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Pre-med Frequently Asked Questions

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Please post in this thread to request more FAQs.


  • Where should I go for undergrad?
  • Does the reputation of your university or program matter?
  • What should I do for my extra-curricular activities?
  • How do I calculate my GPA?
  • I got a bad grade. What should I do?
  • What are some good studying methods?
  • I have a low undergrad GPA, should I do an extra year, M.Sc., or a second degree?
  • Do I need to volunteer at a hospital in order to get into medical school?
  • How can I shadow a doctor?
  • How will it affect my application if I take courses in the wrong year? For example, what if I take first year courses in fourth year?
  • All about RESEARCH!

Q: Where should I go for undergrad?


A: (By futuredoc)


Here is a guideline of what people should do when considering where to attend undergrad. Feel free to add to this thread and remember to take this with a grain of salt!


1. Think of every place you would even consider going. Remember those.


2. Consider the distance between each university and where you live right now. If you believe a place is too far away (ex homesickness etc), drop it. If you don't really have a problem with that or are an international student ignore this.


3. Consider the costs of attending that school. That includes things like rent, energy, tuition etc. Ask around for some ideas but remember to do some research yourself. If your parents are rich or if you enjoy racking up credit card debt please ignore this advice.


4. Consider what kind of program you would like to do in undergrad. If you want to do a specialized course like medical science, make sure that you actually figure out what it is before you go into it. Remember that medical schools don't care what your program is. If you are a genius (and thus don't care what you do) or enjoy stupidity (!!!) in general please ignore this advice.


5. Look at the highschool averages that the average accepted student had. If it is way higher than yours, you should drop it. If you just baaarrreellllyyyy make it you should drop it. Anything else is good. If you can "pull strings" please ignore this message and go away.


6. Apply to the remaining schools and programs. If someone is applying for you, please ignore this message. If you are applying everywhere anyways please skip to the next step.


7. When you receive letters of acceptance put them in a pile but take note of any offer expirations. If you don't like piles, too bad.


8. Consider the grading system of each school. Avoid schools that curve grades like you would rotting zombies with bubonic plague and lasers coming out of their eyes. If you are smart enough so that you would be unaffected or even helped by curving, please skip step nine.


9. Consider the activities that you like to do (things you do that make you happy). Try and find the universities that have these things around them. Make sure that you do this step before the next one. If you do not need activities, please go to U of T. If smoking pot is among your activities, please go to UBC :D.


10. Consider the EC's that you would like to be involved in and note which universities would have them. If you don't want to do EC's, please refrain from applying to medical school as you will probably be rejected.


11. I put this reason (thanks kidbuu68) this low on the list because not everybody will want to go to medical school by the time they are eligible to apply: consider the residence quotas of medical schools. For the most part there is nothing you can do here unless your parents were absolutely nuts about you getting into medical school (read: they moved where the picking is good just for you). There are exceptions however such as foreign students who use the new "Canada Experience" immigrant class (or just immigrate otherwise) to become Canadian residents and presumably residents of whichever province they live in. There is also the Alberta/BC dual residence thing (someone should explain this in detail). Other than that don't stress too much over it because a lot of the Ontario schools don't really care about where in the country you come from, and every PROVINCE has seats reserved for their students somewhere.


11. If you still have multiple places. Look to the people around you for advice. If you still can't decide, close you eyes and point. Or something: somebody give some advice here.




















Q: Does the reputation of your university or program matter?

A: (by tooty)


We need to consider university reputations and program reputations separately.


There are no med schools that care about which university you are from.


As for the reputation of certain programs of study, it does not matter for MOST med schools. The only exceptions are University of Calgary, Université Laval, and Université de Montréal. These 3 schools reward students from tougher programs (like law, engineering, or computer science) with higher pre-interview scores. At University of Calgary, an applicant with a lower GPA from a bioinformatics program, for example, may score equally as well as, or even higher than an applicant with a higher GPA from a run-of-the-mill biology program. 'Easier' programs are not punished per se. This preferential treatment is the schools' attempt to fairly assess everyone's academic capacity.


For more on this topic, read this thread: http://www.premed101.com/forums/showthread.php?t=60322


Q: What should I do for my extra-curricular activities?


A: (by tooty)


Many med schools will scrutinize your extra-curriculars (ECs) in the pre-interview assessment, but rely heavily on your MMI performance post-interview. The value that med schools put on ECs is highly variable. Some like to see strong commitments outside of school while some don't care. To maximize your chances at every school, it is in your best interest to participate in as many quality activities as you can without sacrificing your grades.


When assessing your ECs, med schools want to see that you have demonstrated: leadership, critical thinking, communication, strong work ethic, compassion,, diversity and so on. You should commit into a set of activities that (1) you enjoy, and (2) can convincingly demonstrate these desired qualities in your application. Do you like volunteering for the Save The Puppies Club? Don't just be a participant, try to get into an Executive position and be a leader. Do you like playing a certain sport or instrument? Work harder at it to make some high profile teams or events. If you don't play sports but really like spin, try to get your spin instructors certification. If you don't play any sports or are not involved in any physical activities, my personal opinion is that you need to move your ass in some way for your own health, if not for med school applications. At any rate, look for high quality positions to fill and do as much as you can outside of school.


For those that need to work to make money it can be tough. Working at Timmy's for tuition is not as glamorous as volunteering in a 3rd world country. The med school game inherently selects more affluent applicants simply because those students have more opportunity and resources with which to participate in sexy extra-curriculars. My one practical advice would be to work your way up the ranks. "Supervisor" looks better than "server" on paper. Schools are becoming aware of the inherent socioeconomic bias in their selection criteria and are more sensitive to the limitations that some students face. You may only be at a slight disadvantage, if any.


It should go without saying that you absolutely cannot take on activities at the expense of your GPA. It is much easier to make up for sparse ECs and strong GPA than strong ECs and a low GPA.


In short, med schools want you to do something outside of school. Do what you enjoy and keep in mind how they will look on paper. Focus on quality AND quantity. ECs largely matter in pre-interview selections. Don't let your GPA slip. Ever.


Some may disagree on my personal view of ECs, so check out the links below that illustrate other ideas.






























Q: How do I calculate my GPA?


A: (by The Law)


In Ontario, the GPA is calculated based on a table released by OMSAS (Ontario Medical Schools Application Service). The table is released every year and can be found here: http://www.ouac.on.ca/omsas/omsas-answers.html (Conversion Table). Outside of Ontario, each school has their own GPA chart.


To calculate GPA, you take every course that is on your transcript, convert it to the number of points assigned on that table (for example 90+ = 4.0, 85-89=3.9, etc). Full courses (1.0 credits or 6 credit hours) count twice, half courses count only once. You then add up all the points, and divide by the total number of courses you have taken in each semester.


Let's try an example...


Joey's final marks are

English - 1.0 credit - 80

Human Sex Psychology - 1.0 credit - 77

Analytical Chemistry - 1.0 - 88

Statistics - 0.5 credit - 90

Biochemistry - 0.5 credit - 83

How to get into med school - 0.5 credit - 86

A bird course that went wrong - 0.5 credit - 77


Joey goes to UWO. He looks at the table and sees that UWO is in column 3.

Now, for each class, you look at the table and convert it into the number of points that each mark corresponds to.


I am not going to work through each course, but here are some examples:


English - received an 80 - look at chart and see this corresponds to 3.7. His English is a 1.0 credit, so it counts twice:

3.7 X 2 = 7.4


Continue to do the same:

Analytical Chemistry

3.9 x 2 = 7.8

Biochemistry (0.5 credit, half credits count only once)



Now, do the same for each class on his transcript and add up all the points he earned... you will get: 36.7 points

He took 5 classes each semester, so in total he took 10 courses during the year!


36.7/10 = 3.67


His GPA is a 3.67.


If you are applying outside of Ontario, schools outside of Ontario may calculate the GPA a bit differently, but the principle is probably the same. GO to the school's website, and CHECK to see what conversion scale they use. Additionally, check to see if there are weighting formulas that apply to your GPA. For example, some schools drop lowest marks, some schools weigh later years more, some schools only consider two years, etc...



Notes to keep in mind:

* Yes, the drop from 80 to 79 is that big

* Yes, one really bad grade can hurt a year's GPA

* Each school belongs to a different column, look at the bottom column to see which conversion scale you should use

* This is only the OMSAS GPA. Sometimes schools (including Ontario schools) apply weighting formulas to this GPA or have their own scales. The information about how GPAs are used is found on each school's website.

Ex. Some schools allow you to drop some of your lowest marks, some weigh most recent years more heavily than more distant ones, some don't look at all of your years, etc...

* American Schools use the AMCAS GPA Scale


All of this information (i.e. weighting formulas, whether or not they consider years with less than a full course load, what a full course load is, cutoffs that schools post for interviews, etc...) can be found on the schools' websites. If you cannot locate a medical school's website, you might want to consider going into another profession.


I hope this helps.




Additional Questions

1. What if the credit hours were not standard? What about half courses that have lab components that are worth 4 credit hours or courses that are a year long but only worth 3 credit hours (0.5 credits)?


In general:

Full year courses that are only worth 3 credit hours or 0.5 credits are counted only once. They count just like a 1/2 year course.

A course that has a lab component and is worth 4 credit hours is equivalent to a 3 credit hours course. The lab component does not make it weigh any more.



Individual schools may differ, so if you are really uncertain you should contact the school.



2. On UofT websites, I have seen charts where 85+ = 4.0 GPA. But then I saw the OSMAS chart and an 85-89 = 3.90

Which chart should be followed? Thanks


OMSAS, the U of T chart is for the registrar at U of T.... not for the medical school and applications.



3. I attended 3 different universities during my undergrad. After I calculate the GPA for each individual school, how do I combine them to produce a single GPA?


It depends on when you took the courses and each school will be different. If a school uses a cumulative GPA only, then you just tally up the points for each course you've taken and divide by the total number of classes there are (remember full year courses are worth more). Some schools will not look at years that are part time (if you have this), and for those schools - it will be a bit trickier.


4. I studied Education during my last 2 years at UBC. Nearly all of those courses are just marked pass/fail (no grade given). How does this work into the scheme of things? Also, I took 3 or 4 courses per term (including summers) since I had young children. Does that affect things since it's not a full course load?


Usually pass/fail courses are just counted for credit, but not towards a GPA. You will have to contact the schools you are interested in applying to and see what their policy is for marks. They may have a max number of P/F courses that they'll accept, or a min number of graded courses that they need in order for you to apply (just speculating)... so your safest bet is to check with each school.


Q: I got a bad grade. What should I do?


A: http://www.premed101.com/forums/showthread.php?t=57723


Q: What are some good studying methods?


A: http://www.premed101.com/forums/showthread.php?t=67698

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Please post in this thread to request more FAQs. FAQs: Where should I go for undergrad? Does the reputation of your university or program matter? What should I do for my extra-curricular activit

This is one of the best things I've read on here in a while. Its a hard road, keep expectations reasonable and remember you are only human, all you can do is your best. GL

The work habits that you develop now will be very useful once you get in med school, and getting good grades shows that you have strong work habits more than anything else. Even if you don't do as wel

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Q: I have a low undergrad GPA, should I do a an extra year, M.Sc., or a second degree?


A: (by tooty)


This answer depends on how close you are to pre-interview cutoffs.


Some schools have hard GPA and MCAT cut-offs below which no exceptions are made. Some schools will consider the entire application, meaning a low GPA can be compensated by a great MCAT and extra-curricular activities. Each of these schools have their own policy in treating graduate degrees, second degrees, and 'victory lap' years. Many of you fall into a gray area that needs to be looked at in detail. Post your situation in the Non-Traditional Applicants forum.


I can make a blanket comment on only one common scenario:


If your GPA is very low, chances are extremely unlikely that any amount of graduate work can help you. If you want to attend medical school in Canada, you should do a proper second degree. You may still be excluded from a few schools who consider your cumulative average from both degrees, but there are several others that will consider your most recent one.


A simple search with the terms '2nd' 'second' ''masters' 'msc' 'grad' 'degree' will return lots of threads regarding this issue.




Grad degree policies of Canadian schools.

The second degree crew.


Second degree or M.Sc.?










2nd degree or an extra year?





Q: Do I need to volunteer at a hospital in order to get into medical school?


A: (by peachy)


There are lots of qualities you want to be able to show that you possess in your application. You will typically do this by referring to experiences that you had had. Three of these qualities are:

- community/charitable involvement

- extracurricular involvement

- understanding of our healthcare system and the life of a physician


Ideally, you want your application to speak to these three qualities. You want to have done some kind of volunteering and some kind of extracurricular. You MUST have had some kind of experience that gives you some insight into medicine sufficient to let you answer the question "How do you know you want to be a doctor?"


Volunteering at a hospital is very convenient way to hit all three of these things which is why so many premeds do it. On the other hand, it's not a particularly impressive or important way of hitting these things. Most people do it so it doesn't help you stand out. It's also typically pretty boring and unrewarding. (Not always! Some people have great experiences! But most don't, I think.)


So don't worry about "volunteering at a hospital". It isn't important. Worry instead about doing a variety of activities (that you enjoy and care about!) that will hit the various qualities that you need.


Other Threads:














Q: How can I shadow a doctor?


A: http://www.premed101.com/forums/showthread.php?t=63206



Q: How will it affect my application if I take courses in the wrong year? For example, what if I take first year courses in fourth year?


A: (by peachy)


It depends on how many courses and what school you are applying to. In general, as long as you're following the requirements of your school and heading towards a degree, you'll be okay. That is, if you take a couple of lower-year courses because they're interesting and that's where they end up fitting in, you normally don't have to worry. If you're planning to pad your fourth year schedule with only easy first year courses to try to raise your GPA, you probably want to very carefully read through the admission requirements of schools you're going to apply to.


U of Toronto says: Students in the third or fourth year of undergraduate work should note that, while no specific program of study is required, academic coherence is expected. Students should also note that the level of courses should correspond to the “year” of their program. For example, a student who applies for admission to the Faculty of Medicine while registered in the third year of his or her undergraduate work should have at least three third-year or higher courses in his or her program (60% of course load). Applicants not following a prescribed program or devising their own are required to submit an explanation of the content and focus of their chosen programs. (Source: OMSAS 2009 Instruction Booklet)


UWO says: Only those terms in which at least five full or equivalent courses (30 credit hours) are taken will be used in the calculation of grade point average (GPA) admission cut-offs. Three full or equivalent senior courses (second year and above) must be included in at least one of the two undergraduate years being used to determine compliance with established GPA cut-offs. (Source: OMSAS 2009 Instruction Booklet)


Other Threads:







Q: Should I do research in undergrad? How?


A: (by blinknoodle)


This FAQ is geared for those in undergrad wanting to learn more about research opportunities. There have been numerous threads, so I have hopefully summarized the major points. Search the forums for more discussion on these topics.


Do I need to do research to get into medical school?

NO! Absolutely not, medical schools accept students from a variety of backgrounds.


Why would I want to do research as an undergrad if medical schools don't need it?

You will find a ton of different reasons students pursue research. First of all, you may enjoy it! It can be a great way to get hands-on experience in a field you find interesting, learning different ways of tackling problems and help you decide whether you would like to continue in this area (grad school, jobs, areas in medicine, etc).


But what IS research?

I suppose one of the biggest myths is that research needs to involve petri dishes and test tubes. Nothing could be further from the truth, although certainly lots of research includes snazzy glassware. Just look around your university to see what kind of research professors are pursuing - don't limit yourself to the life sciences, because there are opportunities as diverse as investigating the sociology of love, the mathematical modelling of vaccination strategies, the perception of different sounds, etc.


When can I do research?

If you are enrolled in an honours program, you will likely be doing a 4th year honours thesis. If you can't wait until 4th year, you can start as you as you find a supervisor that wants you to help out. This can be as early as first year if you are really eager. You can pursue research during the school years or the summers.


How do I find a research project/supervisor?

I recommend figuring out what kind of research you would like to pursue and see who is studying that area at the university you wish to work. Likely if you have an interest in an area, you will have taken some courses so you will already be familiar with who is doing research or know where to look on the web. Pick a few people with similar interests and see what kind of research project they are pursuing or have already published. Then get in contact with them (email, etc) explaining why you would like to work with them and provide your CV. Repeat as you see fit, but the personal approach seem to work best. You can also go the alternative route of finding job postings and seeing which you like the best. Jobs can be posted on hospital job boards, your university's job postings, summer research courses (ie. ROP299Y at Toronto) and there are some specific summer programs geared to students wanting to do research (ie. Sick Kids in Toronto).


How do I get paid?

You won't become rich doing research, that's for sure (not only do you need salary support, but it can also be expensive for all the things you need for your experiments). If you find jobs listed, you can be reasonably certain they will pay you. However, there are different areas to get funding - will your supervisor pay you directly from their grant or would they like to apply for external funding (ie someone else pays you). One of the major funding bodies for undergrad students is NSERC. NSERC awards are distributed differently at each university, but usually after a researcher in the sciences is willing to hire you, NSERCs are given to students with the highest marks. Your supervisor should know about other awards you can apply for as it usually varies on the scope of the research. Another popular example for cardiovascular research in Ontario are the John D Schultz awards from the Heart and Stroke Foundation.


What if my supervisor has no money to pay me?

I suppose this is always a possibility, especially if your supervisor has already agreed to hire a couple students in the summer. This is where the external scholarships really help (see above). You can also decide whether it would be worthwhile to volunteer for free for decent experience. Don't be surprised if that may not go over well since research takes real dedication and volunteers have limited ties to the work. See if your university offers independent study courses that you can tie in with your research.


What can I expect to do as an undergrad?

It certainly depends on the kind of work you will be doing as well as your research group. It also depends how much time you have to offer. I think the best opportunities are when you have your own project, figuring out how to answer a question and tackling the problem. If you can work 5 hours a week, this may not get you very far. Many times as you learn the ropes, you are teamed up with a grad student who can help you out in the beginning. A summer may seem like a long time to get a project accomplished, but you can spend a size-able chunk of time just getting proficient with your scientific techniques, brushing up on the literature or getting ethics approval. Oftentimes, research is not even 9-5 and can lead to sporadic hours (how I hate 12-hour time points!).


What are publications all about?

There are different kinds of publications, which I will categorize into the published manuscripts you see on pubmed and poster/oral presentations you do at conferences (could also be institutional research days). It is a good experience to present your results from your research, whether at local arenas like a summer student research day or if luckier a bigger regional, national, or international conference. This is usually when you'd give oral or poster presentations or your name would be included on a presentation given by someone else in your research team. It is also possible for your work to be significant to be written in a journal article. If your research is the sole focus of the paper and you write the article, then you are likely be the first author. If your research is only a part of the presented work, you could be included as a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc author. Personally, I think publications are a bonus for doing great research but there is a big element of luck in the process (whether your project had positive results, whether your supervisor likes to include undergrad students on publications, etc). As an undergrad, your goal should be to learn about the project, see whether you enjoy research, etc and NOT to be pushing out publications. Medical schools don't care if you have pubs but they don't hurt if you have them. If you are adamant about writing a paper, talk to your supervisor before your start your project to see if they think that is a realistic goal. Here is a thread where getting published as an undergrad is debated: link.


Research Links

General article on medical student publishing from the CMAJ:



Here is a general overview of research programs:



Greater Toronto Area

Sick Kids - http://www.sickkids.ca/SSuRe/

IMS - http://www.library.utoronto.ca/ims/programs/summer.htm

Banting/Best - http://www.bbdc.org/fundingOpp/summer.htm

Medical Biophysics - http://medbio.wisst.utoronto.ca/

IBBME - http://www.ibbme.utoronto.ca/programs/undergraduate/summer.htm



Genomics - http://www.ontariogenomics.ca/education/ogi_fellowship.asp

Cardiovascular - http://www.hsf.ca/research/en/provincial-programs/ontario-john-d.-schultz-scient-student-scholarship.html



Canadian Blood Services - http://www.bloodservices.ca/CentreApps/Internet/UW_V502_MainEngine.nsf/page/E_SIP?OpenDocument

Canadian Language and Literacy - http://www.cllrnet.ca/index.php?fa=UGRA.show

RISE (Reactive Intermediates Student Exchange) - http://www.risecanada.ca/


I am sure there are countless others (sorry for those out West and East, let me know and I can add links).




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|What sorts of awards are there for students doing research?


Some may tell you there aren’t many research awards for undergrads doing research. They just haven’t looked for them in the right places. I assure you there are many. Below I’ve provided a link that will direct you to a 7 page document which has information both for UNDERGRADUATES and MEDICAL STUDENTS called: MD & Undergraduate Student Research Opportunities. There are approximately THIRTY (30) awards listed, so if you haven’t already done so please read this article and get informed: http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=7&sqi=2&ved=0CEEQFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fmed.ubc.ca%2F__shared%2Fassets%2FSummer_Student_Research_Opportunities14383.docx&rct=j&q=undergraduate%20%20Cancer%20studentships&ei=jTCYTcy1FujfiAKHzY2dCQ&usg=AFQjCNHYdgFUT71XAPXmliKl3Vy8eOBqzQ&cad=rja


Below I’ve listed a few others that I have found, and an important update about the rising stars of research award (unavailable in 2011).


Rising Stars of Research (sorry guys):

Rising Stars of Research is a cross-disciplinary undergraduate research conference in Canada.RSR has been a tremendous success since its inception in 2008. With nearly 1,200 applicants and more than 300 participants over the past three years, we know that the event fills an important niche in showcasing the best in Canadian undergraduate research, and has become a highly anticipated opportunity for Canada’s most outstanding young investigators.Due to other staff commitments, Rising Stars of Research will be on hiatus for 2011 and will return in 2012.

(Taken from http://www.risingstars.ubc.ca/)


Alberta Summer Studentship Award (candidates include high school, medical, and undergrads):

Stipend support in the amount of $1,300 per month for a maximum term of four (4) months, May 1 to August 31, will be provided.

(For more info visit https://albertacancer.ca/SSLPage.aspx?pid=889)


Cancer Research Vacation Studentships (Victoria):

The studentship placements are for up to 6 weeks during the summer vacation and are valued at $250 per week. Twenty studentships at a total value of around $27,000 were awarded for the 2009-10 summer vacation.

(Taken from http://www.cancervic.org.au/about-our-research/grants/research_sum_vacation_studentships)



|What kinds of research opportunities are available for high school students?


It can be very difficult for high school students to gain research experience, but not impossible. If you are bold enough, and you have access to a university, you may want to try contacting labs to see if they are looking for help in the summer. Since you are a high school student, my instinct tells me that grades will play an important role in a labs decision to take you on since you do not have university level laboratory experience. If you do not find any labs that are willing to have you in their lab, do not be discouraged as this can be extremely rare for high school students. After all, you have limited exposure to a lab and are there to learn, therefore it is arguable as to how much benefit you would be to the lab. However, I have found a couple of programs in BC and in Ontario that are available to high school students:


Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon's High School Summer Research Program:

Available to Grade 11 students currently enrolled in a high school in British Columbia and the Yukon. (http://www.heartandstroke.bc.ca/site/c.kpIPKXOyFmG/b.5261497/k.55D8/High_School_Summer_Research_Program.htm)


Summer High School Program (Focused Ultrasound Lab – Ontario):

Our goal is not only to further our progress but also to allow these students the experience of working in a lab environment. (More info: http://www.sunnybrook.utoronto.ca/~fus/opp/summer_high.php)


BC Cancer Agency (High School Programs):

The DRC is pleased to be able to offer high school programs geared towards Grade 11 and 12 students. These programs have been designed to offer high school students the opportunity to explore cancer research from the front lines and learn the latest techniques being used today in the fight against cancer. (More info: http://www.bccrc.ca/dept/drc/hsp)



|Why is clinical research important to YOU?


Some members have asked me if clinical research is boring, monotonous, and tedious. Or, if it is just a distraction from undergraduate studies, as I’ve worked at my research office during school. There are a lot of benefits of doing clinical research and I’ll list them below for you, and these are things that I personally have gained from doing clinical research specifically:


  • Knowledge that I am making a direct difference in my community
  • Intellectual curiosity in a subject I am truly interested in
  • Experience with analyzing medical tests such as blood samples, nutrient levels, questionnaires, drug histories, etc.
  • Daily exposure to a medical specialization
  • One-on-one interaction with a specialist who makes me feel like I work alongside her and has gotten me to basically take over the research project while she is away
  • Publications
  • Development of side-research projects with the prospect of doing even more advanced medical scans
  • Generous amount of funding
  • Interaction with patients
  • Interaction with medical students and other specialists who work in the same facility


|MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION I HAVE RECEIVED: How do I gain clinical research experience?


Unless you have some sort of connections, this is definitely not an easy task to pursue. It can be very difficult to find a physician who is willing to take an undergraduate student on, especially for a paid position; however, clinical research experience is so important and has many benefits. I have had a great experience doing clinical research and I hope that those who are interested are lucky enough to obtain this. If you do not have connections (i.e. know a faculty of medicine researcher, have parents who are medical professionals, or have friends or a family member who is a medical student, etc.) you’re going to have to do this on your own. Find out who is doing clinical research in your area, search the internet, and email clinical researchers. Ask them if they are willing to take on student researchers and tell them that you will send your CV upon request, or you can even attach one if you're super keen. If you are not sure what to say in that first email/conversation/phone call, here is a post where I outline what has worked for me. I don't think it is a "golden approach" and it is definitely a bit of work, but it is simply my suggestion: http://www.premed101.com/forums/showpost.php?p=534640&postcount=13).


If you are having a hard time finding opportunities, I’ve done my best to include a link for each medical school across Canada that will direct you to clinical researchers/ongoing projects/faculties of medical research. Please use this resource to the best of your ability, and make sure that when you finally decide to email a clinical researcher you let them know that you are passionate about medicine and view this as an excellent opportunity to explore your research interests. Good luck, and do your best.


Pour les etudients au Quebec, j’ai trouvee l’information pour vous aussi. Mais, c’est vraiment general parce que mon francais n’est pas parfait. Mais, j’ai essaye. J'espere que vous trouver la recherche clinique. Bonne chance.



UBC Medical Researchers:


Clinical Psych Lab: http://www.psych.ubc.ca/research/research.psy?lab=Clinical


This website is constantly updated:




UofA Medical Researchers:

Institutes, Centres & Groups http://www.med.ualberta.ca/Home/Research/groups.cfm


Univeristy of Calgary:

Institutes and Centers http://medicine.ucalgary.ca/research/institutes


Alberta (send a big thank you Lactic Folly!!):

Heritage Youth Researcher Summer Program



WISEST Summer Research Program



University of Saskatchewan:

Faculty Researchers for Dean's Summer Projects http://www.medicine.usask.ca/research/deans-summer-projects/Faculty%20Spreadsheet%20revised%2027Nov09.pdf


Clinical Research Assistant jobs in Saskatchwan



University of Manitoba:

List of medical researchers http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/medicine/research/researchers_a_d.html


University of Toronto:

Medical research website http://www.medresearch.utoronto.ca/


Queen’s University:

Clinical research http://www.kgh.on.ca/en/research/doingresearchatkgh/Pages/default.aspx


McMaster University:

Physicians doing clinical research at McMaster http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/medicine/research_faculty.htm


University of Western Ontario:



University of Ottawa:

Research Office Staff http://www.med.uottawa.ca/Research/eng/research_office_staff.html


Universite Laval:

La recherche http://www2.ulaval.ca/la-recherche.html


Universite de Montreal:

La recherche http://www.med.umontreal.ca/recherche/index.html


McGill University:

Research topics http://www.mcgill.ca/medicine/research/topics/


Universite de Sherbrooke:

Regroupements de recherche http://www.usherbrooke.ca/recherche/fr/regroupements/


Memorial University:

Centres, institutes and groups http://www.mun.ca/research/units/


Dalhousie University:

Summer Student Research Program Funding Sources http://research.medicine.dal.ca/SSRP-funding.htm



|How do I find general research opportunities?

Ask yourself this, “What sort of research am I interested in? Biochemistry, kinesiology, biomedical, etc.?” It is so important that you try and explore all options before settling down in a lab. Once you know what area you want to do research in, contact professors who are doing research relevant to your interest, ask them if they are looking for summer research students, and take it from there. Experience has taught me that the more interested one is in a certain field/topic, the more likely one is to excel and this is exactly what you what to achieve. The more you excel at what you do in the lab, the more likely your supervisor is to notice this and, consequently, write you a great letter of recommendation which is exactly what you want. Also, the more productive you are, the more likely you are to gain a publication. Although it is arguably harder to gain a publication while doing research in the general sciences, it is possible.


And, for those of you who liked organic chemistry I will tell you a little secret. Organic chemistry is actually quite easy to gain publications in. If you are able to synthesize a compound, you will get published. Ochem research is simple, quick, and lots of fun.



Some useful links if you are having difficulties finding research opportunities:


Approaching a professor?



Getting a summer NSERC research award at UBC (has useful advice for non-UBC med students):



Research: how to?!



|How do I write a cover letter for a research position?


Not necessarily in this order:


  1. Do your own research about their lab/research office first. You definitely should sound genuinely interested in their research, express your interest in the cover letter. And don’t try to sound overly enthusiastic. You need to be genuine, and you know how you end up sounding genuine about a topic? You actually are.
  2. Include who you are, what year, why you are interested, and how this research will help you in your career path.
  3. What skills do you have that will benefit the lab/research office you are applying to? They need to know what you can bring to the table. If you haven’t had any prior research experience, you need to express that as well. No point in covering that up. Hopefully, you’re interest in gaining research experience will help do the trick for you.


Here is a sample research cover letter I have found: http://www.drlynnfriedman.com/coverletterresearchassist.html

Notice the part where the author writes about including a CV. I can’t even express how important it is to have a CV ready to use at any time you’d want. It should include your GPA, relevant experience, presentations, publications and any prior research. I’m pretty sure I used this link as a model for my own CV:



|I keep hearing the words “published” and “publication.” Does it really matter that much?


Publications are essentially a way for other researchers, far in wide, to read each others research pursuits. Scientific research which is published in scientific journals as original work is termed primary research. When another researcher reads this work, they can rest assured that it has been evlauted by other professionals in that field, that it has been peer reviewed.


In terms of medical school acceptance, it is my understanding after reading the “Publication necessary?” thread that it is not necessary to have a publication, that they are often a factor of luck, but that they do look favourable to admission committees. Here are some helpful threads about publications (or lack thereof), how to publish your research, and what constitutes a publication.


Publication necessary?



Can someone explain to me the process of research publication (specifically psych)?



Publication, but before interview?



Abstracts = publication?




|Why do medical schools value research? Some medical students get accepted without it.

Yes, there are medical students who gain acceptance without prior research experience because technically, it is not a requirement and I’d be lying to you if I said it was. Medical schools acknowledge the fact that physicians need to participate in life-long learning. As a physician, you’ll have to be able to read journal articles, assess their findings, and evaluate new treatments for disease and illness. Even if you are not a specialist or medical researcher, it is my understanding that you will still need have that skill. However, if you feel that you would be unhappy doing research, it's too much of a hassle, it's not a requirement, and you simply do not want to do it, then don’t. It’s as simple as that. By participating in research just because you think it will look impressive, you are wasting your supervisor’s time and energy. It does not benefit you nor does it benefit the principle investigator to have an unproductive team member and I can not see this leading to anything beneficial. Now, if you want to pursue an MD/PhD, I think it is pretty obvious why you would have to gain research experience and I will not elaborate on this any further.


If you’re a master student, yes some schools will most certainly value your masters and award you, some more than others. The Law has already provided an excellent resource for masters students. (http://www.premed101.com/forums/showpost.php?p=411971&postcount=1)



|Should I look for paid versus volunteer lab work?


It seems that medical school applicants get a little bit, for lack of a better word, perplexed when it comes to being paid for an activity versus volunteering. I’ll offer my perspective on this, which is mine alone and may not represent the opinions of medical schools. Regarding research, getting paid is better than not getting paid since the time commitment for you to successfully complete a research project can be quite a long time and can be quite time consuming. Whether or not you get paid, as I've observed, will often come down to how much experience you have. If you are a lower undergraduate level student (i.e. first or second year) who will not find a supervisor that will take you on for a USRA NSERC and have absolutely no experience in a lab, I suspect that the only sort of lab experience you will get IS volunteer experience. There are always exceptions to this, but that is what I’ve seen in the majority of cases. But, having volunteer lab experience can be highly beneficial as it will likely increase the chances of you getting a paid position in the future. Now, if you are an upper level student who has had prior research experience, it is not unreasonable for you to want to be paid for your work and, as long as it does not compromise your research interests, I would seek out a paid position. You don't have to take my word for it, though. Here are some useful links for you if you're trying to weigh out the pros and cons yourself:


Research Position vs Research Volunteer Important Med School question



Lab work: Volunteer or Paid




|Balancing MCAT and summer research: Can I do it?


Here are two great resources I have found with the opinions from several members:

Is it manageable?



NSERC USRA + MCAT in summer = doable?



For those of you who don’t want to search the threads and want some sort of insight on this thread, the short answer is YES it is possible. To give you some encouragement (and I hope he doesn’t mind me quoting him) mattg quote nicely summarized the matter and wrote:

…it depends on how efficient you are at studying, how intelligent you are, your base of knowledge, your discipline, what you are aiming for, etc... knowing yourself, and in that sense, no one can give you an answer... but in general, studying for the mcat while working a summer research position is 100% reasonable, and a ton of people do it... i would probably that around half of people do something else in the summer while studying for the mcat, but that's just a guess

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Gj with the post Cerena. Merged this with the main FAQ to keep the forum clean.


Np, tooty. And thanks. I'm going to periodically post job opportunities that I see. I know they can be hard to find in the spring/summer months especially so if anyone wants to contribute, send me a PM and I'll edit it into my research FAQ post. Thanks :)

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Cerena, how many users have pm'd you about the topic of research?


Hm... well, I had deleted some of my PMs (to maintain my storage at a decent level) but I have messages from about 14 members that I kept from the last month, if that can give you some sort of a gage? And, of course, the amount of help I gave varied from person to person. Some, I didn't advise if anything they just wanted to talk about research and ask if clinical research was worth it. Those are the recent ones, I think at one point a few weeks ago I got really overwhelmed lol and deleted a whole page of PMs (I had a signature asking people to stop PMing me about research, it was hard to keep up - not sure if you knew that?). So, I can't totally tell you an accurate number. But, I hope this answers your question?

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  • 3 months later...

Good job, but we should also have FAQs for Quebec, given that the admission process is different, especially for French schools.

Here are some ideas:


Q: I don't have the necessary Cote R to apply to med school, what should I do?

Q: Je n'ai pas la Cote R requise pour pouvoir appliquer en medecine, que faire?

A: If you don't have the necessary Cote R to go into med school, you still have a second chance. You can enroll in a Bachelor and try applying during or after your degree.

R: Si vous n'avez pas la Cote R necessaire pour pouvoir appliquer en medecine apres votre cegep, vous pouvez toujours essayer d'appliquer en etant etudiant universitaire.


Q: How is my academic record evaluated when I'm a University student?

Q: Comment mon dossier scolaire est-il evalue quand je suis candidat universitaire?

A: McGill takes into consideration your GPA, while French schools use the Cote Z/R methode. Universite de Sherbrooke calculates a Cote Z, which means that it doesn't take into account your class's strength (Indice de Force du Groupe). Universite de Montreal takes into consideration your programs strength, while Universite Laval uses data from it's own programs to calculate your program's strength.

R: L"Universite McGill utilise votre MPC (moyenne ponderee cumulative) tandis que les ecoles francophones utilisent la Cote Z et ses variantes. L"Universite de Sherbrooke ne regarde pas l'Indife de Force du Groupe de votre classe, tandis que l'Universite de Montreal corrige votre Cote R Universitaire en fonction de la force de votre programme dans l'institution que vous le suivez, contrairement a l'Universite Laval, qui utilise l'Indice de Force de Discipline de ses propres programmes?


Q: Should I choose a specific program?

Q: Devrais-je choisir un programme en particulier?

A: No. Experience showed that people perform better in subjects that interest them. Plus, it could happen that you don't get admitted into med school after your degree, so you should choose a program that you enjoy working in. Also, I advice you to not choose a very easy program, as this can jeopardize your chances of getting in. Unlike most other Canadian universities, French schools don't see an A in sociology as being equivalent to an A in Engineering. Another advice is to not choose a very hard program, like Pharmacy, if you plan A is med, because in such programs, it will be very difficult to have mark superior to your class average.

A: Non. Il a ete demontre que les etudiants performent mieux dans les sujets qui les interessent. Aussi, il vous faudra un plan B dans le cas ou vous n'etes pas pris en medecine. Tout de meme, pour les universites francophones, un A en sociologie n'est pas equivalent a un A en genie, ce qui veut dire que choisir un programme trop facile peut nuire a vos chances. Tout de meme, il ne faut pas choisir un programme tres difficile comme Pharmacie, car dans un tel programme, il sera tres difficile de se demarquer de la moyenne.





Feel free to add more questions and answers (like Which cegep should I choose (the CREPUQ's answer is not that convincing)))

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  • 6 months later...

hi guys ,

its my first time sending a message , i am new to this website ,

i would really appreciate if you read my message and help me out ,


i am 21 yrs old , i will soon be 22 years old , i got my diploma of secondary school in montreal but i didn't do the prerequists for entering health science program in cegep , i moved to toronto as soon as i got my diploma , so i did the last 2 years of high school again in toronto in order to get into university ,


i wanna become a doctor , my average in highschool in toronto was 93% ,

what do you guys suggest , i am thinking of going back to quebec , do a 2 year cegep program and then apply to medical school , so i dont have to to do a 2 years achelor's degree ,


any suggestions ? please let me know what are my options ,


thanks again

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hi guys ,

its my first time sending a message , i am new to this website ,

i would really appreciate if you read my message and help me out ,


i am 21 yrs old , i will soon be 22 years old , i got my diploma of secondary school in montreal but i didn't do the prerequists for entering health science program in cegep , i moved to toronto as soon as i got my diploma , so i did the last 2 years of high school again in toronto in order to get into university ,


i wanna become a doctor , my average in highschool in toronto was 93% ,

what do you guys suggest , i am thinking of going back to quebec , do a 2 year cegep program and then apply to medical school , so i dont have to to do a 2 years achelor's degree ,


any suggestions ? please let me know what are my options ,


thanks again


Hi shainy,

I see that you are new to the forum :) And I was on fc briefly when others informed you how to post a message, but sadly was preoccupied and did not fully read the context of your message on flashchat. I think that the best place to post this sort of question would be on the general quebec discussion forum:



I hope that you'll find the answer you're looking for!


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Welcome shainy. Yes, you are well advised to go to Cegep. And if you do well enough, you can go to either McGill or one of the French speaking med schools if you have French directly from Cegep. If not, you then have a 3 year bachelor's degree program to take and you would study whatever interests you - as all paths lead to medicine. However, Quebec French med schools will look at the difficulty of your program and how you have done relative to your peers. McGill will require you to apply in your last year of studies whereas if you do undergrad @ Laval, you can apply earlier to Laval. You can apply earlier at Sherbrooke. And UdeM will give you a bonus when considering you if you do undergrad studies there. Only McGill requires ECs & volunteering. Neither Quebec schools nor U of Ottawa require the MCAT. Good luck. :)

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Hey guys, I have 2 Qs about online courses, I was just wondering if anyone could help out before I call/e-mail about it: when is the 'deadline' to finish an online course, so that it would count for your F/W GPA vs. summer GPA? And, what happens if you start an online course late in the winter semester but finish during early summer; would it count towards your summer GPA or F/W GPA?

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Hey guys, I have 2 Qs about online courses, I was just wondering if anyone could help out before I call/e-mail about it: when is the 'deadline' to finish an online course, so that it would count for your F/W GPA vs. summer GPA? And, what happens if you start an online course late in the winter semester but finish during early summer; would it count towards your summer GPA or F/W GPA?


With Athabasca only the start date appears on the transcripts, so it really doesn't matter when you finish them. The only constraint I can think of is if you need to provide transcripts as proof of pre-reqs/degree completion by a certain date then those courses clearly need to be finished so that they will appear on said transcript.


I'm not sure how different med schools will look at courses started late in the semester.

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With Athabasca only the start date appears on the transcripts, so it really doesn't matter when you finish them. The only constraint I can think of is if you need to provide transcripts as proof of pre-reqs/degree completion by a certain date then those courses clearly need to be finished so that they will appear on said transcript.


I'm not sure how different med schools will look at courses started late in the semester.


Thank you! I'll check how it's looked upon if you start late in the semester then :)

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  • 3 weeks later...

Think we should also add, for HS students, if you won't mind, come to Quebec and become IP, getting into med school will be much easier as you can get in directly from cegep, less expensive, less a headache *you won't have to worry about which major to choose), more fair for the grades (schools take into account your program's/class strength and you are just supposed to do better than your classmates), and quicker (cegep is only 2 years).

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  • 3 weeks later...
Think we should also add, for HS students, if you won't mind, come to Quebec and become IP, getting into med school will be much easier as you can get in directly from cegep, less expensive, less a headache *you won't have to worry about which major to choose), more fair for the grades (schools take into account your program's/class strength and you are just supposed to do better than your classmates), and quicker (cegep is only 2 years).


Sorry if its off topic- but wondered if there are unis in Quebec which teaching in english( I always thought it in french) !(if that question is somehow v lame its because am not from canada :) )

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