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Comprehensible

Super Lucky... but super challenging decision (UBC vs U of A vs Ottawa vs Mac vs Toronto vs Western + 2 waitlists)

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I've recently received a number of offers of admission (many more than I expected - I might have over-applied a bit I guess).

I'm currently admitted to UBC (Victoria), Alberta, Ottawa, McMaster (Hamilton), Toronto (St. George) and Western (Unspecified). I'm also waitlisted at Queen's and Memorial. I'm from Ontario. I'm currently leaning towards UBC or Ottawa. I'm not sure what to look at to make a decision about any school. I'm interested in quite a few specialties, and am open to exploring more, so I don't think that is too big of a factor in the decision. 

Here are my pros and cons:

UBC:

Pros:

- Although I've never been, I've heard Victoria is super beautiful (it was my first choice of location for UBC) without the crazy costs of living of Vancouver, for example.

- UBC is, I believe, one of the higher "rated" schools in the country (although I know Canadian schools aren't really tiered like they are in the states).

- I love being on and around the water (although, admittedly, I'm more used to lakes than oceans) and Victoria would give me the opportunity to do so.

- It's relatively inexpensive (17k a year instead of 25k for most of Ontario).

- To my understanding, UBC has the "distributed campus" thing really well sorted out (better than any of the other schools I know of).

Cons:

- It's really far away from home

- I don't know if I'd have challenges matching back to Ontario for residency if I chose to do so (undecided at this point - I know lots of people fall in love with BC and never move home).

 

Alberta:

Pros:

- Very cheap (12k a year, but they also gave me a 3k a year scholarship, bringing it down to 9k)

- Also one of the higher rated schools I think.

Cons:

- Same as BC, plus it's super cold and I'm not sure if there's much to do in Edmonton

 

Ottawa:

Pros:

- Another really cool city with tons to do

- I've heard it has a really nice mix of PBL and normal courses

- I could try to regain the French that I've slowly been losing since the end of high school after my parents went to the effort of sending me to bilingual school as a kid

Cons:

- Also pretty far away 

- Expensive tuition

- Cold

 

Toronto:

Pros:

- Prestige

- Lots of opportunities to see a lot of high end hospitals

- Close to home

Cons:

- I've heard that the culture can be a bit toxic and the workload is higher than at other schools

- The city of Toronto is... not my favourite. It's super busy, you can't really drive anywhere, and the last time I went for a half hour walk I felt like I was constantly about to be hit by cars.

- I've also heard that because there are so many med students, clerks and residents, it can be hard to get any sort of hands-on experience

 

McMaster:

Pros:

- Close to home

- Some level of prestige

Cons:

- 3 year program - I'm not sure what I want to do

- I'm not sure how I feel about basically only having PBL

 

Western:

Pros:

- Close to home (if I end up at the London campus, which was my first choice).

- London is quite a bit like the that I grew up in and the one that I went to University in - a nice mid-sized (aka population of 100,000-500,000) place with lots of green space

Cons:

- The unspecified campus thing - I'd rather not go to Windsor

- The London campus seemed a bit worn down

 

Western was in my original top 4 (UBC, Ottawa, Queens, Western), but the unspecified campus kind of dropped it down. If I were admitted to Queen's, I'd also strongly consider it (close to the water, really nice building, solid school in general) - it'd likely compete with Ottawa and UBC.

Does anyone have any input? What else should I consider? I'm having trouble finding details about differences in curriculum, so if anyone can link me to them or explain the distinctions, that'd be awesome!

Also - side note - how do I go about finding start and end dates for schools? I have to a) figure out how much time I need off at the end of the summer, and b) figure out whether I can go back to my current job (which I love) next summer. 

 

EDIT: Another question - can I use OSAP if I go to UBC? If not, am I eligible for BC student loans? It would suck to be without any sort of government loans.

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First of all - congratulations! You probably feel like you've been given a ticket to the worlds best buffet and you can only pick one dish to eat.

I would suggest to try and eliminate schools that seem "attractive" but are ultimately not contenders. For instance, if city desirability trumps tuition cost, eliminate U of Alberta. If closeness to home trumps all - eliminate anything outside of Ontario. If 4 year programs trump 3 year programs, get rid of McMaster. If you hate 100% didactic curriculum or 100% PBL curriculum, get rid of Mac and any school that doesn't have a good chunk of PBL. 

Then you'll be down to schools that are actually comparable! Personally, I chose my school because I had already made many connections with diverse faculty members in my institution through undergrad. I wanted the ease in finding research opportunities and the flexibility to switch specialties if I wanted.

SIDE NOTE: I know others reading this may feel jealous that this person have 6 acceptances (it's natural to be, when you've been waitlisted or rejected), but look at it this way - OP will only be able to accept one, and the rest will be given to those on the wait list! That's 5 fellow applicants on the waitlist who will get an acceptance!! It could also be you!

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1 minute ago, FeelingTheBern said:

First of all - congratulations! You probably feel like you've been given a ticket to the worlds best buffet and you can only pick one dish to eat.

I would suggest to try and eliminate schools that seem "attractive" but are ultimately not contenders. For instance, if city desirability trumps tuition cost, eliminate U of Alberta. If closeness to home trumps all - eliminate anything outside of Ontario. If 4 year programs trump 3 year programs, get rid of McMaster. If you hate 100% didactic curriculum or 100% PBL curriculum, get rid of Mac and any school that doesn't have a good chunk of PBL. 

Then you'll be down to schools that are actually comparable! Personally, I chose my school because I had already made many connections with diverse faculty members in my institution through undergrad. I wanted the ease in finding research opportunities and the flexibility to switch specialties if I wanted.

SIDE NOTE: I know others reading this may feel jealous that this person have 6 acceptances (it's natural to be, when you've been waitlisted or rejected), but look at it this way - OP will only be able to accept one, and the rest will be given to those on the wait list! That's 5 fellow applicants on the waitlist who will get an acceptance!! It could also be you!

Thank you! I'm definitely torn, and I will be giving up those spots for others on the waitlist soon.

I think I'm mostly down to UBC vs Ottawa - the 3 year rules out Mac, the city of Toronto is pretty meh to me, I don't trust Western's "unspecified campus." Alberta wasn't originally high on my list, but its currently hard to discount, as 20k/year of savings is hard to turn down.

My undergrad doesn't have a medical school, so those connections that you mentioned don't exist for me :( . 

 

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Congrats!

Don't let the 3 years at Mac rule it out without more thought. A lot of people who had multiple attractive offers (my self included) chose Mac for that reason (along with a few others). Especially since it's close to home, cheaper to live in, cheaper tuition, not as crazy of city as Toronto but still has a lot going on. Plus if you really don't know what you want to do, you can take an extra year at Mac to explore, do way more clerkship/research, and still be done in the same time as a 4 year program.

Good luck!

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I’d also think about clerkship setup for the different schools. As far as I’ve heard, amount of elective time (UBC is highest AFAIK) is nice as is having core rotations before electives if you’re not totally sure of what you want to go after yet (like me lol). Mac’s clerkship setup I’ve heard leaves a little to be desired in that sense, and Western I’ve heard has an advantage here. Ottawa also seems to have less lecture/class time than UBC or UT (their schedules are 8:30-12:30 most of the week) - that might be either a pro or con to you. And of course the city/social factors- I got a sense of the smaller schools all having a tighter knit student body (maybe out of necessity?) and more one-on-one time with faculty/staff and opportunities to do stuff early on. On the other hand I’m personally wary of having only ~30 classmates you see basically all the time- harder to steer clear of clashing personalities that way. 

I’m personally leaning toward UBC (Vancouver campus) at the moment because I grew up here and don’t really mind a larger class size. I have seen a couple posts on here from students who weren’t super happy about the program though for various reasons, so further input from current students would be super appreciated (PM me?). 

Oh, and I’ve also heard that UT emphasizes research a little more than UBC, so that might be a factor to consider as well. 

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2 hours ago, vellichor said:

I’d also think about clerkship setup for the different schools. As far as I’ve heard, amount of elective time (UBC is highest AFAIK) is nice as is having core rotations before electives if you’re not totally sure of what you want to go after yet (like me lol). Mac’s clerkship setup I’ve heard leaves a little to be desired in that sense, and Western I’ve heard has an advantage here. Ottawa also seems to have less lecture/class time than UBC or UT (their schedules are 8:30-12:30 most of the week) - that might be either a pro or con to you. And of course the city/social factors- I got a sense of the smaller schools all having a tighter knit student body (maybe out of necessity?) and more one-on-one time with faculty/staff and opportunities to do stuff early on. On the other hand I’m personally wary of having only ~30 classmates you see basically all the time- harder to steer clear of clashing personalities that way. 

I’m personally leaning toward UBC (Vancouver campus) at the moment because I grew up here and don’t really mind a larger class size. I have seen a couple posts on here from students who weren’t super happy about the program though for various reasons, so further input from current students would be super appreciated (PM me?). 

Oh, and I’ve also heard that UT emphasizes research a little more than UBC, so that might be a factor to consider as well. 

Is UBC core before electives? How do I find out clerkship set ups?

Edit: also, if people do have concerns about UBC as mentioned above, please contact me too 

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47 minutes ago, Comprehensible said:

Is UBC core before electives? How do I find out clerkship set ups?

I believe all the 4 year schools are core before electives. Some schools like Western are 100% core before electives while schools like Queens usually have a few weeks early in clerkship to help you decide specialty. I think Queens is the most ideal because for people who are going for specialties that they don't experience on  core, it can help them determine if they really want that specialty or not while at the same time it gives them the chance to really perform and excel on their later electives.

With all that being said, think a bit about the pros and cons of each site. Idk how distributed sites work at UBC, but as a general rule, you might find it harder to get access to research, if that is something you are interested in doing. If you want a more competitive specialty that really relies on research, you might want to pick a school where you are at the main campus. 

UBC has a lot of elective time, matching back shouldn't be too hard of an issue especially if you aren't picky on location, you might also fall in love with BC you are right.

I've heard people say that you often overestimate how much you will really improve your French by living in a city like Ottawa. If this is something you are really interested in and will seek out, then yes it will work, however people even say that anglophones in Montreal often have trouble improving their French because everyone defaults to English as soon as they sense you aren't a native speaker. 

Regarding Mac, I think OP is right about the 3 year program. Because your last year in the program is essentially a wash since you are already applying to CaRMS, you really only have 2 yrs vs 3 years to decide what you want to do. Add on to having early clerkship electives in most streams, having to apply for electives 6-7 months in advance just to secure a spot, it often means you are ruling out specialties within just a few months of starting medical school and you need to be narrowed down to about 2-3 specialties by the time you are just finished first year. If you are someone who isn't sure about what they want to do, it can be stressful and challenging. Truthfully, it turns out fine most of the time, about 1/3rd of my classmates probably went into clerkship with 3 or so specialties in mind and for most, they found something and matched, but theres always a few people that had to make a decision and may be left with some "what if's" going into residency. 

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In terms of exploration, at Western you can take selectives during clerkship (rads, path, ophthal, and subspecialties within IM, surg, psych, peds, etc.) Only thing that's missing is dermatology really.

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18 hours ago, 1D7 said:

In terms of exploration, at Western you can take selectives during clerkship (rads, path, ophthal, and subspecialties within IM, surg, psych, peds, etc.) Only thing that's missing is dermatology really.

Is this not the standard? I thought you were able to explore whatever specialties interested you during electives.

Man it is really hard to find information about this stuff. IT would be awesome if clerkship information about all the schools could be compiled as the websites tend to be a bit vague.

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19 hours ago, 1D7 said:

In terms of exploration, at Western you can take selectives during clerkship (rads, path, ophthal, and subspecialties within IM, surg, psych, peds, etc.) Only thing that's missing is dermatology really.

This is true at Mac as well. We have a two week surgical selective and a two week internal medicine selective, and during psych we get to rank preferences for where we’ll go (typically two three week psych subspecialties.)

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Regarding Mac:

Forget prestige. That really just doesn’t matter. 

Hamilton is a decent place to live. I was surprised by how not awful it has been to live here. Still not intending to stay long-term, but we did decide to stay here during residency (which is a short commute from here, but not in Hamilton.)

Mac’s clerkship isn’t without it’s issues, true. The accelerated nature of it does force decisions early. But with options for horizontal electives from month 2 of medical school, and 7 weeks of preclerkship electives, you do get chances to explore. I went back and forth during clerkship (between OB/Gyn and FM) and ultimately I’m happy with my choice. I did have a lot of support from preceptors and staff docs who helped guide me in making my decision. 

Honestly I have actually really enjoyed the learning culture at Mac because it’s way more low-stress. But that enables people to be lazy about things if they want to be. It’s pretty easy to coast, IMO. But I personally find that I do better with internal pressure to succeed rather than external factors stressing me out, and I enjoyed my time here a lot. I found it very collegial and not at all cutthroat, which I’ve heard is more common at some schools but obviously I can’t speak to that personally since I’ve only ever gone here. It’s part of why I ranked Mac programs so high on my ROL and am happy to have matched here; I really like the learning environment.

The learning isn’t ONLY PBL. There are lectures, there are assessments, there are lots of options to take advantage of the fantastic resources Mac makes available to you. 

Like every school, there are areas of improvement but I can’t say I regret going to Mac in any way. It’s been a good experience. 

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7 hours ago, Birdy said:

Regarding Mac:

Forget prestige. That really just doesn’t matter. 

Hamilton is a decent place to live. I was surprised by how not awful it has been to live here. Still not intending to stay long-term, but we did decide to stay here during residency (which is a short commute from here, but not in Hamilton.)

Mac’s clerkship isn’t without it’s issues, true. The accelerated nature of it does force decisions early. But with options for horizontal electives from month 2 of medical school, and 7 weeks of preclerkship electives, you do get chances to explore. I went back and forth during clerkship (between OB/Gyn and FM) and ultimately I’m happy with my choice. I did have a lot of support from preceptors and staff docs who helped guide me in making my decision. 

Honestly I have actually really enjoyed the learning culture at Mac because it’s way more low-stress. But that enables people to be lazy about things if they want to be. It’s pretty easy to coast, IMO. But I personally find that I do better with internal pressure to succeed rather than external factors stressing me out, and I enjoyed my time here a lot. I found it very collegial and not at all cutthroat, which I’ve heard is more common at some schools but obviously I can’t speak to that personally since I’ve only ever gone here. It’s part of why I ranked Mac programs so high on my ROL and am happy to have matched here; I really like the learning environment.

The learning isn’t ONLY PBL. There are lectures, there are assessments, there are lots of options to take advantage of the fantastic resources Mac makes available to you. 

Like every school, there are areas of improvement but I can’t say I regret going to Mac in any way. It’s been a good experience. 

I second pretty much all of that. And I also want to emphasize something that people often forget when they say you have less opportunity to explore in a 3 year program...we have 7 weeks of pre-clerkship electives, and you can even break them up into 1 week at a time. It's not enough time to fully grasp a specialty (neither is a 2 week elective btw), but it's an amazing opportunity to really sample the variety of specialties.

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56 minutes ago, PhD2MD said:

I second pretty much all of that. And I also want to emphasize something that people often forget when they say you have less opportunity to explore in a 3 year program...we have 7 weeks of clerkship electives, and you can even break them up into 1 week at a time. It's not enough time to fully grasp a specialty (neither is a 2 week elective btw), but it's an amazing opportunity to really sample the variety of specialties.

you mean pre-clerkship electives, but yeah, those electives in the summer can be very helpful. 

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1 hour ago, PhD2MD said:

I second pretty much all of that. And I also want to emphasize something that people often forget when they say you have less opportunity to explore in a 3 year program...we have 7 weeks of clerkship electives, and you can even break them up into 1 week at a time. It's not enough time to fully grasp a specialty (neither is a 2 week elective btw), but it's an amazing opportunity to really sample the variety of specialties.

Yes there are 7 weeks of pre-clerkship electives, but it isn't easy to get access to all the specialties. For example, CTU is a lottery and most people don't win it. OB/GYN is also a lottery and same with a few other specialties. You also can't really go to other schools because you aren't actually officially in clerkship and aren't allowed to do proper "electives", so some people will arrange their own in the community. Additionally, because you are in preclerkship, you aren't usually given the responsibilities of a clerk and because you aren't in clerkship, there are certain things, like burnout/fatigue, that you just aren't going to experience during these pre-clerkship electives. 

These pre-clerkship electives are great, but i just want to say that they aren't equivalent to clerkship electives, better than shadowing experiences but considering that during these pre-clerkship electives you are already having to start booking your clerkship electives... it just doesn't seem to make sense. It would be nice if AFMC changed its rules so that electives are booked less in advance, maybe 3-4 months in advance because this can negatively affect 3 yr schools.  

 

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If you are down to a couple, I'd honestly just pick whatever city you would most like to live in. Especially if you have already decided you want a 4 year program. 

None of the schools will give yoga. Bad education if you put the effort in. 

I'd pick Queen's or UBC to be honest. But that's literally based on the fact that I love Victoria and Kingston. 

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4 hours ago, Organomegaly said:

it's a cute town to visit but i'd hate to be there for four years

My city and the one I did my undergrad in aren't all that much larger than kingston, so that part likely wouldn't be an issue - but I'm not admitted there anyways!

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Tough call. I would be hesitant to make decisions on cost, you will be on student loans, and afterwards, my understanding is that you will more than likely make up that cost afterwards.

I would be more heavily swayed by the fact that where you do your residency is strongly tied to where you clerk in your third year. That's not to say that you won't match outside your province, but my understanding is the majority stay in the province they train in. So in your situation I would want to think about where would I enjoy living most for an extended period of time. There isn't a wrong answer to this, just a consideration to think about.

I suspect you would find that each school has its own administrative quirks and program curiosities that you end up respecting or disliking, regardless of how carefully you try to sift out the pros and cons. How balanced your life is outside of that will likely play a strong role in how you weather the hurdles thrown your way. 
 

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On 5/15/2018 at 5:59 PM, Bambi said:

Another factor - home school advantage for residency. Go where you think you will want to live and practice. I found smaller classes better than large. 

Unfortunately, I haven't the foggiest. 

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