’ve never let a friend down?
- You’ve never tried something new and not been an expert (Ex: going out dancing and stepping on your partners toes)?

Try dropping the perfectionist attitude. Everyone, including you, fails all the time. Failure is part of life. Being able to recognize your shortcomings / failures is an important life skill. Failure does not need to have negative connotations. There is a lot of growth that comes with failure.

I could name a dozen things I failed to do today. I failed to make my bed. I played golf and every other shot was a failure. I failed to reapply sunscreen on my left knee. I failed to pack a snack, but thankfully I packed my water! Tomorrow is another chance for me to do better.

Edit: If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried.
 
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stickgirl390

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“The thing is, I've never actually failed at anything because it's simply not accepted by my family”

You’re implying that the rest of us who have failures are not accepted by our families.

Make sure you have a lot of outside sources read your personal statement this cycle. You come off quite pretentious and entitled on a SDN thread, I imagine some of that appears in your writing.
 
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While OP could have worded their post better, I don't think they're trying to say they've never failed at anything in life. Yes, that's what they said literally but I think we can give them the benefit of the doubt that they're thinking of failure in context of the "big" things in life that are appropriate to write about in these essays. I'm sure OP has "failed" at small things (like forgetting to apply sunscreen to their left knee lol) but they're probably thinking of failures they can write about.

The first few responses (and especially that list of questions) are helpful because they point OP in the right direction of how to think about this essay. I think the other comments assume too much and don't help OP to move forward with this topic. We're here to help each other in a courteous and positive way! OP, take some time to consider some of the points that others have raised here, revise a lot, and you'll be good. Best of luck this cycle, you got this!
 
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Med Ed

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If I know I'll fail at something, I simply won't do it or I'll only attempt things I know I can succeed at.

Then you have failed to adequately challenge yourself and grow in the process.

Not a very appealing characteristic in an applicant, I must say, especially considering that failure is an inevitable part of medical practice.
 
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Chris P. Bacon

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I have a couple prompts that asks about my biggest failure and how I learned from that failure, etc. The thing is, I've never actually failed at anything because it's simply not accepted by my family and there's a lot of cultural pressure to be perfect. If I know I'll fail at something, I simply won't do it or I'll only attempt things I know I can succeed at. I'm not trying to make myself seem perfect or successful in anyway, there's just a lot of consequences for failing in my family so I try to avoid it as much as possible.

That being said, the only thing I've ever failed at was getting accepted into medical school when I applied last cycle. I just want to know if it's okay to talk about reapplying on a secondary essay or would that make me look bad? I'm not sure what is the right way to address being a reapplicant and I'm worried that this might make me seem less attractive as a current applicant. Not getting into med school is a really big deal for me because I felt like I disappointed everyone I know (especially my parents), there was so much pressure and I became really depressed for a couple of months following all the rejection letters. In theory, this would make a really good essay, I just don't know if it's a taboo topic to talk about.

I totally understand what you are saying and the bottom line is there are some people out there that well, they haven't experienced failure. It happens. As far as how you should answer this topic, my advice would be to discuss your failed initial application to medical school but I would word it in a way where you are talking less about the getting into medical school part and more about the preparation for medical part. So that way you're essentially discussing working beyond the boundaries you have been accustomed to and improving yourself.

As far as being a reapplicant, your personal statement should be completely different than your initial PS and you should be talking about what you have done differently.

Also, keep an eye on the depression. I personally don't like to see anybody talk about depression as that is a big red flag.
 
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deleted1032897

I just want to make sure you strongly weigh the first couple "super noo!" answers. These essays aren't about getting adcom to pity you by any means, but I'll bet they roll their eyes at adversity essays based off the experience of getting rejected the first time around. And talking about going through this so recently, when you have no evidence of it actually helping you change into a more resilient individual by time of applying, is pretty rough in my opinion. You want to take every opportunity to be unique and set yourself apart. So many people reapply and stay centered, undisturbed, and focused, they are not likely to be impressed. Hard to write that essay in a way that wouldn't sound like whining when we all know just how seemingly unfair and difficult this process is.

This is in no way trying to invalidate your experience! Just want you to know that.
 
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LiteralLungs

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You’ve really NEVER failed at anything else?

- You’ve never been rejected for a date?

Would it be appropriate to write about something like this? And talking about romance/finding love? Seems unprofessional. When I start writing secondaries, I feel like writing about these types of experiences would give me a lot to talk about. But when does it get too personal? Where do you cross the line?
 
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DokterMom

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Idk it sounds here like you’ve probably failed yourself and missed out on many opportunities over the fear of failure.
It seems that you have failed to stand up to your family and gain independence.
Then you have failed to adequately challenge yourself and grow in the process.

Not a very appealing characteristic in an applicant, I must say, especially considering that failure is an inevitable part of medical practice.

Listen to these posters. They're not just being snarky, but are saying something truly important. If you've avoided attempting things where you weren't certain you would succeed, then you've failed at one of the key markers of adulthood - learning how to get up again after a fall. If you're too afraid to take risks, you won't be able to make the tough decisions necessary in a medical career.

Fail now -- Seriously. Go out for a drive and get yourself lost, then find your way back. Try something new that you're horrible at - a foreign language, dancing, painting. Do it anyway, knowing you'll fail. Plan to fail, and plan to deal with it. You're a lousy artist? So what! You know this already, so this should not be an earth-shattering revelation. But do it anyway just to prove you can.

Seriously -- This is life advice from a much older person. Failures are out there and you won't be able to avoid them all. Should not even attempt to avoid them all. Love? Parenthood? Best learn how to deal with them.
 
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TelemarketingEnigma

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I think it's also important to realize that the more you fail at things, the less hurtful those failures are. Not every failure is going to be a gut wrenching, heartbreaking experience (though many are). When you've failed at enough things, it'll become easier to try new things because if they go poorly, you can brush it off and try something else. And then when the heartbreaking failures do happen, you can cry as much as you need, but you'll know that you have the tools and resilience to pick yourself up again eventually.
 
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deleted1005514

Seriously -- This is life advice from a much older person. Failures are out there and you won't be able to avoid them all. Should not even attempt to avoid them all. Love? Parenthood? Best learn how to deal with them.

Parenthood: where you fail daily and the people you fail still love you (until they become teenagers).

Disclaimer: I am not advising anyone to become a parent in order to experience failure, lol.
 
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A_Knowbody

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Would it be appropriate to write about something like this? And talking about romance/finding love? Seems unprofessional. When I start writing secondaries, I feel like writing about these types of experiences would give me a lot to talk about. But when does it get too personal? Where do you cross the line?

OP’s problem is identifying failures and the list is meant to help in that.

As far as your questions, I would recommend writing on topics that show 1) Interest in medicine (Why medicine?) 2) The skills or personality traits you possess and their fit in medicine 3) Individuality. How personal you want to get is up to you, but as I’ve seen on this forum, people talk about sexual abuse, parents with substance abuse, and other very personal topics. If finding love is part of your journey to medicine, explains your drive to practice, highlights positive characteristics, or shows your humanity, I could see it being included. How you write about the scenario will show your professionalism.

Edit: anything you choose to write about, you should be comfortable discussing in an interview.
 
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LiteralLungs

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OP’s problem is identifying failures and the list is meant to help in that.

As far as your questions, I would recommend writing on topics that show 1) Interest in medicine (Why medicine?) 2) The skills or personality traits you possess and their fit in medicine 3) Individuality. How personal you want to get is up to you, but as I’ve seen on this forum, people talk about sexual abuse, parents with substance abuse, and other very personal topics. If finding love is part of your journey to medicine, explains your drive to practice, highlights positive characteristics, or shows your humanity, I could see it being included. How you write about the scenario will show your professionalism.

Edit: anything you choose to write about, you should be comfortable discussing in an interview.
No, that wouldn't have anything to do with medicine. I think it'd be interesting if someone were to write about finding love in their journey to medicine (I can't think of how someone might do that). I just know that adcoms like to see personal growth and want to get to know you as a person. In my activities, I wrote a lot about things that weren't related to medicine at all, so I was wondering if we can answer secondary question prompts in a similar way.

In addition, I'm worried less about being comfortable discussing something in an interview. I'm wondering if writing about something like getting rejected by someone as a personal failure would be seen as a joke by an admissions committee. I'm thinking people would see this and think I'm not taking it seriously. Same goes for other personal topics. It's not that I'm not comfortable discussing them, but there must be a line somewhere for what is considered too personal for a professional school interview.

I guess what you're saying is that you could frame it in a way that would be appropriate
 
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emergentmd

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Man, I came from a 1st Gen Asian family and if My parents put this type of pressure on me I don't think there would be a relationship. Step on my independence, and something has to give.

Shockingly, my parents never put any pressure on me to do anything. So against the culture.

I have no good advice for you that you don't already know but I think medicine is the least of your problems.
 
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LindaAccepted

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OP,

I suggest you think about times you attempted something , even something as trivial as a jigsaw puzzle or learning how to play a game or instrument. The possibilities are endless. If you really never attempted anything that you weren't confident you could handle, your failure would be not challenging yourself, not seeking new experiences outside that cliched comfort zone. Of course you will also have to now decide what to do about that failure to correct or mitigate it in the future.

Linda
 
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LunaOri

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Would it be appropriate to write about something like this? And talking about romance/finding love? Seems unprofessional. When I start writing secondaries, I feel like writing about these types of experiences would give me a lot to talk about. But when does it get too personal? Where do you cross the line?
It's not so much what you failed at, but how you dealt with the failure, and what you learned from it.
 
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purplepancakes897

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Wow, I haven’t checked this thread since the day I posted so I’m a bit surprised by the number of posts. Thanks for all the positive responses everyone! I wasn’t trying to portray in anyway a perfectionist attitude, that would be impossible and snooty of me. I’ve definitely failed at things before, however, this question specifically asked “what did you learn from this failure and how did it affect your life and the way you approach problems” and something like a bad date or not making my bed didn’t seem to be within the scope of the question which is why I had a hard time deciding what to write about. Failure should be something major that affected my greatly. I normally write about learning how to drive because it took me 5 years until I got my license but the questions immediately before this on one of the application was “talk about a time you had to overcome an obstacle” which was basically the same question. I also didn’t think writing about how I gave up learning piano when I was in the fifth grade was appropriate, just due to timing.

Anyways! I wrote my essay in case anyone is interested. I wrote about how I never participated in an annual art contest at my university because I lacked confidence and had a tendency to procrastinate. I learned to be more diligent and be kinder to myself by completing thing I promised to myself. And to accept failure as an inevitable part of life.

I can tell many of you think my experiences (or lack there of) with failure is a big personality deficit. But I think we’ve already establish that nobody’s perfect. At least I’m aware enough to recognize my flaws.
 
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TragicalDrFaust

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Your new essay topic sounds great. And I'm sorry people are being aggressive towards you about your parent's attitudes. I don't believe I'm from the same background as you-- my family struggles with an unearned sense of entitlement rather than a sense of perfectionism lol-- but I will say I had to take a long look at how my parents' attitudes may be holding me back from being my best self during this process. You can respect your parents and their experiences and still develop yourself. As others are saying, failure is inevitable and adcoms want to see how you handle it. Otherwise they may get the sense that you're a risky bet since they don't know how you'll perform under unfavorable circumstances. Best of luck :)
 
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