If you’re wondering how to get into medical school with ADHD, then you’ve come to the right place. You may question whether you should address this condition in your AMCAS work and activities or personal statement, or if you should leave it out entirely. Note that you may also have an opportunity to discuss your experience with ADHD in a diversity statement if you choose to. If you’ve come here wondering if it’s even possible to get into medical school with ADHD, or how to get into medical school with a low GPA, know that if you utilize a few strategies, you can make it happen. In this article, we address some of the strategies you can use to improve your chances of getting accepted to medical school.
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What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects an individual’s ability to focus, direct attention, control impulsive behaviors, or moderate activity. It’s typically diagnosed in childhood, but people from all different backgrounds and age groups can be affected.
Many people who have ADHD can manage their symptoms using medication, while others may require intervention from a therapist or psychiatrist. People are complex, so treatment is unique to the individual; professionals encourage people with ADHD to understand their symptoms using the guidance of a physician or a qualified professional.
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How Does ADHD Affect Academic Performance?
ADHD can manifest in work, relationships, school, and other areas of life. Regarding academic performance, the disorder can negatively affect an individual’s readiness for learning, which can impact grades in an undesired way. It’s important to recognize the complexity and sometimes debilitating nature of the disorder as affected individuals navigate academic life and beyond. Doing so will encourage self-compassion and resourcefulness often required to overcome certain hurdles. While there is an association between ADHD and lower grades, there is also a positive association between pharmacological treatment and increased academic productivity.
With the right resources, like campus services, tutoring, medical school application help, and optimal learning environments, people with ADHD can thrive academically. Again, many people don’t require major lifestyle changes to succeed, but others do. Accessing the campus wellness center is perhaps the best way to find resources applicable to applying for medical school. For example, if you need help writing a medical school letter of intent, campus services can connect you with the right resources.
How to Get into Medical School with ADHD
There are many ways you can improve your chances of getting into medical school. As any applicant knows, the road map to success can be confusing and challenging, but here, we will focus on the selection factors and how you can adjust your materials accordingly if you choose to discuss your background as it relates to ADHD.
Increasing Your GPA and MCAT scores
Addressing ADHD in Activities Sections
For most medical schools, you will need to provide your AMCAS most meaningful experiences. These will typically include extracurriculars, volunteer experiences, or research activities. AMCAS allows you to provide up to 15 experience entries with a 700-character limit, including spaces. Your “most” meaningful experiences will be expanded into different sections with a 1325-character limit.
If you have ADHD, you may wonder if it’s appropriate to mention any experiences related to the disorder. The answer is yes, you can definitely address it in this section of your application if you choose to, though it is entirely up to you – you are not obliged to disclose that information if you don’t want to.
If you choose to discuss ADHD in your meaningful experiences or AMCAS Work and Activities, you can talk about how you overcame certain hurdles associated with your volunteerism, extracurricular activities, employment history, community service, clinical experiences, and so on. Here is an example of what you might write:
Title: Volunteer at Learning Disabilities Association of XYZ
Description: During my first year of pre-med studies, I volunteered at the Learning Disabilities Association of XYZ working primarily with children between the ages of 8 and 12. Many of the clients I volunteered with had been diagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD (not classified as a learning disorder), and others. My job was to organize events and activities for different groups each week, usually consisting of sports, bingo, or board games. I was also a math tutor at this organization for students in grades 1–8 who were struggling due to a learning disability. As someone who was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, I know that learning can be frustrating at times. My experience living with ADHD allowed me to take a compassionate approach to supporting learning outcomes for this cohort.
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In addition to other aspects of your application, you might consider mentioning something about your experience with ADHD in your personal statement. Once again, the choice is entirely yours. However, if you choose to include it in your introduction, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
Here is an example of a personal statement for someone who chose to discuss their experience with ADHD:
In elementary school, my teachers would always ask me to leave the class for being too disruptive; occasionally, they would also reprimand me in front of my peers for doing poorly on my tests and assignments. Feeling like I was putting in as much effort as I could, it was jarring to be told that it was never sufficient and that I needed to try harder. This theme continued throughout the remainder of my elementary years and into high school, where my grades fell below the average, despite efforts to improve them. It wasn’t until a trusted teacher of mine in my freshman year of high school brought up the possibility of me having ADHD that I decided to visit a doctor to inquire. Sure enough, my suspicions were confirmed, and I was diagnosed with ADHD. As I started medication and therapeutic treatment, I began to see my grades improve and my enthusiasm for subjects like biology and chemistry rise. Everything suddenly “clicked,” I began to see things with more clarity, and I could focus on developing my academic goals.
I was a biology major at X university. I discovered a particular interest in the genetics of mental illness as I was completing a credit in the course, Introduction to Behavioral and Psychiatric Genetics. I learned about intriguing concepts, such as how the heritability of various mental health conditions carries over at least 50% in almost every case. The professor of that class, Dr. Heidi, became a mentor of mine when I approached her one day after class requesting to record the lectures due to difficulty taking notes. I felt comfortable enough to admit that I had ADHD, and she was open to providing me with more in-depth feedback for certain assignments. I ended up contributing to her project investigating comorbid sleep issues in teenagers with ADHD. We found that within our sample size, roughly 40% of participants experience insomnia or secondary sleep conditions. The research question was particularly meaningful not only because the subject was interesting, but because I had a personal connection to the issues we were investigating.
In my second year of undergraduate studies, I was a volunteer tutor at a middle school close to the university. I encountered students from many different ethnic, racial, and financial backgrounds, some of whom were struggling, others who just wanted to practice and maintain their grades. I taught science and math, two subjects that I struggled with in middle school but began to enjoy and succeed in as I transitioned into high school. It was an opportunity to develop my communication skills, and I felt particularly comfortable working with students who were struggling due to learning disabilities or related conditions, mostly because I know what it’s like to feel misunderstood and demoralized. I started to think about medical school during this time, and I eventually confirmed my ambition to pursue a career in medicine when I volunteered at a community health care service promoting mental health awareness and addiction prevention for adolescents.
My priority in becoming a medical student at your institution is research. The clinical electives offered in the psychiatry and neuroscience of mental health will put me in a position to pursue a residency in psychiatry. One of my goals as a medical student and as a future physician is to provide support for those suffering from mental health disorders, dealing specifically with younger patients and their families to help them navigate the nuances of treatment and life’s challenges. The MD-PhD program suits my inclination for research, which I believe should be the focal point of strategic developments for treatment and education in primary and secondary schools.
How to Study for the Interview
Mock medical school interviews are an ideal way to study for this critical evaluation. Most interviews are one-on-one, although sometimes candidates face a panel of faculty members and senior medical school students. Some schools host more than one interview, after which you will have an opportunity to meet with faculty members and other students. Many schools use the multiple mini interview (MMI) format, so it can be helpful to review MMI questions.
The best mock interviews are ideally conducted with the help of a qualified professional. That way, you can get feedback on your answers and develop a strategy for preparing and answering different types of questions. Mock practice will also help you eliminate filler words and focus instead on the content of your answer.
Mock interviews are particularly beneficial for students who want to get familiar with the interview format and process before the actual interview. The interview process can be intimidating, especially when you’re facing a panel of faculty members, so simulating this scenario will help you gain confidence.
Here are some common medical school interview questions you should prepare for:
1. Should I discuss ADHD in my personal statement or secondary essays?
Only if you want to. There is no obligation to discuss your experience with ADHD. If you do decide to, connect your experiences with activities like research, clinical experience, or extracurriculars.
2. Will I be discriminated against in the application review because I have ADHD?
Medical schools want to know what makes you unique. Part of that for you may be having ADHD and the experiences you’ve consequently had. There are many successful physicians who have ADHD, so don’t worry about being eliminated if you choose to disclose that information.
3. What’s the best way to prepare for the interview?
You should prepare using mock interviews, ideally with a qualified professional. This will help you get familiar with the format and gain confidence in answering every type of question.
4. What are a few ways I can increase my GPA and MCAT scores?
There are a few viable options: join/create a study group, take notes in class or ask to record the lecture for later review, optimize your class schedule, and use a tutor for subjects you’re struggling with.
5. How do I discuss ADHD in my personal statement?
The personal statement tends to be more effective if you can mention one personal anecdote related to your pursuit of a career in medicine in the introductory paragraph of the essay. In the body of the essay, transition into specific points about your critical experiences that solidified your choice to apply to medical school. You can also describe how your experiences may have inspired a particular research interest or participation in a student activity.
6. What interview questions should I prepare for?
There are many different types of questions, so be sure to prepare for personal, ethical, situational, and motivational questions. Incorporate a variety of questions into your medical school interview prep so that you have a strategy if you encounter questions you didn’t prepare for.
7. How do I talk about ADHD in my activities section?
You can relate your experience having ADHD with any meaningful activities like volunteering, community service, extracurriculars, or others.
8. Are there certain things I should avoid when talking about ADHD in my materials?
Try to avoid using ADHD as an excuse for poor academic performance. Committees are more interested in what you learned from the challenges you mention, so as long as you show personal growth and adaptive qualities, you’re on the right track.
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