In today’s episode, Ryan talks with Rachel, a premed in Canada who got two medical school acceptances who shares with us her journey to medical school considering that getting into medical school in Canada is incredibly difficult.
Ryan and Rachel particularly discuss about what it’s like to be a premed and going through the medical school application in Canada. Listen in as Rachel also shares how she was able to secure two acceptances to medical school.
Here are the highlights of the conversation with Rachel:
Rachel’s desire to become a physician:
- Initial interest in nursing being exposed to it early with her mom being a nurse
- Doing a year of foundational science as a prerequisite for the nursing degree
- Considering switching her major from nursing to premed
- Her nursing experience cemented her decision to pursue medicine
Factors that initially deterred her from going into medicine:
- Being influenced that nursing is a better option as a female
- Balancing family and career as a physician
Premed in Canada:
- Shadowing does not really exist in Canada but as a nursing student, Rachel has had a lot of clinical experience in terms of:
- Working with patients and an interdisciplinary team
- Seeing how healthcare plays out and what the roles of different professions are and how they work together
How students are getting clinical experience in Canada:
- Hospital volunteering
- Having conversations with patients
What it’s like to apply into medical school in Canada:
- Every school is different and province-specific.
- Filling out separate application services for different schools
- 14-17 Canadian medical schools
- Schools looking for students from that province
- Added disadvantage if you apply out-of-province with stricter requirements (higher MCAT, GPA, interview, etc)
- Province funds medical schools for specific number of spots and they pick applicants they think can best serve the needs of the population in that province.
- Interview questions related to things happening in the province (political things, healthcare challenges)
Rachel’s medical school application:
- Applying to two schools in Alberta (University of Alberta and University of Calgary)
- University of British Columbia needs two full years of sciences but Rachel’s nursing degree only gave her bits and pieces of the sciences
Every school is different.
Make sure to check the school’s website.
Make sure you have all the prerequisites for that school you’re applying
Rachel’s major challenge during the application process:
Asking for references (taking constructive criticisms)
The MMI experience:
- Dealing with nervousness
- Respect the interview and take it as seriously as you take the MCAT
- Practice, practice, practice
- Read books on MMI
- Record yourself doing different scenarios and time yourself
- Every scenario is different than what you’ve practiced, but practicing trains your communication skills under pressure and it gives you the sense of how it feels like
- Different stations with standardized questions for every station for every applicant
- Even the MMI’s are different across schools
Factors for getting two medical school acceptance:
- Getting great advice from a resident to let the admissions committee know that you want this while being honest.
- You have to be all in. This has to come through.
- Bringing in her nursing experience.
- Take the time to think whether you really want to be a medical student at the school and figure out the needs of the community.
Some pieces of advice for premed students:
No matter what the obstacle is, you can overcome it. Sometimes it just needs taking a step back to figuring out what it is or what you need to be able to get there. It’s so easy to get discouraged so getting support is critical.
Links and Other Resources:
Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) www.medicalschoolhq.net/nextstep – Get $50 off their tutoring services
Dr. Ryan Gray: The Premed Years, session number 187.
Hello and welcome to the two time Academy Award nominated podcast, The Premed Years, where we believe that collaboration, not competition, is key to your success. I am your host Dr. Ryan Gray, and in this podcast we share with you stories, encouragement, and information that you need to know to help guide you on your path to becoming a physician.
Now as I’m recording this, I recently got back from Tampa, Florida where I had an amazing opportunity to meet up with several listeners and Hangout members in Tampa. So I want to thank everybody that was able to make it out to Jackson’s in Tampa, and hang out and collaborate, and really just have a great time. So I had a blast there. If you are in the Chicago area, I will be there on July 5th having another meetup. I’ll be in town for Podcast Movement and the Academy of Podcasters award ceremony which is happening on July 6th, so I hope to see you in Chicago July 5th. We don’t have a spot secured yet on where we’re going to meet up. If you’re in the Chicago area and know of a great place just to kind of meet up, and hang out and maybe grab some dinner, that would be awesome. Shoot me an email, [email protected] There are details in the Hangout group which you can find at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/group and click on the events tab there, and the meetup in Chicago will be there.
In this podcast we share with you a story from a premed up in Canada, and her successful journey to medical school in Canada, which ultimately resulted in two acceptances to medical school. Now if you know anything about the Canadian system, or if you’re in Canada now, you know that it’s incredibly hard to get into medical school in Canada. And so Rachel talks about her journey, and how she was able to secure two acceptances to medical school. So let’s go ahead and jump in and say hi to Rachel.
Rachel, welcome to The Premed Years, thanks for joining me.
Rachel: Hi Ryan, thanks for having me.
Dr. Ryan Gray: You are in our lovely neighbor to the north in Canada.
Rachel: I am.
Dr. Ryan Gray: I think you’re our first Canadian guest- I may be wrong though, I’m trying to figure out.
Rachel: Oh that’s so exciting.
Dr. Ryan Gray: I think you’re our first, so congratulations.
Rachel: Thank you.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Thank you for agreeing to represent all of Canada here on this podcast.
Rachel: Well I’ll do my best. I know in Canada the provinces are pretty different when it comes to medical schools, so mine will be only representing a few schools for my particular experience, but I know there’s lots of Canadian listeners. I’ve seen the reviews on iTunes.
Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s awesome, well thank you for listening as a listener, and thank you for taking some time to come on and talk about your journey. Let’s talk about your original desire to become a physician. Where did that come from?
Rachel’s Interest in Healthcare
Rachel: Yeah well it’s interesting. I think that I’ve always been interested in healthcare specifically- well I guess I’ve been interested in healthcare but not always medicine specifically. So I always thought actually that I would do nursing, and that’s actually what I have done, my undergrad is in nursing. And that’s something I’ve really enjoyed, I’ve had really good experiences as a nurse, and I think it’s just something that when I was younger nursing was much more familiar to me. So my mom was a nurse, and I knew people who were nurses, and so when I thought about I guess my interest in healthcare, I just thought nursing would be automatically the best fit for me just because it seemed more accessible, you could start it right after high school, and I didn’t really know that many physicians, or really any, and I definitely didn’t know any women in medicine. And so for me, I think my interest in healthcare I really just started thinking about nursing. And it wasn’t until I guess in high school I started wondering about it just a little bit, but again just thought, ‘Well nursing is more familiar, it’s probably a better option for me,’ but then I started university and I did a year of foundational science just as pre-req’s for the nursing degree, and I just loved it. I had such a good experience, and I was at a smaller university, and the teachers were really invested, and I actually had a chemistry professor say to me after my first semester, he said, “Rachel I think you should consider switching your major to premed from nursing.” And that was the first time I think I really started considering it, because before then I’d always thought, ‘No I’m definitely going to be a nurse,’ and when he said that to me I thought, ‘Well maybe I should look into this a bit more.’
Dr. Ryan Gray: Interesting. I want to dig a little bit deeper on this thought that you had about talking about being a nurse, and really not knowing any female or women physicians. In some of the communications that we had before we’re recording this, you had talked about some of a- kind of a deeper level of your relationship with being a physician as a female, and maybe being a nurse as a female. Talk a little bit about that because I think that may be something- somebody that’s listening might be struggling with these same beliefs that they were raised with as well.
Struggling as a Woman in Medicine
Rachel: Totally. Well I think- yeah I think probably the biggest obstacle I guess you could say, or maybe a deterrent for me to even consider going into medicine is that I was raised in a very loving family; I love my family, my parents are awesome. But the way that they’ve chosen to do their life, and it has worked really well for them, is that my mom has stayed home and raised the kids while my dad has been the primary bread winner. And so I was definitely raised with my parents encouraging me to go to university, they’re definitely supportive of women getting education, but they also always cautioned me. They just said, “We just feel that nursing would probably be a better fit because if you were to value family, and if you want to have children in the future,” then they just really support I guess women not working and being able to be at home more full time. And so they just thought if I spent all these years investing in medicine, that the most likely thing would be for me to continue being a doctor, even if I were to have children. And so I think I definitely had to navigate that as I grew older, and start thinking about do I believe that it’s possible for I guess a career to coexist with family, because I am actually married right now, and so even being in nursing school and being married I’ve realized- I have to figure out what my priorities are, and for me I’ve just realized over time that I think I can balance a variety of different things in my life, and that if medicine is something I’m really interested in and passionate about, that I shouldn’t I guess hold back from that maybe out of fear, and just- I guess just fear that somehow I’m going to really disadvantage children or something by not being there. And I think just realizing that no matter what I do, I can still have my priorities in the order that I want them to be. So if I do value family, that I don’t think that I’ll value it any less because I’m a doctor if that makes sense. But that was something that I just had to sort of wrestle through over time and figure out do I think that this is something that I can do?
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay good, thank you for talking about that because I know it’s a common struggle for females entering in this career. We talk to a lot of nontraditional women that have kids already, and they’re questioning even going through the premed path, the time commitment that it’s taking, whether or not they should continue on this journey. So I think it’s a good discussion to have and it sounds like you have the support of your husband going through this. Making this decision now, and you obviously said your parents are awesome, super supportive; how did you break that to them that you’re like, “Okay I’m going to go be a physician.” What was their response?
Rachel: Oh well I think at first they were definitely more concerned. So it’s kind of funny because I have friends who are premeds and they tell me about how thrilled their parents are because they’re going into medicine, and I think sometimes I felt a little bit jealous of that. But when I told my parents that I was interested in medicine and writing the MCAT, yeah I think they just expressed again some of the concerns they’ve had as I’ve been growing up. But they also- my mom said something interesting to me, she said, “I can definitely see why this would be a good fit for you,” and I think that she knows me well, and I think that over time as I worked towards the MCAT, and I wrote that, and then I applied and I’ve always tried to just be really transparent with them and honest with them, and just say, “I’m not doing this because I’m rejecting values that I was brought up with, but actually because I just think it’s a really good fit for me as a person, and that I still really value a lot of the things that you taught me as I was growing up. And I think- I just think they don’t- or I guess I think that they can coexist.” And so over time I think they have become a lot more supportive. And by me going into medicine I actually am moving back to the city that they live in and they’re super thrilled about that.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Good.
Lack of Shadowing Opportunities in Canada
Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright let’s talk about Canada and what it’s like to be premed in Canada. You talked a lot about- in your correspondence with me, about being a nursing student, and some of the pros and cons that that brought. One of the biggest things that stood out to me based on conversations that I’ve had with Canadian premeds, is that in Canada the practice of shadowing a physician really doesn’t exist up there. And so premed students are a lot of times left with very little clinical experience when they’re applying to medical school. But you as a nursing student were able to get a lot. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Rachel: Sure. Yeah I think actually being a nursing student- I mentioned when you asked me about my interest in medicine, I mentioned my chemistry professor and how that sort of planted the seed for me. But I would say that wasn’t totally enough to convince me that I was interested in medicine. I think it’s actually been my nursing degree that’s helped me the most with that because like you said, I have had clinical experience that a lot of my premed peers have not been able to get in Canada. And it’s been through my clinical experience and working with patients and working on an interdisciplinary team, and seeing how healthcare actually plays out, and what the roles of different professions are, and how they work together, and I totally think that it’s been that experience that really cemented for me that I was interested in medicine. And I’m not sure if I would have really known that without having that experience, so I definitely think that’s I guess a pro to living in the United States, is the fact that physicians actually expect it seems premeds to contact them and say, “Hey can I shadow you?” Here in Canada it’s so difficult. Unless you really know a physician personally, you have a family member or friend who’s a physician and they’re willing to have you come in, it can be super challenging to get that clinical experience.
Dr. Ryan Gray: What have you seen from other premeds that you’ve been around, talking to other students that have been accepted? How are they getting their clinical experience outside of knowing a physician to shadow?
Rachel: Well I think a huge one is volunteering in the hospital. So there are some people who volunteer at the BC Children’s Hospital, or Alberta Children’s Hospital, and they’ll volunteer just taking books around to kids, and chatting with them, and having conversations with patients which is definitely an important skill to build, and I think gives you a sense of what it’s like to be in a hospital environment. But other than that I think I definitely heard from premeds that they wish they could have had more experience, and I think it’s probably pretty challenging as a premed without that I guess clinical exposure because some things are a lot different in reality than you imagine them to be in your mind, and I think- yeah I just feel super grateful that in nursing I’ve been able to see what it’s actually like to be in a hospital, what is it actually like to work on a team, and I guess figure out is this something that I actually enjoy.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah okay, it’s definitely a huge part of the application process for the States, so it’s very interesting for Canadian students that it’s so hard to get that exposure. As you said, how do you really make sure that this is something you like? Just because you like science, you like medicine, you want to help people, all those stereotypical things doesn’t necessarily mean you like being around sick people.
Rachel: Absolutely. Absolutely and I think the premeds that I’ve talked to, they really do make a huge effort to reach out to anyone they know who’s a doctor and say, “Will you have me into your clinic, or can I shadow you?” Because I think it does make a huge difference for them just even all the work that goes into writing the MCAT, and applying, and interviews, and to do all that work without knowing for sure that it’s something that you’re interested in, I think would be really hard.
The Canadian Application Process
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. Let’s talk about the application process for Canadian medical schools. The application process- so on this show again, not really having talked about the Canadian process a lot, we always talk about the AMCAS application, and you guys in Canada use the same process, correct?
Rachel: Yeah well every school is a little bit different. So I think in Ontario it’s called the OMSAS, and then I was applying to Alberta schools and they were each a little bit different. So I’m not actually entirely sure if there’s that same central application process.
Dr. Ryan Gray: I thought they used the same process.
Rachel: I could be misinformed.
Dr. Ryan Gray: I am wrong, that’s okay.
Rachel: I think my understanding is that it’s school and province specific, but I might not have totally paid attention, but I definitely did fill out completely separate applications for each school.
Dr. Ryan Gray: So Canada is like Texas here, Texas has its own application service.
Rachel: Okay, yeah.
Dr. Ryan Gray: They just like to be different. Okay, so I’m learning something new. So you have different application services for each of the schools which is- how many medical schools are in Canada?
Rachel: I think there’s seventeen.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay.
Rachel: Don’t quote me for sure. I think there’s seventeen but there’s a couple French ones. So I think there’s fourteen English speaking schools.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay.
Rachel: That’s my understanding.
Dr. Ryan Gray: And similar to the States where we have public schools where they are typically looking for students from that state, the Canadian system is set up where the schools in that province are typically looking for students from that province, correct?
Rachel: Absolutely. Absolutely, you’re definitely at a disadvantage if you apply out of province, and there’s much stricter requirements for you. So your MCAT has to be higher, your GPA has to be higher, you really have to rock your interview; it’s a lot harder to get in as an out of province.
Dr. Ryan Gray: From you understanding is that similar to kind of the reasonings here where a state school is getting funded from the state, or in your case from a province, and so they want to educate and train students from that province so they stay and work in that province?
Rachel: I think that’s exactly it, yeah. So the province funds the medical schools for a specific number of spots. So they’ll say, “Okay this school gets 150 spots,” and so they just really want to pick students or applicants that they think will best serve the needs of the population in that province. And so you can expect in your interviews even to get questions that are related to things that have been happening in the province, or political things that have been happening, or questions about the specific challenges or healthcare challenges that that province is facing. So you need to actually have a sense of what needs is this school meeting, what needs are these physicians who graduate from this school meeting, and what is this school hoping to achieve by training these physicians?
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay. So what province do you live in?
Rachel: So I actually live in British Columbia, but I was able to apply to Alberta schools because I grew up in Alberta, and so I went to university for several years in Alberta before moving to B.C. and I went to high school in Alberta, and so I actually still counted as an in province applicant, which was a huge advantage for me.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Interesting. So you’re a little sneaky there.
Rachel: I’m a little sneaky, I count as an in province in both B.C. and Alberta currently.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay so how many schools did that open up for you to be in province?
Rachel: So it opened up two.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Only two. So one in each province.
Rachel: So actually I applied to two schools in Alberta, so I applied to the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Oh so you’re only considered in province for one province only?
Rachel: Well for me it’s a little bit different. I am considered an in province in B.C. but I didn’t apply to the University of British Columbia because I didn’t have all the pre-requisites that they required. So it counted as different from the States as well in that every school has- well actually I’m not sure if it’s like this in the States.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Every school is different, it’s very frustrating.
Rachel: Every school is different. So at some schools they require you to have two and a half years of strict science, and at some schools in Canada you don’t need any pre-requisites other than the MCAT and an undergrad degree. So it’s completely different across the board.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah and that’s something I always recommend to students, is always make sure that you’re checking the school’s website, make sure that you have all the pre-req’s for that school when you’re applying because you don’t want to scramble at the last minute and need to take a summer class before you matriculate because you realize you’re missing something.
Rachel: Exactly, exactly.
Dr. Ryan Gray: So what were you missing for the- was it B.C. school?
Rachel: Yeah the University of British Columbia. If I had wanted to apply there I would have had to- well they’ve actually just changed all their requirements, so this coming year I could actually apply to B.C. but I’m not going to because I already have two acceptances. But at the UBC, historically you needed to have your full two or two and a half years of science. So your full semester of gen chem, gen bio, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics, English, everything. And because my degree is in nursing, I only have bits and pieces of those. So I have some biology, some chemistry, and I have one semester of biochemistry, but I haven’t taken any organic chemistry, any physics. I taught myself those for the MCAT entirely.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Wow.
Rachel: So I would have had to do at least another year and a half of school after graduating from nursing in order to apply to that school. So I always thought that I would just apply to the Alberta schools and see if I got in there, and if I wasn’t getting in I probably would have started taking some of those pre-req’s after I graduated, so that I could open up my options. But at this point I hadn’t started working towards that.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Interesting. Okay, good to know. It’s so- it’s crazy how similar the systems are, and yet somewhat different as well. Talk about the- so you go through the application process. What was the hardest thing about the application process for you?
Challenge of Getting Letters of Recommendation
Rachel: That’s an interesting question. I think for me, I actually found it challenging to ask references to I guess- I had to have three references for each- well I had to have two references at one school and three references at another school. And I found that challenging because the people who I felt knew me best, and really had a sense of I guess my skills and abilities, and my strengths and my weaknesses, were all nursing instructors. And so I definitely have people who I volunteered with, and supervisors at work, and I have a number of different activities I’ve been involved in, volunteering with different kids’ science fairs, and clubs on campus. So in the end I only ended up asking one nursing professor to write my reference, but for me it was just hard deciding who to ask. I thought for a long time about, ‘Do I ask this person? Do I ask this person?’ And I was really unsure as well if I should ask this particular nursing instructor because I think I just worried that somehow they wouldn’t be supportive of the transition from nursing to medicine, but I think she actually wrote me most likely the best reference of the three. She was just so supportive, and I’d done some research with her, and she knew me really well. I’d been on labor delivery rotations with her, and so I just felt like she knew me really well, so she was able to say, ‘This is what Rachel is strong in, these are some things that Rachel can grow in,’ and I think the admissions committee, they’re really looking for people who can be honest. They don’t just want a letter that says, ‘These are all the amazing things about you,’ they want someone who can say, ‘These are actually some weaknesses that the applicant has.’ And so in an ironic way it’s actually a strength to your application if your references can say some strengths and some weaknesses, but how you overcome those weaknesses, or how you’re growing to I guess improve in those areas. So I think at first I was just really worried that I shouldn’t ask a nursing instructor, but it ended up being I think a really good decision.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Good, that’s awesome. Thanks for that feedback. It’s something I think students are always afraid to get the negative feedback, or the- I can’t think of the word right now.
Rachel: Constructive criticism?
Dr. Ryan Gray: Constructive criticism, yes. So I think it’s- as somebody who from an admission standpoint reading a letter of recommendation, seeing that constructive criticism, it does make me think that this is a much more valuable letter. And obviously constructive criticism needs to be a lot more personal, more unique so I know that the person writing it took more time to do that, and I think I’d value that a lot more.
MMI – Multiple Mini Interview Process
Dr. Ryan Gray: Good. Alright so let’s talk about the interview process in Canada. We in the States are lucky enough to have a kind of traditional interview process at most schools, but Canada has infected us with what is known as the multiple mini interview, the MMI, which came out of McMaster’s in Canada.
Rachel: It did.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Talk about the MMI, and what your experience was with that.
Rachel: So the MMI is terrifying. I did not think I guess that I would enjoy the process beforehand; I was so scared. I was way more nervous than I needed to be, and it was- I think you always look back afterwards and you say, ‘I did not need to be that nervous, I didn’t need to be that scared.’ But I think that the way that the MMI is set up is before you do it, it’s just hard to imagine before you’re actually in that situation. It can seem like a really intimidating type of interview, but I had some really good advice before the interview. I actually listened to several of The Premed Years podcasts that talked about the MMI, and I think even just your advice, Ryan was really to respect the interview, and practice for it, and take it extremely seriously. Take it as seriously as you take the MCAT. And so I really tried to do that, and so I practiced with other premeds, I practiced with the career services at my university, they offered practice MMI’s, and I got books out on the MMI, and I recorded myself doing different scenarios and timed myself on my computer. And I think just putting in the time to practice really helped to calm my nerves, but ultimately when you do the MMI, every situation, every scenario is so different than any of the ones that you’ve practiced, that what it really comes down to is being able to be yourself and communicate effectively in a short period of time under pressure. So the main benefit to practicing was really just getting a sense of how long is eight minutes, and what does eight minutes feel like, and how can I communicate my ideas in a way that’s succinct, and gives a sense of who I am as a person? Other than that, the MMI is really I think hard to totally prepare for because you never can totally anticipate what questions you’re going to get.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Leaving interview day, and going through the stations, did you get a sense of how well you did?
Rachel: I did at one school. I would say at one school I felt like every station- I had a sense coming out of the station that I felt, ‘Oh I think that went well,’ or ‘I think that didn’t go quite as well.’ But the other school was completely left field. The questions were so different than I would have ever expected, and it was just really hard to tell because the interviewers I think too, they’re trained to have a very flat [Inaudible 00:31:10] so when you speak to them, especially at this one school, they don’t really nod, they don’t smile, they don’t give you a sense that you’re doing well. And so you just talk, and you just talk to a person who’s just staring at you with a very flat expressionless face, and so you come out feeling like, ‘I could have bombed that, I could have done really well,’ and you have no way of knowing. So that was definitely my experience at one school. At the other school they had a lot more- I felt like they gave me a lot more feedback in terms of their- I guess expressions on their face, and sometimes they even dialogued with me a little bit, and that was much nicer.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, wow that would definitely be very hard if you didn’t get any sort of feedback, verbal or anything. And if they’re not participating in the scenario with you asking follow-up questions, or trying to make you elaborate. Oh wow, that’s hard.
Rachel: So the way that the MMI’s are set up, at least at the schools that I interviewed at, is every station does have specific follow-up questions, but the follow-up questions are standardized so they’re exactly the same for every station, for every applicant. So usually how you’re trained for the MMI is that after about four or five minutes of you just talking, you would then basically say to the interviewer, “Do you have any follow-up questions for me?” And then the interviewer will ask you the same questions that they ask every single applicant in the same order. So they might ask you a question and you think, ‘I already talked about that for five minutes,’ but they will still ask it to you because they’re trying to make it as standardized as possible.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Interesting. Yeah I’ve seen some different theories and procedures on that. So the MMI, while the theory, the kind of structure is very similar with stations, every school can kind of implement whatever version of that they want. So it can be different at all the schools.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Even more frustrating for premeds as they try to prepare for their interviews, that all of that can be different even when it’s an MMI.
Rachel: It can, but I also think that- at least what I experienced that was quite comforting about the MMI, was there were one or two stations that I felt didn’t go as well, or I looked back and I thought, ‘I really don’t think I got a score on that station.’ And the comforting thing about it was that at one school I had ten stations, at another school I had eight, and overall you only get one score. So if you don’t do well in a station you know, ‘I can always do better on the next one,’ and you can just leave it behind you and just move on, and you get a lot more opportunities to I guess- not prove yourself, but a lot more conversations, a lot more opportunities for discussion, which for me I found actually quite helpful and reassuring.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. So the acceptance rate for Canadian medical students is pretty low. Why do you think you were so successful in getting two acceptances to medical school?
Two Acceptances Despite a Difficult Arena
Rachel: I have wondered that myself. You know I think that I had some really good advice before- well especially before my interviews, but even before my application process. And I got this advice from somebody who’s now a resident, and so had been through the whole process four or five years ago. And they said to me, “Rachel, you have to make the people on the admissions committee and your interviewers know that you want this. And whatever you can do to make them know that you want this- you have to be yourself, you have to be honest, but don’t be halfhearted about this. You have to be all in.” And I think they said that to me because at the time I was still going back and forth a little bit between nursing and medicine, and they said to me, “That can’t come through. You have to decide. Are you in?” And I thought about that multiple times as I was going through- there were actually a couple chances I had in my interviews, and on my application, I guess my personal statement, that I thought I was able to phrase things in a way, or say things in a way that just showed I really want to be a physician, I’m committed to this, and I think that actually really helped me. And I think the second thing was that I brought in my nursing experience pretty frequently, so people gave me different pieces of advice on that. Some said leave it out entirely and others said bring it in, and I just chose to bring it in because it was totally a part of who I am, and it’s been such an important part of my story. And I think that the admissions committee saw that in a really favorable light. So I chose to just incorporate that whenever it was relevant.
Dr. Ryan Gray: You know everything you said there is spot on. Having read hundreds of personal statements, I oftentimes walk away still with the question of, ‘Why the heck do you want to be a physician?’ And that’s one of my biggest feedbacks to students as the first round of editing. It’s like, ‘Okay I’ve ready your statement, you tell some good stories, wonderful. But I still have no idea why you want to be a doctor. So you need to really sell me a little bit better on why you really want to be a doctor.’ And so I’m glad you got that advice too, of making sure that you were solid in your head that it’s what you reallywanted to do, because it’s obviously a huge commitment, time commitment, and you really need to want it.
Rachel: Totally. I think that’s totally true, and part of that that I found was I guess taking the time to even think about when I’m applying to a school, do I really want to be a medical student at this school? And so if I do, then taking the time to figure out- like I mentioned in Canada, the schools really want physicians who will meet the needs of the population of that particular community that the school lives in. So figuring out okay, what is the community like that this school serves? You know in Canada we have lots of First Nations people in particular parts of the country, and so different medical schools might be more focused on serving them. Or others might be more focused on different types of populations. And so for me it was taking the time to say okay, what is it about this school that I really want to be not only a physician, but a medical student here? And how can that come across in my letters, and my interviews that I’ve taken the time to think about why I would really thrive at this school.
Dr. Ryan Gray: I like it. I like it, and it works for US-based schools too because typically on the secondary applications you’re answering that question why you want to be in that school. If it’s not on a secondary application it’s going to be in your interview, so you need to know that, you need to think about it. So I love it. Well Rachel for a Canadian premed out there struggling, or I guess a US, we won’t discriminate. Any premed out there struggling on their journey, what can you tell them to give them some motivation to continue on?
Advice to the Struggling Premed
Rachel: Well I think I would just say- and pretty much everyone who comes on this show says something similar, but for me it’s been so encouraging to just hear that no matter what the obstacle is, I think you can overcome it. And sometimes it just means taking a step back and figuring out what that is, or what you need to be able to get there. So for me it was definitely having the support of my husband, and finding people who could surround me so when I was discouraged, struggling with organic chemistry for the MCAT because I’d never taken the course, and just having someone who could remind me, ‘You can do this. I really believe in you. Just take some time, go for a run, take a breather and come back to it.’ And for me that was probably the most helpful thing because I think when you’re doing it alone it’s just so easy to get discouraged, and it’s such a long process that you end up doubting yourself, and every step of the way you think, ‘Can I really do this? Am I really able to do this? I’m so tired.’ And I think even at the interviews, some of the students that I talked to afterwards, I found out they’d had to apply three times, or some had been the very last person who got in off the wait list, and just hearing their stories as well and realizing that every single person who goes to medical school has had obstacles, and you are not the only one.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright I hope that was some valuable information for you if you’re up in Canada, and you are struggling through your premed journey, trying to figure out if you want to be a physician, if you can be a physician in Canada. I hope Rachel’s journey was informative for you, motivational for you.
I do want to thank our sponsor for today’s show, Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep), which is the premier one-on-one tutoring service for the MCAT. They focus a lot on re-takers, or re-takers really focus on them maybe, but they are the one-on-one tutoring program that I recommend here, only because I know them, I have recommended a lot of students go and use them, and I’ve heard only positive things from the students that go and use them. You work with a Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) tutor and get a completely custom program. You get from your start date to your MCAT test date, you’re working with that tutor one-on-one to help you earn the best possible score that you can get. Whether you’re just starting out with the new MCAT, or you’ve taken a prep course in the past and you haven’t really received the benefits, or you’ve taken the MCAT and you’re trying to raise your score; Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) can help you get the score that you’re shooting for. If you go to www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/nextstep, you can get access to a free full length MCAT exam, and $50.00 off any of their tutoring services. Again that’s www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/nextstep.
I also want to take a second and thank a couple people that have left us ratings and reviews in iTunes. We have a couple new ones. I want to thank Vendetta KAST for writing a review that says, ‘My daily motivation. Every day I doubt my ability to get into medical school, and every day I listen to at least one podcast to remind myself that it is possible.’ Thank you for that amazing review, Vendetta KAST. I don’t think you’re alone with doubting your abilities to get into medical school, I think that’s common on your journey.
We have MJ. Mujaba, I think I’m saying that right who they just wanted to let me know that episode one was missing. And I’ll go and fix that, I just wanted to read that anyway because they left a review. It was a three star review, and that’s okay.
We have another one that says, ‘The bomb.com’ from Tazz xlrt. ‘Everything you need to know about your premed journey can be found here.’ Thank you for that, Tazz xlrt.
We also have one more here from Sarah Ponce that says, ‘Thank you Dr. Grays, love this podcast so much, I listen to it every day at work. Working on my undergrad, so thank you so much for the wealth of information.’ You are welcome, Sarah Ponce.
If you would like to leave us a rating and review, go to www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/iTunes, that’s the best place to leave a rating and review. Really the best thing to do to help spread the word for The Premed Years is to go and tell your classmates, your premed advisors, anybody who you can tell that you know might be interested in the premed journey, the premed path to medical school. Go let them know about The Premed Years podcast and what we’re doing here at the Medical School Headquarters.
I hope you got a ton of great information out of the podcast today. I hope and I encourage you to keep pushing forward every day. Just like our reviewer said that they are doubting themselves every day, I know you doubt yourself sometimes as well, I know I did along the journey. So it’s okay to doubt yourself, but pick yourself right back up, keep pushing forward, and join us next week here at the Medical School Headquarters and The Premed Years Podcast.
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