UnconventionalMed reacted to garceyues in 2021 UCalgary Interview Invites/Regrets
TIME STAMP: 4:28 PM MST
Result: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh Invite!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
MCAT: 512, 126 CARS!!!!!!
ECs: I think this was the decisive factor for me. You can see the U of A invites/rejections thread for my specific activities, but my U of C top 10 was crafted around some very specific themes that spanned multiple activities and experiences. I sought to tell somewhat of a story with my entries to showcase my personal growth and how I was personally impacted. I grouped as many as ~5 activities into one entry, and I conversely dedicated three separate entries around one specific theme. Mixture of unstructured experiential activities and more traditional activities. It seems that I'm easily one of the lower stat applicants on this thread (especially with CARS), so hopefully this provides a bit of hope to those of us without exceedingly competitive stats.
WOW, I sincerely ugly cried upon opening this email. As I got into my car after work, I opened **DELETED** to see a thread saying that U of C invites were out. I chose not to open my email till I got home because I didn't want to spoil my car ride lol. I truly thought I would never get to this point, and I am SO immensely grateful to receive an interview to a Canadian medical school. I was really down after receiving the U of A rejection, but I guess this goes to show that defeatism is not the way! This isn't over yet, and I will absolutely MMI prep myself to death, but I think its super important to take in the little victories. Thank you to everyone on this site that helped me craft my top 10, I probably wouldn't be in this position without the generosity of you all
UnconventionalMed reacted to Butterfly_ in Success Stories- Non Trad Style!
This thread inspired me and gave me hope to pursue my medical school dream. Thank you to all that have posted on here before. You have all truly touched my heart.
It is because of your stories, that today, I also have the pleasure of posting here and sharing my own journey.
When I was younger and about to head to university, I had a tough time choosing between pursuing a business degree or a science degree. At that time, I knew my interests were in biology and psychology, but seeing my parents labouring hard on the farm, I felt pressured to help support the family and make money fast. So, I decided to pursue a finance degree, work in investment banking, and provide enough money to make my family comfortable, then pursue my interests afterward.
It was a naïve and misguided plan.
From the first moment in business school, I already felt like I didn’t fit in.
This feeling got worse 4 years later when I began working in investment banking. The hours were grueling, and I was completely uninterested in what I was doing. I kept at it for 2.5 years because it helped me pay my debts, supported my family, and made my parents proud.
But one day, I reached my breaking point.
I was out of shape, burnt out, and depressed. I woke up dreading the new day to begin. So, I finally quit, at the shock of my parents. They didn’t understand why I would give up a lucrative and prestigious career. I didn’t know how to explain it to them either.
So, I decided to travel. Backpacked by myself across Southeast Asia for 6 months. When I was in Cambodia wandering the night markets, I walked past a bookstand selling novels for $1 USD. Not sure if it was fate or intuition, but I chose to buy the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
It was a book that changed my life.
It helped me rediscover my passion and interests in life. I started focusing on things that I loved to do. Travel. Eat. Exercise. Health. Science. Languages.
During this process of self-discovery, I developed a strong interest in healthcare and medicine. However, I was still too afraid to pursue it. The time, the commitment, and the financial burden all seemed too daunting. I also convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough to be a doctor. That I wouldn’t be able to handle the responsibilities that came with life and death.
So, I became a travel agent instead.
I had a lot of fun, met many amazing people, and excelled at the role. I traveled to over 35 countries. Life was exciting, and I felt content. However, the idea of medicine never left my mind. It kept gnawing at me every day and I eventually began to feel too comfortable at my job.
It was at this time I met my fiancée (on Tinder, lol.) He was in his 3rd year of pharmacy and applying to medicine at the same time. His mother was a nurse. His grandmother was a military doctor.
I was suddenly immersed in a world of healthcare.
Watching my fiancée work hard and challenge himself every day made something click in me. I started to think that I might still have a chance at medical school.
Couple months later, I went on a Mediterranean cruise with my family. I was sitting in the hot tub and decided to strike up a conversation with the person next to me.
We talked, and he asked me what I did. I'm not sure what came over me, but for the first time in my life, I told someone out loud, "I'm going to become a doctor."
It was a liberating moment. Everything suddenly felt real and achievable.
And fate would have it, the person whom I was talking was an army doctor who graduated from McGill Medical School.
He was traveling with his wife in Europe before beginning his next station in the UK.
He said, "Go for it!" And I did.
I quit my job in December 2016 and began studying for the MCAT full time.
I also enrolled in 2 semesters of English to obtain enough credits to meet the UBC admission requirements.
After 5 years without reading a textbook, it was a brutal transition.
And with zero science prerequisites under my belt, it was so much harder than I thought.
Furthermore, some of my friends and family did not take me seriously and discouragingly told me not to "waste my time."
It was a challenging few months. Many days, I felt overwhelmed.
But, I survived due to a wonderful support network. I listened to those who believed in me and ignored the ones who were negative.
I acknowledged my weaknesses and sought help and advice.
I studied 8-10 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 7 months and self-taught myself the sciences.
I took the exam in July 2017 and achieved a score of 508.
It was below the average admission score, but good enough to give the application a try. I applied widely to as many schools as I could.
5 schools rejected me.
3 schools interviewed me.
And a miracle happened.
I got an acceptance.
It was an unbelievable moment. I felt all the worry, pain, and doubt just wash away. All the time I spent, all the risks I took, all the sacrifices I made, paid off.
Everything was worth it and I was the happiest girl in the world.
Finally, at 27 years old, I will begin medical school in Fall of 2018.
The moral of my story:
Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can or cannot achieve. Only you can decide that for yourself.
Also, remember that:
"We are, at any moment, capable of pursuing our dreams...
And, when you want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
- The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
If medicine is your dream, don't give up. Never, ever give up.
I sincerely wish you the best of luck on your journey.
UnconventionalMed reacted to Egg_McMuffin in Success Stories- Non Trad Style!
It’s going to be a long one. I wrote all of this before I got in, because there is something wonderfully raw and vulnerable about documenting my reflections while I’m still on the outside looking in. I knew that if I was unsuccessful this cycle, I would still read it to remind myself of how far I’ve come.
My non-trad path is nothing unusual- I suppose I am just a late bloomer who paid her dues after the fact. The biggest challenge for me, throughout this whole journey, was lacking the protective factors to cushion the falls. I have been financially independent, which means choices were often made to have a financial safety net rather than for improving my med school applications. I had no one within my social network to guide me; my family has not been supportive of my decisions, so I felt like I could never turn to them (as of now they still don’t know that I interviewed and got accepted). This forum taught me everything I needed to know about getting into medical school, and that being a physician is still a possibility for someone like me.
I began university when I was 18, completely lacking in self-awareness and nowhere near ready to make any sort of decisions about my future. I went to UofT for life sciences. There’s that joke: “How many UofT students does it take to change a light bulb? Four; one to change it and three to crack under the pressure”. Well, I was one of the three. My time at UofT was the closest I’d come to being depressed. My marks were atrocious; I felt worthless and incompetent all the time. My family didn’t understand- and didn’t know how to- help me; no one told me “you should stop and figure your shit out before completely ruining your transcript”. I tried going to counselling but felt like I was not being listened to, so I never went back. Something was very wrong, I didn’t know what or how to fix it.
Things at home were bad. In my final year, I cut all financial ties with my parents, and moved out- I needed to become my own person. The independence was exhilarating. The financial stress was real, but my mental health also improved 100%, and I gained the energy and mental clarity to finally start thinking about what I wanted in life. Unfortunately, at this point my marks (cGPA of 3.1, no year above 3.5) were useless for any post-grad program. I applied to Michener’s medical radiation program, a second-entry bachelor program, to become an X-ray tech. I got accepted, but opted to not attend-- for the first time, I thought about what I wanted in my career, and decided it was not for me.
I decided to take a year off and consider other second degree options. I started to look into becoming a dietitian (other RDs on this forum, like Real Beef, were very helpful). This would be a competitive process with a lot more uncertainty than going to Michener. I had a lot to prove and nothing to show for it. I used the year to work several minimum wage jobs in healthcare to save up money for a year of unpaid dietetic internship that would follow my second undergrad, while getting volunteer experience in nutrition to start building my resume for dietetic internship applications.
I started my second degree in nutrition with a lot of self-doubt. After UofT, I was uncertain that I could even pull off low 80s. I was sure that everyone was smarter than me, and that I was the loser who flunked a whole degree but still couldn’t keep up. But I also had a level of mental clarity and focus that I’d never felt before. And low and behold, I ended up finishing my first year with the highest average in my program. A 3.94.
It was then that I realized I was onto something-for the first time, it seemed like medicine could be a possibility. I decided to extend my second degree into 3 years, to be eligible for Ottawa (ironically, I never interviewed at Ottawa), while building my application for dietetic internships. This led me to different opportunities in leadership, teaching, and working with low SES populations. After 2 years into my second degree, I wrote the MCAT while working full-time and self-teaching myself the material despite taking (and flunking) my pre-reqs 4-5 years before that. I was pleasantly surprised with a balanced 514 (however, with a CARS of 128, it was never good enough for Western). The year after, I graduated from my second degree with the highest cumulative average in my program.
It took me 3 cycles to get my first and only interview at Queen’s. During my second cycle, I was completing my dietetic internship, which provided many opportunities to gain clinical and counselling skills, work with marginalized populations, lead QI projects, and work within interdisciplinary teams- I learned more about my interest and suitability for medicine in this 1 year than I had in my whole life prior to this. Internship was hard work, but also gave me small boosts of confidence and signs I am not a complete dumbass (e.g. a nephrologist who had no idea that I was applying to med, after listening to my renal case presentation, told me how impressed he was that I’ve shown level of knowledge that he’d only expect from a senior medical resident; 2 of my preceptors said that in their 10-20 years teaching, they’ve never seen a student work so hard to improve herself and be so dedicated to her patients; rotation after rotation I was praised for my critical thinking skills and natural ease in developing rapport with patients). This wasn’t just about ticking off boxes to get into med, but about developing my passion for hands-on learning and learning about my strengths and weaknesses as a professional. For the first time in my life, I thought “maybe I am good enough to become a doctor.”
When I submitted my application for the third cycle, I had just graduated from internship and started working in public health in Northern Ontario. I moved here because I wanted to continue to step outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to do more advocacy and upstream work, and this was the place to do it. At around the time of decision day, I had applied to RD jobs in Alberta to gain IP status for U of C.
So here’s what I’ve learned in the last five years:
· Know yourself. Know your identity outside of being a premed. Figure out what your values are, what kind of a person you want to be, what drives you to take action, what triggers your mind to go down dark rabbit holes. This takes time and effort, and self-reflection from life experiences, but it helps to build resilience against the hurdles along the application process, medical training, and set-backs life in general. Knowing who you are and what you have to offer the world protects you against having your self-esteem and identity shattered when things don’t go as you had hoped; it gives you the courage to say “let’s try again.” when the world seems to tells you “you are not good enough.” Similarly, I hear too often that when people have spent their whole life dedicated to getting into med school, that when they finally get in, they feel a bit lost- “now what?”. I suppose that happens when you see getting in as a final destination rather than one of the stops along a never-ending journey of building yourself up. People around me couldn’t fathom where I got the persistence to keep at it despite facing setbacks and watching the years go by. It’s because I knew there is nothing valuable that a rejection can take away from me. I have been building myself up as a person. I am still going to be me, no matter what happens inside that interview room, and what May 8th brings. I still possess all the traits that I worked hard to develop and love about myself- my grit, self-awareness, intellectual curiosity, empathy, open-mindedness- and these are all going to carry me far in life, medicine or not. No rejection letter can take that away from me. · Figure out what you want to accomplish in medicine, outside of medicine. I always ask myself: what's appealing about a career as a physician, and how can I try to achieve it through another route? What skills do I want to use on a day to day basis in my career? What core values and beliefs will motivate me to do what I do in my career? I think reflecting on this helps to flesh out your motivations for pursuing medicine, helps to identify alternative career paths, and should you pursue an alternative path while you reapply, helps you to gain insights and skills that will be useful for medicine. Hopefully the adcoms will recognize this. If not, well, at least your satisfaction with your alternative path will still be pretty high. · Be kind to yourself. The playing field is not even, and you don’t need to add an additional layer of self-inflicted cruelty to the mix. It’s ok to not feel 100% determined all the time. When the self-doubt starts to creep in, sit on it, talk to someone (in my opinion, everyone should have a therapist). Use the insights from the above 2 points to ground yourself and as motivation to keep going. · Develop yourself in areas outside of academics. What saved me was working minimum wage jobs since I was 16 (I actually started out cleaning bathrooms, after I was fired from scooping ice cream for being too socially inept. True story.). 75% of my activities on my ABS were employment. I had to work, because I did not come from a background as privileged as that of many premeds. If the circumstances were different, perhaps I would’ve gotten in earlier. But the real world was the best teacher I’ve ever had- it helped me develop financial independence and literacy, character, resilience, and interpersonal skills that helped me along every step of this journey. It helped to shape my convictions of the kind of physician, what kind of person, I want to be. Ease yourself into uncomfortable situations today to build resilience against shit-hitting-the-fan moments later in life. ---
I also want to say that sometimes on these forums, we read non-trad stories and it seems like people were 100% determined from the get-go while they stayed on this one path for 4-10 years. I know I wasn’t…and that’s ok. As a non-trad, you have more life decisions to make along your journey, some big, some small. I know that I had to make many decisions over the years to favour either my nutrition career, chances for med school, or my personal life- many times, these three conflicted. There’s no right way to go about it- it depends on your risk tolerance, other responsibilities in life, and priorities. Know yourself…this is so, so important.
I feel so privileged that everything in my life lined up so perfectly to allow me to pursue this path long enough to eventually get accepted. I’m always happy to chat about second degrees, being an RD, or anything related. Stay positive and kind to yourself, PM101.
UnconventionalMed reacted to clever_smart_boy_like_me in Success Stories- Non Trad Style!
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...
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 GOING TO BE A DOCTOR!!
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
UnconventionalMed reacted to MedSomeday in Success Stories- Non Trad Style!
I never thought I would post in this thread. As my username suggests, getting into medical school seemed like a pipe dream when I first started out. Even after being accepted last year in 2018, I wasn’t sure if I should post, as several of these ideas have already been expressed in this thread with far more compelling life stories! Nonetheless, I do hope that by posting my own story here, it will provide some assistance to those who are in a similar position that I was in, and give further proof that it is possible.
When I began my first undergraduate, I was lazy and arrogant. I wasted most of my time and skipped classes and even exams. I never needed a job to pay for rent or food, because of the love and support my parents gave me. I didn’t have any illnesses or personal problems that detracted from my studies. In short, there were no external reasons for me to be unsuccessful. I was given every resource and support that a student could hope for, and I squandered it all. In fact, I knew what I was doing was wrong every single day and I still did nothing to change it. Three years went by in this way, until I failed a course and became quite depressed. I remember stopping on a sidewalk on the way back home because I just couldn’t see the point of taking one more step. When I began having suicidal ideation, I knew I needed help.
I was lucky enough to find an incredible counselor who helped put me back together. Without them, I am certain this story would not be possible, and I will be forever grateful. I came to see that a major factor for my depression was a lack of purpose. I wasn’t doing something that made my existence worthwhile. For the next few months, I reflected upon what kind of person I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do with my life. From my political science courses on humanitarian crises, I knew that I wanted to address the acute suffering in the world. From my volunteering experiences, I knew I was happiest when I could help people directly and cause a positive and meaningful impact. Add in a few inspirational role models, and I eventually decided I wanted to become a doctor. I believe it is how I can gain the skills and knowledge necessary to help those in great need, by providing them with a better chance at life and happiness. This was the goal and purpose I held onto, and which made all of the ensuing hardships worthwhile. I cannot over stress how important this was for me.
Now, I had a direction. But I was filled with doubt. Part of this doubt was because of the very high standards required to enter medical school. My grades were abysmal, and my CV was practically non-existent. It would take a lot of work and effort to achieve those standards, and I had not shown I was capable of it.
But my greatest uncertainty came from the fear that I could not change who I was. At this time, I was reading Crime and Punishment, where there is a character called Marmeladov. He is repeatedly given jobs and opportunities, but can never hold onto them as he would quickly use any money he earned to become drunk again. He is intelligent and has the best of intentions. He loves his family very dearly and wants to provide for them, but no matter how much he wishes to change, he cannot. Then, he dies.
I was terrified that I was Marmeladov. I wanted to change, to become something better than the lazy person who did not deserve the love of his parents. I wanted to become a force for good, and to possess the ability to heal and comfort others. But maybe I couldn’t change. Maybe this was all I would ever amount to. Maybe this was who I am.
And so began my path to medical school. The hardest part was the beginning. I threw myself into my studies and worked harder and harder. Every now and then, I would slip back into old habits but again I would force myself to return to my work. I was driven by the hope of what I could become and do, and the fear of what I would remain as if I failed.
My term grades came back, and the work had paid off! But I still didn’t believe myself. Maybe it was a fluke. My 4th year began, and again I worked harder than before. I also began delving into extracurricular activities that I was passionate about, to see if I had the capacity to do both. This was also when I asked around this forum, and was given advice to pursue a second undergraduate. After completing my 4th year with my highest marks yet (but still, not competitive), I went directly into a second undergraduate.
Starting my second undergraduate was awkward at times, as I was back in introductory classes where my fellow students were 4 years younger than I. Explaining my age and why I was there often drew a few raised eyebrows, and understandably so. But again, I focused on my work and extracurriculars that I loved. I had found my groove, and had developed the discipline and work ethic to succeed academically. I dedicated a summer to rewriting the MCAT and scored very well. I applied every year, and finally, at the end of my second undergraduate, I was accepted to my first choice. It was a medical school I had been inspired to attend by one of my past teachers and mentors, who had taught me to see medicine as a vocation of social responsibility. The school’s emphasis on the human side of medical care was aligned with what I hoped to become, and I was elated to be accepted. It is hard to describe that feeling of joy and satisfaction, when all the work and difficulties of the past few years were suddenly validated. To laugh at how this had actually worked out! And afterwards, to feel a calm happiness in knowing that I was on the next step towards my life’s purpose.
And now, quite suddenly, I am nearly at the end of my first year of medical school. I love what we learn, and I haven’t failed an exam (yet). What I have experienced in clinical encounters and shadowing makes me eager for clerkship and beyond. I have pursued my passions by providing health workshops to asylum seekers in the community, and helped to develop a larger program that will roll out in September. In the summer, I will be heading north to an Indigenous community, where I hope to learn more about their culture, how to work in these environments, and to hopefully do some good. While challenges are ever present, the resiliency (or perhaps sheer stubbornness) I gained from my years of change and development have allowed me to push on. At this point of my life, I finally have some degree of confidence; not the confidence that everything will work out, but rather confidence that I can put my heart and soul into something, and if I do, sometimes, things will work out.
I’ll end with a few key lessons I picked up along the way. Again, by no means original, but I hope they are useful for people coming from the same situation I was in:
1. Choose something meaningful to you that will make everything worth it. Seriously reflect upon what you want to do in your life. It is shorter than we’d like, and anything meaningful will likely require a great deal of effort whatever path you choose. So, what’s important is to choose something that will make all that hardship worthwhile. Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is an incredible book that describes this in great evocative detail.
2. Success is not a straight line. As the months went by, I came to see that my success was a series of ups and downs but which always, inexorably, went up over time. It’s okay to falter, to make mistakes, and to fall back on old habits, as that is normal and human. So long as you remember and drive yourself back up, it’s fine! Do NOT believe you have failed if you have relapsed temporarily! Get back up!
3. Keep a journal. Something to write down what you are feeling, and more importantly, to be aware of the present and plan for the future. It was important for me to see on a weekly basis what I was able to do, what I had failed to do, and what I needed to do next to accomplish my goals. This was very, very important for me, particularly when I was starting to change and grow.
4. Change happens over time. You can’t (or at least, I couldn’t) simply flip a switch and become a 4.0 student. Hard work and discipline took me months and years to ingrain in myself. Similarly, add things over time. I think that layering on work and responsibility over time was an important strategy in my development. I had a brief moment of insanity where, after failing that course in 3rd year, I wanted to take SIX courses instead of five, just to prove that I could change. Don’t do that. Instead, make sure you first succeed academically. Then, add one new thing that you want to do. When you can both succeed academically and in this new thing, add another thing if you want, and so on. And of course, learn what your limits are! The only thing worse than not doing enough, is being so burnt out that you can’t do anything at all.
5. Become someone worthy enough to be a doctor. I hope this part doesn’t sound too preachy because that is not my intention. To some people, being a doctor is just a job, and that’s fair. To me, it is a vocation of social responsibility. It should never be something to lord over others, but rather a duty I want to take on. Throughout my path to medical school, I came to see that I shouldn’t strive for marks purely to get into medical school. Nor did I do extracurriculars for that reason. I think there are inherent dangers to your integrity, to organizations, and to the people you serve if that is your frame of mind. Instead, whatever difficulties you face such as achieving high marks, think of it as another opportunity to improve yourself. To become more disciplined, more committed, and more compassionate. To become someone that you would trust to care for your own parents and loved ones, and someone worthy enough to be there during some of life’s greatest sorrows. Again, it was important for me to have a purpose for what I did, and I think this mindset shielded me from the potential bitterness of having to do a second undergraduate, and for taking courses that were not directly medical. In this light, a second degree is not a punishment, but rather a training ground to improve, and to prove to myself that I can become a good doctor for the people I would care for.
6. Forgive yourself. There were many, many nights that I could barely sleep because of how guilty I felt, and how terrified I was that I could not change or that I was not doing enough to make amends for the past. This part doesn’t come easily, and to be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve entirely accomplished it. I will always regret not applying myself from the start, and for the stress and hardships this put on my loved ones. But, without sounding too fatalistic, I know this was the only way it could have happened, and looking at the good that I am doing, and the good I will do in the future, that pain has largely subsided. I guess I don’t really know the best way to address this, other than hard work and plenty of time. I guess in my own mind, I had to deserve forgiveness before I could give it to myself.
I am continuing on my path, and I am hopeful for the future. I also hope that these words have provided some insight, comfort, or direction for some of you, and especially those of you who have embarked on a similar venture. And of course, if you have any questions or if you’d just like someone to talk with about how things are going for you, I’d be happy to respond or Skype if you’d like
I wish you the best of luck in your efforts! Take care!
UnconventionalMed reacted to polarbear123 in Success Stories- Non Trad Style!
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.
UnconventionalMed reacted to Heme in Calgary invites/regrets/waitlist 2020
For all of my non-trad friends out there, I want to be as open and honest about my journey as possible. So, here it goes:
GPA: 3.98 (I used the 10-year exclusion rule. This means that anything older than 10 years is removed from your GPA calculation, as long as you have completed two full-time undergraduate years within the past 10 years. I guessing that my overall GPA would have been closer to 3.3).
MCAT: 510 (128 cars). I wrote the MCAT in 2018, 15 years after completing my undergraduate degree in science. (Yes, I am that old). Needless to say, I required a significant amount of review.
Degree : BSc. Animal Science (2003), MSc. Animal Science (2008), BEd. (2015)
EC: In my Top 10, I focused on reflecting upon experiences that have significantly influenced how I operate on a daily basis. I wrote a number of them related to teaching and opportunities I have had as a teacher, a couple related to working with marginalized populations, long-term accomplishments (working with animals), and other work-related experiences. I tried to emphasize not what I did, but what I thought about an experience and how it would shape my actions moving forward.
Interview: I was a member of Cohort 2. I definitely felt more prepared this year, having spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on last year's interview and practicing with some amazing fellow applicants. I thought that the virtual interview went well. That being said, I still questioned every single word I uttered while waiting for decisions.
Hope this is helpful.
UnconventionalMed reacted to frost7337 in 2020 UCalgary Interview Invites/Regrets
TIME STAMP: 2:56PM
Interview Date: TBD
MCAT: 131 CARS, 521 total
ECs: Nontraditional research and volunteering, no pubs and average awards. I also wrote about personal life experiences and hobbies
Year: last year UG
Geography : IP
UnconventionalMed reacted to hopefulfor2020 in 2020 UCalgary Interview Invites/Regrets
TIME STAMP: 2:30pm
Interview Date: TBD
MCAT: 129 CARS
ECs: Long standing commitment to patient/client advocacy, long history of volunteer work with multiple vulnerable populations, current job in health care, multiple publications/research awards, top 10s mostly focused on personal experiences that have shaped my world view (including mistakes/lessons learned!)
Year: Non-trad applicant - undergrad completed years ago, post-grad professional degree completed a few years back
Geography : IP
UnconventionalMed reacted to premedlul in 2020 UCalgary Interview Invites/Regrets
TIME STAMP: 2:08pm EST
Interview Date: N/A
GPA: 3.90 (no wGPA)
MCAT: 516, 128 CARS
ECs: 1+ year medical office assistant, 3+ years cancer research with two pending pubs, VP for 2 university clubs, 2 personal start-up businesses, average awards (just undergraduate academic awards), multiple academic tutor/mentor experiences
Year: 2 years out of Undergrad
Geography : OOP but currently working in Calgary (4th try applying but 1st interview !)