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Playing the Admissions Game

I’ve almost forgotten how neurotic premed students can get. The first year of medical school has its own challenges that make you soon forget about last year’s worries. But with the Canadian medical school interview season in full throttle, the swarms of applicants have begun to show their stress and worry.

Talking to friends who have applied this year, applicants who have shown up at information sessions and posters in online forums, there are definitely a lot of misconceptions about the whole admissions process. There is a lot of guessing and speculation about how the admissions committee works. Absurd theories and weight formulas are postulated by premeds without any evidence. Almost any specific criteria that you find on the internet regarding the whole process turns out to be false.

As a few of you may or may not know, I am currently sitting on the admissions and interview committees for my medical school. Now due to confidentiality, I can’t reveal any of the behind the scene “magic” that is medical school admissions nor would I want to.

However, I want to say that your applications are in good hands and that each person is evaluated as fairly as possible. The old adages of having good grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, references and essays hold true. We aren’t lying to you when we give you the breakdowns. Every medical school has an assembly of dedicated adcoms that look at your applications carefully and thoroughly. We are all aware of how important an acceptance decision can be for someone. We take our job seriously.

In fact, the adcom members – if you can believe it – are even more neurotic then premeds applying. We hold long meetings to figure out the best weighting system, necessary prerequisites, and how even slight wording in the application form will affect you. Every conceivable situation, application, scenario has been brought up and discussed. Afterall, when you have a group of doctors, deans, admissions staff, and students who have been doing this for years nothing gets missed.

So relax. Don’t stress about how we do our job and instead focus on doing your own responsibilities well. So what if you know how we select applicants, does that make a difference? Probably not. Admissions is much like a game. We try to make this game as good as possible. There will be flaws and it won’t be perfect but we do care about the process and the people playing. And we are always trying to make it better.

So play the game to the best of your abilities.  The rules and ways we evaluate the players are simple and clear. Like most  good games, there is some luck involved. We (as admission committee members) are also playing the game too.  We trust our applicants, so hopefully you can trust us that we are doing our best too.

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