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Medical School Personal Statement Example: How to Address a Low MCAT

I was failing eighth grade. I sat in the front row, diligently copying down notes. I was a good student – I turned in work on time, read the textbook, and joined an after-school study group in an attempt to halt my declining grades. The teacher pulled me aside one day to ask why I wasn’t performing. In an experiment, she asked me to read something she wrote on the board. It was a math equation; I wrote it down and tried to solve the problem. My answer was way off. She told me that I likely needed glasses. I was referred to a specialist, and sure enough, I left that day with a pair of new prescription glasses. The ophthalmologist performed a whole range of tests and determined that my eyesight was slowly deteriorating. He discovered that I had an inherited form of blindness that would cost thousands of dollars to repair. This was an unreasonable ask at the time, given my family’s financial instability.

From that moment forward, I experienced an increase in anxiety. I worried about the future and how I would cope with inevitable blindness. I fantasized about winning the lottery so that I could pay for the procedure I couldn’t afford. I had family members who had been rendered blind from the same genetic condition, so I was aware of what my future would hold. At that time, I was working full-time to pay for my studies. I qualified for financial assistance, but I still had to make sure I could pay for my living arrangements, food, and study materials. But, despite the impending impairment looming over me, I was still determined to play the hand I was dealt to the best of my ability. I was getting better grades now that I was in university. I had glasses, which radically improved my vision. I felt liberated and at the same time worried about what was going to happen: would I still be able to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor? There was only one way to find out.

My parents did their best, but they didn’t have much money. They immigrated from Thailand and were trying to make a living as physical therapists. Unfortunately, the US didn’t recognize their degrees, so if they wanted their hard-earned credentials, they would have to go back to school. Obviously, this wasn’t in their budget, so my mother found an office job and my dad factory work. It paid the bills, which was all we could ask for. I contributed what I could; I worked on campus as a tutor, and then off campus at a coffee shop. It was hard to keep up with my studies while working full-time, but I was determined to see it through and accomplish what I set out to do. I talked to a guidance counsellor, who helped me organize my life to optimize for school performance. Still, I was struggling to juggle my responsibilities when my parents were relying on me to pay the bills. It was until I met Sam, a student I was tutoring, who changed my perspective when my motivation was deteriorating. She could only pay for one session, despite wanting to do more. She was also struggling to make ends meet and was on the verge of dropping out. I told her about my situation, that I was going blind, that my parents relied on me for financial support, and that I was still determined to go to med school. She shared her ambition to go to law school. Her desire to persevere reinforced my determination to keep moving forward.

Despite all the planning and strict adherence to my study schedule, it was difficult to study for long hours. Because of my eyes, I got headaches frequently, regularly accompanied by nausea. In the end, I didn’t receive the score I’d hoped for. Fortunately, since then, I’ve upgraded my lenses, and I’m approaching my savings goal for the procedure that would repair my eyes. I can confidently say that restored vision is in my future. As an aspiring ophthalmologist, I hope that I can introduce this-life changing procedure to members of my own family. (696 words, 3,865 characters with spaces)

Although it is tempting to blame my poor performance on these problems with my vision, I like to take personal responsibility. My studying could have been improved, I think, if I used more audio-based study techniques. Since the MCAT, I’ve adopted this approach in my studies, and I’ve seen a lot of improvement. I've also been using assistive technology, like OCR, that scans material and reads text out loud. The biggest lesson I’ve learned through this experience is that despite difficult circumstances, your goals are a lot more achievable than they might appear. Additionally, even though hard work is a virtue, sometimes you have to rely on others and express your need for help.

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