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Success Stories- Non Trad Style!

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On 5/30/2019 at 7:07 AM, clever_smart_boy_like_me said:

Well... this story is five years in the making so bear with me for length... It is quite the novel!!

I wrote in the forum 2 years ago with hopes of gaining acceptance to UBC... hoping to write in this thread. Turns out it wasn't going to be that year, but finally... FINALLY .... this year. This is the year I get the honour of writing my success story!!

For anyone struggling right now, it took me FOUR years of applications to get an acceptance! If you are continually improving yourself and your application/interview skills/grades/etc. stay focused on your goal and hang in there!

I am 33 this year and began this journey five years ago while deciding to change careers from environmental/animal biology towards medicine. My first step was to go back to school for some prereqs for UBC during the summer. I had asked for time off from work and was so lucky to receive it.

I completed the courses with good grades and began studying for the old MCAT. Then I saw that the MCAT was changing and got crazy stressed out so I signed up for a Princeton Review course to learn what exactly was going to be tested on this new MCAT. I found it difficult to focus my attention 100% on the MCAT as I was concurrently working fulltime. A tragedy struck my family and I had to take a month off from studying, and shortly thereafter decided to quit my safe, full-time job to float by on a part-time job and savings while dedicating myself 100% to my goal and dream: getting a good score on the MCAT and getting into medschool.

I pushed my test date ahead once or maybe twice, can't remember, and when finally the day came for my test I arrived sleep-deprived because my cat had been sick all night and it was so hot out that I couldn't sleep... No matter! I scored decently well regardless (511) and forged onward with my first ever set of medical school applications! I applied broadly and received pre-interview rejections from all schools. I hadn't expected much because I knew it takes an average of 3 applications in Canada to get in. That fall (2015) I had gone back to school to take medically-relevant courses as I had not really done so during undergrad (just had done typical bio degree courses) so I had a lot to focus on regardless. I finished those up with awesome grades in April 2016 and began the process of reapplying. I rewrote all of my descriptions for UBC and added new activities and grades.

I took some first aid courses and started working as a medic on construction/oil/gas sites. During the 2016-17 cycle I received one interview: UBC. I prepared extensively with the interview groups, taking time from work to focus on preparing. Interview day came and went and I felt confident but not overly hopeful so as to spare myself in case of rejection. Mid-May rolled around and the offers, rejections, and waitlist emails came out and I was gutted to find I had been rejected... No matter! Forging onward. It has only been 2 applications so far anyways... After a brief pity session I regained my composure and determination and set myself up for taking even more university courses and enrolling myself in an additional course that would eventually grant me employment as a paramedic. I felt the fire of my passion fueling me onward: “I will get in” was the feeling. I went back to school again at more than one institution and did a heavy load, full-time and got A+ in most of my classes... “This will be my year”... I got another interview with UBC for Feb 2018. Second interview, third application; this has to be my year!

Mid-May 2018: post-interview rejection. “Ok.. I can recover.. I guess. One more try... I have all those courses I did... does that open any doors for me?? Oh, Queen's! McMaster?? Do I take the MCAT again? Ok, let's do that – I really don't want to”... I was scared I would get a worse score somehow... And to have to redo that test and work and ... “Let's just try re-applying again this year without redoing the MCAT... one last shot with this score and then I will re-evaluate”.

I begin crafting my OMSAS applications, and re-doing my UBC application. All is well I think. I will probably get my UBC interview at least! (fingers were crossed) and maybe I would score an Ontario interview...

December 2018 UBC interview results day comes: PRE-INTERVIEW REJECTION... My TFR dropped over 10-15 points, just like my jaw... my NAQ dropped from mid 30's to in the low 20's... What??? I was shocked... How??? I had added hours, courses, activities, my wording was excellent, I had been receiving interviews for two years in a row????? HOW!!!???

If you look back through the UBC threads around that time you will see that I wasn't doing well with the news and I wasn't expecting much from Queen's either as I had never received an interview with them thus far (I applied during my first application round in 2015-16 also).

After feeling low for a few weeks or so I began to slowly gather my broken dream and tried to see a way to improve, again. Fifth time will be the charm I guess, mostly ignoring that I still had apps out in Ontario... I go on vacation to the Caribbean and forget for a while that OMSAS will be releasing interview invites. I don't have much hope but I check my email the morning of the second day of my vacation there to see I had received an interview!!! I cry with happiness!! This cycle may yet provide positive news!!
I finish my vacation and return home. I take a month off work and set to focusing on my interview. I watched Ted talks, read, practiced solo and otherwise relaxed. Planned my trip to Ontario and set off in March 2019...

The interview felt amazing. I loved the school, the people, the curriculum design... The panel was awesome, and I felt so confident when I got back to my hotel room. I spent the rest of the night in a positive buzz and then came home reservedly hopeful...

The wait between interviews and decision day was agonizing... I had started to think about my 'what-ifs' for the year... If I get in – do I buy/rent? Do I get a new car? What about this? What about that? If I don't get in... redo MCAT? Go up north for work? Move to Alberta? Move to Ontario? Start Australia applications? Go to the States? What about Ireland... and on and on and on... to the point where I had considered quitting this goal and beginning to brain-storm alternate careers... I reluctantly decided I would give it one last try before giving up if I didn't get in for this cycle. This process had taken so many years from me and I felt stuck in limbo and stagnant.

Mid-May rolls around... Waitlisted... Ok I guess that's better than being outright rejected, but man... MORE WAITING!!!
I commit to my daily activities to stay busy. I have some hope but I try not to let it get too high – the waitlist for Queen's notoriously moves a lot, according to historical trends (as noted in the Queen's threads)...
Many on the Queen's forum think that the first wave of waitlist offers are coming out May 28, 2 weeks after initial offers... I check my email like a crazy person early in the morning on May 28... and also the forums to see if there was any news yet...
I go to bed (in the morning cuz I am a night person) only to be woken an hour later by a gardener with power tools... Okay, well if I am going to be awake for a bit again may as well see how the forum is doing...

The waitlist thread is hot... “oh.. jeez, it's happening... let's see – yep people are getting offers. Better rip off the bandaid and check my email...”

Queen's School of Medicine-----
Oh my god. I don't even have to open this email to know what it is...

Dear Clever_Smart_Boy_Like_Me, 

On behalf of the Admissions Committee of Queen's School of Medicine, we are pleased to provide to you a conditional offer of acceptance...

I didn't even read any further than this, I just started sobbing...loudly... with the windows open... someone probably thought something terrible had happened... I start running around in my house sobbing and shaking!!
All the years of hard work and determination and sacrifice I had made. All the hours I had spent working at this... Everything I had done in the past five years finally FINALLY paid off... I GOT INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL!! I feel almost moved to tears just writing this sentence.

I called my dad and I couldn't even speak, I was just sobbing hysterically into the phone... between sobs I said “I got in” and started losing it again... he came over to my house right away with flowers and a card.

I ran around all day telling those important to me that I finally got in. My family and I went to dinner that night to celebrate and I am planning a party to celebrate as well.. Logistics of this process have set in and I am working on all the info I have to provide for the school and getting finances in order and looking for a place to live but... the magnitude of this washes over me randomly throughout the day and I feel so elated and proud and like crying again all over.


I am the first in my immediate family to attend university. And within my family there are not many doctors (though I have learned I have at least 2?). This was a huge goal for me. From its inception in 2014 to its realization in 2019 I have grown so much as a person and with every decision I made towards improving myself and my application I reaffirmed my passion for medicine.

It took five years of hard, gruelling work and determination, sleepless nights working on projects and courses, sacrifice, and planning to get where I am. It took four years of applications to get an acceptance. And I am finally in. I am finally in.



PS: for those of you who are struggling or otherwise needing guidance on your applications I am willing to provide insight and advice :)


This made me tear up! Congratulations friend and cannot wait to meet you this fall at Queens!!!

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After having been a loooooooooong time lurker, I finally get to put my post here, in the non-trad success stories, a thread I have been reading since 2010-2011.

I would say I am about as non-traditional as it gets. In the socio-economic gradient I come from, higher education is not really a thing. Most people graduate from high school, maybe do some college, and get comfortable in a middle class job until retirement. Which there is nothing wrong with. Unless, of course, you are me, graduating from high school many many years ago, and dreaming about medicine. The thing with coming from this kind of background is that there is no cultural capital to support you through learning the ropes of higher education. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, is that this “vertical transmission” of knowledge is implicit in many (most?) premed students, who have usually had the (implicit) knowledge that after high school, you go to you university, get good grades, make connections with professors and mentors who can support you. Obvious, right? Not for me, it wasn’t. I knew I wanted medicine, I knew it was my calling. But I didn’t know how to get there, and without the support of anyone, at 19, it was difficult to know how to do this. Here’s a quote from the high school career counsellor when I told her I wanted to go into medicine: “Mmmmm… I don’t know… why don’t you become an elementary school teacher instead?”. So I believed them. I believed those who said I could not make it, and after high school, I took a different path in another field. 

My career in this other field was successful in many ways: I have gained a profound emotional intelligence, I have learned to overcome obstacles, get back up and keep going when you hit a wall, I have learned to connect with people in a way that builds quality long lasting relationships and memorable short encounters. But this path ran its course, and it’s at 29 years old that I realized that it was time. I was yearning to be a doctor. But what were the odds? Here I was, low-income, with no degree, at an age where most people are graduating with a MD. But I had suppressed the part of me who wanted to go into medicine for long enough, and now it had resurfaced in a way I couldn’t ignore. So I started a degree from scratch. I had all the doubts in the world, but I had to at least try. 

I did well in my degree. Actually, I did well in the last few years of my degree. The return-to-school after a decade of using your right brain (my past career required a lot of creativity) and letting your left brain shrivel did no good for my first and to some extent second year grades. I was seeing the dream fade away. So I put my head down, and studied. Hard. I lost all my friends because I missed all their birthdays/baby showers/stags. But “I had a dream”, as they say. And I had to gamble it all, live in poverty while my peers were getting mortgages, lose all my friends, just in case it was worth it. Just in case I could get into medicine. And in 2012, after all these years of hard work, I was ready. I applied to medical school, hopeful and confident. And I failed to even get an interview. It was crushing. 

What med students and posters on this forum tell you when you don’t get in is to live your life as fully as you can, and do something that you find interesting. And I did. I completed a Master’s in a topic I loved (medicine-related), and found a job I thought would be great. And then another job, because the first one wasn’t as great as I thought it would be. And then another one. The problem was that all these jobs really felt, and were, like plan B, and medicine kept gnawing at me. I was in my early thirties by then, I had met someone, and I felt the societal pressure of it was time to get a job and get on with it. But you know what? Deep down, I knew that if I wouldn’t give it one more try, I would always wonder “what if”. My MCAT was still eligible for one more year, so I applied. And got rejected pre-interview. So I studied the MCAT again (while working full time), and I did well enough (not awesome but not awful) that I could apply again. And I did. And finally, finally, after 4 application cycles, got an interview. This was the most exciting news of my life. I prepared, read, practiced, bought new clothes. But mid-May came, and with it, my rejection post-interview. Damn. What a blow. And I am not getting any younger here. 

So the next application cycle (my fifth), I applied across Canada, and received 3 interviews. Mid-May came around, and this time I had a rejection from my home school (again), a waitlist, and… wait, what…is this… an acceptance?? “Dear medschool40&cool, on the behalf of the admission committee, we are pleased to accept you in our program”. My life flashed in front of my eyes at that moment. Me, in high school getting the highest grades but a scoff when I brought up med school. Me, in my early to mid twenties, living under the poverty line, and with no knowledge of the academic world. Me, with a dream. Me, rebuilding myself up, learning the ropes, developing relationships with mentors, writing first-author articles. Me, finally, getting into med school. Passing the threshold. Changing world. Getting into med school the closest I have ever been to a religious experience. I will, after all, be a MD. (Take that, guidance counsellor from high school). 

One last note: It is unusual to get into med school this late in life (I'm in my late thirties now). And I would lie if I would say I am not worried. I am worried about the stigma, for one. I am worried about fitting in to some extent. I am worried agism will play in whenever Carms comes. But I'll keep posting here and let you know, if you're interested, how this all plays out over the next 4 years. 


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sorry, long post alert, plz bear with me...

it is so inspirational to read all these success stories, i pray that someday i will also be in a position to share my story here.

So basically I am from Pakistan and completed my degrees from there, till high school i was a pre-med student but due to some circumstances I was not able to get into medicine..

then altogether i changed my field, i did B.Com (Hons) and M.Com from University of Punjab. I have my course-by-course evaluation from WES and get equivalence of 3.90 and 3.80 CGPA respectively. i was doing PhD in commerce when i moved here so left it incomplete.

i worked as assistant director in Central bank of Pakistan for 5 years, married too during that time and have my family (one 4 year old, one around 3 year old and one 10 months old baby) I also worked as volunteer in another bank for 2 months, i am going to be 31 years old btw in couple of months

thats all i have... i know nothing about Canadian education system, i don't know from where to start? should i do a second degree in sciences? which path i should choose? which books i should study for MCAT?

i came Canada last year on PR and i am in Ontario.

Please i just want clue from where to start, i have enough dedication and i am hard-working so i believe i can do a try for a dream that is still in the bottom of my heart. Your suggestions are really important for me, so based on my circumstances please give your input.



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It’s been a few days now since I’ve received my acceptance and it’s so surreal. I’m hoping this post will touch at least one person and help motivate them to never give up on their dream.

PART I - Failure
I started my first undergraduate degree in 2008 in a city away from my family. I was 16 years old at the time and chose to study biomedical sciences. I was also a member of a varsity sports team and was super motivated to get good grades and eventually attend a Canadian medical school. Then life hit me in the face with a sack of bricks. During my first year of this degree, my father lost his battle with leukaemia. The loss of my father flipped my world upside down. With extended family members fighting over his estate, feeling isolated while attending school, and my grades suddenly plummeting...I lost my path. My grades suffered heavily and instead of taking the time to grieve I tried to push my feelings aside. Instead of taking ownership of the situation I blamed my poor academic performance on the degree. So I switched into engineering, performed even worse, and then ultimately ended up switching to a degree in chemistry. I was the captain of the varsity team at this point and then retired from sport. I finished my chemistry degree with a 2.x GPA but managed to get my name on a research paper. I also wrote the MCAT and decided not to study...you can imagine how well that went. Thankfully, after graduation the legal disputes surrounding my father’s estate was resolved shortly after graduating. I took some time to evaluate my life and figure out what was important to me. I also attended therapy sessions and took the time to grieve. I knew that I wanted to practice medicine in Canada so I figured out a plan to make that dream become a reality.

PART II - Road to Redemption

I moved back home and came to this forum to see if it was possible. I’m grateful to have found and read some of the stories on here because it helped me figure out what to do. In 2014 I chose to enrol in a second undergraduate degree. My plan was to be accepted to either Western or Queens Med since they look at your best two years.  This time I studied economics because I was interested in learning something more applicable to everyday life. It would also only take me 3 years to complete. I worked full time in a factory, volunteered, and researched during this time. There was no room for error. It was challenging and after my first year of Econ I had a 3.83 GPA (only considering the Econ grades here). I felt it had to be higher so I studied even more and cut my hours at the factory to part time. In the summer between the first and second year I wrote the new MCAT, studied, but only scored a 505 (damn it). I brought my second year Econ GPA up to a 3.98 and studied for the MCAT the following summer...508 (damn it). I put my head down for the final year of my Econ degree and graduated with a 2 year GPA of 3.95. Good enough for Western and Queens. I graduated with the gold medal from economics and received other academic awards based on my performance.  Things were starting to turn around for me. I needed to bring my MCAT score up so I left the factory and took the year to solely focus on Med school apps. I studied in the summer of 2017 for 60+ hours per week and wrote the MCAT in July. Shortly after, I began doing contract work for the university as a research assistant. I started on my Med school app just in case I scored well on my 4th attempt. I got my score back and it was a 515. I was relieved that it was above the cutoffs for Schulich. I submitted my app and worked in the mean time. I received an interview invite to Western and prepped like there was no tomorrow. Though looking back on it, I didn’t prep adequately. I interviewed and was normal wait listed. Unfortunately I waited all summer and didn’t get an offer.

PART III - Success

During the waiting period I started thinking of contingency plans. I knew that it was a gamble to just wait around for an acceptance. I also needed to start working because whatever money I had saved from the factory was disappearing. It’s nearly impossible to get a professional job with an undergrad so I looked into Masters programs related to Econ. It was past the deadline for all masters applications. However, I took a chance and emailed the admissions committees of two programs. The Toronto program said tough luck, while the Western program indicated that a student had declined their offer so there was an open spot. I wrote my essays and gathered my transcripts in 24 hours and applied. Within a few days the director of the program scheduled an interview and I was accepted. In 2018 I started my Master of Financial Economics degree with the goal of starting a career in investment banking. I put the thought of medicine out of my mind for a while because I couldn’t apply until this degree was over and I wanted a solid plan B career in place. I networked with over 100 finance professionals (cold calls, emails, blind coffee chats in Toronto, networking events etc.) - little did I know all this talking to strangers would help down the road ;). I ultimately landed an internship at a global finance firm with their boutique investment banking team in the summer of 2019. In May 2019 I moved to Toronto for my internship. The hours were long and I spent that summer grinding to get a full time offer. In August I received a full time offer at the end of my internship and breathed a sigh of relief. Around this time, the idea of medicine started creeping back into my mind. I started to question whether investment banking was aligned with my values as a person. After some introspection I realized it would not offer me the personal fulfillment that I’ve been looking for. I sat down with my partner and explained to her that I wanted to give medicine another shot. She supported me completely. I was scheduled to start the final semester of my Masters degree in Sept so started on my Med application in August. I spent two months refining every aspect of my application (essays, ABS, picking good references etc.). I applied to Toronto, Western, Queens and Ottawa. In October my employment contract came in the mail and I asked for a March 2020 start date because I wanted to use the time between graduating from my masters and starting work to prepare for interviews (hopefully). I felt comfortable with my interviewing skills because of all the networking I did during my Masters and all of the finance interviews I had. However, I still spent a lot of time preparing because I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I received one interview at Schulich and scheduled an early March interview date because I knew my workload would start to pick up if I delayed the process. I interviewed and felt okay about it all. Now the waiting began...luckily I had work to keep me distracted. As May 12 (decision day) grew closer I started picking apart every answer and felt nervous. Try not to do this. I woke up on May 12, 2020 to some fantastic new from Schulich and started to cry tears of joy with my partner. All of my hard work finally paid off. I am truly honoured and thrilled to be a part of the Schulich Med family.

PART IV - Takeaway

It took me 12 years to receive an acceptance to a Canadian medical school. That time consisted of 2 undergraduate degrees, 4 MCAT attempts a masters degree, working on Bay St. and 2 application cycles. There were a select few people in my corner and honestly I’m sure some of them lost faith in me. I remember being told to try for the Caribbean, Ireland, or Australia. I ignored their suggestions and chose to remain steadfast and believe in myself. By taking the harder path I grew a lot as an individual and was able to have some really cool experiences that I hope to draw from as I begin my journey as a medical student and beyond. Please never give up on your dream, the time it takes to accomplish something should not deter you from striving towards long term happiness and fulfillment.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions feel free to PM me

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This thread has been a pretty inspiring read. Thanks to everyone who has shared their stories; it has made me feel more welcome as a "mature" applicant, especially one that has a different background.

I am happy to report that I was accepted to med school this fall. My story is: I went to law school and worked in and out of the legal profession for about 10 years. About 4 years ago, I realized that it wouldn't be a good fit for me long term. I had previous experience working with vulnerable clients in the legal sector, and realized that being a doctor would be one way to help people in that capacity. I also had past experience working in clinical trials and a few personal experiences that have pushed me toward the direction of becoming a physician. In 2016, I took some high school science courses that I neglected to take, and subsequently finished a BSc (with distinction) in the following years. It has been absolutely refreshing to study science again and to feel so humbled by my lack of knowledge. I expect this will continue through med school and the entirety of my career.

I will be 38 by the time I graduate, and will be over 40 once I become a doctor (fingers crossed), but I am hopeful that the experience will be worth it in the end. 

If anyone has questions about my experience, please let me know. 

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