It can be nerve-wracking to know how to help your son or daughter during their application process to medical school. It’s time-intensive and expensive to apply. Reading or citing statistics about the competitiveness of the application process doesn’t help. Frequenting pre-med forums can foment phobia. With the right guidance and a little perspective, however, you and your pre-med can survive—even thrive.
Here are a few ideas to help your child thrive while applying:
• Use all resources available.
Encourage your children to visit their pre-med advisor on a regular basis, especially while they are applying. Most college campuses also have a writing center or learning skills center that provides free assistance with academic or application essays, though they have a time limit per student. For further or more personalized assistance, working with consultants like those of us at Accepted.com can provide an additional edge. Talk with your son or daughter about what resources and support they will need while applying.
• Network with other parents or professionals in the health sciences.
Attending pre-med fairs or conferences can provide valuable information to students and parents. Most of these events are geared towards pre-med students, but parents are often welcome. Connect with other parents of pre-meds so that you can support each other through the process. Reach out to anyone you know who is a medical student, doctor or any other kind of healthcare professional. They may even be willing to allow your son or daughter to shadow them or their colleagues. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or reach out to other people for support.
• Maintain your routine
While the application process can increase anxiety, it’s important to stick to your routine. By setting this example, your pre-med will find it easier to maintain balance, even while applying. Exercise regularly. Keep the weekends fun and light. Decide on a time every day to check personal emails, and don’t babysit your mailbox. Focusing on what is important in your life at the present moment will help you avoid worrying about what is going to happen in the future. There will be time to respond when you know what to respond to.
• Respect boundaries.
As the application season progresses and anxiety is rising, avoid bringing up the topic of medical school admissions or calling medical schools on your son or daughter’s behalf. Most children are thrilled to share good news with their parents—once they get it. To prevent unnecessary stress, allow your son or daughter to be the person who gives you regular progress updates. (Rejoice! No need to nag.) Your children are adults now. And giving them the space that adults deserve will enhance their sense of self-responsibility and independence, not to mention your relationship with them. Applications can become a painful topic for them and bringing it up before exams or while they are focused on other goals can derail their progress in those other activities. You can even have an open and honest conversation with them early in the application process about how they would like to manage the topic. Whatever you agree to do, honor your word.
• Stay positive.
Simply being available to your son or daughter when they need to talk will be important. By staying positive about their options and chances, you will be able to help decrease their stress levels. There may be times in the application process that students need this additional level of overwhelmingly upbeat self-affirmation.
• Put it in Perspective
In my experience as a post-bac program director, I have known so many students who have applied to medical school unsuccessfully but who used that experience to help mold themselves into stronger applicants who later earned an acceptance.
Allow your son or daughter time to process the experience, independently. When appropriate, help them to put the process and the outcome in perspective. Applying to medical school demonstrates a high level of commitment to others and the pursuit of academic achievement. There are harder things to do than apply to medical school! And there are even worse events in life than rejection from medical school. Don’t allow them to lose sight of what is truly important .
Using these suggestions can help you navigate the stress of your pre-med’s application process. As you demonstrate your coping skills and strategies, they will follow your example and learn how to deal effectively with the stresses and challenges of life. Ultimately, these skills will help them get into medical school as well as to excel.
However, if despite these suggestions, your child is struggling with the process or has been rejected, and you want to help your child but aren’t quite sure how to do so, please feel free to review our services and contact us. The other Accepted consultants and I are happy to guide your child through the medical school admission process. In addition to accessing the expertise of med school admission professionals, turning to us can reduce the tension between you and your adult child. We’re here to help.
Alicia Nimonkar is an Accepted.com advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs.