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Bluecan

Lacklustre/lacking extracurriculars

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Hello everyone,

I’m a Canadian (Ontario) student entering my 4th year of undergrad this September. I currently hold a 4.0 GPA. I have not yet written the MCAT; I was planning on writing it either this summer or next, since I had always planned on taking a gap year after undergrad. However, I am pretty worried about my lacklustre ECs and was wondering if anyone could give advice.

As part of a program that gives the top first-year students in each faculty the opportunity to do research with professors, I have (so far) 400 paid hours of research on (on paper; my actual lab offers me a lot less work but I am paid all the same for those hours). By the time I’m done my fourth year, I’ll have accumulated an additional 200 hours, bringing it to 600 hours of research (I am switching labs this coming year). I’ll also be doing an honours thesis next year, so that’ll be additional research experience. No publications.

Beyond this, I only have a couple of semesters as a peer mentor for first year students (which I will be continuing next year). I also joined a club in September as part of the exec team, and will continue my position there next year along with potentially joining the exec team of another undergrad club. I’m also going to be joining an undergrad tutoring aid organization. I am also going to begin volunteering at a hospital this summer.

One thing I am unsure counts is I am a self-taught programmer/web developer, which I began learning at the age of 12. I began freelancing my skills at the age of 16 and have continued to do so every year/summer as my sole source of income (I’m turning 21 this summer). I have thousands of hours doing that; the potential (?) problem is it’s all spread out for a bunch of random clients on the Internet. It’s also given me some management/leadership skills where I had to manage & lead different development teams to create a final product. I also volunteered my skills to build a game, but I doubt it will be up and running by the time I apply for med school.

Basically, what I’m asking is, how badly did I shoot myself in the foot? I know I have a good GPA, and I’m assuming (fingers crossed) that I can get a good MCAT score (I am SWOMEN, which helps with Western). I feel kind of hopeless with getting in because of my ECs. Do I have a chance of redeeming my ECs, or am I immediately out of the running? If so, does anyone have any suggestions on anything I can do beyond volunteering at the hospital? A lot of the clubs are already filled for the upcoming school year.

Final question; would it be worth it to write my MCAT this summer (end of August), or should I just focus on building up ECs and write it next summer?

Sorry for the long post, but I’m hoping somebody can help me out. I would be really grateful.

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Other people can comment on your ECs and what to do. Your 4.0 GPA and Swomen status are worth their weight in gold at Western. Your GPA is also great for Mac. Framing this situation in terms of the end goal (which is admission at a med school), I would focus on scoring a 128 + CARS for Mac, and a well-rounded MCAT to meet the UWO cutoffs (note that the sectional and overall cuttoffs for Swomen at UWO are quite low...with your GPA I would be surprised if you don't meet them). I would write the MCAT this summer so you can apply next year. If I was you, I would focus on the MCAT this summer....4 months of ECs isn't going to change your overall CV, but a good MCAT with your GPA will have you with 2 interviews next February. You should try and study 4-6 hours every day. That's my 2 cents anyways. I'm sure you'll get a diversity of opinions on here. 

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First off, ECs are hard to judge but they are unlikely to break your application the way a poor MCAT score or low GPA will. 

Med schools are ultimately looking for people that have sought out diverse experiences, demonstrated competency in these experiences (e.g: increased responsibilities at your job, volunteer experience, lab etc.), and have learned something from them (harder to demonstrate in OMSAS descriptions but doable in UofT's essays). 

As for your web development/programming experience, I'm sure it would be fine to list yourself or someone on your team who could speak to your experience and skills. If the schools have any issues with this they will get in contact with you and ask for more information but to be honest that's unlikely. 

To sum up, your far from out of the running, but your job right now is do well on the MCAT. Honestly though, that SWOMEN status makes you very likely to at least get an interview to Western when you apply.

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I agree with jr2, write the MCAT this summer so you can apply to Western and Mac where you're likely to have a good chance without stellar ECs (although you do need LORs). Maybe that'll be it for your premed days, but you can continue working on ECs during your 4th year in case that you don't. As mentioned, there is not much value in short-term ECs (not useless but long-time activities are generally better). Also, don't disregard your non-typical EC; med schools are interested in who you are, and as you said you learned some valuable skills from it that you can use to highlight CANMED competencies. 

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Thanks so much for the responses @jr2 @SureThing @Eudaimonia. Seems the general consensus is to write the MCAT, but to be honest, I feel like I'm a little late to the game. Applications are due in early October, so I would need to write my MCAT the latest (?) in mid-August so I can get my scores back in time. Do you guys think it's too late to do well, especially if I devote some time a week to volunteering at the hospital? Would it be the worst thing to just find as many volunteering opportunities as possible this summer and defer the MCAT to next summer, or should I just take my chances this cycle and get the MCAT done now?

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8 minutes ago, Bluecan said:

Thanks so much for the responses @jr2 @SureThing @Eudaimonia. Seems the general consensus is to write the MCAT, but to be honest, I feel like I'm a little late to the game. Applications are due in early October, so I would need to write my MCAT the latest (?) in mid-August so I can get my scores back in time. Do you guys think it's too late to do well, especially if I devote some time a week to volunteering at the hospital? Would it be the worst thing to just find as many volunteering opportunities as possible this summer and defer the MCAT to next summer, or should I just take my chances this cycle and get the MCAT done now?

Not at all, you can study for the MCAT in like 2 months if you don't have something else full time going on at the same time if you are efficient and have a science background. Order some Kaplan/EK books and online practice tests and you're good to go.

I'd also look into 1-2 other small manageable extracurriculars if you can that you enjoy. Just don't bite off more than you can chew and save some time in the week to relax and recharge.

Also, if you decide you want to write the MCAT, book a place to soon as I found that the locations fill up quickly and you may find yourself having to drive a far distance or on a less ideal date if you wait too long.

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Yeah a complete summer is enough to study for the MCAT, and you should check the date, I think the latest test date for Ontario is something in September (though you would be submitting your application before getting your score back). I was not doing full time MCAT studying both times I wrote it so you can definitely balance some ECs but at the same time be reasonable.  

Whereas you can start studying right now, some volunteer positions require paperwork that might delay the start of your volunteering so it would be a even shorter commitment prior to application deadlines. You can start those ECs after your MCAT, and still put them down even of you are there a few weeks (short term is short term but it should be obvious that you are continuing the activity during the application cycle)

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On 5/4/2018 at 2:29 PM, SureThing said:

First off, ECs are hard to judge but they are unlikely to break your application the way a poor MCAT score or low GPA will. 

 

Out of curiosity what kind of GPA or MCAT would you consider capable of breaking an application? or does it vary province by province significantly?

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39 minutes ago, ballsortahard said:

 

Out of curiosity what kind of GPA or MCAT would you consider capable of breaking an application? or does it vary province by province significantly?

Anything below cutoffs at whatever school in whatever province one happens to be applying. I meant break in a literal sense, as in making it futile or pointless to even apply. Naturally these cutoffs vary across provinces/schools for both MCAT and GPA. 

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On 5/4/2018 at 8:07 PM, Bluecan said:

Thanks so much for the responses @jr2 @SureThing @Eudaimonia. Seems the general consensus is to write the MCAT, but to be honest, I feel like I'm a little late to the game. Applications are due in early October, so I would need to write my MCAT the latest (?) in mid-August so I can get my scores back in time. Do you guys think it's too late to do well, especially if I devote some time a week to volunteering at the hospital? Would it be the worst thing to just find as many volunteering opportunities as possible this summer and defer the MCAT to next summer, or should I just take my chances this cycle and get the MCAT done now?

I didn't start a prep course for the MCAT until May and wrote in late August. I also am missing many of the science courses covered in the MCAT and I managed to pull of a 513 (my CARS and Psyc/Soc sections were what carried me), so I would say it's probably fine, but also don't push yourself if you really feel it's a stretch. One summer of activities isn't going to change much unless they're unique to you (do something that grabs you and has some significant impact). However, if you have a year or two to build on the activities you start this summer (in terms of hours) then that's a good place to focus your energy as well. I personally did both the summer I wrote the MCAT. Find your balance that allows you to do your own best. :)

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