Monday, August 6, 2012

MiM Mailbag: Mention daughter in personal statement?

Hello Mothers, I've been following your blog for some time now and I am a fan! I'm a current pre-med and have been receiving conflicting advice on what to include in my personal statement. A brief biography: I'm a single mother who has a 5 yr old little girl. I have wanted to be a doctor before having her, but I also realize that she is responsible for the person I am today and the physician I will be in the future. I have been given various opinions that admissions committees could possibly frown because they would be uncertain of my commitment to medical school because I'm a single mother. What are your thoughts of mentioning her in my personal statement?

23 comments:

  1. Good luck! I don't remember if I mentioned my kids in my personal statement when I was applying to medical school. I know I did, after conflicting advice, when applying for the residency match. I didn't get as many invitations to interview as I would have liked. This time, I am rewriting it and leaving them out.

    It's a tough call. I'd rather not have any barriers to the invite at this point.

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    1. I'm afraid I agree. I definitely didn't mention it in my residency personal statement as I felt it might be off-putting before they even met me. I did mention it in my interviews because I felt at that point I could sell myself and motherhood's positive influence on me and my career choices. I think I'd probably err on the side of caution here. Medical schools get SO MANY applications and are looking for reasons to throw out applications, rather than reasons to interview interesting people. Good luck!

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  2. I did mention my son in my personal statement, both to medical school and residency, and I got my first choice in both. Being a parent can be an advantage: you've shown that you can multi-task, you can cope with extra pressure. If a medical school or a residency is going to exclude you for being a parent, for something that is going to be a big part of your life, I don't think that's a place you would want to be anyways.

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  3. You're talking about med school applications, correct? I'm not sure the same advice would apply as for residency. They're looking for diversity and evidence that you will be a successful student. If you can spin having a daughter to make yourself look like a multitasking superstar, then I think it would be more of an asset to your application than a liability.

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  4. I agree with OMDG....med schools these days are very very into "diversity" and "alternate paths" and "life experiences"...I think you can weave together something that spins your experience as the challenge & asset it clearly has been.
    Residency is different. They want dependability over anything else...too much mention of kids can be a liability there.

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  5. I think it highly depends on what else is in that personal statement. Med schools are definitely looking for older, more versatile (perhaps more primary care focused, although that could have just been a few of the ones I was interviewing at...) and being a parent is an asset. I wouldn't make it the only thing in the personal statement, but mentioning it, perhaps in the context of hard work, work ethic, multi tasking, work ethic, etc etc would be beneficial, and make you stand out from all the other 21 yo old biology majors (myself included).

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  6. As an interviewer, I don't particularly care about your personal life. What I care about is your reasons for going into medicine / my specialty, what you bring to the table, why you are going to succeed, and why you are better than our other applicants. I'm not allowed to ask if you are married / engaged / have children. Having you tell me puts me in an awkward position. However, I agree with several others that, especially for medical school applications, your life experience may be pertinent to answering the questions I care about. In that case, include your kids, but do it in a mindful way. "Before I had kids, I didn't realize how important it was to make an impact on the world." "After having my kids, I realized that I needed to set an example for them of a life well lived and contributing to society." Not "my kids are the most important thing in the world to me" or "I would have applied to medical school earlier, but, man, having kids is hard" or "I just wanted to let you know I have kids." I have a daughter who is very important in my life (her photo is on the back side of my name badge to remind me), so I'm not opposed to having kids or having them be important. But your essay has limited space-- use it to convince me you should be at my medical school. When I applied to medical school, I wrote an essay about my baby sister (then 9 years old) for one of my secondary applications, and one of my interviewers told me it convinced him they should interview me. So personal life can be effective-- but it has to be done right.

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  7. First, I have to say, people on this board are very much against single mothers going to medical school (just look on the post titled "do single mom's go to medical school?" asked by me in the June archives). So, don't expect constructive advice here in regards to applying and being a single mom in med school / residency -- they'll say you can't do it because it's hard, demanding, you're not cut out for it, etc (unless you're "independently wealthy" and can cash out for a sitter, nanny, a cook and a shoefir). But I digress.

    Secondly, to answer your question... in short, I very much agree with hh above, it depends on how to "use" your little girl. I say that because I have a good friend who brought up her family not even at an interview, but just in a conversation with an admissions dean at our local med school (top 10). Being the awesome school that it is, her family was frowned up -- they told her so, to her face, basically ending with "I'm sure another school would be a great match for you AND your family." Would I say that as a result it's not a "good" school and a bad match like the other person said above -- absolutely not. It's a very good school and let's face it, kids and a family are often a distraction and deviation from academics because kids have activities, get sick, need childcare, your care, money and basically TIME that you SHOULD be spending studying. Many would argue they are a great distraction in a sense that they re-set your mind and motivate you even more, but again it's an argument you have to sell. My friend did getg in, but not into that school because she chose not to apply there (for aforementioned reasons). How is she doing? Fabulously well, top of her class and might I mention... she has 3 kids at very young ages.

    So, if you want to be 100% safe, I wouldn't mention your daughter and especially being a single parent. Unless, she has a HUGE role in you pursuing this dream / goal. It sucks to hear, I know, but I think that's the competitive truth. :( I know many will argue otherwise... so it's your choice.

    In terms of residencies vs med school... it's a totally different ball game. As my OB put it (when I asked him this very precise question before planning for my pregnancy), he said that in med school, they aren't "hiring" you for a job, like in residency, therefore, they CAN (it IS legal) to ask you about family, kids, etc. Most people wouldn't ask because it's not really ethical, but it is NOT illegal, so they technically can. In residency because it is a paid position, it is illegal to ask any personal questions unless you chose to share yourself, in which case they CAN legally ask follow up questions.

    I wish you luck and all the best in your academic and personal future! :)))

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    1. Wow. I think it's really insulting to say that nobody on here can give constructive advice to a single mom going to med school when single mom momsTFH practically wrote you a novel on your post, giving you encouragement and advice. She's a single mom who doesn't have that much free time, and I'm offended on her behalf that you would say something like that after she took the time and effort to write to you.

      For the record, most people just told you to wait a few years, since your baby was so young and you said you had no money or family to provide childcare.

      Also, I would like to know what a shoefir is. Is that a tree that grows shoes? If so, I want one.

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    3. I talked with TFH and she agreed with me, for the record.

      I also wanted to add that I couldn't even respond to the post or even say as little as a "thank you" to anyone other than momTFH due to simple disgust and such discouraging remarks otherwise posted as "reality checks." I didn't ask anyone for advice if I can do it (no one can answer that but me) I simply asked DO people do it? Do you KNOW anyone who has done it? That's it.

      I guess I must be "independently wealthy" because I know what a shofir is...

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    4. The contradiction is that you said "don't expect constructive advice here" on being a single mom in med school, when in fact you received constructive advice from a single mom who is a regular writer on this blog. So how could you make such a statement?

      Honestly, it sounded like you were asking for advice in your post. I didn't realize all you were looking for was a yes/no answer. And that you were going to get angry when anyone told you something that wasn't exactly what you wanted to hear.

      I would LOVE you to enlighten me on what a shofir is. Can you find it in a dictionary please?

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    5. What I'm having difficulty understanding is why being told that a) childcare is expensive, and b) medical school is very time consuming upsets you that much. Unfortunately, medical school itself already borders on a poor financial decision for many people going into it who *don't* have to pay for childcare. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, it just means you (and everyone else who wants to become a doctor) needs to take a really hard look at his/her financial situation before making a decision. You don't want to get to the end of your training $300,000 in debt and realize that you can't afford to go into pediatrics because it just doesn't pay enough.

      The rising costs of a medical education have put becoming a doctor increasingly financially out of reach for middle class (and upper middle class) people to pursue, so the proportion of "independently wealthy" people in a given med school class has increased over time. 86% of medical students take out "some" loans, for an average of $160,000. Many people borrow over 200K. This means 14% of students are either getting a full ride (that includes living expenses), or someone else is paying their tuition (i.e. they have 250K lying around to spend on med school, which sounds pretty darn wealthy to me). I don't know you -- maybe you are in that 14%. It's not totally out of the realm of possibility. If you are, you have a lot more options available to you than a lot of people, and I wish you well.

      That's just the facts. I'm sorry you feel that this is unsupportive.

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    6. English IS my second language, but it was comments like these that I felt were "unsupportive."

      "I hate to be a downer and tell you not to follow your dream, but from what you're telling me, I just can't visualize how it would work." By Fizzy (first comment, first line by the way)

      "What Fizzy said." Written by YOU, OLDMDGIRL, first line

      "The NP route sounds extremely reasonable---you can work during the schooling/training, don't have to do a residency so end up making a really really good salary immediately, and can choose a specialty, research, etc..." by Ana

      and etc

      I know people can be bitter, but I guess I blindly hoped that I would get supportive feedback instead I got judgmental remarks.

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    7. And I stand by that for the reasons I outlined in my comment and above. Again, I'm sorry if this isn't what you wanted to hear. The fact is *someone* has to watch your baby while you go off to do your surgery rotation. Unless you have a relative who wants to do it for free, you'll have to pay someone. And that gets expensive very quickly. If you DO have a relative who wants to take this on with you, then by all means, go for it. Which if I recall correctly, was what I said in my comment.

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    8. I'm sorry if you took our comments as judgmental. It seems like you posted the question and only wanted to hear comments along the lines of, "You can do this, no problem." If I posted a question on a blog that said, "I'm thinking about jumping off a cliff. Do you know of anyone who has done this and survived?", what would you say? Just yes or no? Or would you urge me to consider not jumping off a cliff?

      Going to med school is obviously not the equivalent of jumping off a cliff, but the financial and personal situation you mentioned in your post really did not sound amenable to medical school. At all. If I encouraged you and told you to do it, regardless of the fact that you seemed to have no way to arrange childcare, I would have felt like I was deceiving you. Instead, I tried to come up with another option that might be in your and your child's best interest, and wouldn't leave you with half a million dollars in debt.

      Also, you said that NOBODY offered you ANY encouragement. I just looked at the comments and SEVERAL single moms weighed in and gave you encouragement. You received a variety of opinions on the matter. I think it's naive for you to post a question like that and think that you will get completely one-sided opinions. I'm sorry that a couple of people told you what you didn't want to hear, but nobody did it to be mean. Maybe because English is your second language, you misunderstood our tone.

      I don't wish you any ill will. I think becoming an NP/PA is a fantastic career and that's why I mentioned it. I know lots of mothers in primary care who say they wished they had gone that route. It leaves you with less debt, shorter training, and a better schedule once you finish. I honestly wasn't trying to ruin your life by saying that.

      Just out of curiosity, since it seems like you are going ahead with medical school, how are you planning to arrange childcare for your baby?

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    9. I was planning on hiring a nanny and/or utlizing family members like I did when I completed my masters.It was very effective because I never had any issues with childcare.

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    10. Shofir maybe equals chauffeur??

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  8. Hi there,
    I have been involved on the med school selection comittee and so have other physician friends. Our main criteria is to choose who would make good doctors. If you had candidate A talking about experiences that would help them be a better doctor - e.g. leadership positions, research positions, project management positions (which also have lots of multitasking) etc, and candidate B talking about how their own child is important to them, rather than how they would make a good doctor, it often feels like candidate B is self-centred, self-family focussed, etc. The truth is anyone who has dealt with kids know how much work it can be, and anyone who has done med school and residency (which is everyone on the selection committee) know how grueling tough etc it can be - residents often work 70-100 work weeks and that does NOT include the time you take to study. So many already feel having a child limits your time and flexibility. We all know poeple who are leave partway through the training because having a child means less time and flexibility to focus on med school. Of course there are many physicians who do have children during training or before (but these candidates get in not because they have children but often in spite of it. At a selection stage, you want to be private about your private life. Being a doctor is a job - most advise you to leave the home out of it.

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    1. I understand and your perspective entered my mind as well. Thank you

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  9. I just recently became a parent myself. In many ways, it has made me understand patients better, and be a better physician because I am a parent, but I still would advise not to mention personal things on applications.

    The main issue is that it is very challenging for people who have never had children (which can be the case when the selection committee is varied) to even appreciate how being a parent can help one be a better physician. We have all seen how challenging being a parent can be, and it often feels like a full-time workload already, adding on a 70-100 hour commitment of job seems a lot. Now we would not discriminate against a person with kids, but if the person with kids spend their limited time or space focusing on how important their kids are, rather than how they cared about taking care of patients, they may be a loving parent, but they may not make the best impression about being committed to their patients, especially when other candidates are focused for the patient.
    My male friends who are fathers say they leave their home out of it their work especially at the interview stage when you may be dealing with a 60 yr old retired physician who never changed a diaper in his life and had a stay-at-home wife so he could work incessantly at the hospital.) The parent card is a dicey card because not everyone thinks it is an advantage, and some very much feel it is a disadvantage.

    If you picture yourself getting a rejection letter, would you rather it be because you had disclose nothing that would discriminate you from other single candidates i.e. you competed on a level playing field, than wonder if the parent mention had any part to play in it

    Some physicians strongly feel: Being a doctor is a job – convince me how you will be a good physician who takes the utmost care of patients, whatever you do at home is your business as long as it does not interfere with your ability to do your job. On the note, if one does mention kids, please assure the selection committee that they have childcare in place and will not be absent from work more or have last minute cancellations when patients are waiting. I know this seems harsh, but it is often what other physicians (especially middle-age attendings) have told me.

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  10. I really appreciate everyone's comments!

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