Jump to content
Premed 101 Forums

Extenuating Circumstances--MED application questions


Recommended Posts

Hi there, Im applying to Canadian medical schools in September 2019 and I am wondering if I should submit an extenuating circumstances letter. Basically, I have been unable to volunteer or take a full course load. My grades in first and second year are terrible, and I have not taken any science prerequisites but I will be taking the MCAT. I took all the sciences in high school and I've been studying MCAT material for quite some time and I'm not worried about how I will do on the exam. 

My circumstances have been quite complicated and Im not sure if I should explain anything to the medical school. In sum, I was in a relationship for 3 years and then my boyfriend had a traumatic brain injury and went into a coma for 3 months. When he woke,  (during my first year) I spent a lot of time helping him. After awhile i noticed personality changes, the relationship became extremely abusive (both physically and emotionally) which took a HUGE toll on me. my school went on strike during my second year, and  i got pneumonia. 

Im adopted by my grandparents because of my parents substance abuse. My mom went into a coma in my second year and my grandfather had a stroke. My grandparents also adopted by 3 nephews and little brother because of my uncle and his wife's substance abuse. I had to take care of all the children. (my brother has FASD, the other children are have severe ADHD.. making it all that more difficult). I moved out in my third year to focus better, but i was on academic probation so i could only take a small course load. I got straight A's that year and then the next year i took 80% course load because i couldn't afford to take more. 4th year my great grandparents died during my exam period (i did well anyways), my uncle assaulted me physically and my family said it was ok so I lost touch with my family. 5th year i was supposed to graduate but i got mumps which put me out for over a month and i had to drop courses. Later that year my school went on strike from february--August. When my school went off strike i had an opportunity to submit unfinished course work and complete my exams, but the same week my school went off strike my best friend got murdered, my mom was in critical condition in the hospital and I broke my foot. I dropped the courses. 6th year (CURRENTLY) i have been struggling a lot with my best friends death and my mothers condition, i fell behind and had to drop one of my courses... 

my entire undergrad has been extenuating circumstances, I don't really know how to explain my situation, or if i even should. I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses, its just shitty circumstances and I've tried my best. 3rd year-current I've been nearly a straight A student (with only two B+'s), but i havent been able to take on a full course load or volunteer... I work a lot, and i rock climb a lot. I volunteered for a bit but i realized that i should be spending my free time doing something that helps me, so i started climbing and i don't regret it at all but my academic resume is sorely lacking. 

Any advice would be appreciated. Also, if you read all of this--you are an amazing human. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi there,

I just want to start by saying that I think you are an incredibly strong person, and you should be very proud of what you have accomplished given the circumstances, even if it is not 100% what you were hoping to achieve. I am also very sorry to hear about all the challenges you have gone through early in your life and I hope everything settles down and you can get on the right track.

I have a few thoughts regarding the main purpose of your post. First, re: informing the schools, I think there are definitely things there that would be important to tell the school. These not only help justify why things may have been more challenging, but are also a part of what make you such a strong person. That being said, I would imagine most schools still require you to meet the cutoffs for pre-requisites, GPA, and MCAT. They may consider slightly less competitive marks and less volunteering, but they are not going to admit an applicant who is still not close to the minimum requirements (even with your circumstances). Therefore, it may take a bit more time for you to even be qualified to apply without considering the impact of an extenuating circumstances letter.

Second, med school is an unbelievably stressful endeavour. If the rest of your ducks aren't lined up before med school then there is no healthy way to be successful. Reading your story, it doesn't entirely sound like everything you have dealt with is resolved (from an emotional and psychological standpoint), and even though you have been incredibly resilient and strong, I think it would be vital to ensure your life is completely in order before you attempt medical school. Ultimately this will contribute to your success. Others may have differing opinions/thoughts for you to consider as well, but this is just my 2 cents.

Finally, don't give up. Your path (even from this point forward) may be more challenging. If you truly want to do this, then you should go for it. You can definitely succeed, but be cautiously optimistic because it will take a lot of work. Myself, and probably most of this forum, are rooting for you. Good luck.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My advice:

-figure out which schools you would be eligible to apply to with your grades/part time attendance,

-see if they have extenuating circumstances section/letter you can submit--in your case, I think a number of the items could easily be substantiated by obituaries, medical records, etc. so that people know you aren't bluffing but truly were involved in multiple "difficult" circumstances,

-write and rock the MCAT,


The challenge will be that I don't think a lot of schools will have allowances for your academic shortcomings, i.e. probations, part time status. As well, if you aren't volunteering "formally" (sounds to me that you did a lot of informal volunteering in your actual life because of the circumstances) then you will be hard-put to get appropriate reference letters for your application.

I think as other posters above mentioned, you will probably have to demonstrate a couple of full-time years of solid grades to be competitive, but there are exceptional circumstances applicants every year and you never know how things may look to an admissions committee if you can demonstrate a strong MCAT, improving grades, and hopefully you obtain some stability to your life.

Above all--please take care of yourself and your safety and psychological needs--medical school will always be there to apply to and you never know if whatever you embark on between now and then can either enhance your applications or your life, or open other doors you'd never imagined.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

LL & robclem said it best! Stay faithful to your dream, remain motivated, do not be concerned as to how long it takes to reach the finish line of this marathon, medicine needs people like you! Our Community is with you, we are your extended family! I’m sure you can reach out to any of us. Hope, hard work, motivation go a far way. As LL has said, take care of yourself as your first priority - as your well being is essential to maintain in this marathon! We are all cheering for you, in life, in your battles, when you stumble as we all do, and in your successes! Welcome to the Forum! :P What took you so long. :rolleyes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...