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Some Med Schools Not Counting Winter 2020 Grades


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I wanted your thoughts on the following:

Was absolutely crushed and disheartened to learn that many medical school (ex. Toronto, Queens, Western) when considering applications won't be using grades from the Winter 2020 semester. While understandably this pandemic has caused many challenges and stressors and some students are negatively disadvantaged based on how the semester finished up, I don't think it's fair for them to discredit an ENTIRE semester without contest. Yes, this is a valuable and beneficial idea for those who due to circumstances beyond their control could not achieve what they normally had, but rather than asses a case by case basis, they chose to just throw out a whole semester. This is especially frustrating as a full year courses (such as a thesis) that don't receive a fall 2019 mark will also not be considered (in my case, out of 10 classes taken, only 3 will actually count) It appears that these changes will last beyond the 2020/2021 application cycle. As a fourth year student who has made great strides to improve from early academic years, this is definitely soul crushing because there is a big opportunity cost to losing out a whole semester and what was invested into it. Now we cannot use this fourth year at all? Many can't continue to come back to school to make up for this. 

I would really like to invite conversation here and hear out the many different perspectives regarding this matter? Do you agree? Is it fair? Is there a better alternative? Is there anything that could be done about it?

I would suggest the alternative approach to be have 2 consideration groups (as many schools do in their cGPA or wGPA and thus accommodate for both groups to count or not count fall 2020). 

Many thanks

Toronto's Announcement: https://applymd.utoronto.ca/admission-requirement-changes-20202021-application-cycle

Queens: https://meds.queensu.ca/academics/undergraduate/prospective-students/frequently-asked-questions

Western: https://www.schulich.uwo.ca/med_dent_admissions/medicine/admission_requirements.html#grade_point_average

 

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Hey OP, While I feel your pain that you studied super hard and got the amazing grades you deserved, and it's super painful that you were showing how great you improved since early in undergrad, I think it's important to recognize your privilege that your life was minimally impacted by COVID-19 and you were able to study like usual.

There are many students out there whose lives were completely flipped upside down by what's been going on. 

Whose loved ones got sick and passed away

Whose loved ones were quarantined in a high risk area and anxiety was high 

But for the most, the financial impact of COVID-19 has been devastating. other students who lost their part-time jobs that they were using to make rent and afford their meals

Other students whose family-run small business went under

Others' whose family members lost their jobs

It's a rough time out there so it's amazing and good on the medical schools for not punishing these students who are going through a hard time if their grades dropped in the midst of a global pandemic. 

Again, I feel your frustration and pain, but count your blessings. 

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And hey, I don't want to be just shutting you down. 

Think about how amazing it is that you proved to yourself that you can get killer grades even while doing a thesis. You've shown yourself your abilities!

Plus remember that med school isn't just about GPA. they care that you're hard working, compassionate, a team player, etc :) 

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For reasons @hvem mentioned above I think it's fair to exclude this semester's winter grades. HOWEVER I think they should've made the Fall 2019 term worth the whole year. That's fair in my opinion since the Winter 2019 grades should be reflective of an applicant's typical abilities. The current scheme of excluding Winter 2020 completely is NOT fair in my opinion since many people did full year, thesis courses etc., and making a whole year's work worth just 2 or 3 courses (like your case for example) is dumb. This way I think would even out the impact covid had while not kicking honour, thesis, or special year students to the curb.

Also re. your point of giving students options, this was addressed by one of the UofT adcoms in their webinar – I can't remember exactly what they said – something like how that would simply benefit the already privileged students more – but I remembered it made sense, so feel free to check that out

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Hey, thanks for the responses so far, and hoping to continue to hear many more. 

Definitely grateful to be healthy and well. My heart goes out to any of you who have lost a loved one recently as I can't imagine that pain. The pandemic has impacted many people in different ways and to different degrees.

I would still like to advocate for using winter 2020. While anecdotal and representative of a subset of the population, here are my additional thoughts:

While life comes out at you in unexpected ways, it is a privilege for me to look beyond my tomorrow and have the ability to want to create my own future. 

I just find this whole situation as 'the universal is against you'. The reliance on upper year grades is based on my progression through university. I had to work my first few years of university because I worked through high school, and now since no in my family went to university assumed that was the norm and everyone just had to do it. Eventually in my balancing act, my first few years grades came out as average (but not competitive for med). So I had to make the decision to quit these jobs and other commitments and just scrape by because I recognized if I wanted this I needed to devote more of my time to studying/improving skills and office hours (considered quitting varsity, but chose to stay, big opportunity cost). Ultimately, I put up my best academic year and was hoping I could string together another strong year as a fifth year student to be considered a competitive applicant. But now by discrediting the fourth year, ultimately I can't simply ration coming back for a potentially inconsequential fifth year, especially if my OSAP bill continues to grow and I can't help out my family as i'm stuck in school. I hope this decision gets revisited, because based on this system I either give up now, or next year. Not too sure if I could even do a second degree. I am proud of overall application, but in a system that judges so heavily based on GPA as an entry way for consideration, this is a huge roadblock.

The circumstances to which the virus affected students definitely does vary based on level of privilege undoubtedly. Being away at school was my escape from reality, so coming back home was challenging. I arguably worked harder than ever based on my home situation (which was unfortunately in a high risk area and my parents don't fall under the 'work-from-home-demographic' so had to go to their factory jobs which led to quarantine due to contact tracing, but also immense worry of my extended family living in a village on the other side of the world without access to healthcare). Accepting the many ways in which a student's life was flipped upside down and stretched thinner then ever, if they just so happened to have found a way out because they had no other option but to keep putting one foot in front of the other, it's a slap in the face if the school were to say "sorry, you're outta luck here. Maybe next time?". Grades were definitely the last thing to want to think about, but in terms of social mobility it was the only way to propel forward. Do I have to regret not ____ because I chose to be selfish and study instead? If we want to empower certain communities I would say this is a way to do so. 

Few schools offer an explanatory option (which is great) as why certain grades are not reflective and should be dropped from consideration. But is it really too  much to ask to have grades count?

 

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Barring the differences in privilege which is the obvious argument against including W2020 grades, another big concern in allowing students to at least choose whether to let admissions look at W2020 grades or not is that there are many schools that went entirely P/F. Their students literally don't have grades to show, or a choice- that was made for them. How do you fairly deal with that?

In an ideal world, everyone writes an academic explanations essay for each school explaining the impact of COVID on their grades/the grading scheme, but even then, how do you validate it? Someone in a P/F school could say that it was their best semester yet and they got screwed over, but who can validate that? And as much as we like to think all of the people wanting to be doctors would abide by an honour code, we know that just wouldn't work. 

I do feel your pain though, I'm not sure what I would have done had I not gotten in this cycle, as I was a thesis student and W2020 WAS my best semester of undergrad, and it would have boosted my GPA high enough that I could have been competitive at more schools than I was. It's a tough situation all around, but I don't disagree with their choice to ignore W2020 grades, as much as I even supported the motion to let students choose back when this was initially released. I sincerely hope things do work out for you, and the other applicants struggling with this as well.

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