HOW TO GET INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL: My Story & Strategy

HOW TO GET INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL: My Story & Strategy

November 16, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


Are you trying to figure out how to get into medical school? Or just curious about what it takes? I’ve decided to make a very requested series of videos on medical school. So this will be the first in the series, so subscribe if you don’t want to miss any of them. Hi guys, I’m Siobhan, a first year medical resident. Today I’m gonna be telling you my story about how I got into medical school. I know how stressful and uncertain everything can feel when you’re applying to med school and I want to do what I can to try to help you through that. So if you want me to do a Q&A video answering your specific questions, just give this video a thumbs up and then comment below your question and then I can answer your specific question next time. So as many of you know, I didn’t take a traditional path to get to med school. I actually did my undergrad in violin performance before I ever applied, so I was down in Indiana University my major was violin. It was an incredible experience and I would never give that up or change it. I learned so much about myself and just grew and developed as a person. So to give you a little bit of a sense what I was doing back then, here’s a clip of my final recital. So like the big final exam of music school. Oh man, hearing that just transports me back in time. I remember how focused I felt and it was almost like I was underwater, just trying to get to a certain goal in violin. And that at a certain point near the end of undergrad it’s like I came up from underwater and I could start to remember some of the other dreams that I had now that I’d reached a level of violin that I was really happy with. There wasn’t really a clear moment when I knew I wanted to be a doctor. I think big life decisions like this starts a bit of a gut feeling and those gut feelings can grow when you start dreaming about them. Then you start making plans and eventually they turn into a reality. That’s what happened for me anyway. I just want you guys to know that if you have a dream like that, like going to medical school and changing fields, it’s not too late. And you just need to put yourself out there and really admit that this is something you want and then go for it. I’m not gonna lie to you guys and sugarcoat things, it was a really tough transition. And just emotionally even, I kept questioning if I was doing the right thing leaving music after so much time. Had I wasted all those hours of practicing? Was it worth going back and doing more courses in undergrad? Going in volunteering, doing research and there was no guarantee that I would even get into med school. And my big fear was what if I became a doctor, got into med school and then it wasn’t what I expected. What if I didn’t actually like what I’ve gotten myself into? Everything felt uncertain, I remember every grade that I would get felt like it was determining the course of my life. Oh man, honestly that was such a stressful time just thinking about it is making me stressed out again. But I’m really glad that I persevered and got to where I am now, so here’s what I did to get into med school. So first I researched all the Canadian medical schools. And for those of you who are in the States, we have way fewer med schools here, so that was actually possible. I know you guys have hundreds, so that may not be feasible. Then I created a massive Excel document listing all the different requirements at the schools. So then I started scheming about which schools were going to be the best fit for me and my application, how would it shine?! I decided to focus on the ones who only required courses that I was able to take within one year and those who didn’t require the MCAT or only required the verbal reasoning section. So my plan was in the first year I would apply to those schools and if I didn’t get in, I’d write the full MCAT, I would take all the coursework and then apply broadly across Canada the next year. I’m so so so grateful that I did not have to go through that second year. And I got in the first try, but I just wanted to highlight that I had a back-up plan. There are a lot of great applicants and there are a lot of people who don’t get in the first try and I had a plan for a second year, I wasn’t gonna give up. So after I graduated from Indiana, I moved back to Canada and I made this big master plan of mine. And I got involved in sort of five areas to enhance my application. So number one was the violin and I decided to apply to work in one of our main orchestras, so I worked as a substitute violinist while I was taking courses. But mostly it was just because I wanted the opportunity to work professionally as a violinist after spending so many years practicing and working to get to this point. I arranged to be able to shadow and work with some doctors to see what was I really getting myself into. I certainly don’t think you have to do that, but based on my personality I just really wanted to be sure before I put so much time and effort into getting into med school. So three I enrolled in the appropriate prerequisite courses. So I hadn’t taken any sciences in my undergrad, so I just went for the money. I went for the courses that were needed to apply, rather than completing a whole additional undergraduate degree. So four, I wanted to get involved in research and see what that was like. And I was trying to think: What could I offer as a violinist? Are there things that I’ve learned that I could bring to the table in medicine? So I pitched an idea to a surgeon with a great research group and I gave the idea: What if we interviewed surgeons who used to be elite-level athletes, musicians or military personnel? So looking at these high level performers and seeing what kind of mental skills they brought to their careers as doctors and things that we could learn from or maybe even teach doctors. So things around stress management. And how do you perform on stage? How do you deal with stress and pressure in the moment? So the surgeon liked the idea and we went forward with that project. Which was a fantastic experience, because I got a lot of experience, definitely good for the CV. I felt like a lot of other people applying to medical school had some research experience and I didn’t. And it was also something I felt passionate about and it gave me an opportunity to talk about that in an interview. Five, is getting involved in extracurricular volunteer activities. So I felt a little bit weird about feeling obliged to do volunteer, like it felt fake or that I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons, because I had an alternative motivation, like getting into Medical School. But really I want to say that you can pick things that you feel passionate about and are exciting. And it’s not that you’re just in this waiting period, waiting to get into the medical school and your whole life is on hold, but instead you’re actually living out an exciting time in your life. So this is an opportunity to be able to interact and work with people that are going to shape the types of projects you might want to do in the future. So I decided to work in a Children’s Hospital, I volunteered to play violin in a nursing home, I taught refugees English and I worked in a food bank with Aboriginal women. I’ve heard some incredible stories. Those things together I had an opportunity to work with some incredible groups of people and learn from them, so then I felt passionate about what I was doing. I felt more genuine when I was actually talking about it at interviews and when I think back on it, I found that that was really enriching time of that year where I wasn’t just focused on studying, but I was able to think about other people and remember why was I trying to get into medicine to begin with. And that’s to help people like this. So a tip when you have so many different things you’re getting involved in, I would start a document on your phone and just start keeping track of all the things you’re doing. So names of places, people you worked with and dates, so that when you go when you have to do application It’ll be way easier than hunting through emails and trying to figure out what you had done and the exact names of things, so I would do that. In addition, if you have a really really interesting experience one day, I would jot it down, so you don’t forget it in case you wanted to talk about that in an interview. So finally after a year of preparation I applied to medical school and that application goes in around October. And then December you find out if you’re actually getting an interview and then interviews happen in March. So the time between December and March there’s a lot of preparation about how to interview well. So I’ll make a whole other video about some tips and how to prepare and present yourself in the best way. So March you do the interview and then in May you finally find out if you’re going to get into medical school. And I will never forget opening up that email and finally knowing that after all that hard work, all that uncertainty and you know… Going from that little gut feeling that I wanted to be a doctor, that email confirmed that it was happening, so that was such a fantastic experience. I’ll never forget it! There’s so much more I can tell you about applying to medical school and different tips. So that was just the tip of the iceberg, my story. So give this video thumbs up, comment below with any questions that you have that are specific to your application and I will do my best to answer them and help you in the next video. Don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already to hear about my experience as a junior medical resident and to hear more about how to get into medical school and what med school is actually like. So bye for now and I’ll chat with you guys later.