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hippocamper

McMaster or Western?

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I'm incredibly grateful to be in a position to choose between McMaster and Western's med programs, but I'm having a lot of trouble trying to come to a conclusion on which one to pick. Both programs seem amazing and I really enjoyed seeing the campuses while interviewing but I want to make sure that I'm making the right choice! 

McMaster really sold me on their whole 3 year program/PBL style when I was there, but reading stuff on the internet and talking to people I've been hearing more negatives about it, like how it feels rushed, that you have to know exactly what kind of research/specialty you're interested in right away, that people feel like they lack the proper knowledge for their placements, and that you shouldn't go to Mac unless you want to do family med. On the upside though, three years saves a good chunk of money, Mac has a great reputation as a school, and the facilities seem top-notch both in the school and the hospital.

On the other hand, I think Western is a bit more traditional with a 4 year program that has more classical lectures. The community at Western seemed really social and tight which is a big draw for me, and I don't mind doing an extra year if I can explore my options more and potentially match to a better specialty (if I decide I want to do that). Western definitely doesn't have the same reputation to the average person as Mac does though, and from what I saw on the tour the facilities are a little older and more worn looking. Both schools are about the same distance from home for me, and Hamilton and London seem to be pretty similar (medium-large cities) in terms of what they can offer.

I know at the end of the day I'm just going to have to make a decision and that they would both be great schools for me, but if any current students from either of these schools wanted to weigh in I would really appreciate the help. I suspect there are a number of people who are in a similar position to mine who would also benefit from your advice, knowledge, or stories

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A few points:

- I wouldn't worry too much about finances now. You'll have to take on debt no matter what but you have a big LOC that you won't have to start paying off for many, many years. Make a decision that is good for you now.

- Public "reputation" of medical schools for undergraduate medical education is essentially irrelevant. Your match depends much more on your performance in your 4th year electives. Western does have a reputation of producing strong elective students.

- Summers are nice (for CV building or for relaxing)

- Lots of great clinical opportunities at Western, and time to take part in them (including having Tuesdays off with the new curriculum next year)

At the end of the day all Canadian medical schools will provide you with a great medical education so don't stress too much - this is a nice dilemma to have :)

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Calgary grad chiming in. Downsides of 3 year program above are true. But they’re not insurmountable. Just get a head start on exploring specialties EARLY. And then work but off to get a solid research project off the ground and DONE. Benefits are huge - 1 year of opportunity cost less, which means an extra year at full senior attending lifetime earnings (see white cost investor on this topic) or retiring one year early. One has to balance out whether 300-500k+ is worth that stress/arguably slightly higher risk in the match for you. Don’t forget there are successful applicants from all programs.

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On 5/16/2019 at 8:33 PM, billy55555 said:

 I'd pick Western over Mac as the medschool igives many more opportunities. Also better choices for housing and much safer neighbourhoods.

Hamilton/McMaster are not unsafe. Friends who started at Mac and then went to Western said they preferred Hamilton and felt safer there.

The 3- vs. 4-year debate is probably the most important factor to consider here, as well as your support systems and the opportunities provided by both schools.

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51 minutes ago, Butterfly_ said:

I live right in the downtown core and have walked on Barton street alone in the evening.

Haven’t had a problem. 

Hamilton is safe in my opinion. 

People always warn about Barton. I've walked down in at 2am on a weekend....didn't see a soul. There are notoriously streets in every city, plenty that I've been told to stay away from in London and Hamilton.

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McMaster grad and current resident here. Also did my undergrad and Masters in London/Western:

A) 3 year program - absolutely can be daunting up front to figure out what you want. However, to some degree the onus is on you as an adult learner to explore, shadow specialties you might be interested in. McMaster is an excellent program if you're more open to structuring your own learning (if I might add, this is sort of how you learn in residency anyways - you will have half days and stuff, but a lot of learning is through your day-to-day and reading around cases, etc.). Not having summers does suck a bit, and that third year of clerkship can feel like a bit of a grind. You will have 2 months off between end of med school/LMCC and residency though.

An often-neglected point (mentioned by someone above though) is opportunity cost - 1 year of staff salary is equivalent to 250000-400000 in terms of opportunity cost. That's 1 year year earlier to retire, buy a house, marriage, etc. Something to think about.

B) PBL - once again, this is how you learn and review things in residency. You pick a "problem" (e.g. chest pain, acute coronary syndromes, pneumonia) and review an approach to it. You do also have lectures ("large group sessions") - so don't go thinking McMaster has zero lectures. You will do PBL 2-3x/week, and LGS 2x/week. I do find sometimes I had a bit less book learnin' compared to folks from 4 year schools, particularly with regard to in-depth cell biology but this usually evaporated around the time of clerkship.

C) Knowledge during placements: see point 1 - you need to be driven and read on your own to some degree as a learner. For your placements, there will always be a feeling of "I don't know enough" - that's normal, you are a medical student, you should not be showing up on a subspecialty service feeling comfortable knowledge-wise in my opinion. Myself and colleagues didn't have issues getting reference letters for CaRMS, and all matched well (I will note that McMaster has had 1 or 2 bad years in the match - extenuating factors in at least one of those years was an abundance of people wanting smaller subspecialties and being very restricted geographically).

D) Hamilton is a very safe city; equivalent to London in my opinion . Some areas are less safe than others - keep your wits about you in those areas and you'll be fine (there are similar areas in London like EoA, Toronto, Edmonton, etc.). The food scene in Hamilton >> London, nightlife is slightly better if you're >25 (if you're <25 and like clubbing, London is better). Lots of hiking and things to do on the escarpment. Cost of living is going up steadily relative to London though - if you're thinking of getting a house for residency/med school London is much cheaper to my knowledge.

This is just my perspective on Hamilton/Mac - others may disagree. PM me if you have any questions.

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There are some people who have known what they wanted early and stuck with it all 4 years, but there are just as many who switched in M2 or M3 (in my 4 year med school). This wouldn't have been possible or would have been much harder in a 3 year program.

You're picking a specialty you'll be working in for the next 30-50+ years. If you're 100% sure you know what you want to do, then sure shaving off a year is awesome. For me, coming from a non-med family, the extra time was very important in deciding my specialty of choice.

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Hi everyone, I know that neither Mac nor Western is ideal for someone who can't drive, but is it possible to get through either of them without driving? Between Hamilton, London, and Windsor, which do you think would be the most doable? I would appreciate any insights!

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Just want to second what others have said about Hamilton. It really is a pretty safe city. The city itself is certainly less modern than Toronto, but I definitely wouldn't say its any less safe than downtown Toronto. 

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8 hours ago, feathers said:

Hi everyone, I know that neither Mac nor Western is ideal for someone who can't drive, but is it possible to get through either of them without driving? Between Hamilton, London, and Windsor, which do you think would be the most doable? I would appreciate any insights!

I would say Hamilton over London. London busses are much worse. I can't imagine getting from the North end to Victoria by bussing - fuck that

There are students that have made it through in Hamilton sans car

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15 hours ago, swoman said:

I would say Hamilton over London. London busses are much worse. I can't imagine getting from the North end to Victoria by bussing - fuck that

There are students that have made it through in Hamilton sans car

Thank you, that's a great relief to hear!

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I was given an offer to Windsor for Western, and I would much prefer to live in Hamilton rather than Windsor. Some of the things I've heard about McMaster here are a bit discouraging however, and I'm feeling slightly intimidated by the more self-directed approach as I've always done well in more traditional lecture/book-learning styles. Can anyone comment on whether they found the PBL difficult to adjust to from a lecture-based undergrad?

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I went to Med school in Quebec. I thrived on PBL! In fact, after my first week of Med school, I stopped attending all lectures as I found I could learn more efficiently on my own. In undergrad, I did not attend lectures in courses where the exams were based on texts. 

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15 minutes ago, feathers said:

I was given an offer to Windsor for Western, and I would much prefer to live in Hamilton rather than Windsor. Some of the things I've heard about McMaster here are a bit discouraging however, and I'm feeling slightly intimidated by the more self-directed approach as I've always done well in more traditional lecture/book-learning styles. Can anyone comment on whether they found the PBL difficult to adjust to from a lecture-based undergrad?

You can always turn the PBL into lecture based curriculum by using services like Pathoma, Boards and beyond

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