As promised, I have created a mental guideline for UofC top 10 experiences (similar content as my post on Western's forum). Feel free to message me for individual questions if you like me to help you! I do provide application services if that is something you are interested in. Also, if you find this information helpful, please like it. The likes help me in deciding what content to prioritize on the forum (Tips for the OMSAS ABS coming soon).
Credentials (AKA where my reasoning comes from): I have helped 60+ students receive acceptances to Canadian medical schools across the country in the 2018/2019 cycle. This is advice I have accumulated over time.
- In 2017-2018, they received 1600+ completed applications (~1300 Alberta IP) --> 520 interviews were granted (430 Albertans/IP; 90 non-Albertants/OOP) --> 157 were accepted and enrolled
- In 20182018, they received 1600+ completed applications (~1300 Alberta IP) --> 576 interviews were granted (456 Albertans/IP; 120 non-Albertans/OOP) --> 150 were accepted and enrolled
- According to their applicant manual, concerning these numbers, they "do not anticipate significant changes" for the upcoming admissions cycle.
Phase 1: Planning and selecting your list of activities.
1) Carefully take the time to read the 2018-2019 applicant manual. It was written for applicants and has many great points. The link can be found at : https://www.ucalgary.ca/mdprogram/files/mdprogram/19_20applicant-manual_june28_2019final.pdf
2) When it comes to selecting your top 10 experiences, you should write down every significant experience that means something to you on a piece of paper. Narrow down and polish the list by eliminating less important experiences. Since I am old-school, I recommend doing this on paper with coloured pens:
a. Green for entries that you absolutely want to have; yellow for entries that you are unsure; red for entries you will eliminate.
b. Always ask yourself what the entry you are selecting would show the admissions committee. Illustrate in what areas you stand out and what your personality on paper would be.
c. When you are narrowing down the list and are stuck with two entries, unsure which to select, give it a day to think before reaching a decision. Choose the entry that you think is the best. Show the competing entries to 2-3 people you trust. Hear their recommendations and go with the best reasoning. There may not be right or wrong answers, but you would only know once you go through this process.
d. Once you have done this start, ranking your activities from 1-15 (The reason I say 15 is so that you have a wait-list consisting of 5 entries that you could use if the need arises).
e. Make sure your each activity has a verifier with an institutional email at the organization/institution; personal emails (Hotmail, gmail, etc.) are not acceptable. If in doubt, contact the admissions before you finalize an entry.
3) This next step may seem too poetic but bear with me. Take a good look at yourself in the mirror and ask what it is that you care about, enjoy doing and feel that defines you. Look at your eyes and see them sparkle! Really, what I am asking you to do is to feel and appreciate your individuality.
a. Once you have that answer, ask yourself what it is that the admissions committee likes to see. I would imagine that committed, dedicated, professional, easy to work with and collaborative individuals would be the kind of qualities they seek in future physicians (you can think of CANMED qualities if you like).
b. Choose activities that are well distributed and preserve some form of equilibrium. For example, let’s hypothetically say you have 12 awards. I would not recommend using 6/10 entries dedicated to those. Choose moderate numbers and always consult others when you are unsure.
c. Keep in mind the scoring system for UofC. Specifically, they are looking for these qualities in your file:
i. Evidence of Communication Skills
ii. Evidence of Excellent Interpersonal Skills and Collaboration
iii. Evidence of Maturity, Insight and Resilience
iv. Evidence of Commitment to Communities and Advocacy on Behalf of Others
v. Evidence of Intellectual Curiosity, Scholarship and Research
vi. Evidence of Organizational, Management and Leadership Skills
d. You do not absolutely have exact examples that fit each cluster but try to be as close as possible.
Phase 2: The writing Phase
4) Narrow down your focus and be personal:
- Do not cover too many topics that would make the entry hard to follow or read. Coherence and clarity are important.
- Don’t think like a resume format, but a narrative resume format where essential details are incorporated at the right place & the right time.
- Make sure the reader, who is evaluating you, learns a new dimension about who you are.
5) Show. Don’t tell:
- Applicant A starts with giving you a laundry list of facts that are taken out of context and Applicant B takes you, the reader, along their journey and shows how what they did was important and leave by letting you make a strong judgement about them. I would say the second person is doing a much better job and likely will receive a higher score.
- Here is how you can make sure you are showing and not just simply telling:
o What were you doing?
o Whom was it directed to?
o What was the lesson from that experience?
6) Use your own voice
- Avoid clichés at all cost.
- This is the time when you get to interact with the admissions one-on-one and you want to be showing that you are a thoughtful person.
- Don’t include unnecessary words.
- Avoid overly formal and overly colloquial terms.
- Show that you genuinely have an interest in pursuing medicine. It doesn’t have to mean saying that since you were X years old, all you could think about was becoming a physician.
7) Organize your ideas before you begin writing.
- This ensures that everything that goes onto the application has been thought well. Otherwise, if you begin by just typing it becomes an accident.
- Keep a mental outline, but don’t let it be too rigid when you begin writing.
8) Actively seek feedback from others. Ideally from your friends as well as experienced writers. Begin this stage early on so you can have enough time to reflect and make necessary changes. I have written an extensive procedure on proofreading on the Western forum. While the format is different, the basic ideas are the same. You can consult that if you like.
9) Give this a read. I always considered Russell a role model for clarity of thought and profundity of ideas. Use it to identify weaknesses in your writing: http://www.pereestupinya.com/pdf/Russell,_Bertrand-How_I_Write.pdf
10) Total focus:
- I sometimes observe that applicants are writing their applications in noisy rooms with TV in the background or a place that is not conducive to being productive.
- Make sure that all you are thinking about is your application and no distractions are nearby.
- Don’t think about what your chances are and if so and so activity is good enough to get the interview.
- Give it all your best in the writing phase. You can begin worrying about this after you submit, but not during. I understand this may be difficult for some people but try. Feel in control. It will show in your writing.
11) Sentences should be about 10-15 words. If they are longer, I suggest they be broken down into chunks. Sentences should carry meaning. In other words, having a clear rationale always helps enhance the quality of your writing.
12) Ideas need to logically flow from one another. The best way to detect inconsistencies is reading your entries aloud. Pay close attention when you feel gaps exist and once you find them, attempt to fill it in with appropriate connecting ideas that follow your logic/narrative.
13) Avoid overusing words like “I”;“and” ; “etc”. We all do it. It's fine to have some.
14) Consult a thesaurus to enhance your word choice.
15) Enjoy writing your application. It is a refection of who you are and what you have done. When you enjoy what you do, the quality dramatically improves too.
P.S. There may be some typos as I was typing this on the TTC. I will be proofreading it tomorrow.
Good luck to you all as you work on your applications!