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This Canadian premed has low stats but lots of strong life experiences. How should they move forward with applying?
Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT. Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
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[00:27] Question of the Day
Anne is from Vancouver, Canada who is interested in getting to med school. She’s in her last year of nutritional science, minor in kinesiology at the University of British Columbia.
It’s her seventh year for undergrad. She believes she has a strong personal statement in terms of her life experiences because she’s older than most of the applicants. And she’s wondering what she can do moving forward as she embraces her journey.
She would love to go to the states for med school because she thinks there are more opportunities and there’s a different healthcare system.
[01:48] Your Story Matters, But…'Your story matters but a story can't make up for a poor academic record if that academic record shows that you're not academically able to do well in medical school.'Click To Tweet
Anne thinks she has a 76% which would be a B- or C+ here in the U.S. The average is a B- to A so this is not med school material yet.
When asked about her long undergrad years, Anne explains she took a business degree first and then realized she didn’t like it so she transferred to a college. She lives alone in Canada so she has to solely support herself financially. This is one of the reasons her undergrad took so long. But along the way, she learned more coping mechanisms.
Anne also says she volunteered with various healthcare professionals such as a dietician and physiotherapists.
She then took a gap year in 2020 and then got straight As for her upper-level nutritional science courses. Then she came back and was working full-time and her GPA dropped to 71.
[06:05] What’s Next?
The question here is how can you show academic ability. First off, a Canadian is not eligible for federal financial aid here in the states. And so, coming to the states to do any sort of postbac work is much harder because of the financial situations.
Your goal if you want to go to medical school, whether in Canada or the states, is to show medical schools that you are academically able to do well in medical school.
Done with all her credits from this semester, Anne is considering taking an extra year to take more courses or apply for a master’s.
Unfortunately, MPH is useless for the purposes of showing academic ability because MPH is not hard science. And so, her goal is to take science classes as much as possible and get As.
[10:19] How Medical Schools Will See the Transcript
There’s no difference in the PDF of the printout when you make an application and submit your application. It will have a section for high school, then for undergrad – freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior. Then it’ll have a separate line item for postbac work.
Medical schools will see postbac work but they’ll also see it as the last 20 hours or the last 40 hours or 60 hours.'Medical schools can sort and filter however they want.'Click To Tweet
Ultimately, your goal is to have 20, 30, or 40 plus credits as close to a 4.0 as possible. It doesn’t have to be full-time. It shouldn’t be one class a semester. But it should be rigorous enough. Maybe eight to 12 credits will do. You don’t have to do 20 credits a semester.
[11:43] Considering Financial Obligations
Now, if you’re working you will have to figure out whether you can do both work and study at the same time. Or maybe work extra right now and some time off from school.
Or you may also try changing your living situation and see how you can pay rent the least possible or maybe get rid of your car. Anyway, you will only have to do this at least for a year or two until such time you have enough savings.
Then if you have decreased your lifestyle expenses, you’re not worried about needing to work anymore and you can just focus on school. And so, these are just some of the things you need to be thinking about as well.
[14:26] Research Experience vs. Clinical Experience'Research is very overrated when it comes to premed thinking about activities.'Click To Tweet
Personally, I am much more fond of clinical experience. You’re entering a clinical world where you’re taking care of patients. And so, you need to have clinical experiences where you’re taking care of patients so you can prove to yourself that that’s what you want.
Obviously, as a Canadian applicant, clinical experience and shadowing are very different than it is here in the States. And so you need to do whatever you can to get some in somewhere potentially.
Moreover, don’t look at experiences whether it will help or hurt your application. You should be doing what you want to do as a human being on this planet and as a person with your own interests and passions. If that means volunteering at the local playhouse, then go for it. Or if it means volunteering at the local zoo or a local soup kitchen, then do it. Do whatever you feel passionate about.
[16:27] Canada vs. U.S. Medical Schools
In Canada, shadowing and clinical experience are less of a thing than it is here in the States. It’s so different here because of our education system and our health care system.
Here in the U.S., we need to make sure that students are aware of all the different things that are going to make their lives really hard. Whereas in Canada, you go to undergrad and medical school, then you still have debt, but it’s not as burdensome as it is here in the U.S.
And so, there’s less financial stress on your whole life like it is here in the States. So you have to be really sure that this is what you want.
The best way is networking, for instance, finding a job in the hospital. And then networking your way and asking the doctor if you could hang out for another extra hour or so.
Again, a master’s in public health is not helpful. A master’s degree in some sort of hard sciences is.
[19:11] Grade Conversion
For now, Anne just has to make sure about her grade conversion and she can go check out the AMCAS grade conversion guide.
Then from there, she can figure out what school she needs to attend first. Next, she has to worry about which schools are Canadian-friendly. Some medical schools view Canadian applicants as international students. Some medical schools view Canadian applicants as out-of-state residents. And Anne needs to do some homework to find Canadian-friendly schools.
[21:23] Coaching and Advising
As Ann is still several years away from potentially applying, the more cost-effective and efficacious way to interact with one of our advisors is to sign up for a Mappd account. Then she can get chat advising with one of our advisors that’s built-in so it’s free.
One of the other big obstacles on her journey as well will be the MCAT. So once she gets her solid core foundational science knowledge down, she can then get a free Blueprint MCAT account. Sign up with Blueprint and get a free half-length diagnostic test, a free full-length exam, and access to their flashcards and a study planner tool.
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