When you fill out your application, you want to put your best foot forward. You want your file to be flawless, free of typos and grammatical mistakes. That is why you must avoid making excuses!
You should never make excuses of try to explain your shortcomings. A lot of people try to justify their weaknesses on their application. Their grades are poor because they didn’t have the right mindset in freshmen year. I had a course overload along with a full time job, so I performed poorly on the MCAT. My mark in English class may seem low, but I was one of the top students in the class. Other than medical reasons and drastic life altering circumstances – which should require a separate letter to explain – on your application, never shoot yourself in the foot.
Doing so is not beneficial to you. Your application won’t be marked any more leniently because of your rant. You are not the only applicant with flaws. We have to be fair (you want us to be right?) and so we mark applicants the same, regardless of their circumstances (save for those exceptions mentioned above – but that should be an extra letter). Instead, the effect is quite the contrary. When you try to defend yourself, it sounds desperate. You are drawing my attention (as an admission committee member) to your flaws and I might mark you negatively for it.
You would be better off if you did not mention your shortcomings at all. I’m not saying you should lie, again, rule #1 is that you should never lie! If you have a criminal record, you will have to disclose it to medical schools. You cannot fabricate your GPA and MCAT scores. Don’t even try creating phony extracurricular activities.
Always think positively. Trying to rationalize your shortcomings is pointless. If you don’t have any research background, don’t feel obligated to explain yourself. Show me what you HAVE done instead and despite your setbacks. If your grades are low because you had to work part-time during school to finance your education, highlight the positive aspects of your work and turn it into a positive factor. Explain what responsibilities you were given and how you grew from the experience.
Don’t make excuses! So when you are asked if there is anything else relevant the admission committee should know, if you don’t have anything good to say, say nothing.