Archive | June, 2010

What do I want out of my university education?


About a year and a half ago, I wrote an article on my thoughts about what to keep in mind when applying to university, using my personal experience as an example.

In that article, I focused mostly on figuring out which university fits you best based on program, location, opportunities, etc. However, there is one more important question you need to ask yourself when thinking about your education that I completely failed to mention.

In short, that question is: what do I want out of my education?

At first glance it may seem like an odd question to ask, but it’s really not. It seems odd because many of us have our own ideas about what the purpose of your educational experience is or should be – but the truth is that your educational experience is whatever you want it to be. There is no one right way to view your education, and it’s important to always realize that, despite what people may argue.

Some people just want to learn. Very often they are genuinely and strongly interested in the topics at hand, and want to sponge up as much as possible.

On the other hand, some people go to university purely for the degree. Usually this in terms of job prospects or further education requirements (e.g. professional schools, graduate schools, etc.).

Of course, if you’re applying to professional school (such as medical school), marks matter. So some people go to university primarily to get the grades required to move on to something else.

In my opinion, these are all legitimate. It bothers me when people try to act as if there is some universal agreement as to what we should want out of our education (e.g. “You shouldn’t be picking your school just for the sake of getting good marks!” There are reasons why doing so is often not a good idea, but it has nothing to do with a right or wrong way of looking at education). Quite often, what we want out of our education will be some combination of 2 or 3 of these views, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

When you are thinking of where you want to go to university, you need to reflect on all of these issues, because different undergraduate programs will be more conducive to one of these aspects than the others.

So take the time to figure out what you want out of your university education – it’ll save you a lot of head ache down the road!

How to study for the MCAT (and do well) – Part 1


On the first class of my MCAT prep course, the course instructor wrote on the board:

“The MCAT exists to _________ me.”

He then asked us to fill in the blank. There was silence at first, and then one student bravely said “to screw me”. Funny chaos ensued for a few minutes as others piped in “to kill me”, “to ruin me”, and so forth.

The instructor stopped our laughter by shouting “Wrong!”, and then said, “The MCAT exists to help you.” He explained that since it was May, we only had one summer before med school applications were due. Extracurricular activities and good reference letters often require long-term commitments, so there’s not much you can do in these last few months. The school year is over, so is any chance of changing your GPA. The only thing left that you can use to improve your application at this point is the MCAT.

This post is the first of two personal heart-to-hearts on how to prepare for the MCAT. I admit that the downfall of this article is the fact that it is derived from the experience of a sample size of just one. I managed a 37R with this advice though, so I hope it helps!

Psyching yourself

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So I didn’t get into medical school… what now?


If you applied to medical school this past year, you probably know where you’ll be this fall by now. Some of you may have been accepted into medical school and are excited for the journey that lies ahead. If so, congratulations, and best of luck as you start a brand new chapter in your life! Getting into medical school is an amazing accomplishment, but a lot of hard work and challenges still lie ahead. I’d suggest enjoying your summer as much as you can before the work really piles on =).

Others, however, may have fallen a bit short in the process and are now wondering what your next steps should be. If that’s you, then this article is for you. Before we go any further, you need to do something first.

Give Yourself a Pat on the Back

I know giving yourself a pat on the back won’t change the results of this past year, but fact is, you deserve it. Applying to medical school is hard, especially when you consider that you’ve really been “applying” since day one and not just when you started writing your application last fall. I’ll say it again: applying to medical school is hard. And tiring.

From filling out applications, to getting references letters, to doing interviews (not to mention staying on track of your school work, extra-curricular involvements, and your personal life) – the whole process is draining. And don’t delude yourself into thinking the process ends once you get into medical school. It keeps going because, well, you will have to compete for residency spots as well. Of course that is ways into the future, but it’s important to keep in mind that you’re still going to have to compete in the years that follow entering medical school. It is what it is.

So congratulate yourself for getting through this year. Even though you didn’t get in this year, going through the application process can only make you a better applicant for next year’s cycle. You will learn from your mistakes. Not only that, but you can build on last year’s application – a lot of the basic grunt work (for example, figuring out who your references will be, creating a list of all your achievements/experiences, etc.) is now done, and what happens now is more about improving than starting from scratch. That makes a huge difference.

Still, we can’t start analyzing what you should do in preparation for applying again. There’s still one more important question to ask at this point.

Should I even apply to medical school again?

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Things I Wish I Knew before starting Medical School


It has been a month since I last blogged. To be honest, blogging has not at all been on my mind up until this past week when my “summer break” finally started (I use that term loosely because I am, like many of you guys, working this summer, but it’s a break from school nonetheless).

The last month of medical school at UofT was the most hectic! May started off with our Brain and Behaviour final exam (passed!), followed by our Clinical Skills final exam (a practical exam known as an OSCE – probably the most fun exam of the year), then our Determinants of Community Health final, and finally, our Pharmacology exam (good thing this exam was only covering the last two weeks of school!). Without a doubt, we had more exams in our final month than any other month during the year – but I guess that made finishing all the more sweet.

Medical school was a brand new educational experience for me. While it is similar in many ways to undergrad, there are of course many huge differences. I definitely had to make adjustments, and when I couldn’t, had to deal with heavy lessons (that hopefully I better take into account during my 2nd year of medical school). The following are a few things I wish I could’ve told myself before starting the year.

Pace Your Studying

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