I wrote last week anticipating that a good number of my students would miss the first due date for our internal med school application process. I was interested to receive several comments from folks who felt that in letting students get away with being negligent, I was enabling them, letting them get away with being rude and irresponsible, and perhaps even reinforcing these traits for later on when they are practicing doctors. Good points all. But here’s why I do it:
1. They grow up. Usually. When they come back to see me years later, even the ones you wouldn’t bet a nickel on, they are typically a little sheepish about their youthful selves, and really pretty terrific. When the aunt in Italy who raised my father was exasperated with him, she would say “Will the gelatin ever gel?” Well usually, it does.
2. I see my job as guiding and supporting and advocating for students, not being a gatekeeper for the medical profession. This doesn’t mean I would ever lie on their behalf, or cover up their failings, but I also don’t feel inclined to punish them either, even when they annoy me.
3. God forbid someone hold my own children to meeting administrative deadlines and following directions to a T. That goes for me too. So while there are things in life that truly need to be done perfectly and exactly on time, I’m glad to cut a little slack when it’s something that doesn’t.
So how did Swarthmore do? At first, it was looking pretty grim. But then the students came breathlessly rushing in with their forms, right before the office closed, or at least contacted me to ask me for an extension. Only 4 or 5 had made no effort to look at the materials we had given them or to turn anything in.
That’s not too shabby. And it only took one semi-crabby reminder email.