November 25, 2018

Growth During the Application Cycle

By pkiessling

The transition from premedical studies to medical school may be the most dramatic change a future physician will experience in their education, yet the medical school application process inherently resists any continued growth for applicants. Primary applications are submitted in June, interviews extend into the fall and winter, and acceptances are released during the spring of the following year. Prospective medical students present a crystallized portrait of themselves upon initially submitting an application and are expected to maintain this image for almost an entire year. Contact between the school and applicant is limited and infrequent and assumes that applicants remain enduring, identical forms of themselves from the first to the last communication. Throughout this process, prospective medical students have very little opportunity to show continued growth during the long months of the application cycle.

As I began transitioning from premedical undergraduate (baccalaureate) studies to medical school, I experienced the inherent resistance to applicant development firsthand. In August of 2016, two months after submitting my initial applications to schools across the country, I came out to my friends and family as gay. My life underwent an immense and important change, yet the medical schools to which I had applied knew only the version of myself that I had portrayed at the start of the application cycle.

As I continued through the application process, I felt that sharing this major life change was truly important, regardless of the lack of synchronicity to the admissions process. I wanted to know about the diversity and LGBTQ support groups on campus, and how the school and its culture would inform not only this core aspect of my identity but also my future studies and career trajectory. As schools interviewed me, I wanted to communicate the most authentic, up-to-date version of myself. I had no way of anticipating the substantial personal growth that I would undergo during the application cycle, nor should I have. Applicants should not be expected to anticipate such major changes when they embark on this already extensive and intensive process.

As I interviewed at medical schools, I gravitated toward those eager to facilitate the transition in training from my premedical studies, as well as schools eager to accept my newfound transition into the most authentic version of myself. At times, I felt like I was playing a sort of "wild card" in interviews, coming out to each of my interviewers to communicate a current and arguably very relevant detail about myself as a future physician. The transition into medical school should not inhibit other necessary transitions in the life of a future physician. I hope all prospective medical students who undergo major life changes during the application process are as fortunate as I have been to successfully move into a new stage of their lives, both personally and professionally.


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