Remember growing up and thinking that being different from other people in school was a bad thing? I always felt embarrassed because I was not like everyone else. I avoided asking my mom to make me lunch for school because it did not look like the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that everyone else would have for lunch. Growing up in a South Asian household, my life was very different from my peers. I did not have a lot of friends with the same background so it was not easy to relate my experiences to other students. I always thought of my unique background as a disadvantage. It was not until I started applying to med school did I realize how much of an advantage having a unique background can be.
Bring Different Means Seeing Things In A Different Light
I never remembered to count how many essays I wrote during the application process but it ended up being way more 10. It took a lot of time going through the essay topics and figuring out what I wanted to write for each essay. At first I resisted the urge to talk about my life growing up and how that paved my decision to pursue medicine because I did not think that was what medical schools wanted to hear. I tried and tried to write about what I thought admissions officers wanted me to write about but each time I read the essay that I wrote I realized it sounded forced. Once I finally let myself write about what I actually felt, I was able to produce well written and emotionally-filled essays that showed who I truly am. During many of my interviews I was complimented about my personal statements because I did not hold anything back.
Being different can be difficult because many of us at some point have tried to fit in to what we believe is the “norm.” As much as we try to suppress who we are, the way we perceive the world around us is unique and interesting. Medical schools love students that are unique because diversity is the core of learning. A diverse medical student class leads to a rich experience not only for the students but also provides a learning opportunity unlike anything else.
Talk About Your Unique Background
Do not be shy to talk about your background and how it may have influenced you in your decisions and always make sure that you practice what you want to say. You may be thinking, “well I do not want to talk about my background so I will not prepare for it either.” Just because you have decided to not talk about your past does not mean that you will not be asked about it. Also, you can use your background as an advantage when talking about it. For example, there may have been a health problem that someone in your family experienced and although it was a difficult time for you and may have been associated with feelings of sadness you can turn it around and display it in a positive light. This is just an example of one way in which you can talk about your background.
Being Unique Can Mean Anything
A lot of folks think that a “unique” background has to mean a unique cultural experience. This is not completely true. Cultural experiences are great things to talk about and are very unique but it is not the only thing that falls under the realm of uniqueness. Traveling abroad is always a great experience to have under your belt and to talk about because you have learned a lot about yourself while traveling. Research experiences are also great topics. Basically, the point is that you can take anything about yourself and highlight it in a way that will display you as being unique because most likely it is unique to you. It is the way that you share the story that makes the difference.