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SORRY IN ADVANCE FOR A LONG POST

I am also probably gonna make a video or something about this so if you don't wanna read it all maybe ill post it on youtube and you can just watch instead. 

So, last year I applied in the 2018/2019 cycle and received an overall TFR of 35 (so low!). This year I was granted an interview and an acceptance! What did I change between these two applications? Aside from adding one new work experience (that I had only been working in for a month) I but completely revised how I wrote my application. I think that there is so much power in how you present yourself and your activities through your wording, writing etc. To be fair, the application process is subjective to the reader as well. 

UBC was the first application I wrote last year and so this advice pertains to UBC format, I used it for all my applications. I will provide examples from both years of my application throughout. 

My stats are decent as far as GPA and MCAT, but did not change between the two cycles, demonstrating how important it was to rewrite my application for going from a TFR of 35 to an interview and subsequent acceptance. So, advice as follows: 

  1. 1. Map Out Your Application

First off, I recommend opening a word document and calling it ‘application draft 1’ or something along those lines. Put the headings of each category for entries such as Academic entries: Capacity to Work with Others, Service Ethic, Leadership etc. and then work experience as well. This allows you to see and understand the different categories and how you must organize your life activities. I then highlighted each of these entry types ex: Leadership in different colors.

I then went into my CV and resume (I suggest having some sort of master inventory for all events/activities/volunteering endeavors you have participated in) and put them all on this same word document. Here you can do then pick the best/most fitting ones for each category. You may have some that you think would fit into two categories, but by seeing everything at once and seeing what categories you have many things in and categories you are lacking in, you can decide where to put events. 

So, for example, I had an event about volunteering to coach sports- this could have went under Service Ethic, Leadership, or Capacity to Work with Others but because I had a lot of others for Service Ethic and Capacity to Work with Others, I decided to put this activity as a Leadership activity. 

  1. 2. Write your application in simple terms- then add and revise 

Now that you have an idea of what your application will look like as far as what will go where, it is time to get writing. 

At this stage, I find it beneficial to write sentences or bullet points about each activity. These can be very simple sentences as you will make them more interesting to read at a later stage. So, for example here I would write:

Volunteer Coach

- instructed classes

- built lesson plans

- maintain interest of children

-work with children 

-adhere to safety regulations

-get training 

These are all ideas of things I did in this activity and therefore things I can write about. 

  1. 3. Write the Activities Pertaining to the Type of Activity

This is a very important step. Here is your chance to start writing your actual description of the event based on the bullet points on sentences you made about it above.  You have sorted your activities into what category you would like them to be in and now you must highlight WHY you put them into that category. So, for example, as I mentioned above, I could have used “Sports Coach” in any of the categories but ultimately decided to use it as a Leadership activity. Because I chose to do this, I will write about how I demonstrated leadership in this activity more than anything!!! I could write about many other things about this position but my job here is to focus on leadership, whilst describing my duties. 

Example: one of my activities under leadership was Fundraising Coordinator. To drive home the leadership aspects of this I wrote things like: Coordinate and facilitate weekly meetings among board members to establish our annual fundraising event. Consult various causes to advocate for with our annual event and establish this cause alongside other members. 

Although I could have written many things about this position, I chose to highlight ones that pertained to leadership given that this was the category which I put this activity in. 

4. Emphasize HOW you did an activity.

The Help Guide reads that they would like you to talk about your duties and what you did in the description section of your activities as opposed to writing about ‘how this activity made you feel’, ‘what you learned from it’, etc. I think though, that while writing about your duties, it is important to emphasize HOW you did these duties, meaning did you do them diligently, enthusiastically, etc.

Here is an example from both of my applications to show you the difference of emphasizing how. 

 

2018/2019 application:

"I was a server at a restaurant where I greeted customers and I took orders" 

2019/2020 application:

"Enthusiastically acted as a first method of contact for customers, and effectively and precisely rang in orders ensuring optimal service." 

I changed the writing completely but you can see that the words, enthusiastically, effectively, and precisely all described me doing an activity in a certain way and painted a favourable picture of me completing these activities. 

5. Use strong descriptive words and action words for your tasks. 

I literally googled 'strong action words' etc. when writing my entries. Where I had simple adjectives, I replaced them with these stronger ones. An example of a weak adjective would be dirty and a strong one would be filthy. It seems simple but it changes how your application reads. 

6. Descriptive Pieces

It is very important to provide your reader with descriptive pieces of information about an activity. Examples of this can be a name of a place you volunteered, a quantitative fact such as “working with over 20 kids” etc. 

Example: Coaching Sports 

2018/2019

Coming into a new gymnastics club I was asked to lead classes alone and thus had to become a leader in the gym. I had to ensure safety measures were constantly being taken whilst coaching children of a variety of ages and athletic abilities and ensure that everyone's needs were met to the best of my abilities. 

2019/2020

Built on 5 years of experience, I instructed 3 classes per week to children between the ages of 5-17. I offered myself as a role model to classes of roughly 10 children and… 

I think that using quantitative measures as above allows the reader to grasp more of what I am saying. 

7. Highlight What a Medical School is Looking For- Don’t Undermine Your Activities. 

For everything you do, you can find some value in this experience, and likely some value that will make you a better physician. Do not leave this up to the reader to decide what that is or if it is present at all, you must explicitly tell them. In my first application, I failed to see the value in things like my work experience as a server and therefore wrote about them in a way which was lackluster. However, I changed this to find the value in each activity I did, whether it is similar to being a physician or not. 

2019/2020

 In my position, I acted as a first method of contact for clientele and aided in product education. I diligently memorized menu entrees and daily specials to provide guidance to customers. I accurately recorded orders and worked as part of a team alongside kitchen staff to serve drinks and food which exceeded expectation. 

This highlights things such as: communication skills, team work, knowledge of the business. All things which are imperative to any profession including medicine. 

8. But... Also, do not stretch your task too far or exaggerate it beyond what makes sense. 

Going back to the last point, we do not want to stretch the value of something too far. Do not make stuff up and do not stretch it too far, because those reading applications are trained to look for this. 

Do not input skills that you didn’t learn into a position, instead just highlight those which are true to the experience. 

9. Make Use of Titles

Did you guys ever hear the rumours about application reviewers reading the title of an activity, essay etc. and then not reading said activity/essay because it seemed boring? I had heard this and have heard this more recently from someone who had reviewed applications. I am unsure whether it is true but I decided to make my titles all that they could be! A title is also a great space for you to elaborate on an activity more with such limited word count available. 

2018/2019 Title vs. 2019/2020 Title

 

Learning German vs. Learning German to Further Communication Abilities 

 

Research vs. Neuroscience Research and Surgical Assists 

 

Travelling vs. Gaining Cultural Competencies Via Travel 

 

Varsity Athlete vs. Representing my University as a Varsity Athlete

 

Anyways!!!! I am sorry this post was so long but I hope that it is helpful for at least one person! If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask! 

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Thanks for sharing your tips and congrats on the acceptance!!

I'd just like to add that the use of descriptive adverbs (like "diligently" or "enthusiastically") may not necessarily have been what boosted your NAQ score. For myself, I tried to avoid using those words because I thought it would be kind of cheesy - I had pretty mechanical descriptions similar to your description of

"I was a server at a restaurant where I greeted customers and I took orders". My descriptions were mostly just lists of my responsibilities for that activity.

Also, just curious, what sport did you play??

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Thank you for this! I'm applying for the first time this cycle and I found this really helpful. Today I was looking at my "master list" and trying to categorize them by the application sections. I only have 1 leadership position, 2 service ethics, 2 capacity to work with others, and maybe 4-6 diversity of experience entries. Is this enough? Do you think I stand a chance? All of them have been done for at least 1 year, most of them for 2 years. For context, I'm entering my third year of undergrad. 

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1 hour ago, Giant_Anteaters said:

Thanks for sharing your tips and congrats on the acceptance!!

I'd just like to add that the use of descriptive adverbs (like "diligently" or "enthusiastically") may not necessarily have been what boosted your NAQ score. For myself, I tried to avoid using those words because I thought it would be kind of cheesy - I had pretty mechanical descriptions similar to your description of

"I was a server at a restaurant where I greeted customers and I took orders". My descriptions were mostly just lists of my responsibilities for that activity.

Also, just curious, what sport did you play??

Thank you ! Yeah this is true, I do think that it helps to make something more interesting to read though. Having said this, this of course only my experience and I am just talking about the changes that I personally made to strengthen my app! 

I did track and field!! :)

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7 minutes ago, nothingbutmed said:

Thank you for this! I'm applying for the first time this cycle and I found this really helpful. Today I was looking at my "master list" and trying to categorize them by the application sections. I only have 1 leadership position, 2 service ethics, 2 capacity to work with others, and maybe 4-6 diversity of experience entries. Is this enough? Do you think I stand a chance? All of them have been done for at least 1 year, most of them for 2 years. For context, I'm entering my third year of undergrad. 

I'm really happy to hear that!! I think that trying to fill as many as you can is great but if you don't have that many then it still wouldn't hurt to apply and seee what happens. I honestly think that having some strong and long term commitments is looked upon more favourably than  having multiple activities with low commitment/hours/frequency. Also given that you are in your third year you still have time to get more experience in certain areas if you feel that would boost your future and current applications :) 

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Just now, initrams said:

I'm really happy to hear that!! I think that trying to fill as many as you can is great but if you don't have that many then it still wouldn't hurt to apply and seee what happens. I honestly think that having some strong and long term commitments is looked upon more favourably than  having multiple activities with low commitment/hours/frequency. Also given that you are in your third year you still have time to get more experience in certain areas if you feel that would boost your future and current applications :) 

Thanks for the advice! Did you include any activities from high school to fill some gaps? This application cycle for me is kind of like a "trial run" for me. I mostly just want to familiarize myself with the application, see where I stand, and make improvements accordingly for next cycle. Congratulations on your acceptance! I can't even imagine how happy you were when you found out! :)

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15 minutes ago, nothingbutmed said:

Thanks for the advice! Did you include any activities from high school to fill some gaps? This application cycle for me is kind of like a "trial run" for me. I mostly just want to familiarize myself with the application, see where I stand, and make improvements accordingly for next cycle. Congratulations on your acceptance! I can't even imagine how happy you were when you found out! :)

Not OP, but I had a TON of experiences that were from high school. I applied as a 3rd year student, so I really didn't have that many long-term commitments starting in university. Most of my high school commitments did not continue on to uni.

However, this was just because I wanted to fill in all the extra space. I don't think it was my high school activities that gave me the edge to get admitted - They were kind of just "additional" things on top of my current university extracurriculars.

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10 hours ago, Giant_Anteaters said:

Not OP, but I had a TON of experiences that were from high school. I applied as a 3rd year student, so I really didn't have that many long-term commitments starting in university. Most of my high school commitments did not continue on to uni.

However, this was just because I wanted to fill in all the extra space. I don't think it was my high school activities that gave me the edge to get admitted - They were kind of just "additional" things on top of my current university extracurriculars.

Respectfully, with your 94% average you could have probably write down minimal stuff and still received an interview given the algorithm. Your AQ is far superior than your NAQ brining your up a ton for your total score...

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11 hours ago, whateveritis23 said:

Respectfully, with your 94% average you could have probably write down minimal stuff and still received an interview given the algorithm. Your AQ is far superior than your NAQ brining your up a ton for your total score...

Yeah I agree - I don't think it was my NAQ that pushed me through the door, but if it's accounted for post-interview, then my NAQ couldn't have been "weak" either.

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22 hours ago, nothingbutmed said:

Thanks for the advice! Did you include any activities from high school to fill some gaps? This application cycle for me is kind of like a "trial run" for me. I mostly just want to familiarize myself with the application, see where I stand, and make improvements accordingly for next cycle. Congratulations on your acceptance! I can't even imagine how happy you were when you found out! :)

More recent activities are better IMO, but it doesn't hurt if you have extra space, or if you're just younger and have had less time to build up a list of activities. Between 2 years that I applied, and I didn't change any activities or how I wrote them (horrible idea btw), my scores went down. Overtime I replaced my high school activities with more recent ones. 
I strongly agree with OP, that how you write it really makes an impact on the app!

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Thanks so much for this post! I was just wondering if you could elaborate on how you wrote about leisure activities/ solo hobbies (eg. travelling, intramural sports, hiking, etc.)? I was just unsure about how I could depict these EC's as valuable experiences when there aren't really 'responsibilities' or 'tasks' that I had to complete.

I was also wondering how you wrote your title for long-term experiences where you've had more than one position? For example, if you were part of a club for 2 years and were promoted from a socials executive member to the socials director, would it be better to keep the title broad or use the title of your most recent position?

Congrats on your acceptance btw :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/21/2020 at 2:52 PM, curiouswolf said:

Thanks so much for this post! I was just wondering if you could elaborate on how you wrote about leisure activities/ solo hobbies (eg. travelling, intramural sports, hiking, etc.)? I was just unsure about how I could depict these EC's as valuable experiences when there aren't really 'responsibilities' or 'tasks' that I had to complete.

I was also wondering how you wrote your title for long-term experiences where you've had more than one position? For example, if you were part of a club for 2 years and were promoted from a socials executive member to the socials director, would it be better to keep the title broad or use the title of your most recent position?

Congrats on your acceptance btw :)

Thank you :) So for travelling for example I spoke about gaining cultural experience, understanding different cultures, etc. and also becoming more independent and resourceful through travelling. For hiking I personally only put that on the rural part of the application where I spoke about my passion for hiking and what I get out of it and speaking to it as a stress relief. For intramurals I think that is a good opportunity to speak about being a team player and the importance of collaboration. Just remember, everything you have done, you have gained some type of growth or experience from, sometimes you just have to realise it. 

For titles I think that that in the instance you described I would put your recent title to be honest!!!  

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