PREPARING FOR MEDICAL SCHOOL
The medical profession can be very rewarding - emotionally, intellectually and financially. Being a doctor allows you to treat the sick, conduct medical research and teach medical/health sciences. However, before you make a decision about medicine as a career, you should carefully research the field to see where the opportunities lie and to determine if the nature of the work suits your personality and career ambitions. There are many different ways to obtain the information necessary to make an informed decision and to be successful in the medical school application process. To discuss your career concerns regarding medicine or any other career question you have, please book an appointment with a Career Counsellor by coming into the Career Centre (DV 3094) or calling us at 905-828-5451. The following is a guide to resources at the UTM Career Centre, as well as suggestions for additional ways of obtaining information on careers in the field of medicine.
Ontario has 6 medical schools, each with their own academic and non-academic admission requirements. Please check each school’s website for up-to-date information. The application process for all Ontario medical schools is centralized through OMSAS (Ontario Medical School Application Service) and admission must be made through the OMSAS website. The application deadline for Fall 2017 is October 1, 2016 and you MUST create your online COMPASS.OMSAS account by September 15, 2016.
Tip: Create an account with OMSAS well ahead of time (mid-July). You can re-enter your account multiple times and add to your application throughout the summer. Print out the application package, read it carefully, highlight key areas, and make notes to help you prepare your materials.
Applications are online at www.ouac.on.ca/omsas.
ONTARIO FACULTIES OF MEDICINE
Undergraduate Medical Education
Faculty of Medicine
Admission Tests (MCAT)
In Ontario, 4 of the 6 medical schools (U of T, McMaster, Queens, and Western) require applicants to take the MCAT (Medical School Admission Test). The MCAT contains 4 sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Things, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Psychological and Social Foundations, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning skills. Consider studying well in advance and/or taking a prep course (Princeton, Kaplan, Oxford) to prepare yourself for this first major hurdle in your medical career.
* More information on this new test is available on the MCAT site listed in the previous paragraph.
Tip: While first-year physical and life science courses will provide the base knowledge for the MCAT, many students spend 2-3 months studying prior to their MCAT test date to obtain competitive scores. Commercial prep courses may provide a structured study plan as well as motivation for rigorous study. They do, however, require significant time and financial investment (e.g. 2-3 evenings per week, every other full Saturday for 2-3 months).
MCAT Administration Dates – as of January 2016 the MCAT is computer-based, with 14 test dates. Check the MCAT website for locations and dates. Registration for tests will typically open 3-4 months prior to the test date.
Researching Your Career Options
The pink occupational section (311) in the Career Resource Library contains career monographs, interviews with health care professionals, articles offering profiles of the profession, as well as recent trends, along with medical association information. There is also information on the various sub-disciplines of medicine (pathology, neurology, cardiology, etc.).
Career Cruising, a Canadian online career exploration tool, provides in depth information (job description, average day, education requirements, information interviews, etc.) for a variety of medical professions including Family Practitioner, Plastic Surgeon, Psychiatrist, Ob-Gyn, and Pediatrician. Access Career Cruising via the Resources section of CLN.
OMSAS, MCAT and other related websites can be found on the UTM Career Centre website under Further Education. The medical school directory Medical School Admission Requirements US and Canada includes curriculum information, entrance requirements (MCAT, courses, GPA), selection factors and financial aid. Additionally, Ontario residents considering studying medicine outside Ontario can check out the “Medical School Outside Ontario” panel package. The Yale Guide to Careers in Medicine and the Health Professions, Pathways to Medicine in the 21st includes advice from professionals in a variety of health care fields including insight into how they made their career choices and what their experiences were like.
Physicians embracing your practice: The Pfizer guide to careers for physicians profiles the life and work of doctors working in a variety of medical specialties.
The Career Centre offers a variety of workshops, including Medical School Information Sessions, Resume and Cover Letter workshops, and Personal Statement workshops to assist you in your career planning and preparation for medical school. You can also make an individual appointment with a Career Counsellor by coming into the Career Centre (DV 3094) or calling us at 905-828-5451 to clarify and prepare for your career goals.
The Extern Program, matches students with sponsors for 1-5 day(s) job shadowing experience. In previous years, students have been matched with sponsors who work in the medical field. The Extern Program is offered 4 times a year. Please check out the career centre website for further information on this program.
The Graduate and Professional Schools Fair held in late September allows students to meet representatives from professional schools in Canada, the U.S., and overseas, and ask questions concerning health-related professional schools. The Get Experience Fair (late September) allows students to speak with local organizations to explore paid and volunteer opportunities.
As part of your application process, you will be asked to prepare a Personal Statement. The ability to communicate your motivation, academic and career goals, relevant skills and experiences in application essays and interviews is key to gaining admission to medical school. Jot down accomplishments, goals, essay themes and other ideas as you gather them. The best personal statements are honest, concise and seek to let medical schools know how you can contribute to the program, your peers and the community.
To help you with the medical school application process, The UTM Career Centre and the Academic Skills Centre offer feedback for personal statements. Please note that editing services are not offered. You can also check our our tip sheet on Personal Statements. The Career Centre offers Personal Statements Workshops three times each semester. You can also begin your statement by completing our Personal Statement E-Module. It is available to you 24/7 for your convenience. Seek others to read and critique your answers. Help is available through the UTM Career Centre. Book an appointment with a Career Counsellor so that we can review your statement. Of course, you are always welcome to drop by the Undergraduate Medical School Admissions Office in the Medical Sciences Building for application concerns to U of T, Faculty of Medicine.
We also recommend speaking to your academic/professional character referees at least a month prior to the application deadline. Schedule an appointment to clarify your objectives and provide them with the referee assessment form, your CV, a list of accomplishments, and a stamped and addressed envelope to OMSAS. Also consult the Career Resource Library materials, such as "Essays that Worked for Medical School" (MED Admission Guides bin, Health Occupational section). In the event that you are invited for a medical school interview, make an appointment with a Career Counsellor by coming into the Career Centre or calling us at 905-828-5451, so that we can help you to prepare for the interview.
Develop a personal and professional career portfolio. Strive to gain quality experiences in your community and abroad through work, volunteer, and extra-curricular activities. Obtaining work and volunteer experiences in hospitals, nursing homes, centres for disabled kids, the community and other heath related settings shows compassion, commitment and most importantly your understanding of the nature of a physician’s job. While medical school candidates usually have top grades and MCAT scores, it is the sum total of your life’s unique experiences, in addition to top grades, that will give you the edge.
Have a Backup Plan
If at first you fail, try and try again! There’s more than one way of getting into medical school. It is no longer the linear, traditional, straight-out-of-undergrad route of the past. Consider a master’s degree, study/work in a paramedical career, working full-time, and staying for an extra undergraduate year before (re)applying to medical school. Continue to assess and reassess your goals and motivations for wanting to be a doctor. Related and other non-related career fields may satisfy your evolving career goals. Feel free to check out some of our relevant videos and panel packages here.
U.S. and Foreign Medical Schools
Before deciding to apply to medical schools outside of Canada, there are several questions to consider: Have I explored and exhausted all my options for applying to medical schools in Canada (in and out of province)? Do I have the academic requirements and financial means to study medicine in the U.S. or overseas? What are my expectations for the future (return to Canada, residency, practice)? For application to U.S. medical schools, Canadian applicants need to satisfy citizenship/residency requirements and have superior academic qualifications and adequate financial means. Canadian students who ultimately wish to do their residency and practice in Canada must obtain their medical degree at an institution recognized by the World Health Organization. Additional steps towards obtaining a residency and practicing in Canada should be researched (residency matching, qualifying exams, etc.).
Important Links for researching U.S. and foreign medical schools:
Getting your act together!
Applying to, gaining acceptance and attending medical school can be a time consuming process. So, if becoming a doctor is in your career plans, start early, work hard, and most importantly – be yourself and do what feels right! Start with a self-assessment of your motives and aspirations; research the career field, your options and the application process; actively seek the skills and experiences you lack; sell yourself with honesty and integrity to the admissions committee; and don’t be afraid to take another path in order to realize your dreams. The union of preparation and opportunity translates to luck when it comes time to getting in to medical school.
Tipsheet: Medical School Outside Ontario
OMSAS Ontario Medical School Application Service
Admission Requirements of Canadian Faculties of Medicine
AAMC: Directory of Canadian & U.S. Medical Schools
Canadian Federation of Medical Students: Pre-Med