How Success and Resilience Intertwine In A Medical Career (And Life)

Last Updated on June 23, 2022 by Laura Turner

Sometimes it’s easy to assume that only those students with perfect transcripts, superior GPAs, and exceptional MCAT® scores are ensured admission into medical school. But admissions committees consider many different factors when evaluating applications, including the 15 Core Competencies for entering medical students. 

Many medical school applicants know that resilience and adaptability (which together make up one of the Core Competencies) are two of the most valuable traits a physician can have. The ability to demonstrate effective coping skills in stressful or changing environments is essential, and premed students can exhibit these traits when recovering from setbacks while persevering through advanced coursework, moving through the application process, or facing rejections. Success is measured oftentimes not by how you fare on your first try, but how you recover from a setback and grow stronger in the process. 

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The majority of medical students profiled in the AAMC’s Anatomy of an Applicant highlight “Resilience and Adaptability” as one of their key traits for getting into and thriving in medical school. These students faced daunting obstacles at the start of their medical careers in personal and academic aspects of their lives: 

  • Fiora dropped out of high school at the age of 14 and served in the military. After fulfilling her GED requirements, she obtained her full undergraduate education in 15 years and went on to attend Eastern Virginia Medical School, where she will graduate in 2020. 
  • Erin, a current medical student at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, completed school while dealing with spinal disc injuries, which affected her ability to work. Erin ended up earning an overall GPA of 4.0 for the year. 
  • Hannah, a current medical student at Washington State University Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, was inspired to pursue medicine after witnessing the care given by physicians after the Boston Marathon bombings. Initially, she was a reapplicant who was waitlisted, but ultimately she gained admission to medical school in 2016.

There are several more stories of students exhibiting resilience and adaptability available in the Anatomy of an Applicant library that describe how students demonstrated the 15 Core Competencies on their medical school applications. You can also read other inspiring stories where students write about overcoming personal setbacks before beginning their medical training. Success does not mean merely doing well in everything you do, but also how you can handle and recover from the difficulties you encounter along the way.

To further learn about how real students demonstrated competencies on their applications, check out Anatomy of an Applicant, where you can review competency definitions, learn about ways students demonstrated competencies, and complete a workbook to figure out what competencies you want to further develop and how.