MD Program Admissions

A leading edge 3-year MD program at the University of Calgary

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Update for Applicants (Especially Wait-listers)

May 9th, 2018 by Dr Ian Walker

So, here we are, well into May and things are starting to take shape.  Although making offers early is really helpful for those accepted and those declined outright, it just makes the waiting process for waitlisters that much longer.

As an update, here is where we sit as of today.

There are 142 vacant spots in the incoming class (the rest are taken up by returning Leaders in Medicine students and deferrals from last year.)  So far, we have 92 Albertans and 10 non-Albertans enrolled for next year.  Another 45 or so Albertans and 35 non-Albertans who have received and offer but who have not yet responded.  I expect that the bulk of those are going to wind up declining our offer, but obviously cannot make any commitments until they do so.  Once the number of unspoken-for seats is more than the number of offers we have out there, we will start making offers to people on the waitlist, but based on past experience, I don’t expect that to happen until May 25th or the week after.

As always, we cannot (or will not) tell people where they are on the waitlist or attempt to estimate people’s chances of eventually getting in.  Our commitment to you, however, is that as the final picture begins to get clearer (usually around mid June) we will notify people if it looks like their chances of getting in are approaching zero based on the number of seats left and their place on the waitlist.


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Random Question from an Applicant

February 22nd, 2018 by Dr Ian Walker

We got an email from an applicant who had apparently been trying to ask this question on another thread, but had been unable to do so – so I am cutting and pasting here.

“I’m not sure if this is the correct place to pose the question, but I wanted to ask about confidentiality during interviews. I realise that applicants are likely reminded to keep all the questions confidential – for reasons such as providing an unfair advantage.

However, do you also ask/require interviewees to keep the identity of other applicants confidential? Although this is not a problem for most, some applicants do not want another party knowing that they applied, i.e. their employer, their friends, others in their program, or some other party. I think it might be natural for an interviewee to state “oh hey, I saw so and so at the UofC med school interviews” without thinking they were doing any harm or violating anyone’s desire for confidentiality. Is this something that is considered? Are applicants expected to keep this info confidential?”

Yes, we do expect applicants to keep the nature of the interview stations confidential.  We don’t ask them to keep the identity of other people who they meet at interviews confidential.  Essentially that is between the two people who know each other.  It is also not something that we can police, or that we would consider some kind of ethical breach.  Your question serves as a good reminder to applicants, however, that they cannot assume that everyone else’s status as a medical school applicant is public knowledge, and some discretion might be helpful.

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Session for Interviewees – Jan 25th, 12:30, Libin Theatre

January 22nd, 2018 by Dr Ian Walker

I will be hosting a brief presentation for interviewees (present, and if you wish, future) this Thursday 12:30-1:30.  I will be talking about the format of the interview experience and a bit about the format so that interviewees have some idea of what is coming.  There will be time for questions as well.  Hope to see a few of you there.  The whole session will be recorded and posted on our website within a week or two, however, so don’t panic if you can’t make it.

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Interview Invites Have Been Made

January 19th, 2018 by Dr Ian Walker

By now, everyone should have received an interview notification, either invitation or regrets.  If you have not, please check your SPAM filter and then your status directly in UCAN.

A bit of information, and some words for both groups of applicants.  This year we had 1560 completed applications, and 498 interview spots, meaning that for the first time, we are interviewing fewer than a third of all applicants, slightly less than 32% to be precise.  In keeping with our primary mandate to train residents of Alberta, and our 15% cap on non-Albertan students, the rate was lower for non-Albertans.  We have sent interviews to 81 non-Albertans out of 356 total non-Albertan applicants, or slightly less than 23%.   Overall, then, about 16% of interview spots went to non-Albertans.  The net effect of all this is that the score required for non-Albertan’s was significantly higher than that required for Albertans (~110 vs ~102).

For those of you lucky enough to get an interview invite, I offer you congratulations, but also encourage you to reflect on your good fortune.  There is definitely an element of luck involved in this process, as anyone who has gotten one interview and failed to get another will tell you.  We look forward to meeting you in the coming weeks.  The interview format has changed a bit this year.  It is still a “multiple assessment” set up, but in addition to the 7-8 min MMI circuit we are also conducting semi-structured two-interviewer, one-applicant 20 min interviews, and a 20 min group activity assessment.  The net effect is the the interview day will be a bit longer, but there will be a wider variety of assessment tools used, which we think is fairer to a wider variety of applicants with diverse skill sets.  We are currently in the process of trying to set up a Q&A session for interviewees next week which we will inform you about, and which will subsequently be posted on our website.  Lastly, the interview scheduler will open Monday at 10 am.  Based on past experience, 95% of spots will be taken within about 60-90 seconds, so if you are constrained in terms of the date or time of your interview, make sure you clear your schedule and be sitting on the refresh button.  There is a confidentiality disclosure that you have to chick off first, so go in an do that ahead of time so that you don’t get delayed on Monday.

For those of you who were not successful, I would encourage you to view this through a bit of a realist lens.  Your chances of getting an interview if you are an average applicant are one in three, so not getting one should probably be the expected outcome.  I have said this to many groups over the years, but if you are serious about pursuing a career in medicine you should think of it as a 5 year project.  If, after 5 years, you have not succeeded in securing an admission, it MIGHT be time to at least consider the possibility that there is something about your application that puts you in a weaker starting position than the average applicant.  Giving up before that is probably premature.  It is unfortunate that our system has come to this, but as demand continues to far outstrip supply for medical school positions, it is what we have to work with at the moment.

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Applicant Update

January 11th, 2018 by Dr Ian Walker

So, we are approaching that fun point in the cycle where we make interview offers.  We still have a handful of reviews outstanding, but now 90% or more of the applicants are ready for an interview decision. Once we have all the reviews complete, we need to do a bit of a careful look at a few things that have been flagged, hold a committee meeting and produce some lists.  We are hoping that the offers will go out in that last week of January, which would give people 4 weeks to plan their lives.

Interviews this year are going to be a bit different.  There are going to be three different types of stations, and they will take place in two different circuits.  There will be a 7 station, traditional MMI, but also a second circuit that will consist of two longer format, semi structured interviewers with two assessors and one applicant, as well a 20 min group activity station, similar to what we have done the last couple of years.  Our feeling is that greater variety of types of assessments is fairer to a wider variety of applicants.  More details will be forthcoming for those invited to interview.


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Reference Stats for 2016-17

November 20th, 2017 by Dr Ian Walker

So, here they are.  They will be posted on our website shortly, but this is a sneak peak.  That said, the remarkable thing is how similar they are to the year before and year before that….

Take home messages.

More and more people keep applying, making odds lower and lower (its not catastrophic, but it is a slow steady decline).

It is REALLY hard to get in with a GPA less than 3.4.

The MCAT scores produced by our applicants are not at all representative of the MCAT scores achieved by the population at large.  A 500 is the mean MCAT score world wide, by definition.  For us it is north of 508, and anything less than a 500 puts you in the wrong tail of the bell curve.

Reference Stats 2017


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My Mistake – Status for Applicants Currently reads “Submitted”

November 17th, 2017 by Dr Ian Walker

Renee tells me I got it wrong, and that the system currently displays a status of “Application Submitted” for all applicants who are under review. No need to panic.


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Files off to reviewers

November 7th, 2017 by Dr Ian Walker

As of this am, we have assigned files to our 75 or so dedicated reviewers – a group made up of faculty, students, members of the public, allied health care professionals and residents. All told, we had 1561 applications this year, which is relatively stable compared to last year. One thing that changed is that over 350 of them were from non-Albertans, which is a little high from our perspective. I only say that because we know that non-Albertans are much less likely to come to U of C if offered, so they represent a lot of work for smaller return, but it is what it is.
As the reviews get completed, you as applicants won’t notice anything until the fourth review is done, then your status will change to something like “waiting for an interview decision” or something like that. How long it takes you to get there has no prognostic significance at all. Its simply a matter of when your last review gets completed. Some people will have all four reviews completed by mid December, for others it will be well into Jan. Once every last review is completed, we run the stats and then produce a pre-MMI score for each applicant, upon which interview offers are made. We expect to interview about 500 applicants again this year, so about 1 out of every 3 applicants.

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Last week of the Current Application Cycle – Our Phones are Off

September 26th, 2017 by Dr Ian Walker

Hello everyone.

As you many of you are aware, the volume of phone calls and emails to our office have required us to turn off our phone answering machine.  The reason for this should be pretty clear, but in case it is not, dealing with emails, which can be filed and referenced is the most efficient way to respond to as many applicant concerns as possible in a timely manner.  Answering the phones not only delays that process, but creates difficult-to-track duplication of efforts which is a waste of everyones time.  It would be lovely if we had a bank of staff members who could answer calls, but we do not, and have to be efficient with the resources we have.

Concerns will be addressed in a priority order based on when the email was received, and attempts to access the staff through other means (calling me directly, stopping by the office, visiting the UME office, etc.) will have no bearing on that priority.

Know that if you do everything as it is described in the Applicant Manual, you should be ok.  At the end of the day, however, we cannot be responsible for the last minute crises in a process that has been ongoing for three months, although we will do our very best to help as many people as possible.

Good luck to everyone on their applications.

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Last Post for the 2016-17 Cycle

June 13th, 2017 by Dr Ian Walker

So, as of today, it would appear that our class is full.  There are still two people currently in the class who due to personal reasons are still considering a deferral / leave of absence.  If that happens, there might be ever so slightly more movement on the waitlist, but it will be minimal.

Having essentially come to the end of the cycle, it seems that we had less movement on the waitlist this year (and higher acceptance rates for our offers of admission) than in past years.  I am not sure that this is anything more than a one year aberration, and it will not affect how we set up our wait list next year.

For those of you who were unsuccessful, particularly those of you left on the waitlist, I would encourage you to persevere.  As much as I would love to be able to say that medical school admissions is some kind of infallible, reproducible science, it is not.  While there are clearly differences between applicants that we can pick up, there is also a great deal of luck involved in the process.  This applies to file review scores, as well as MMI scores, and to a lesser extent even things like GPA and MCAT scores.  Certainly, I would say that if you come close in one application cycle, you have the potential to be successful in another.  My general advice to all of you is that if you are going to set out on the process of applying to medical school, you should be prepared to apply 5 times before giving up.  If you don’t get in the first or second time, it is just as likely that you were simply unlucky as it is that you were a categorically weaker applicant than your peers.  The flip side of that is that if after many applications, you remain unsuccessful, you probably do need to at least consider the possibility that your application is qualitatively or quantitatively weaker that that of most of your peers.

On a related note, I will again ask people not to over interpret your application scores.  They absolutely do vary from year to year, even though you, as a person have remained constant.  There are lots of reasons for that.  A good illustration is what happens in a playoff series.  The Penguins and the Predators were the same teams each time they took the ice this year, but the series ended 4-2.  Was that all luck?  No.  Was it all completely reproducible?  No, obviously not.  The point of sharing your scores with you (besides meeting our legal obligations and avoiding the need to process FOIP requests) is to give you a “broad strokes” picture of where your relative strengths and weaknesses lie.  When you look at these scores, you should be looking for the major outliers, not small gradations in between. If you are below the 20th percentile in some area, there is PROBABLY (but not necessarily) something to that, and you can think about how to address that.  My personal feeling is that trying to strategize about how to turn your 40th percentile into a 60th percentile in something is a complete waste of time.

Looking forward to meeting all our new medical students in the fall, and I will be holding another Q&A session in mid september for the new group of applicants.  I am, however, on leave of absence for the entire summer, so with this I will sign off on the blog for the next couple of months.  Enjoy your summers, everyone.

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