Every medical school has a different philosophy when it comes to evaluating applicants. Some schools, like Queen’s and Western, look at your GPA and MCAT scores first, and pretty much guarantee you an interview if you meet certain cutoffs. Some schools, like the University of Toronto, look at your entire application package first before granting an interview: GPA, MCAT, personal essay, biographical sketch, and reference letters.
As with any medical school, you will get complaints about the process. Personally, I think it’s great that the medical schools have such different philosophies on admissions, so that many great candidates with different backgrounds are likely to get in somewhere. But when it gets more personal, and your application package isn’t as competitive at a certain school, it’s understandable for people to be a bit frustrated.
As an example, some applicants have voiced frustration with the fact that UofT’s medical school admissions places a greater weight on reference letters than some other schools. The most common argument is that there is a lot of variance involved with reference letters since it is out of the applicant’s control, in terms of how well the referees are able to write. So it is very possible that an applicant is fantastic, but his or her referee just lacks the skills, experience, and knowledge to put those ideas well onto paper.
In this article I want to analyze this common frustration, and then give my argument for why I think a medical school (or scholarship organization, summer program, etc.) might value reference letters.
Variance Exists Everywhere – Deal with It
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