Your Medical School Application Survival Guide


Every year, over 2500 students will enroll in a Canadian medical school.

Comparing the size of this group to the more than 10,500 students that apply each year shows that the medical school application process can be a grueling one.

Nervous? Don’t be. TalentEgg chatted with two successful Canadian med school applicants to give you the inside scoop!

Meet our med students

Emily Fraser, who graduated from Acadia University this year, was accepted into Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Medicine to join the Class of 2017 starting in Fall 2013.

A graduate of McMaster University this year, Ellen Van Rensburg is heading to the Queen’s University School of Medicine this September.

Both Ellen and Emily went through the application process at 5 medical schools, took the MCAT and were thrilled with their acceptances! Read on as they share the details of their experiences and offer tips for all you budding medical students.

1. Complete your undergraduate degree: make sure that you have taken all necessary prerequisite courses and you are satisfied with your grades.

2. Complete your Medical College Assessment Test (MCAT). This part of the admissions process has been around for over 80 years!

3. During the year prior to your desired med school start date, submit an official application to medical school(s).

  • Your applications may include undergraduate marks, MCAT scores, assessments by referees and an autobiographical sketch (a list of any employment, extracurricular, or volunteer activities).

4. Double-check to make sure you have submitted all of the necessary parts of your medical school application as some schools will require an additional short essay.

5. Wait to hear back from your chosen schools to find out if you will receive an interview.

6. After attending any necessary interviews, sit tight and wait to hear from the schools. Good luck!

Before the actual application process

Emily: “Take advantage of all of the helpful people around you. Get to know your Health Sciences/Medicine Advisor at your undergraduate university, as they can offer good advice on what courses you should be taking and what Med schools are actually looking for. Talk to students who have been through the process, and even have a chat with your family doctor about their application process and what their job is actually like.”

Ellen: “I think the most important part of the application process is the initial decision to apply to medical school and being absolutely sure that you really want to go! The application process takes such a long time and only becomes harder if you don’t know that medical school is what you want to do. If you’ve made the big decision, I would suggest starting as early as possible- with the MCATs, with OMSAS, with finding referees etc.”

Bonus tip: Sign up for the MCAT the day registration opens to save you from driving a long distance to write the test!

The interviews

Emily: “My one and only interview was an MMI (Multiple Mini Interview). This interview format consists of 8-minute stations all containing different interviewers and situations. Essentially you are selling yourself to the interviewers, so know yourself and what accomplishments you are most proud of. Talk to doctors and people who work in the health care system so you can get a good idea of what doctors are currently facing and what they might have to deal with in the future.”

Ellen: “The different medical schools often have different interview formats. Some schools use the MMI format while others might have a panel interview. Some schools even do both. To prepare for my interviews I spent a long time thinking about my past experiences and how they have shaped me. I made lists of different qualities I think I have and tried to back up these characteristics with examples. I thought about why I wanted to study medicine and why I wanted to attend the school I was interviewing at.”

Bonus tip: Practice your techniques by participating in mock interviews.  Your school may be able to organize them through the career centre, or you can practice with friends, family, professors, or even a pet!

The supplemental applications

Emily: “Supplemental sections were required for all of my applications. Not only do you need to think back to everything you have accomplished in the past 4 years, but you are also required to find a reference for every activity you list which can become a grueling task.”

Ellen: “I had to write a few supplemental essays. They weren’t too lengthy and were about my own experiences so it wasn’t too challenging but definitely required some thought.”

Bonus tip: Give yourself more time than you think you will need for supplemental applications. Filling out all that information can be time consuming!

Study tips for the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)

Ellen: “I study best individually and in coffee shops so I bought one prep book and studied material out of the book at Starbucks! In general I found it helpful to review material I had already studied frequently and try to connect it to related topics. For example, if studying about the cardiovascular system and blood pressure I might take the chance to review some of the physics of fluids, Pascal’s law and the Continuity equation. Those kind of exercises might make the test feel more continuous rather than distinct subjects.”

Emily: “Get your hands on as many practice tests as possible. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) releases old MCAT tests every year which I found very helpful because they contain actual questions used on past tests and are presented in a very similar computer-based test format. Timing is everything when it comes to the MCAT, and the more practice you get the better you will score.”

Bonus tip: Use study guides and prep courses, but remember to concentrate on the type of studying that works best for you. If you learn best in a group then why not get a study group together to review material once a week until the test? If you’re more of an individual learner then make sure you allot some time to go over things on your own!

The most challenging parts of the process – and how to overcome them

Ellen: “Preparing for the MCAT was really exhausting and challenging for me. I started studying pretty early for the test and gave myself at least three months to learn the material. I worked full-time while studying so I allotted a specific time every day which I would devote to studying. I tried to make it as “fun” and “easy” as possible by doing lots of review of material I was comfortable with and mixing it among the harder concepts. It really boosted my confidence.”

Emily: “Hands down, the essay was my most challenging step. Trying to demonstrate why I would be a good physician in 1500 words or less was a difficult process for someone like me who always has a little too much to say. To help me with the process, I brainstormed ideas with my family and friends, gave myself ample writing time so I could cut down my content through multiple drafts, and even had a friend read over my final version for further edits.”

Bonus tip: Reward yourself with some well-earned time off when your applications are done. You deserve it!

Want more info? Visit TalentEgg’s Healthcare Career Guide!