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Keep trying in Canada or go overseas?


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I'm a non-traditional student in my early 30s. Last year I received interviews in Calgary and Edmonton but was not accepted in either school. This cycle I once again received interviews at these schools and failed to get in. I'm beginning to think after 4 rolls of the dice there is simply something wrong with me at the interview stage and I'm wasting my time.

Given my age and the fact that medicine is the only career I can see myself doing, I'm at a place where I just want to start studying and practicing ASAP. I was accepted last year to study in Australia but turned down the offer due to financial reasons. I am now in a place to start considering going overseas, and given that I have no particular ties to returning to Canada I'm not so worried about the match rates for residencies back home. In fact I would probably prefer to train overseas.

My GPA is good, I have a master's degree in health care, and enough volunteer experience to get me through that interview barrier. I know the general consensus is that it's always less risky to wait another year and try again in Canada, but my heart sinks at the idea of wasting another year just "surviving" and passing the time following a career path I don't find satisfying or fulfilling. Given that I have no qualms about staying overseas, is there a case to be made that I should look back at Australia, Ireland, etc where I have a very good chance of being accepted?

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I presume you've gotten your scores from Alberta and Calgary, which hopefully tell you where you rank on everything (other than the interview I think) relative to the pool. If it's just the interview that's an issue, consider applying again but practising a ton more on the interview. Enlist the aid of a coach who has actually helped students get in, if you must. Simultaneously, work to get the $ so that you can go to Australia or Ireland or wherever if that's really what you want to do.

But beware: it's extremely difficult to get a residency in those countries unless you're a citizen of an EU country (for Ireland) or AU/NZ (for Australia). Even if you've gotten a residency, for Australia, I believe you have to work rurally for 10 years before you can bill in major cities, or something like that

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Medicine is the only career you can see yourself doing... what have you been doing up to this point?

Also have you considered going to the USA, maybe a DO school? I've met someone who trained in Ireland, can't stay there for residency because they're not an EU citizen and has had difficulty matching to Canada. Do you have ties to these other countries?

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Just spend a ton of time next year on interview prep.  Take every dollar you are considering spending in Australia and use it on interview prep.  Hire coaches, ideally several.  Have anecdotes for interview situations practiced and ready to go.  Go to practice sessions and find practice partners.  The problem with Australia isn't really the money as much as the matching back in Canada.  I don't mean this as a personal attack, but someone getting 2 interviews in Canada per year voluntarily choosing to go abroad is breathtakingly stupid.  

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47 minutes ago, goleafsgochris said:

 I don't mean this as a personal attack, but someone getting 2 interviews in Canada per year voluntarily choosing to go abroad is breathtakingly stupid.  

100%

Don't do that man, you're gonna get your interview(s) again next year, just make sure  you practice efficiently. Know what went wrong, what you're weak at, and work every day at fixing those things.

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17 hours ago, mrdonkey said:

I'm a non-traditional student in my early 30s. Last year I received interviews in Calgary and Edmonton but was not accepted in either school. This cycle I once again received interviews at these schools and failed to get in. I'm beginning to think after 4 rolls of the dice there is simply something wrong with me at the interview stage and I'm wasting my time.

What the others said. If there is a specific issue at the interview stage, then trying to skirt this during the admissions process may only mean that you'll run into the same issue again at the residency match stage.. or the job hunting stage... when you've left your previous career behind and the stakes are higher. Better to try to figure out what the problem is and deal with it head-on.

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As a non-trad that got rejected 4 times, let me tell you that I admire your courage.
I find it heartbreaking that you are going through this.
My advice would be to give yourself a chance to apply again in Canada.
You have clearly demonstrated that you are at the finish line of the marathon.
You already know that the only thing preventing you from an admission is the interview.
You have nailed everything else and should be proud of it.


As others have suggested, try improving interview related skills.
I know it may sound crazy but you can try different strategies.
The goal is to allow you to be at ease when you have to quickly and clearly communicate ideas :

  • Video record yourself answering questions or just talking about random subjects and re-watch it to analyze it.
  • Try to practice your public speaking skills and debating abilities by joining a debate club or something similar.
  • Volunteer/work in a setting where you have to engage with the public, patients, etc.

But I can understand that you feel tired, exhausted and out of breath.
I can relate to a certain extend because part of the frustration is more than just being rejected.
It's that constant feeling of hoping for something that is not happening.
But remember that studying in Canada allows you to be close to your family, friends and loved ones.
It will enhance your medical school experience and probably make you happier.

Before being accepted this year, I wrote myself a letter just to remember how I felt.
I posted it here and I hope it could maybe relieve some of your emotion.
Best of luck and feel free to message me if you have questions :)

 

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I have said it many times before... leaving Canada, except for a US MD or maybe DO, is a strategy that is highly likely to land you in +++ debt ($300K), and without a residency to show for it. You will become one of the thousands of IMGs competing for a relative handful of spots, unless you can find a way to stay in the country you do medical school. I'd make sure that's possible well ahead of time. At least in the US, you can match on the same terms as domestic students and start residency on OPT/H-1B visa.

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OP,  I can certainly relate to your situation. I also applied 4 times and had interviews at both UofA and UofC for 2 years without getting in. I finally was accepted this year. 

Some advice I wish I could tell myself before I got accepted:

-I know you say that medicine is the only career you see yourself happy doing, but I think it's really important to challenge this belief. I went "all in" for medicine for 3 years, which is soul-crushing when it doesn't work out. This cycle I took a completely different approach, where I started to really think about other career paths that I could see myself doing. I decided to apply to other programs, which took away the pressure of my life depending on my med application results. 

-This actually goes against some of the other advice on here, but as for the interview, I actually took a more laid back approach this year. My third time applying, I practiced excessively with several people, and I still wasn't accepted. This year I decided to do a little bit of prep on my own and that's it. Although this may not work for you, I think it ultimately worked for me because I was better able to be myself at the interview without sounding rehearsed or insincere. 

-Lastly, this process is exhausting and cruel. I think the biggest thing that changed in this last cycle for me was shifting my mentality from med being the end all, be all for me. I realized I would enjoy and be successful at a lot of other careers. 

To sum up, I would keep trying in Canada. Stop putting pressure on yourself and work towards something else in the meantime that you think would be a good option for you if med doesn't work out. I'm sorry you're going through this, but just know that your rejection does not define you (something I have to convince myself for 3 years). Good luck! 

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Thanks so kindly for your replies, everyone! I can't address all the wonderful points made here of course, but I'll give it my best shot.

On 5/5/2018 at 7:48 PM, shematoma said:

Medicine is the only career you can see yourself doing... what have you been doing up to this point?

Also have you considered going to the USA, maybe a DO school? I've met someone who trained in Ireland, can't stay there for residency because they're not an EU citizen and has had difficulty matching to Canada. Do you have ties to these other countries?

I have been working in public health research as a data analyst. Don't get me wrong, I'm enormously fortunate and thankful to be able to work in a health care environment, but I've been suffering from depression the last few years. I'm very good at what I do but I don't want to work with spreadsheets and coding my whole life, and every year I get rejected is another year where I know this is going to be my reality. I was not born to work at the same desk for 8 hours every day. I'd rather be working on the front lines and making a direct impact in the lives of vulnerable populations and I know I'd be great at it.

On 5/5/2018 at 10:50 PM, goleafsgochris said:

Just spend a ton of time next year on interview prep.  Take every dollar you are considering spending in Australia and use it on interview prep.  Hire coaches, ideally several.  Have anecdotes for interview situations practiced and ready to go.  Go to practice sessions and find practice partners.  The problem with Australia isn't really the money as much as the matching back in Canada.  I don't mean this as a personal attack, but someone getting 2 interviews in Canada per year voluntarily choosing to go abroad is breathtakingly stupid.  

I can totally appreciate that. It's just that I'm not as young as I used to be and the only other jobs I'm qualified for have contributed to a lot of unhappiness in my life. I'd like to move on with a new career path ASAP. In the end I decided not to apply overseas and give it another shot here in Canada even if it's not where I intend to practice. I just wish I knew what specifically to work on as a person because it's hard to know how I'm meant to improve when schools stopped giving feedback a while ago.

On 5/8/2018 at 2:21 AM, HoopDreams said:

As a non-trad that got rejected 4 times, let me tell you that I admire your courage.
I find it heartbreaking that you are going through this.
My advice would be to give yourself a chance to apply again in Canada.
You have clearly demonstrated that you are at the finish line of the marathon.
You already know that the only thing preventing you from an admission is the interview.
You have nailed everything else and should be proud of it.


As others have suggested, try improving interview related skills.
I know it may sound crazy but you can try different strategies.
The goal is to allow you to be at ease when you have to quickly and clearly communicate ideas :

  • Video record yourself answering questions or just talking about random subjects and re-watch it to analyze it.
  • Try to practice your public speaking skills and debating abilities by joining a debate club or something similar.
  • Volunteer/work in a setting where you have to engage with the public, patients, etc.

But I can understand that you feel tired, exhausted and out of breath.
I can relate to a certain extend because part of the frustration is more than just being rejected.
It's that constant feeling of hoping for something that is not happening.
But remember that studying in Canada allows you to be close to your family, friends and loved ones.
It will enhance your medical school experience and probably make you happier.

Before being accepted this year, I wrote myself a letter just to remember how I felt.
I posted it here and I hope it could maybe relieve some of your emotion.
Best of luck and feel free to message me if you have questions :)

 

Thanks for the great post friend. I'm going to continue to grow through volunteer work, engaging in activities I enjoy, and working in health care, even if it's somewhat peripheral in my case. It's all I can do at this stage without simply adding problems to my life.

On 5/8/2018 at 11:42 PM, shematoma said:

I have said it many times before... leaving Canada, except for a US MD or maybe DO, is a strategy that is highly likely to land you in +++ debt ($300K), and without a residency to show for it. You will become one of the thousands of IMGs competing for a relative handful of spots, unless you can find a way to stay in the country you do medical school. I'd make sure that's possible well ahead of time. At least in the US, you can match on the same terms as domestic students and start residency on OPT/H-1B visa.

It's honestly not the debt that bothers me. Having computer science skills and a background in data analysis/machine learning means I'll always have opportunities to make boat loads of money as a backup plan. It's not even the fact that I'd be apart from my friends and family - truthfully I want to live and work in Africa where I have already lived for some time. I'd be very happy to practice in a rural environment in Australia/EU if given the chance, and I have no specific desire to return to Canada once I'm done. What bothers me is the possibility of being stuck in residency limbo, where I'm simply not able to match anywhere in the world because neither my host country nor my home country have any vested interest in providing me a residency spot. To get that close and have it ripped away would be even more soul-crushing than the annual May ritual of med school rejections.

On 5/9/2018 at 1:23 AM, macd said:

OP,  I can certainly relate to your situation. I also applied 4 times and had interviews at both UofA and UofC for 2 years without getting in. I finally was accepted this year. 

Some advice I wish I could tell myself before I got accepted:

-I know you say that medicine is the only career you see yourself happy doing, but I think it's really important to challenge this belief. I went "all in" for medicine for 3 years, which is soul-crushing when it doesn't work out. This cycle I took a completely different approach, where I started to really think about other career paths that I could see myself doing. I decided to apply to other programs, which took away the pressure of my life depending on my med application results. 

-This actually goes against some of the other advice on here, but as for the interview, I actually took a more laid back approach this year. My third time applying, I practiced excessively with several people, and I still wasn't accepted. This year I decided to do a little bit of prep on my own and that's it. Although this may not work for you, I think it ultimately worked for me because I was better able to be myself at the interview without sounding rehearsed or insincere. 

-Lastly, this process is exhausting and cruel. I think the biggest thing that changed in this last cycle for me was shifting my mentality from med being the end all, be all for me. I realized I would enjoy and be successful at a lot of other careers. 

To sum up, I would keep trying in Canada. Stop putting pressure on yourself and work towards something else in the meantime that you think would be a good option for you if med doesn't work out. I'm sorry you're going through this, but just know that your rejection does not define you (something I have to convince myself for 3 years). Good luck! 

I tried to just be myself and take things more casual this year. Open up about myself, share some of my stories from abroad and about my experiences and why I would be a great doctor. Unfortunately I did even worse this year than last at the interview stage. I know in my heart I'm a highly qualified candidate with a lot to provide, I just don't know what is important to show them and how to frame it. It's a frustrating experience. This year I'll just be throwing all my time at interview coaching and prep, I think.

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On 5/10/2018 at 5:18 AM, mrdonkey said:

Thanks so kindly for your replies, everyone! I can't address all the wonderful points made here of course, but I'll give it my best shot.

I have been working in public health research as a data analyst. Don't get me wrong, I'm enormously fortunate and thankful to be able to work in a health care environment, but I've been suffering from depression the last few years. I'm very good at what I do but I don't want to work with spreadsheets and coding my whole life, and every year I get rejected is another year where I know this is going to be my reality. I was not born to work at the same desk for 8 hours every day. I'd rather be working on the front lines and making a direct impact in the lives of vulnerable populations and I know I'd be great at it.

I can totally appreciate that. It's just that I'm not as young as I used to be and the only other jobs I'm qualified for have contributed to a lot of unhappiness in my life. I'd like to move on with a new career path ASAP. In the end I decided not to apply overseas and give it another shot here in Canada even if it's not where I intend to practice. I just wish I knew what specifically to work on as a person because it's hard to know how I'm meant to improve when schools stopped giving feedback a while ago.

Thanks for the great post friend. I'm going to continue to grow through volunteer work, engaging in activities I enjoy, and working in health care, even if it's somewhat peripheral in my case. It's all I can do at this stage without simply adding problems to my life.

It's honestly not the debt that bothers me. Having computer science skills and a background in data analysis/machine learning means I'll always have opportunities to make boat loads of money as a backup plan. It's not even the fact that I'd be apart from my friends and family - truthfully I want to live and work in Africa where I have already lived for some time. I'd be very happy to practice in a rural environment in Australia/EU if given the chance, and I have no specific desire to return to Canada once I'm done. What bothers me is the possibility of being stuck in residency limbo, where I'm simply not able to match anywhere in the world because neither my host country nor my home country have any vested interest in providing me a residency spot. To get that close and have it ripped away would be even more soul-crushing than the annual May ritual of med school rejections.

I tried to just be myself and take things more casual this year. Open up about myself, share some of my stories from abroad and about my experiences and why I would be a great doctor. Unfortunately I did even worse this year than last at the interview stage. I know in my heart I'm a highly qualified candidate with a lot to provide, I just don't know what is important to show them and how to frame it. It's a frustrating experience. This year I'll just be throwing all my time at interview coaching and prep, I think.

You know what? Fulfilling this desire to do something more meaningful right now while also trying your luck again in Canada next year are not mutually exclusive options. I was in a similar situation last year, and I simply left everything I had here to do some meaningful volunteering as a disaster relief worker. I was on the front line, I saw the joy and gratitude in the eyes of those I helped, and I got in good physical shape as a bonus. Days were exhausting, food was always the same and lacking in many nutrients, but the entire experience was extremely fulfilling. I came back to Canada several weeks before my only interview, and got accepted. Who knows, maybe this experience is precisely what made me excel in the interview! More relaxed, a broader perspective on the human condition, and perhaps more mature overall. Doing things that you actually want to do can start right now, you don't have to wait to be a doctor to be happy. Personally, I discovered that disaster relief might be something I would pursue if medicine didn't work out.

Best of luck with the decisions you have to make!

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