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      “The biggest barrier was my own self”: the role of social comparison in non-traditional students’ journey to medicine

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          Abstract

          Introduction

          Social comparisons strongly influence an individual’s concept of self, their aspirations and decisions. This study investigates how non-traditional applicants used social comparison to shape their preferences, beliefs and predictions whilst preparing an application for medical school.

          Methods

          Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 UK medical students from non-traditional backgrounds to explore their process of ‘getting ready’ for medical school, and the role social comparison played in their experiences. Thematic analysis was used to inductively develop themes in the data, before findings were interpreted through the ‘triadic model’ of social comparison.

          Results

          Findings revealed that participants looked to the opinions of those with similar norms and backgrounds to accept their desire to study medicine. They sought the opinions of ‘experts’ to affirm a belief in their suitability but lacked confidence until success in crucial examinations ‘proved’, in their own view, that they had the ability to do medicine. Social comparison to peers who were perceived to be less committed to medicine, and to relatable role models, reassured participants that someone from their background could succeed in medicine.

          Discussion

          Our findings further understanding about ‘how’ and ‘why’ exposure to relevant experts, peers and role models can positively influence application to medicine through the lens of social comparison. We recommend widening access initiatives promote and foster various opportunities for social comparison to help counter non-traditional students’ feelings of uncertainty about their ability and prospects, and to reorient their focus away from achieving the required grades before preparing the non-academic aspects of their application.

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          Most cited references 43

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          Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals.

          The importance of intellectual talent to achievement in all professional domains is well established, but less is known about other individual differences that predict success. The authors tested the importance of 1 noncognitive trait: grit. Defined as perseverance and passion for long-term goals, grit accounted for an average of 4% of the variance in success outcomes, including educational attainment among 2 samples of adults (N=1,545 and N=690), grade point average among Ivy League undergraduates (N=138), retention in 2 classes of United States Military Academy, West Point, cadets (N=1,218 and N=1,308), and ranking in the National Spelling Bee (N=175). Grit did not relate positively to IQ but was highly correlated with Big Five Conscientiousness. Grit nonetheless demonstrated incremental predictive validity of success measures over and beyond IQ and conscientiousness. Collectively, these findings suggest that the achievement of difficult goals entails not only talent but also the sustained and focused application of talent over time. (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved.
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            Social Comparison: Why, With Whom, and With What Effect?

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              Now I see it, now I don't: researcher's position and reflexivity in qualitative research

               M R Berger (2015)
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                k.alexander@ucl.ac.uk
                Journal
                Perspect Med Educ
                Perspect Med Educ
                Perspectives on Medical Education
                Bohn Stafleu van Loghum (Houten )
                2212-2761
                2212-277X
                22 April 2020
                22 April 2020
                June 2020
                : 9
                : 3
                : 147-156
                Affiliations
                [1 ]GRID grid.7107.1, ISNI 0000 0004 1936 7291, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, , University of Aberdeen, ; Aberdeen, UK
                [2 ]GRID grid.83440.3b, ISNI 0000000121901201, Research Department for Medical Education (RDME), UCL Medical School, , University College London, ; London, UK
                [3 ]GRID grid.7107.1, ISNI 0000 0004 1936 7291, Centre for Healthcare Education Research and Innovation (CHERI), Institute for Education in Medical and Dental Sciences, , University of Aberdeen, ; Aberdeen, UK
                Article
                580
                10.1007/s40037-020-00580-6
                7283443
                32323114
                © The Author(s) 2020

                Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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                © The Author(s) 2020

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