Post-McMaster Interview Thoughts

Wow, so apparently it’s been a few weeks since I last wrote on this blog. I honestly didn’t realize it had been that long – I guess it’s true that time flies by when you’re having fun. Actually, I don’t know if that’s really the case – I feel like it’s more because I have been so exhausted with starting my second semester of school. Things have been absolutely crazy and busy these past few weeks, that everything except school and the interview has sort of been pushed to the back burner.

Congrats to some of you!

Thanks to everyone who has let me know about their journey in the scholarship process. It makes me really happy that so many of you have done well, and that you think that this blog has in some way helped you. That’s one of the cool things about providing help, advice, and connecting with others – it doesn’t matter what happens to me today, or if I don’t wake up tomorrow – I will know that my life has actually impacted people positively, which means what I have done (and will do) matters. That’s a great feeling.

First Failed Test?

I think I might have actually failed my first ever university test this past Monday. I really dislike the course, but seeing as I need the credit in the event that I do get into medical school, it’s not like I can really drop it and take something else at this point. It’s a biology course that is extremely dense in terms of material, and for me personally, not particularly interesting. Because of that, the material is simply really hard to retain, and it really pained me to get through it. I guess it didn’t help that I wrote the test on three hours of sleep. And it also didn’t help that the test was only on less than 5% of what I actually studied, and there was a super ambiguous essay question worth a third of my mark. Oh well. We’ll see what happens – I think I’m going to have to work really hard to turn this course around.

McMaster Interview Thoughts

But right, right, you guys don’t really care about that. I think most people will want to hear about how the McMaster Medical School interview went. Now, for those of you who are not familiar with the medical school admissions process, there are actually many medical schools who don’t have a traditional interview style. A lot of Canadian medical schools are now adopting the “Multiple Mini Interview” (MMI) format pioneered by McMaster several years ago.

The MMI format at McMaster involved a circuit of 12 stations. You would spend 2 minutes reading a scenario on a door, and then have 8 minutes to enter the room and perform a task in the room, while being marked by an evaluator. As stated on the McMaster Medicine website: “The stations deal with a variety of issues, which may include but are not limited to, communication, collaboration, ethics, health policy, critical thinking, awareness of society health issues in Canada and personal qualities. Applicants are not assessed on their scientific knowledge.

If you’re interested in the types of things you would encounter at an MMI station, a common set of examples can be found here. Although I am not at liberty to say the stations I actually went through, I would say those examples above (and other examples you can find on the Internet) are pretty similar.

Unfortunately, yet again, I could not sleep the night before. This makes it 3 for 3 that I wasn’t able to sleep the night before an interview. I’m not sure how much it mattered, but it definitely affected my performance in all three cases, and it’s a bit frustrating that I suddenly have this problem now (and I’ve never had it before). It’s really weird and mind boggling for me. I don’t get it, and I really hope it doesn’t happen again.

The morning of the interview (this past Saturday) started off by just meeting and talking with the other interviewees for maybe fifteen minutes or so. When I first got there, I didn’t see anyone that I knew, so I walked up to two random girls who were already talking and introduced myself. Wow, talk about awkward. After initial introductions, while I tried to make small talk, they had absolutely nothing to say to me. Super awkward, so once I caught sight of someone that I even remotely knew, I got right out of there.

That person ended up being a random student who I had met at my UofT interview. I also ended up running into a friend of mine from the Shad Valley program who I had not seen in years. Eventually I started meeting some more…. approachable people, so that was nice.

After the “meet and greet”, we were split up into our MMI groups. Basically, there are 13 interviewees in each group/circuit, as there are 12 stations + 1 rest station. Each of these circuits are going on at the same time, just in different parts of the building. We were led by a few first year McMaster medical students to a separate room, where they just talked to us a bit about the program and answered our questions for half an hour. Then we watched a brief presentation on the MMI format, before being led off to the actual interview.

In total, the MMI circuit takes about a little more than 2 hours to complete. I was #1, meaning that I started at Station 1. Because the rest station is Station #13, I essentially did all 12 real stations in a row, and had my “rest” at the end (while other people had their rests somewhere in the middle). I honestly was happy with that – I really wouldn’t want a rest station, as I think that might take me out of my rhythm. The whole thing goes by so fast that you don’t really get tired, and I think keeping a rhythm is really, really, important.

Unfortunately, I didn’t perform as well as I hoped to. I didn’t come out feeling I did fantastic – I think I did pretty average overall. That being said, going into it, I really didn’t feel I had a particular edge in this format. I don’t think I’m very good at thinking on the spot and speaking for a long time. If instead we were given say ten minutes to prepare a presentation on the scenario, I think I could do it as well as anyone. But with two minutes, I’m just not as good at both brainstorming and structuring my ideas as well as other people – I tend to ramble sometimes, or not have a clear structure of how I want to deliver my answer. So I kind of knew that before hand, and so I’m not surprised that I didn’t end up feeling great, but of course, it’s disappointing none the less whenever you think you could’ve done better.

One big thing that did hurt me was my lack of knowledge. I honestly don’t really follow current events. I think the main reason for that is I am much more fascinated by concepts and ideas, so I don’t really read or follows the news much (some people give me a lot of crap for that, but I’m sorry, that’s how I am!). Honestly, if something major happened yesterday, I’d probably be the last person to know.

So how does that relate to the MMI? Well, a few of the stations were scenarios that were obviously based on current events that had happened within the last year or two. So while I recognized they were related to some current events, I could not pin point the actual facts of those situations. Had I been aware of those events, I could have used them as examples to strengthen my arguments, or to provide different perspectives for me to discuss. So I think that really hurt me for some of the stations.

In addition, I did not spend enough time coming up with a specific approach to the stations overall. I was honestly sick of the medical school admissions process by this time (probably affected by my stress from my condensed second semester of school), and I sort of stopped caring – which is not good. I do think I could come up with a really good theoretical plan for approaching the MMI, but I was too lazy to take the time to do it for myself (maybe that’s stupid). The lack of sleep I think also affected me – I don’t think I thought as clearly as I normally would. That’s no one’s fault but mine, it’s just frustrating. Then again maybe I’ll surprise myself and get in – who knows?

Reflection on the Overall Medical School Application Process

The first round offers for Ontario medical schools come out on May 15. They also seem to come out by email around 9:00am – which is pretty good, considering that you find out first thing in the morning. It’s also the Friday for a long weekend, so either I will be able to celebrate happily, or have a full long weekend to sulk.

In terms of the overall process, I would say that I was extremely happy with my initial application submission (biographical sketch and essays), minus the goof up with Ottawa’s submission (which could still have cost me an interview offer, I still don’t know). I think that the application submission is probably my biggest strength in terms of the overall process. Like I mentioned before, I feel like I am very good at coming up with a plan and executing it. I feel like I am very good at recognizing how admission evaluators likely think when growing through applications, and how to market my ideas in a way that they will find receptive.

I also think that I have a very good approach to the traditional interview style. I prepared an entire week for Queen’s, and I felt I did fantastic. Unfortunately, for some reason after that, my motivation in the process seemed to go downhill. Even though the UofT interview was also traditional, for some reason, I just couldn’t get into a rhythm and I think I gave some pretty poor answers. I am really disappointed because I feel like traditional style interviews are where I really have an edge, and I just didn’t execute even close to the best of my ability. My brother keeps telling me the interview won’t matter much, but even if that is true, it’s very possible that I am a borderline applicant and that the interview will make or break me (which is sort of disheartening, since interviewees have like a ~50% chance of getting into UofT based on pure numbers). I know a lot of people will tell me that I am probably just over-exaggerating, but as someone who has been through a decent amount of interviews, I feel like I can be pretty honest with myself in terms of what I think a good, mediocre, and poor answer is.

I think by that point, I was a bit sick of the whole process, and without a doubt, I didn’t prepare for my McMaster interview as well as I could have. I know some people are going to say that it was a wasted opportunity. You might be right. Maybe it was the stress from starting school again, I don’t know. But for whatever reason, I just lost a ton of motivation for the process. Will it hurt me? Maybe. There is no doubt that if I get rejected from every school, despite having three interviews, I will feel pretty upset, and it will likely have largely been due to my lack of preparation for the interview process. It sucks even more if you run the numbers: considering I had three interviews, prior statistics suggest I have a 90%+ chance of getting into at least one of the three schools. So while that seems like a great number, it’s also going to hurt hard if I end up in the 10% of the time that I don’t.

And so it’s 45 days to go until I find out. The good news is that now I can focus on school and everything else (including this blog). It’s kind of nice not having to worry about anything else medical school related, at least for the next month and a half. I envision myself not sleeping the night of May 14 and just staying up the whole night, but who knows?

Alright, enough of this for now…

Interview with a Medical Student

A good friend of mine is a first year medical student and has been on the other side of the interview process as an evaluator this year at a Canadian medical school. If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask, let me know, as I’m going to be conducting a Q & A with him and posting the interview here.

Okay, that was super long

Yah, seriously it was. Though I think I owe a long post since I’ve been away for so long. Cheers!

  • tia

    Hi! When are interviews sent and approximately which months are interviews in at u of t and McMaster?