Have you ever “settled” in a relationship?
You know what I mean – you’re with someone who’s not perfect, but they’re good enough. You might not feel much passion, but you’re comfortable, moderately happy, and that’s… well, that’s good enough.
The thing is, the person on the other end of this deal (and that might well be you someday) doesn’t want to hear that you’ve had to “settle” for them. They want to hear that they’re special.
And it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that program directors do too.
Residency programs want to know why you chose your particular specialty – not why you fled to it once you discovered that other specialties weren’t a good fit. So why do medical students so often write about what they want to do by detailing what they don’t want to do? Why share in detail why they dislike the monotony of their obstetrics rotation or the lack of continuous care in emergency medicine, clearly identifying what aspects of their personality aren’t satisfied in specialties that they’re not even applying for?
It’s fine to note that even though you always pictured yourself a surgeon, you found yourself drawn to the other side of the table. But then explain what draws you to anesthesiology, not the negative things that have driven you from your dream of holding a scalpel.
This process of elimination is a natural thought process and one you should explore thoroughly when making any important decision. But as you’re thinking about what you’ll put in your application, focus on the affirmative reasons for your choice.
Remember, no one – not a potential boyfriend or girlfriend, and certainly not a potential program director – wants to hear that you’re “settling” for them. That’s definitely not good enough.
By Cydney Foote, Accepted consultant and author of Write Your Way to Medical School, who has helped future physicians craft winning applications since 2001.
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