The long admissions road
So, yeah, from my newly accepted viewpoint, I can look back on my road to getting into medical school with a smile. Finally. Because the truth is, applying to medical school in Canada isn’t fun. It’s absolutely the opposite of that. It’s hours of hard work, hundreds to thousands of dollars in application fees and travel, and a lot of stress and emotions that you don’t really have an outlet for. As I talk to students in university who are still trying to get into medical school, or students who are preparing to apply for the first time, a lot of similar concerns have come up, so the first few posts on this blog are going to me, sharing my experience (I hesitate to call it ‘wisdom’ because that might be overstating it) of how I ended up getting accepted to medical school after three admissions cycles of applying.
Yes, you heard me right. Three cycles. I can even say that without shame now. Because the truth is, you’re probably going to have to apply more than once to get into a Canadian medical school. Now, of course there are people who get in on their first application. It happens, and if it happens to you, then my sincerest congratulations to you. But the demographics of medical school applications mean that is the exception, not the rule. Schools have a few hundred (at most) seats open (the lower end is around 80 seats) and they can receive THOUSANDS of qualified applications for those spots. For the seat that I got, for example, there was a 1/40 chance (5 seats and 200 people interviewed). And when I say qualified, I mean qualified. These people have worked just as hard as you have, they have interesting stories and heavy GPA’s and MCAT scores just like you have, and they’d probably all make great doctors just like you would. So whether or not you end up in that seat or they do really amounts to a game of musical medical chairs.
It’s a lottery. And that can be really depressing. Because, if you’re anything like me, potential med student reading this, you probably don’t have a lot of experience with academic failure. You got good grades in high school, got accepted to your choice university and worked hard to keep a stellar GPA there. You studied hard, wrote the MCAT (possibly more than once) and got a good score. You graduated university with high marks and some kind of distinction (First Class Honors was mine). And then you applied to medical schools, and you got some outright interview rejections. And then you interviewed, and you didn’t get in. And that can be a real shocker. The disappointment. The sense of failure. The confusion. What didn’t I have that they were looking for? The lack of transparency in Canadian medical applications means that sometimes you don’t ever have an answer to that question, and that can really hurt, because that’s the question that you really need answered so that you can improve for the next cycle.
But, if there is one I hope you take from this (admittedly more depressing post than I had intended) it is this – don’t ever give up. If you get rejected in your first cycle, try again. Call the admissions office for any information you can on why you were rejected, and use that info to improve your next application. And improve your next application. Add a new extra-curricular. Get some more research experience (posters, presentations and publications can be like gold), volunteer in a new, interesting way or shadow or a doctor. Do something that makes you stand out, or at the very least, makes you more well-rounded. Prep for interviews. This is going to be a separate post, given how important it is, because it is important. Do whatever you think you can to improve your chances on winning that golden ticket.
But don’t ever give up.