So, you're hoping to apply to medical school - and you're worried about your chances.
That's probably a fair reaction. Today's medical school admissions races are cutthroat and competitive. If it seems you need to be an entirely perfect undergraduate example of academic and professional aptitude, that's not far off. Medical schools receive huge numbers of applications for each matriculation cycle, and can largely have their pick of students across the nation (and world) who have spent years molding themselves into the ideal medical school applicant.
Most students, prior to becoming a full-fledged doctor, must complete a four-year undergraduate degree before attempting the long process of getting into medical school. The journey isn't over there, of course: Medical school lasts four years, after which a prospective doctor must complete a successful residency.
In other words: There's a lot that lies between you and your dreams of practicing medicine. The first hurdle of medical school admissions looms large - and, looking back, you may believe that you are far from the ideal applicant.
The State of Medical School Applications: Medical School Admissions Competitiveness in America
Right now, you may also find that the task before you is considerably more difficult than it might be in other years. The American Medical Association recently reported that the number of premedical students applying to medical schools has skyrocketed - 18% more students are applying, when compared to previous years.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (or the AAMC) is as surprised as anyone. The AAMC's senior director of student affairs and programs, Geoffrey Young, Ph.D., has said: “We can't say for sure why so many more students have applied this year. Some students may have had more time for applications and preparing for the MCAT exam after their college courses went online. Some may have been motivated by seeing heroic doctors on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
AAMC Chief Services Officer Gabrielle Campbell also notes that this may be the case, agreeing that the dramatic influx of medical-school-hopefuls is certainly inspiring. However, she goes on to say, it's also the case that next year's crop of medical school applicants may find an already tough job - getting into medical school - considerably more difficult.
Medical schools have indicated that they will continue to review all applications as fairly as possible; after all, they are especially aware of the upheaval that many applicants faced due to the global pandemic. In order to facilitate that fairness, many medical schools have hired additional admissions experts, extended timelines, and added more interview slots.
“[Medical schools] also want to be sensitive to the many applicants who have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic,” said Gabrielle Campbell. “That's a lot of work, but they're highly committed to it.”
That's an admirable initiative, and medical school applicants should take heart in hearing of it. However, the fact remains that the competition for the few spots available at elite medical schools going forward will be fierce. More than ever, it's important that your application is perfect.
Which begs the question: What if it isn't?
If you face misconduct concerns as an undergraduate or are aware that your past actions may not paint you in the best light, you need to know that there are actions you can take to increase your chances of medical school acceptance. Act now by hiring a smart, savvy student defense advisor to help you put yourself in the best place possible prior to beginning your all-important medical school applications.
What's at Stake for a Medical School Applicant Facing Misconduct Accusations?
Medical students - those who have successfully matriculated at a medical school and are studying to become doctors - are held to toweringly high professionalism standards. As future physicians, they undergo constant scrutiny. Their academic performance must be borderline perfect, as must the way they conduct themselves around colleagues and in clinical settings.
When a medical school admissions board reads an applicant's file, they seek to determine whether that applicant can meet the medical field's high expectations. If the admissions board sees concrete evidence that this is unlikely, the applicant's chances of admission will likely plummet.
It's more than, strictly, your medical school admissions chances that hang in the balance. If you stand accused of misconduct in your undergraduate career, you could be risking:
- Financial aid opportunities
- Relationships with your family
- Relationships with staff at your school
- Relationships with your peers
- Internships and externships
If you face a disciplinary hearing, academic misconduct, professionalism concerns, or any other type of mark on your character that will make it into your permanent file as an undergraduate, you should be worried. Even a misconduct accusation could carry with it huge consequences for your entire educational path. Even if that accusation is untrue, it's your reputation that you need to worry about - and an allegation of misconduct has the power to mar your reputation in a moment.
When you receive news that you stand accused of misconduct, you need to act with care. Even if no one cautions you, you need to be aware that anything you say or do could influence the outcome of your case. From the start, you need a good defense strategy - and that involves hiring a medical applicant student defense advisor to assist you in finding the best outcome possible.
Academic Misconduct Issues and Your Medical School Application
The penalties for academic misconduct can be very severe. Your undergraduate institution could easily deem remedial or disciplinary measures such as suspension, probation, or dismissal as a direct result. As a downstream ramification, any future employers or admission boards will likely look askance of any evidence of academic misconduct on your undergraduate school resume.
Every school's specific definition of academic misconduct may differ. Your best bet of determining what, precisely, your school considers punishable as academic misconduct is to refer to your school's code of conduct or your student handbook. However, there are consistent examples of academic misconduct from school to school. Some likely actions might include:
- Plagiarism, or the act of presenting another person's thoughts or words as your own without proper citation;
- Unauthorized collaboration, or working with other students without teacher approval;
- Cheating, or any way in which you give yourself an advantage over your peers in an educational setting;
- Fabricating data in a lab or experiment;
- Failing to report violations when you're aware of other students acting in a nefarious way; or
Undergraduates working towards lofty goals post-graduation can easily get frustrated - and competitive. If one student sees another engaging in misconduct (and getting away with it), it's all too easy for that student to believe they can take the easy way out, too. If you're juggling a heavy pre-med course load while studying for the MCAT, it's understandable that you should be in this situation.
Prospective medical schools will not be this understanding.
It's also the case, sometimes, that one student accuses another of misconduct falsely to get ahead. This type of action may stem from general competitiveness, jealousy, or even non-academic anger. Whether the academic misconduct allegations you face are true, you need to have a strategy for dealing with them properly - otherwise, your dreams of attending a prestigious medical school may slip away before your eyes.
You may also need to be prepared for sloppy or rushed actions on the part of your school. Your undergraduate academic institution has a reputation to protect, and if you have allegedly conducted yourself in an untoward way, your school may wish to brush that under the rug as quickly as possible. To do this, your school may opt to ignore your rights, not follow its own processes, or even pressure you into accepting your charges in exchange for lighter disciplinary measures.
This is another way that having an experienced legal expert at your side will be extremely worth it. Your attorney will be able to act as a level-headed, completely loyal resource for you during a very confusing, difficult, and potentially even scary time.
Other Types of Misconduct Issues that May Worry Medical School Applicants
Academic misconduct may be one of the most common types of trouble that a prospective medical student may find themselves in, but it's far from the only kind. Below, you'll find a quick guide to a few other types of misconduct issues that may plague future physicians when they're looking to get into their medical school of choice.
Sexual misconduct is serious. Quite apart from the fact that it affects all those involved in a very permanent way, sexual misconduct will also send a warning sign to anyone looking at your medical school application.
The specific actions that your school considers punishable as sexual misconduct will be in your code of conduct or student handbook. The common types of sexual misconduct that remain constant from school to school may include:
- Sexual Assault
- Offensive Touching
- Discriminatory Comments
- Sexist Remarks
- Cyberbullying or catfishing
- Aggressive sexual advances
- Sexually suggestive jokes or comments
Your school's Title IX and/or sexual misconduct policies will guide the way your school adjudicates your actions. It's important to realize that even if your alleged actions don't seem like a big deal, they likely will to anyone reviewing your record.
Once a student gets to medical school, they will shortly become aware of a whole new set of standards to which they must adhere. Future doctors in medical school settings must be as professional as their prospective profession expects. To behave in disrespectful or unprofessional ways would be a red flag for any medical school admissions board - even before you've graduated from college.
Medical schools align their expectations with the principles of professionalism in the medical field. These include:
- The Primacy of Patient Welfare: A doctor places the needs of their patients first, above any societal, personal, or administrative pressures.
- The Importance of Patient Autonomy: Doctors need to be honest with their patients and give them all of the information they need to make the best decisions possible.
- The Imperative of Social Justice: Just as physicians serve their patients, they serve the needs of their entire community. Keeping the needs of every patient in mind as they treat each individual patient is a hallmark of a professional doctor.
In medical school, you will learn not only the details of procedures and the latest research across many scientific disciplines; you will also learn how to act professionally as a qualified doctor. Your medical school will have systems in place to help prevent or remediate any inappropriate behaviors or instances of misconduct that arise.
As a college student, you may not have had the professionalism training that a medical student might experience. However, medical school admissions teams are looking for students poised to do well in medical school, which involves assessing your ability to perform well in a professional capacity. As such, the admissions team will be looking for evidence that you are responsible, mature, that you have good communication skills, and you exhibit respect for those around you.
If there is anything that you have done that says anything otherwise, you need to take action. A qualified student defense advisor will have the real-world experience you need to shine the best light possible on your past actions - and help you deal with any current disciplinary proceedings you may be experiencing to wrap those up in the best possible way.
Outside of academic or sexual misconduct and professionalism concerns, there are various other ways that college students can stray away from expected behavior and merit disciplinary action from their schools. Unfortunately, when a medical school admissions board is examining your file, merely having a disciplinary violation on your record may be enough for them to toss your file into the ‘reject' pile. You likely won't get a chance to defend yourself - or even an admissions official who has the time to delve into the details of your documented misdeeds.
As this is the case, you need to make sure that you don't get sanctioned with any disciplinary concerns that make it to your permanent record - even (or especially) for issues of a less serious or less-common nature.
The details of your specific disciplinary violation may be specific to your school or even your case; however, some examples might include:
- Cyber Crimes
- Drugs on Campus
- Social Media Violations
- Destruction of Property
The Punitive Process: How Schools Adjudicate Undergraduate Academic Misconduct
If you're a pre-med college student and you hope to attend a prestigious medical school, you may not be familiar with the disciplinary process that awaits you. While the specific steps of your school's adjudicative and punitive processes will be unique to your school, there may be a few procedures in common that you can expect (and start to prepare for).
First of all, find your school's code of conduct or your student handbook. That document should contain a comprehensive list of the rights that you as a student have, as well as the various punishments that your school may deem appropriate for specific sets of infractions.
Your school will likely initiate disciplinary proceedings for your alleged misconduct by sending you a notice of the allegations against you. If this comes as a surprise, this can be a difficult moment; but, even if it's not, this is an important piece of paperwork to hold on to. That document should help you narrow down what to expect in terms of process and punitive measures - and it should also contain concrete information about what your next steps may be.
For example, that initial notice from the school may contain any of the following pieces of information:
- The specific nature of the allegations against you
- An invitation to a meeting with your mentor, your teacher, or a member of the school administration
- An invitation to a hearing before school officials
- A reminder that you are allowed a legal advisor
- Any steps that the school has already taken - for example, reaching out to a parent or legal guardian
- Any initial remedial steps or safeguards that the school has taken - for example, placing you on probation, removing privileges, or changing your course schedule or dormitory assignment
After that initial note, you will likely have some time to reach out to a legal team, prepare your defense, and make any arrangements you may need. This is because one of the steps in your school's adjudicative process will likely be some type of investigation into your alleged misconduct.
At the hearing, or once the school completes its investigation, you will have an opportunity to tell your side of the story. You may also be able to talk to any witnesses that the school has brought in or examine any of the school's evidence against you. The hearing will end with a recommendation for disciplinary sanctions.
If you do not like the sanctions or disagree with your school's overall decision, you will likely also have a small window in which you can appeal the decision. However, it's best to avoid appealing unless you have new information or you can point to a specific way that the school did not provide you with a fair adjudicative process.
This is where an experienced attorney-advisor will be very helpful. Your legal team can review the details of your case, the policies your school should uphold, and what happened in your disciplinary process to see if anything doesn't add up the way it should. Then, your legal advisor will be able to help you work towards the best possible outcome for your case.
You're an Aspiring Doctor. You Want to Help People. We Can Help You
If you're suddenly facing academic misconduct accusations when you're already in a high-pressure environment, it can be very easy to get extremely frustrated. Under these circumstances, you might make a misstep. You might say something you shouldn't. You might make the situation worse.
Don't do this. Instead, take these actions if your school accuses you of academic misconduct:
- Remain as calm as you possibly can. While it may feel like your world is crumbling around you or like you need to take drastic action - immediately - to secure your future, don't act out of hand. Do not try to defend yourself. Do not try to explain away what happened. In fact, it's likely best to avoid speaking to anyone, even a trusted teacher or a friend, before you've spoken with your legal guardian or legal advisor.
- Find your school's code of conduct. The steps of due process that your school will follow in adjudicating your alleged misconduct will be in that document. Using the specific language of the allegation that your school has made against you, if you have it, try to figure out the specific charges you may face. As you're reading and learning about your school's policies, note anything that you've experienced that doesn't seem to fit with that policy. When you speak with your legal advisor, later, mention this. It may help them as they plan your defense.
- Write down everything that's happened to you. When you're living through a frustrating or even traumatizing event, it's easy for your brain to exaggerate the details of your experience. This effect grows as more time passes. As soon as you realize that you may be in trouble, take time to write down as many details as you remember regarding your alleged infraction. Any detail may help your legal advisor. Include conversations you had, any people who may be able to serve as witnesses, dates, and even photographs. This will be invaluable later - and it may also help calm your nerves now.
- Hire a competent, skilled student defense lawyer. Even if it seems like this might be an overreaction, it's always best to over-prepare; and, when it comes to securing your future, is there any such thing as over-preparedness? Your attorney will be able to assist as you build a case for your innocence, seek to minimize the damage of your alleged misconduct, and take steps to defend yourself during disciplinary proceedings at your school. Finding and hiring a legal advisor with extensive experience assisting college students with a wide variety of misconduct allegations will be your best chance of success.
How a Student Misconduct Attorney Can Help Your Chances
Depending on your school's specific policies, you may find that they offer you in-house counsel when you begin disciplinary processes. While this may seem like a kind offer, it's really not in your best interest to work with legal advisors that also work for your school. When you're working to protect your future in a collegiate disciplinary setting, you need to remember that, unfortunately, you and your school are in adversarial positions. That includes anyone who works for your school, as well. A lawyer employed by your school could even learn sensitive information from you while helping you prepare your case - only to work with their employer to use it against you at the worst possible time.
All in all, it's best to avoid that potential outcome.
You may also wonder if working with a legal advisor is totally necessary for undergraduate disciplinary issues. After all, the administrative or disciplinary board at your school does not constitute a court of law.
First, remember that, even though you're not technically on trial when you're undergoing disciplinary proceedings, your entire future reputation is at stake - particularly for prospective medical students. You need to take this very seriously, because it is serious.
Secondly, consider the fact that even though you might be physically able to handle this on your own doesn't mean that you should actually handle it by yourself. You are, likely, extremely anxious; and, unless you've been an extremely busy student and doubled-up on legal courses while satisfying your premedical prerequisites, you don't have the experience necessary to know your way around defense strategies, precedent cases, and any nuances or loopholes that may exist in your school's code of conduct.
Here are a few more reasons that it's a good idea to hire an experienced attorney-advisor to help you succeed:
- Your legal advisor will have up-to-date information. From nationwide trends to the most recent legal news and data to the most updated strategies to dealing with college disciplinary boards, your advisor will have the time, resources, and experience to bring the best understanding of your situation possible to your case. If you work with an attorney-advisor who has experience assisting medical students with their issues or even other prospective medical students such as yourself, you'll find that they will be extra cognizant of the stakes that you face.
- An attorney-advisor will know how to work within your school's system. If you're in trouble at your college, you're not in a criminal defense or civil law case situation. However, you will be going through an investigative and adjudicative hearing process. Your legal advisor will have the training necessary to go through your school's bylaws and policies with a fine-tooth comb - as well as practical experience interpreting those policies to give you the best advice possible.
- A legal advisor will be able to give you peace of mind. If you're a medical school applicant, you already have a lot on your plate. You're taking a very full course load, you're studying for the MCAT, you're balancing lab or clinical work on the side, and you're piecing together the parts of your application. You don't have time to stress about meetings or figure out the best way to phrase a crucial statement. If you hire a legal advisor to assist, you'll be able to keep your mind focused on the subjects that matter most to your future.
- An attorney-advisor can help you hold your school accountable to its own rules. It's a fact of life: The mere presence of an external professional will help your school realize that it's a good idea to stand by its own policies. As a result, you'll likely enjoy the rights that due process grants you more than you might otherwise.
A smart legal advisor will also be able to help coach you through the process of defending yourself. Some schools may not allow your lawyer to attend meetings for you or with you; others might - it's a good idea to check your school's policies on that matter. Regardless, even if your lawyer cannot accompany you into your hearing, they will be able to help you gather and analyze evidence, strategize with you, give you tips and tricks for the best presentation of the facts, and, if necessary, help you negotiate with your school for a reduced disciplinary measure.
Joseph D. Lento is a Medical Applicant Defense Advisor Ready to Help You Succeed
As an applicant to one of the most competitive professional disciplines in higher education, you need to make sure that you have no skeletons in your closet. You need to ensure that when a medical school admissions board examines your profile, there are zero red flags.
If you currently stand accused of misconduct or are aware of any issues that could cost you admission to the medical school of your choice, you need to take advantage of the time you have. These issues could wreak havoc on your future. However, if you have the foresight to handle them properly - with the expertise of a qualified legal advisor - you may be able to work towards a more successful outcome.
Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have unparalleled experience representing and advising students across the nation who need a second chance. Whether you need assistance weathering an investigation, preparing for a hearing, or appealing a disciplinary decision from your university, Joseph D. Lento has the experience and expertise you need to avoid missteps and present a strategic defense.