Surviving an Appeal at AUC

You’ve been telling everyone you know since you were 10-years-old that you want to be a doctor. You might even have a specialty in mind. You get accepted into medical school, and it’s the proudest day of your life. Your mom posts it on social media; it’s the proudest day of her life, too. Everyone knows that you have a bright future ahead of you. Then you start medical school, and maybe it’s tough from the beginning, or maybe life throws you some curve balls, but it’s not the 4.0, Dean’s List life you were looking forward to.

For me, failing and appealing was a long process. I did well my first semester at AUC, but then dropped Physiology I and failed MCB II my second semester. It was already embarrassing to explain that I now had to stay an extra semester on-island, and it seemed like everyone on campus could see “Off-Track” stamped across my forehead. At this point, too, some things happened in my personal life that greatly affected my mental health and my ability to succeed, but that’s another story. I did pass MCB II the second time but failed Phys I. My fourth semester, I failed Phys I again along with Path I, each by one point. Now I faced the Appeal’s Committee, and it felt like my very own Facing the Giants.

In preparing for my meeting with the committee, I spoke to several people who had survived the process. Each gave me a few tips, and I thought the best approach would be to use all of them. I didn’t want to look back and wonder if there was anything else I could have done. I turned this into my 5 Point Plan for future success at AUC:

  1. Create and utilize a daily schedule
  2. Attend class daily
  3. Attend weekly counseling with AUC Wellness
  4. Attend weekly office hours with each professor
  5. Quit all extracurriculars until my grades improved

When writing my letter to the committee, I talked about my personal circumstances and my history with anxiety, along with laying out my plan for success. I made my letter as heartfelt as possible because I wanted to be able to focus and remain professional, not emotional, in my meeting. For someone who cries when angry, frustrated, happy, or sad, this was a major accomplishment for me. My overall approach was to think of every thing that they could use as a strike against me and find a silver lining or how I could turn it around and do better. For example, I passed MCB II the second time, which proved that I could pass my other classes if given the chance, especially since I failed them by such small margins.

You are also allowed to obtain up to two letters of recommendation for your appeal. Most people get these from professors, but the only professor I was close to was on the committee and not allowed to write a letter for me. So I had to get creative, and I got a letter from joint tutors and one from a Student Government officer who was very respected by faculty, whom I was close to.

It’s also important to note that the members of the appeals committee change every semester, and you can tweak your appeal for the questions each may ask or areas they focus on. I knew that one member at the time who focused on extracurriculars, so I knew ahead of time to say I would quit all of them. I got a couple questions regarding the schedule I had made on Excel and provided in my meeting, and one professor asked me, “If you could go back, what would you have done differently?” Since I was overly prepared, I was able to answer these, even without knowing the questions in advance.

I am so thankful for the committee for believing in me and giving me a second chance. Even though I may not have strictly followed my 5 Point Plan, it was definitely a solid foundation, and I honored Phys I and passed Path I. This time I was one point away from honoring, instead of one point away from passing. The comeback is such an exceptional feeling that I appreciate, even if I don’t ever want to repeat, the appeal process.

If you do find yourself facing an appeal, remember that you are not alone. You can come through this and we are all here for you.

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