2020 has been a dark, dismal year, but as it draws to a close there’s light at the end of the tunnel. A vaccine is on the horizon. The election is behind us. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll soon be able to gather, hug, meet, and travel. Maybe we’ll be able to largely return to the lives we were leading before “pandemic” became a household word and hand sanitizer became a valuable commodity.
Even when that vision becomes reality, and I certainly hope it does soon, as a med school applicant you are likely to face questions about how the pandemic and the events of 2020 affected you. I created this video to help you answer those questions with confidence.
How can medical school applicants respond to questions about COVID and the other major events of 2020?
Yes. It’s been a crazy year. I’m recording this at the very beginning of October 2020, and I’m almost going to guarantee that you’re going to have questions about COVID and the other major events of 2020. If you haven’t already had them on the secondaries, you can count on them in your interviews. Most of your responses will have, and should have, two major elements to them. And I’m going to go through giving several examples, both for corona, for the social unrest following George Floyd’s killing/death in custody, and for the election that’s upcoming as I’m, again, recording in October.
Let’s first deal with coronavirus and COVID. Everybody’s been negatively affected by corona, okay, whether they’re just dealing with restrictions and the need to wear masks (notice nobody’s with me). But many people have been much more seriously affected, dramatically affected. There’s always a possibility that you or a family member got the disease and were seriously ill as a result. And perhaps you even, I hope it’s not true, but maybe you even lost a close family member to COVID.
There’s the possibility that you or a close family member were furloughed or laid off or had your income seriously cut because of COVID. Maybe you couldn’t get the clinical exposure or the volunteer experience that you really hoped to do since March – and that’s a big gap in your application. Maybe you feel like you’re stagnating either in school or at work, and you’re unable to do in-person or graded classes. Maybe the promotion that you were hoping for, or the job that you were hoping would come through, hasn’t come through because of COVID-related cutbacks.
So that’s one way in which you were affected, but there’s another way that you were affected because as the problems and difficulties have increased as a result of COVID, there’s also the opportunity to solve or lessen the impact of those problems and difficulties. And that’s an opportunity. That’s an opportunity for you to respond and innovate and initiate, lead and contribute.
So how have you assisted the vulnerable? Have you started a program or organized people, resources, technology to assist those who are shut in, those who are vulnerable and can’t go to the store so easily? Have you taken the initiative to either visit people who are lonely and cut off, alienated really because of COVID? Or to organize a system, to visit them and provide companionship, or maybe shop for them? Are you perhaps making a concerted effort to help hard-hit populations like African Americans, Hispanic Americans? Those populations have been very, very hard-hit. Or to advocate on their behalf?
Speaking of advocacy, that leads directly to the social unrest and the country’s focus on racism in the wake of the George Floyd killing. Again, the first question is how were you personally affected by these events? Maybe you were so horrified at the videos that you saw that you participated in personal protests. Maybe you or a family member own a business that was damaged by the social unrest. Maybe you feel that you have been a victim of racist policing or policies in the past. Okay, so that’s how you’ve been affected. Now, the question is what have these experiences motivated you to do?
Well, there’s the possibility of participating in protests. Maybe you’ve decided that you’re going to make equity and inclusion more of a focus on the job if you’re already working or, if possible, in whatever role you have on campus. Maybe you’ve decided as a result of these events that you want to examine the role of racism and race relations in the United States, since its founding through today. Maybe you’ve become politically active in response. Maybe you’ve decided to contract or hire companies headed by, or individuals who are, underrepresented minorities, as your effort to contribute to reduction of racism. And maybe you are a member of an underrepresented minority who’s decided to combat racism through excellence. There are many, many who’ve done that.
And then the third major event of this year, if we don’t have enough is, of course, the election. As I’m recording this it’s October 2nd, the election is still a month away. I’m not going to get into the candidates. I’m not going to get political here at all, but the election again is a major event here in the United States. Are you getting involved in “get out the vote” efforts? Are you perhaps participating in fundraisers or organizing a fundraiser for a particular candidate or cause? Are you taking an active role in some cause? Again, advocacy is something that medical schools increasingly want to see, not so much as a requirement, but as a nice-to-have in medical school applicants.
In conclusion, when you’re responding to questions about this tumultuous year, this year that we all can’t wait to end, your answer really can have two components. One, how were you affected? How are you an object of these events? In other words, “My classes were canceled and I couldn’t do XYZ.” It was completely out of your control.
The second question though, is how did you respond to these events? Did you take your free time and do something constructive or simply use more of your Netflix subscription? The former is what schools are going to be impressed with. How did you respond? Did you become a subject in the story? Somebody making things happen and a contributor and innovator? Did you show, did you demonstrate a commitment to service, a dedication to service? Because that is the essence of medicine.
Good luck with your applications.
Are you ready to apply to medical school? Accepted’s expert consultants will help you perfect your admissions strategy. Check out our one-on-one admissions services to ace your application and GET ACCEPTED!By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted. Linda earned her bachelors and MBA at UCLA, and has been advising applicants since 1994 when she founded Accepted. Linda is the co-founder and first president of AIGAC. She has written or co-authored 13 e-books on the admissions process, and has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News, Poets & Quants, Bloomberg Businessweek, CBS News, and others. Linda is the host of Admissions Straight Talk, a podcast for graduate school applicants. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!