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A new “Guide to Med School” from friends

I’m happy to share that several classmates of mine who I graduated with from medical school at the University of Toronto have launched a new online book called Your Guide to Get into Medical School.

This is a free resource developed by physicians, residents and medical students for students, parents, and anyone else interested in the medical school admissions process or life as a physician. You can find it here.

I also had the pleasure of contributing a short chapter to this great resource about going from medicine to entrepreneurship, which you can find here.

Congrats to Jiayi, Manveen, Sameer and Aly on putting together a great resource. I hope you find it helpful!

Guest Post: Should I go to medical school in Australia or the UK?

The following post is written by my friend Jiayi Hu, a classmate of mine from medical school. He obtained his BHSc and MD from the University of Toronto (2009 and 2013, respectively). He is currently a Plastic Surgery resident at McMaster University and very passionate about education and career mentorship. You can learn more about him here.

A very common question I get from students and their parents is “I (or my child) is graduating from Grade 12 this year and really want/s to be a doctor. Should I (or he/she) stay in Canada for undergraduate studies before applying to medical school here? Or should he/she apply for Australian/UK medical schools now?”

The answer is somewhat simple: it all depends on if you intend to return to Canada to practice medicine.

The obvious benefits of attending an international school after Grade 12 are the shorter time of duration to obtain a medical degree (6 years, in comparison to the usual 8 years in Canada) and a relatively less competitive (and therefore, less stressful) application process. Despite the high tuition fees ($50,000-$60,000 CDN equivalent/year), those international schools are a popular choice among those with financial means. In comparison, a Canadian medical school costs $20,000/year to attend.

Ok. You got your medical degree. You are a doctor. But, are you really a doctor?

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New eBook – University of Toronto Medical School 2014-15

For the past few years, I have been writing eBooks to help applicants navigate the University of Toronto medical school’s new admission essays. I continue to receive great feedback and I have been psyched to see so many of you gaining admission medical school.

As the 2014-15 admissions cycle begins, I have gotten repeated requests to release an updated eBook. Today, I’m excited to announce the 2014-15 version of the eBook is now available!

In this book, you will learn:

  • Why each of the 4 essay questions is asked
  • How to select the best examples from your resume for answering the questions
  • A step-by-step template for writing each of the 4 essay questions and the 3 autobiographical sketch statements
  • Tips and tricks for turning those essays into masterpieces

You can find full details about the book here.

Regardless if you use my eBook, I want to wish you all the best of luck in this year’s application cycle!

New eBook – University of Toronto Medical School 2013-14

Last year, I wrote my first ever eBook to help applicants navigate the University of Toronto medical school’s new admission essays. I received great feedback, and it was fantastic to see some of those individuals end up getting into medical school.

Over the past few months, I received numerous requests to release an updated version for the 2013-14 application cycle. I am excited to announce that after weeks of hard work, my new version of the eBook is now available.

In this book, you will learn:

  • Why each of the 4 essay questions is asked
  • How to select the best examples from your resume for answering the questions
  • A step-by-step template for writing each of the 4 essay questions and the 3 autobiographical sketch statements
  • Tips and tricks for turning those essays into masterpieces

You can find full details about the book here.

Best of luck to all of you applying, and I hope you find the eBook helpful!

How Interviews Should be Used and What Their Limitations Are

As I am in the midst of writing many essays for my residency applications, I am also thinking ahead to the inevitable interview stage. I started to reflect on my experiences, the questions I was asked, and really the most important topic – what value do interviews contribute, why should we use them, and therefore, how should we use them?

Actions speak louder than words

Before I dive further into interviews, I want to point out why I think someone’s resume should be the most important part of the application process for anything. Really, it comes down to one simple reason:

Past behaviour is most predictive of future behaviour.

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How to Become Great at Writing Essays

I was recently consulted through EssaySensei to help a high school student with her application for a prestigious undergraduate program. Her mother saw the progress we had made since her first draft and was really impressed:

Hi Josh, I love this essay. It turned out so good. I couldn't be happier. Thank you thank you! Do you have any tricks my younger daughter could learn?

Residency applications

As I write this blog post, I am in the midst of completing my own applications for residency programs. Residency is the next step after medical school and involves additional training to become a specific type of doctor. For example, a family physician requires two extra years of residency training and a general surgeon requires six.

Similar to the process of applying to medical school, we need to write personal statements, C.V.s, and obtain reference letters from physicians and supervisors who have worked with us. And like medical school, we again have to apply to residency programs at various universities. This means that we need to tailor parts of our application to the different schools we are applying to. Suffice to say, it is a lot of work and brings back memories of applying to medical school. (Subtext: you will be jumping through hoops for the rest of your life.)

Over the last week, I have been working hard to write my personal statement. I need to write a convincing letter about why I want to pursue Family Medicine, how my experiences prepare me for residency, and why I am a good fit for each of these universities.

Fortunately, I developed my theme and structure relatively quickly, and I did not have too much trouble writing my first draft. I don't want to make essay writing sound easy, because it's not. But at the same time, it's not a mountain for me. Clearly, there must be skills or knowledge I could impart to help others with the essay writing process.

So what tips could I provide to this mother's daughter?

There is no substitute for experience

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McMaster CASPer 2012 – 4 Sample Videos and My Thoughts

Want to practice before doing the real McMaster CASPer?

Dr. Joshua Liu and other Canadian doctors have created MockCasper:

  • 6 different full length practice simulations
  • Feedback on your answers from actual medical students
  • A comprehensive CASPer guide loaded with tips for success

Start practicing now

This year, McMaster medical school has done something interesting with CASPer. They have provided this year’s applicants with 4 sample CASPer videos with 3 questions each. They also state that 2 of the 4 videos will be used in the actual CASPer – however, they make no mention of whether the questions will also be re-used.

Why are they doing this? I’m not really sure, and given their propensity for testing new models and concepts, I would imagine this is also for testing purposes – I see no other reason to provide applicants with advanced knowledge unless they were trying to see whether advanced preparation affects applicant scores or something like that. Who knows?

In any case, I thought these cases were interesting. While I’m not going to write out my own answers (for obvious reasons – you should be trying yourself!), I do want to share some random thoughts that hopefully will help some of you think about the scenario in different ways. Hopefully, seeing some different perspectives on the same scenario will help you when approaching new situations in the actual CASPer.

Video 1: Affirmative Action

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The 5 Biggest Mistakes Applicants Make on Medical School Essays

Over the last few weeks, I have reviewed quite a few medical school admissions essays through my online consulting service EssaySensei. Without a doubt, it confirmed something I have believed all along: that there is no clear correlation between essay writing skills and quality of applicant.

I have seen both good and bad essays, and the quality of the essay did not necessarily reflect the resumes of the applicants. Some applicants have done absolutely amazing things, but have great difficulty marketing themselves on paper. My goal when it comes to reviewing essays is always to help applicants better understand what medical schools are looking for, and present the best and most relevant aspects of themselves.

All that being said, I continue to notice several key mistakes that applicants seem to make over and over when writing their essays. While it is just 3 days before OMSAS medical school applications are due, for those of you have not submitted yet (to be fair, I had not submitted by this time either!), hopefully you can learn from these mistakes and improve your essays.

1. Lacking an introduction

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Presenting MockCasper – online practice simulations for McMaster CASPer

For those of you unaware, since 2010, McMaster Medical School started using an online assessment tool known as CASPer as part of its applicant screening process. It is now an integral part of the admissions process, making up 32% of the pre-interview score. Two years ago, I wrote an article about how CASPer was developed and how an applicant should go about preparing for it.

Over the last two years, I have been working with Canadian medical students to develop a preparation tool for CASPer.

The result of our hard work is MockCasper: a website with full length, practice simulations for CASPer.

As I have mentioned recently, I have developed a strong interest in project development and entrepreneurship, and it was a lot of fun taking a problem (preparing for CASPer), creating a solution (practice exams) and scaling that solution to a wide level (making it available online for applicants everywhere). We have developed some very cool features:

Online practice simulations

Our practice exams are the core of MockCasper. Each version is a full-length exam with 8 scenario-based sections and 4 self-descriptive sections just like the real CASPer. The only difference is that we currently use text-based scenarios instead of video-based scenarios. However, developing video-based scenarios is something we are looking at for the future. In addition, we offer the opportunity to evaluations and feedback provided to you by our team of medical students.

Try a free MockCasper sample
McMaster CASPer Guide

Together, we have also written a comprehensive guide with a lot of tips for how to do well on CASPer. It includes advice on both preparing for CASPer and actually completing it.

Read the CASPer Guide
Applicant profile

We have also developed a neat tool to help applicants organize their application. It is a personal applicant profile where you can store your GPA, MCAT scores (including multiple attempts), ECs/experiences for various categories (leadership, teamwork, scholar, etc.), and who your reference letters will come from. The idea is to start your profile early on (even as early as the beginning of undergrad), and by completing your profile, you will start to see where holes or gaps in your application might be. It also makes it easier when you do apply to medical school because all relevant information will now be in one place. You will need to create an account to have access to your personal profile. It is completely private and for your own viewing/use only.

This is an exciting project for us and we are stoked to share it with everyone. Whether or not you end up using our practice CASPer simulations, I hope you take advantage of the CASPer Guide and the applicant profile. In any case, I wish you all the best of luck applying to medical school this year!

7 Tips for Completing Your Medical School Application

As I write this, I am about to start my 4th and final year of medical school. The past year as a clinical clerk, working full time in the hospital and clinics, was the first time I ever came close to experiencing what it means to be a doctor. The amount I have learned about medicine in the past year – not just in terms of knowledge, but applying it like a physician – is sometimes hard to believe. Your first year of clerkship will be your hardest year in all of medical school, but it will also be the most eye opening.

Even though it’s been almost 4 years since I submitted my medical school applications, I still remember much of it. I know it’s that time of year again for many of you. Summer is coming to an end for many medhopefuls – a summer often full of stress and anxiety from writing the MCAT, doing research, volunteering or travelling. While that stress is soon to be followed by the normal stressors of the new school year, for many of you, this fall brings an additional pressure – completing your medical school applications.

For some of you, this may be your first time, and you are completely lost on what to do. For others, you have been through this before, and you’re hoping this is the last time you ever have to fill out these applications. Whatever the case may be, everyone has to go through this first step. It’s tough, it’s time consuming, and sometimes, extremely frustrating.

To try and help with that, today I present to you 7 tips to help you complete your medical school application.

7. Set yourself a due date of one week in advance

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