Preparing for Medical School
The medical profession can be very rewarding – emotionally, intellectually and financially. Being a doctor allows you to treat the sick, conduct medical research and teach medical/health sciences. However, before you make a decision about medicine as a career, you should carefully research the field to see where the opportunities lie and to determine if the nature of the work suits your personality and career ambitions. There are many different ways to obtain the information necessary to make an informed decision and to be successful in the medical school application process. To discuss your career concerns regarding medicine or any other career question you have, please book an appointment with a Career Counsellor by calling 905-828-5451. The following is a guide to resources at the UTM Career Centre, as well as suggestions for additional ways of obtaining information on careers in the field of medicine.
Watch My Journey to Medical School - a video from our former student staff on his journey to medical School
Ontario has six medical schools, each with its own academic and non-academic admission requirements. Please check each school’s website for up-to-date information. The application process for all Ontario medical schools is centralized through OMSAS (Ontario Medical School Application Service) and admission must be made through the OMSAS website. The application deadline for fall is usually the end of September or early October, and you MUST create your online COMPASS.OMSAS account by mid September or you will not be eligible to apply for the coming year.
Tip: Create an account with OMSAS well ahead of time (mid-July). You can re-enter your account multiple times and add to your application throughout the summer. Print out the application package, read it carefully, highlight key areas and make notes to help you prepare your materials.
Applications are online at www.ouac.on.ca/omsas
Admission Tests (MCAT) (New VERSION as of 2015)
In Ontario, four of the six medical schools (U of T, McMaster, Queens and Western) require applicants to take the MCAT (Medical School Admission Test). The MCAT contains four * sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Things, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Psychological and Social Foundations, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. Consider studying well in advance and/or taking a prep course (Princeton, Kaplan, Oxford, Prep101) to prepare yourself for this first major hurdle in your medical career.
* More information on this new test is available on the MCAT site listed in the previous paragraph.
Tip: While first-year physical and life science courses will provide the base knowledge for the MCAT, many students spend two to three months studying prior to their MCAT test date to obtain competitive scores. Commercial prep courses may provide a structured study plan as well as motivation for rigorous study. They do, however, require significant time and financial investment (e.g. two to three evenings per week, every other full Saturday for two to three months).
MCAT Administration Dates – as of January 2016 the MCAT is computer-based, with around 20 test dates from January till late September. Check the MCAT website for locations and dates. Registration for tests will typically open three to four months prior to the test date.
Researching Your Career Options
The occupational binders in the Career Resource Library contain career monographs, interviews with health care professionals, articles offering profiles of the profession, as well as recent trends, along with medical association information. There is also information on the various sub-disciplines of medicine (pathology, neurology, cardiology etc.).
Career Cruising, a Canadian online career exploration tool, provides in-depth information (job description, average day, education requirements, information interviews etc.) for a variety of medical professions including Family Practitioner, Plastic Surgeon, Psychiatrist, Ob-Gyn and Pediatrician. Read more about Accessing Career Cruising.
The Career Centre offers Medical School Information Sessions, Resume and Cover Letter workshops and Personal Statement workshops to assist you in your career planning and preparation for medical school. You can also make an individual appointment with a Career Counsellor to clarify and prepare for your career goals.
The Graduate & Professional Schools Fair 2023 held in late September allows students to meet representatives from professional schools in Canada, US and abroad and ask questions concerning health-related professional schools. The Get Hired Fair (September/January) allows students to speak with local organizations to explore volunteer and paid opportunities.
As part of your application process, you will be asked to prepare a Personal Statement. The ability to communicate your motivation, academic and career goals, relevant skills and experiences in application essays and interviews is key to gaining admission to medical school. Jot down accomplishments, goals, essay themes and other ideas as you gather them. The best personal statements are honest, concise and seek to let medical schools know how you can contribute to the program, your peers and the community. To help you with the medical school application process, The UTM Career Centre and the Academic Skills Centre offer feedback for personal statements. Please note that editing services are not offered. The Career Centre offers Personal Statements Workshops three times each semester. You can also begin your statement by completing our Personal Statement E-Module. It is available to you 24/7 for your convenience. Seek others to read and critique your answers. Help is available through the UTM Career Centre. Book an appointment with a Career Counsellor so that we can review your statement. Of course, you are always welcome to drop by the Undergraduate Medical School Admissions Office in the Medical Sciences Building for application concerns to U of T, Faculty of Medicine. The Pre-Med Club on campus provides a comprehensive website of medical school-related links. In addition, they offer a variety of events (MCAT strategies, speaker-based panels) to further assist students in their application for medical school.
We also recommend speaking to your academic/professional character referees at least a month prior to the application deadline. Schedule an appointment to clarify your objectives and provide them with confirmation that the secure link to your confidential assessment form will be emailed to them once you have put their emails into the system. In the event that you are invited to a medical school interview, make an appointment with a Career Counsellor so that we can help you to prepare for the interview.
Develop a personal and professional career portfolio. Strive to gain quality experiences in your community and abroad through work, volunteer and extra-curricular activities. Obtaining work and volunteer experiences in hospitals, nursing homes, centres for disabled children, community and other health-related settings shows compassion, commitment, and most importantly, your understanding of the nature of a physician’s job. While medical school candidates usually have top grades and MCAT scores, it is the sum total of your life’s unique experiences, in addition to top grades, that will give you the edge.
Have a Backup Plan
If at first you fail, try and try again! There’s more than one way of getting into medical school. It is no longer the linear, traditional, straight-out-of-undergrad route of the past. Consider a master’s degree, study/work in a paramedical career, working full-time and staying for an extra undergraduate year before (re)applying to medical school. Continue to assess and reassess your goals and motivations for wanting to be a doctor. Related and other non-related career fields may satisfy your evolving career goals.
U.S. and Foreign Medical Schools
Before deciding to apply to medical schools outside of Canada, there are several questions to consider: Have I explored and exhausted all my options for applying to medical schools in Canada (in and out of province)? Do I have the academic requirements and financial means to study medicine in the U.S. or abroad? What are my expectations for the future (return to Canada, residency, practice)? For application to U.S. medical schools, Canadian applicants need to satisfy citizenship/residency requirements and have superior academic qualifications and adequate financial means. Canadian students who ultimately wish to do their residency and practice in Canada must obtain their medical degree at an institution recognized by the World Health Organization. Additional steps towards obtaining a residency and practicing in Canada should be researched (residency matching, qualifying exams etc.). For more information read our one-stop guide on Physician - Mission NOT SO Impossible
Important Links for researching U.S. and foreign medical schools:
Applying to, gaining acceptance, and attending medical school can be a time-consuming process. So, if becoming a doctor is in your career plans, start early, work hard and most importantly – be yourself and do what feels right! Start with a self-assessment of your motives and aspirations; research the career field, your options and the application process; actively seek the skills and experiences you lack; sell yourself with honesty and integrity to the admissions committee; and don’t be afraid to take another path in order to realize your dreams. The union of preparation and opportunity translates to luck when it comes time to get into medical school.
updated July 2023