So you might have had a few too many one night with your friends and wound up with a DUI on your record. Once you sobered up, you started to worry about your prospects for getting into medical school. You’re right to be concerned, not only from a personal perspective, but from a long-term career perspective.
Medical schools are highly competitive institutions that want only the best students. They also have a valid concern about protecting patients from impaired practitioners. The educational process and career are stressful, with long hours and emotional demands. Someone who has an alcohol problem could put patients at risk -- definitely not a good thing for the doctor or the patient. A DUI conviction once you have a medical license can mean the license will be revoked in some states, according to the Russman Law Firm in New Hampshire. If you have a DUI on your record, even if it’s minor, a medical school admission committee may look at you in a very different way than your squeaky-clean peers.
Misdemeanors Count, Too
DUIs come in two flavors -- misdemeanors and felonies. The first is more likely to fall under the “minor DUI” classification. If it’s the first time you were arrested for a DUI and if there was no property damage or injury to another person, most states will classify it as a misdemeanor, according to NOLO, a legal information website. You can still get jail time for a misdemeanor in some states, however, which won’t look good on your record. A felony DUI means someone was injured or killed, and it’s a big deal. Some states will also up the charge to a felony if it’s not your first offense.
Medical schools look at a variety of factors when deciding which candidates to accept, according to a January 2012 article in “U.S. News and World Report.” Different schools might have different criteria, and some could be more lenient than others. Schools also often look for behavior patterns. If you have a minor DUI plus some other marks on your record, your chances are probably not going to be as good as if you had a single offense. Another issue might be your age at the time of the offense. Admissions committees might look at an alcohol offense when you are a teenager differently than if it occurred when you were an adult, when you're supposed to be older and wiser.
Come Clean and Act Grown Up
If you have a record, it is what it is, and you’ll just have to deal. Schools typically perform checks on applicants, so they are likely to know if you had a conviction or a no-contest plea -- very different outcomes. Most schools will ask you to disclose prior convictions, so don’t try to fib your way out of it. Be up front without making it a sob story. Touch on mitigating circumstances, but make it brief. Admit what happened, take responsibility for your actions, and talk about what you learned and why it won’t happen again. Although there’s no guarantee, if you handle it like an adult, your chances of getting into medical school will be much better than if you whine and make excuses.
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.