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What Should I Do If I Fail To Get Into Medical School?

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Hi guys,

 

So of course I would love to get into medical school on the first try, but to be completely honest with myself, my application is severely lacking. (No ECs, No volunteering, One summer of research, No pubs, No Submissions, Average GPA, writing MCAT next month).

I would be devastated if I don't get in, but I wouldn't be all that surprised.

 

I know this is really what I want to do, so even if it takes me 3+ tries, I'll do it.

 

What should I do with my time until reapplying the year after? (Or for the 2-3 years it takes me to get in?)

 

I was thinking about applying to college to get some practical training, or maybe getting a Master's.  Does anyone have any input on how much of an asset these would be to my application?

 

Of course, I'll go find a long-term volunteer placement and commit to it. Any suggestions?

 

Anything I can do to improve my GPA despite already finishing undergrad?  

Should I keep hunting for research ops? (I know that I really don't want to do research my future, though.)

 

Good luck to everyone this coming cycle, and thanks for your input! ♥

 

(My first choice is UofT, if that matters at all.)

 

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I'm not trying to be a downer, but if you actually have NO volunteering or ECs then it's not a matter of getting in your first try, you won't get in at all. Those are massively important parts of your application. It's not some "Oh it'll be a bit harder if you have no volunteering or ECs" thing, you're dead in the water without them.

 

Ottawa requires that all of that stuff is done during your undergrad, so if this is your last year you should try to pack plenty of things in if you want a chance there. I think other schools would be fine with you doing that stuff after. But you're going to be at a disadvantage even after 1 year of volunteering and doing other things besides work/school, because most other applicants will have done a lot more. I hope you're not hearing this for the first time, but the non-academic components of your application are just as important. I guess if you were planning on applying this year you could give it a go for the experience, but you really shouldn't expect any interviews (except maybe at Western if you make their MCAT cutoffs).

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Sorry, I'm not one to usually give advice (more often asking for it/needing on this forum), but I thought I'd my 2C and chime in here since I feel pretty confident that I can answer this one.

 

We could use some more info - like your current year of study (assuming you're going into fourth), if third year, then obviously, go back for fourth. It also sounds like you've got a good enough GPA (or feel as such), but I would like to see this too to offer advice. Lastly you sound dedicated. Good!

 

Since GPA isn't a problem (by the sounds of whatever average means for a pre-med.... my inner bias tells me AVG Premed ~3.9-4.0 ...), I think you should just take your degree, GPA and move on. Otherwise (anything 3.7-3.9ish) take a full-course (5 per semester) 5th year, and focus on building ECs during school time in fourth and fifth year. I've heard of some pre-med friends taking shortened course loads in a fifth to hit some pre-reqs or satisfy requirements, but I never saw much use in doing this unless your GPA is OPTIMUM and don't wish to improve upon it for schools like UofT or UWO where weighing depends on full course load. 

 

Next, doing a Masters is actually not recommended: it doesn't do much to improve your chances. This being said, I took such advice and ignored it (my GPA is also low/average whatever, in the 3.7s), and am enrolling in a 2 year MSc. before I pursue medicine again. I enjoy the topic enough to do in the case that I don't get into med (you sound sure you want to be there), and I feel that I will build research skills from the MSc. that can benefit me in medicine after I am accepted. Tl:dr - never do a masters for a the EXTRINSIC benefits. There isn't much there. I'm assuming college diplomas are similar situation. 

 

Write your MCAT asap, that's important. Focus on that for now, and apply to OMSAS etc. September.

 

Tl;dr: 

 

If your GPA is good (3.9+) go for a year off focusing on ECs - this can include a full time research job, patient care job, and some volunteering. I personally like work better than volunteering for a year since you get paid for your time. Some volunteer jobs, even in research, are a poor use of time IMO, depending on what you're doing. 

 

IF your GPA lacks and you return to school, definitely try to fill in some ECs while you are there. Worth-while ones that will get you some benefits - volunteer in a relevant club to kill some time (this isn't the best since general members don't do anything), on-campus response teams are good, orientation leading isn't bad, and definitely try to get research with a prof so you have a good LoR. 

 

Good luck!

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I'm not trying to be a downer, but if you actually have NO volunteering or ECs then it's not a matter of getting in your first try, you won't get in at all. Those are massively important parts of your application. It's not some "Oh it'll be a bit harder if you have no volunteering or ECs" thing, you're dead in the water without them.

 

Ottawa requires that all of that stuff is done during your undergrad, so if this is your last year you should try to pack plenty of things in if you want a chance there. I think other schools would be fine with you doing that stuff after. But you're going to be at a disadvantage even after 1 year of volunteering and doing other things besides work/school, because most other applicants will have done a lot more. I hope you're not hearing this for the first time, but the non-academic components of your application are just as important. I guess if you were planning on applying this year you could give it a go for the experience, but you really shouldn't expect any interviews (except maybe at Western if you make their MCAT cutoffs).

 

 

Excellent post! Definitely a sense of urgency considering UofO policy - I never knew that was a requirement, but haven't heard of other schools with same problem.

 

I disagree that OP should simply give up on this cycle. Chances are they aren't getting in - I had no chance last cycle, I probably won't this one either. I'd say for $800 its worth a shot in the dark and perhaps some experience writing the apps, maybe interviewing and overall just understanding where your weaknesses are as an applicant. Otherwise, OP is left applying off a whim in two years when for all we know they luck out and end up in a program next yr.

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Definitely start working on your EC's. Find commitments you enjoy and that incorporate CanMEDS roles which you can illustrate in your applications and interviews. Also use this as a platform to find people who can write good LoR's as these are important for some schools.

 

But without any EC's, it is still possible to get interviews at Western and McMaster in Ontario.

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But without any EC's, it is still possible to get interviews at Western and McMaster in Ontario.

 

Right, I forgot that Mac doesn't look at your ABS pre-interview either. So if the OP does well on CARS then Mac might be possible, and if the entire MCAT goes really well add Western. It's just that no school that looks at your ABS (or your resume for OOP) would be possible right now.

 

ECs/volunteering should be your biggest priority for the next couple years, while working or taking an extra year if your GPA isn't there.

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I'm not trying to be a downer, but if you actually have NO volunteering or ECs then it's not a matter of getting in your first try, you won't get in at all. Those are massively important parts of your application. It's not some "Oh it'll be a bit harder if you have no volunteering or ECs" thing, you're dead in the water without them.

 

Ottawa requires that all of that stuff is done during your undergrad, so if this is your last year you should try to pack plenty of things in if you want a chance there. I think other schools would be fine with you doing that stuff after. But you're going to be at a disadvantage even after 1 year of volunteering and doing other things besides work/school, because most other applicants will have done a lot more. I hope you're not hearing this for the first time, but the non-academic components of your application are just as important. I guess if you were planning on applying this year you could give it a go for the experience, but you really shouldn't expect any interviews (except maybe at Western if you make their MCAT cutoffs).

 

I truly appreciate your honesty.  I used to volunteer in hospitals when I was in high school, but they barely make the cut-off of "within 5 years" and I have done NO ECs during my undergrad because my family was in a bad financial situation so I worked to help pay for my own education, transit and expenses. 

 

I plan to apply to volunteer in a health clinic, but these won't make it onto my ABS by the time I submit my application.

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I truly appreciate your honesty.  I used to volunteer in hospitals when I was in high school, but they barely make the cut-off of "within 5 years" and I have done NO ECs during my undergrad because my family was in a bad financial situation so I worked to help pay for my own education, transit and expenses. 

 

I plan to apply to volunteer in a health clinic, but these won't make it onto my ABS by the time I submit my application.

 

Oh, sorry I thought you'd have mentioned if you worked. That actually changes a lot, at the end of the day what ECs/volunteering show is that you can handle getting a high GPA while pursuing other interests as well. While it'll still be good to get some volunteering done, if you had to work a significant number of hours/week to pay for your education then it'll be understandable why you couldn't participate in other ECs. It's really a matter of work/ECs/volunteering, so if you have one that demanded a huge portion of your time (ex: working to pay tuition, high level athlete, running your own charitable organization) then it's alright to be lighter on the others. Volunteering while you do whatever you decide to do now though, will still be very beneficial.

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Sorry, I'm not one to usually give advice (more often asking for it/needing on this forum), but I thought I'd my 2C and chime in here since I feel pretty confident that I can answer this one.

 

We could use some more info - like your current year of study (assuming you're going into fourth), if third year, then obviously, go back for fourth. It also sounds like you've got a good enough GPA (or feel as such), but I would like to see this too to offer advice. Lastly you sound dedicated. Good!

 

Since GPA isn't a problem (by the sounds of whatever average means for a pre-med.... my inner bias tells me AVG Premed ~3.9-4.0 ...), I think you should just take your degree, GPA and move on. Otherwise (anything 3.7-3.9ish) take a full-course (5 per semester) 5th year, and focus on building ECs during school time in fourth and fifth year. I've heard of some pre-med friends taking shortened course loads in a fifth to hit some pre-reqs or satisfy requirements, but I never saw much use in doing this unless your GPA is OPTIMUM and don't wish to improve upon it for schools like UofT or UWO where weighing depends on full course load. 

 

Next, doing a Masters is actually not recommended: it doesn't do much to improve your chances. This being said, I took such advice and ignored it (my GPA is also low/average whatever, in the 3.7s), and am enrolling in a 2 year MSc. before I pursue medicine again. I enjoy the topic enough to do in the case that I don't get into med (you sound sure you want to be there), and I feel that I will build research skills from the MSc. that can benefit me in medicine after I am accepted. Tl:dr - never do a masters for a the EXTRINSIC benefits. There isn't much there. I'm assuming college diplomas are similar situation. 

 

Write your MCAT asap, that's important. Focus on that for now, and apply to OMSAS etc. September.

 

Tl;dr: 

 

If your GPA is good (3.9+) go for a year off focusing on ECs - this can include a full time research job, patient care job, and some volunteering. I personally like work better than volunteering for a year since you get paid for your time. Some volunteer jobs, even in research, are a poor use of time IMO, depending on what you're doing. 

 

IF your GPA lacks and you return to school, definitely try to fill in some ECs while you are there. Worth-while ones that will get you some benefits - volunteer in a relevant club to kill some time (this isn't the best since general members don't do anything), on-campus response teams are good, orientation leading isn't bad, and definitely try to get research with a prof so you have a good LoR. 

 

Good luck!

 

Thanks for the input!  

 

My OMSAS GPA is a 3.82. My wGPA for UofT is a 3.9.  

I'm going into my fourth year now.  

I believe my LoRs will be very good (a professor who genuinely wants his students to do well, a MD/PhD (assistant prof) that I shadowed in his clinic and was a research assistant for (the one summer), and my boss from work as a non-academic reference (who also happens to hold a science degree and tutors students so I believe in his writing skills).

 

I plan on trying to apply for on-campus responders this year (honestly didn't know this existed until a week ago) and to a sexual health clinic as a volunteer.  These won't make it onto my ABS for the application cycle unfortunately, but it would be nice to have them for the next cycle when I apply again.

 

I genuinely am interested in a Masters.  I would plan to do one should I complete my MD anyway. 

 

Thanks for the advice! I will take it to heart.  

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I truly appreciate your honesty.  I used to volunteer in hospitals when I was in high school, but they barely make the cut-off of "within 5 years" and I have done NO ECs during my undergrad because my family was in a bad financial situation so I worked to help pay for my own education, transit and expenses. 

 

I plan to apply to volunteer in a health clinic, but these won't make it onto my ABS by the time I submit my application.

 

 

 I don't really blame you for not being able to gain a lot of 'volunteer experiences' since you were placed in a very tough situation. I know a lot of people who also had to work almost 40 hours and were taking 3-4 courses/semester, so they could spare themselves from getting so much debt! Nevertheless, I suggest that you should start volunteering at a local hospital or retirement homes (or any meaningful organizations at your community). 

It's not too late for you, but I agree with other people in this forum, it may take a bit longer for you to get in, but you know what, at least you will gain a lot of experiences. 

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Oh, sorry I thought you'd have mentioned if you worked. That actually changes a lot, at the end of the day what ECs/volunteering show is that you can handle getting a high GPA while pursuing other interests as well. While it'll still be good to get some volunteering done, if you had to work a significant number of hours/week to pay for your education then it'll be understandable why you couldn't participate in other ECs. It's really a matter of work/ECs/volunteering, so if you have one that demanded a huge portion of your time (ex: working to pay tuition, high level athlete, running your own charitable organization) then it's alright to be lighter on the others. Volunteering while you do whatever you decide to do now though, will still be very beneficial.

 

Oh! I didn't think my work would level the field a bit, sorry for not mentioning it.  I did work a lot, but the job itself isn't very impressive or clinically related (a server).  I do interact with people constantly on the job, but I guess it will depend on how much I can sell myself.

I still appreciate your honesty in the last post.  I don't have people around me to give me that kind of response.  I will work harder to make myself a more competitive applicant!

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Oh! I didn't think my work would level the field a bit, sorry for not mentioning it.  I did work a lot, but the job itself isn't very impressive or clinically related (a server).  I do interact with people constantly on the job, but I guess it will depend on how much I can sell myself.

I still appreciate your honesty in the last post.  I don't have people around me to give me that kind of response.  I will work harder to make myself a more competitive applicant!

The type of activity matters much less than what you learned from it. Clinical activities aren't necessary.

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I truly appreciate your honesty.  I used to volunteer in hospitals when I was in high school, but they barely make the cut-off of "within 5 years" and I have done NO ECs during my undergrad because my family was in a bad financial situation so I worked to help pay for my own education, transit and expenses. 

 

I plan to apply to volunteer in a health clinic, but these won't make it onto my ABS by the time I submit my application.

Work is an EC. It's outside of school, therefore extra-curricular. I usually tell people to pursue ECs that's they are passionate about, and to follow a path that will lead to a fulfilling career, should they never make it into medicine. Some even find careers that they love, and decide not to pursue medicine at all. I'm one of those (had 2 wait lists first year applying, then decided medicine wasn't for me).

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Thanks for the input!  

 

My OMSAS GPA is a 3.82. My wGPA for UofT is a 3.9.  

I'm going into my fourth year now.  

I believe my LoRs will be very good (a professor who genuinely wants his students to do well, a MD/PhD (assistant prof) that I shadowed in his clinic and was a research assistant for (the one summer), and my boss from work as a non-academic reference (who also happens to hold a science degree and tutors students so I believe in his writing skills).

 

I plan on trying to apply for on-campus responders this year (honestly didn't know this existed until a week ago) and to a sexual health clinic as a volunteer.  These won't make it onto my ABS for the application cycle unfortunately, but it would be nice to have them for the next cycle when I apply again.

 

I genuinely am interested in a Masters.  I would plan to do one should I complete my MD anyway. 

 

Thanks for the advice! I will take it to heart.  

Focus on your essays, and you have a shot at UofT. Work is just as good an EC than volunteering. References are hugely important for Toronto, so pick very wisely and make sure to cover all the 4 clusters they specify online. And a masters would be very helpful if you reapplied there too

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do whatever you would've done if med school wasn't in the equation--provided your GPA isn't the problem; if it is, then fix that.

 

Learn from all your experiences, and develop into a more reflective and compassionate person. those traits will serve you well no matter where you end up, medicine or not.

 

Btw instead of framing it as "failing to get into med school" I like to think of it as "not getting into med school yet" or "being lead to a path different from medicine".

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Do you really want to go to medical school, it might be as good as you think it is right now. 

I do.  I realise it's not rainbows and cookies.  It's going to be hard.  I'm going to run around like crazy, not have time to eat, plunged into a debt that I may barely, if ever, crawl out from, and then have to do this all over again for residency, and fight for 10 years straight (at least) before I get my license to practice.  

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Oh! I didn't think my work would level the field a bit, sorry for not mentioning it.  I did work a lot, but the job itself isn't very impressive or clinically related (a server).  I do interact with people constantly on the job, but I guess it will depend on how much I can sell myself.

I still appreciate your honesty in the last post.  I don't have people around me to give me that kind of response.  I will work harder to make myself a more competitive applicant!

 

 

A vast majority of my ECs were work rather than volunteer if that helps at all. In fact I had several top 10 items that are directly related to my work on my application. I focused on what I learned through my work and why I chose to do the work I did in some cases (and "I realized that my family needed me to financially support my own education due to economic issues beyond our control so I did what I had to do in order to achieve the education I needed" is absolutely a valid and admirable reason to work).

 

I had to work full time through my undergrad and grad program. Instead of trying to gloss over my lack of volunteer work I highlighted my paid work as an indicator that I recognized what I needed to do in order to achieve the educational goals I wanted and took action to do it.

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Look at the CanMEDS competencies in relation to your work.

 

 

Yes! This x1000. When I was picking what to write about I arranged everything based on CanMEDS. In addition to being the criteria by which you are judged, I also found it to be a useful framework for structuring my application.

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A vast majority of my ECs were work rather than volunteer if that helps at all. In fact I had several top 10 items that are directly related to my work on my application. I focused on what I learned through my work and why I chose to do the work I did in some cases (and "I realized that my family needed me to financially support my own education due to economic issues beyond our control so I did what I had to do in order to achieve the education I needed" is absolutely a valid and admirable reason to work).

 

I had to work full time through my undergrad and grad program. Instead of trying to gloss over my lack of volunteer work I highlighted my paid work as an indicator that I recognized what I needed to do in order to achieve the educational goals I wanted and took action to do it.

 

This gives me a bit of reassurance, thanks! :)

 

If I may ask: By top 10 items, do you mean entries for the ABS?  How were you able to divide your jobs into that many items?

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This gives me a bit of reassurance, thanks! :)

 

If I may ask: By top 10 items, do you mean entries for the ABS?  How were you able to divide your jobs into that many items?

The non-Ontario schools all have different applications, I don't think they're referring to the ABS specifically

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This gives me a bit of reassurance, thanks! :)

 

If I may ask: By top 10 items, do you mean entries for the ABS?  How were you able to divide your jobs into that many items?

 

 

Sorry, the U of C has a different app than Ontario. At the U of C you write out your "Top 10" which are basically your top 10 accomplishments/life experiences that give your reviewers a peek behind the curtain and speak to who you really are (and they should also convince your reviewer that you are super cool and have all of the wonderful CanMEDs traits). I didn't apply in Ontario so I'm not sure how the ABS works... Sorry! 

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