Are you applying to medical school and have inconsistencies, interruptions, or institutional actions you need to address in your application? Well, let's start with some definitions:
- Inconsistencies are obvious gaps or drops in grades, MCAT scores, or other areas of performance.
- Interruptions are substantial periods of time (i.e. more than 6 months) without academic progress. This might include a leave of absence or gap year without a job or substantial engagements.
- Institutional actions are any “action by any college or medical school for unacceptable academic performance or conduct violation.” These especially can be a red flag for medical schools unless they are thoroughly explained.
Inconsistencies and interruptions are usually explained on secondary applications in a response to a prompt such as “is there anything else that you would like the admissions committee to know?” If there is no such prompt, you can email a response to the admissions office and ask that it be added to your file. There is a specific section of the AMCAS and AACOMAS applications to fill out information on institutional actions.
Tips for addressing inconsistencies and interruptions
It is common to have hiccups along the winding path to medical school. Most of the time, these shouldn’t represent a substantial concern for your reviewers, but nevertheless need be explained in the application in the following steps:
- State when the gap occurred. Be specific.
- Explain why the gap occurred. It is helpful to be as detailed as possible. This may require vulnerability around sensitive issues. When in doubt about how much to explain, ask trusted mentors. Be sure that your explanation is not an excuse; take accountability for mistakes.
- Close the gap. Explain how you overcame the gap or inconsistency. For example, if you received a low grade in a class, how did you change your approach to coursework? Or, if you took a leave of absence for a medical problem, did you receive appropriate care and treatment? Be mindful that medical schools may be more concerned about issues that seem unresolved and could potentially resurface in the future.
Tips for addressing institutional actions
Institutional actions are more challenging to medical school applications; however, your best chance of a successful application will be to report them honestly. An event counts as an IA even if the action did not force you to take time off from school or substantially interrupt your enrollment. Examples of institutional actions include:
- Academic probation
- Academic standing warnings
- Residence hall policy violations
- Ethics policy violations
One of the most common IA situations that students face is related to plagiarism. More information can be found here. Note that felonies and misdemeanors must also be reported. You will have 1325 characters to explain the IA on the AMCAS and 500 characters on the AACOMAS. Here are some tips for writing a strong response:
- Explain what you did. Be detailed and specific about the circumstances of the event, and do not withhold information. Expect that medical schools will investigate these events.
- Explain why it was wrong. Do not make excuses for your actions, but rather take accountability for the mistake. How did your actions impact those around you?
- Explain what you learned. You want to ensure that medical schools know that you will not display similar behavior in medical school. What did you do to right the incident? How did these events change your perspective or values?