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Letter of Extenuating Circumstance for Medical School

Serious medical or personal difficulties can have a negative impact on your academic performance and consequently your medical school application. Most medical school applications include an extenuating circumstances section in case you wish to explain the context behind a semester with particularly low marks, for example. Often these sections are text boxes with limited instructions, leaving students wondering what to include.

First, it is important to note extenuating circumstance sections are NOT extra space to continue your autobiographical essay, to add more extracurricular activities, or to elaborate on personal attributes that make you suitable for medicine. They are an optional area to describe circumstances that have had a serious impact on your performance. See our blog on types of extenuating circumstances for more info on what constitutes a serious impact.

If you decide your situation is worth including in your application, start your letter by clearly explaining what happened, and if applicable, why it happened. Be sure to define the start and end dates of the circumstances. There may be an area to provide official supporting documentation such as medical notes, accident reports, etc., and some schools will not consider your extenuating circumstances section at all without such written evidence.

It is not enough to simply state the cause – you must also explain the effects. Explicitly make the connection between how the circumstances affected you, and the resulting impact on your academic performance. List specific courses which were affected. Do not leave it to the reviewer to draw conclusions or connect the dots between unfortunate circumstances and your transcript. Also do not assume admissions staff will know how significant an accident, event, or medical condition is to you – the same issue will affect individuals differently.

If you are still affected by the issue, you may want to describe the expected outcome, prognosis or date of recovery. For issues that could reoccur, you may wish to mention what changes you have made or preventative measures you will take to mitigate future impact on your academic performance.

Having extenuating circumstances impact your medical school application can be very concerning to applicants. Do not feel you are no longer competitive due to the consequences of these serious situations. As long as you do your part in clearly defining the issue and its results, schools will take these into consideration in the scoring of your application.

Our expert team of doctors is ready to assist you in perfecting your medical school applications, including Letters of Extenuating Circumstance. Check out our services here.

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