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Social and Emotional Intelligence

Applying to medical school will undoubtedly be one of the most stressful times of your life. The pressure that you feel internally from yourself and externally from friends, family and teachers to get and achieve your offers can sometimes feel overwhelming.

It is important to take time to look out for yourself during this period. After all, you are so much more than your achievements.

The Aspiring Medics, using our own personal experiences, are here to help you navigate through the application period.


In the Cambridge dictionary intelligence is a noun defined as “the ability to learn, understand, and make judgments or have opinions that are based on reason”. In everyday language intelligence is often synonymous with a person being “clever” or “smart”. A person’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is a way of expressing human intelligence as a number. This measures intelligence on a particular test, often compared to the person’s age group.

IQ tests fail to measure two types of intelligence that are vital in the makings of a good doctor and, more importantly, leading a happy, fulfilling life. These are social and emotional intelligence. We need both of these models to understand ourselves and the way we interact with others.

Social intelligence

The way that we relate to others (interpersonal intelligence)

Traits of those with high social intelligence;

  • Adaptable - can carry on conversations with a wide array of people and verbally communicate with appropriate and tactful words

  • Excellent listeners - can actively listen and respond to others

  • Good analysers of behaviours of people - can communicate with others through behaviour

Emotional intelligence

The way we relate to ourselves (intrapersonal intelligence)

Traits of those with high emotional intelligence;

  • Good emotional awareness - Are aware of how they are feeling

  • Applying emotions to problem-solving and thinking - Able to reflect on their emotions use them productively

  • Good emotional management - Are able to control the feelings of other people and own emotions

Why is social and emotional intelligence so important as a medical school applicant?

Your IQ can help with passing exams and getting into medical school, but it cannot help you manage the day-to-day stresses and emotions of medical school and beyond. The ‘smartest’ people are not always the most successful or fulfilled. Without an understanding of our own or others emotions can make it more difficult to communicate effectively and form strong relationships, which can affect your work and personal life. An inability to control stress and emotions can poorly impact your mental health, for example, leaving you vulnerable to anxiety and depression.


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