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More Reflections on this Interview Cycle

February 7th, 2015 by Dr Ian Walker

Have spent much of the week reflecting on the unsuccessful applicants and their frustrations.  We feel for all of you.  We also know that the situation is getting worse, not better.

I think it is important to put some of this in context.  If you think about any kind of testing (MCAT, grades, or our attribute scores), they are really an estimation of an applicants “true” score – the one they would get under perfect conditions if everything were known.  As a result, there is always going to be an element of “measurement error” in the calculations.  Take someone who applied once and got a preMMI of 106.  Then they apply again and get 88.  Neither of those scores is more correct than the other, and the chances are that if they apply a third time, they would score somewhere in between the two.  This is the statistical principle known as “regression towards the mean”.  If they apply an infinite number of times, it will eventually become clear what their most likely score is going to be, and what the statistical range would be for their scores in any given cycle.  The same is true for an MCAT.  If you get an MCAT of 22, you might get a 36 if you take it again, but that is very very unlikely, and you are almost certain to be unable to do it again.

I think this is what happens in MD admissions.  There are clearly differences between applicants, which is why, despite lots of different systems at different schools, we see a subgroup of applicants who get interview offers at many different institutions, and others who never get an offer anywhere.  In the middle is a very large group of applicants who are good, and somewhat difficult to distinguish from each other.  Our scoring systems try, but it is a blunt instrument at best (if there is a better instrument, we would certainly use it, but no one has shown it to us yet!).  Built in to that distinction for the big “mass in the middle” is a certain amount of luck, and a bit of randomness related to who reviewed your file, how what you say resonates with them, etc…

Think about these numbers for a minute (they are either sobering, or depressing, depending on your perspective.

We had 1600 applicants this year.  Of those, there are probably about 200 at the top end that are clearly exceptional.  There are a similar number at the other end of the spectrum who simply have not amassed the experiences and skills that the reviewers are looking for.  In the middle are about 1200 applicants who we can all look at and say “yes, they would be a great doc.  We’d be happy to have them”.  Those 1200 applicants, however, are competing for about 300 interview spots.  In other words, right out of the gate, they have a 1 in 4 chance of getting an interview in any given year.  If they are closer to the top end, that chance might be 1 in 2 or 1 in 3.  If they are closer to the bottom end, their odds might be 1 in 6 or less.  I think when you don’t get an interview, the response really is “ok, so I lost a gamble that was stacked against me.  Do I want to bet again?” Given the cost of the bet and potential payoff, the answer is usually going to be “yes” but maybe not for everyone.  The more times you apply, and the more times you see the scores you got, the more easy it becomes for you to predict the odds of a good outcome if you apply again.  If you have applied 4 times, and never scored over 100 on the pre-MMI, then certainly you can apply again, but the odds are against you.  That is not to say, of course, that you can’t beat the odds.  People do it every day, but you need to be realistic about what you are doing.

These sorts of considerations are what lead me to make the recommendations I do to people who ask me about applying or re-applying to med school.

1. if you are going to do it, think of it as a 4-5 year endeavor.

2. Apply to as many schools as you can.

3. Once you have applied a couple of times and been unsuccessful, for sure keep trying, but DO NOT put your life on hold while you do.  DO NOT do an extra degree that you do not intrinsically value hoping that it will help your MD application.  Get on with your life, and build your alternative career while you keep applying.  Putting alternative career development on hold while you apply is sort of like chasing a loss in Vegas.

4. Try not to take these numbers too personally.  They are a reflection of what the reviewers saw.  There is this great expression that I once read that went something like this: “Do not compare yourself to others; it will only serve to make you simultaneously arrogant and insecure”.  If at the end of the day, you are an “average” member of a peer group (the MD applicants) who are amongst the brightest and most promising lights of their generation, is that really so bad?

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114 responses so far ↓

  • Hi Dr. Walker,

    Thank you for your breaking down the statistics for your applicant pool. I have the following questions:

    1) What objective and quantifiable evidence do you have that different universities and programs have the same academic standards when evaluating applicants’ GPA? Can you please provide the source?

    2) If you have no objective and quantifiable evidence, are you making the assumption that all universities and programs use the same academic standards when evaluating applicants?

    I agree that there is a subsection that is exemplary and probably get interviews at several institutions (~200 individuals). These individuals would probably perform the same at different schools and programs. However, for the majority of applicants, I think differences between schools and academic standards can have impact on success during the application process.

    This was shown in a publication titled “Inflated Applicants: Attribution Errors in Performance Evaluation by Professionals”
    conducted by Berkeley and Harvard.
    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0069258

    What are your thoughts?

    • Vincent. Clearly your question is loaded, since there is no objective evidence that different programs and universities have the same standards, and I don’t know a single person who would claim that they are. There is also no “objective and quantifiable evidence” that would allow us to compare programs and universities. Universities vary, as to programs. Even within programs, the rigor of ones studies can easily be effected by the courses one chooses to take, not to mention the fact that topics that might be very hard for one individual might be quite challenging for another. All in all, comparing grades between different schools is a quagmire of epic proportions, which is why no one is going to attempt it. We use a holistic element to our assessment, as a way of tipping our hat to that reality, but are not at all prepared to give up on GPA altogether.
      That said, we do know that undergrad GPA (from where ever it is from) is still the single best predictor of performance in the program. We could just wash our hands and say “GPA is totally flawed” which might be defensible, although there is no metric that is used in MD selection about which that cannot be said. So long as we are going to attempt some kind of discriminatory application process (as opposed to a pure lottery), then we will continue to plod along using the tools we have at our disposal, however flawed.

      • 1) While no one has explicitly stated that “all schools are equal”, it’s fair to say that the current system hinges on the unstated assumption that all schools and programs are considered to have the same academic standards since no one considers the academic context of an applicant. This exact issue has been raised by your colleague, Dr. Anthony Sanfilippo at Queen’s University in his blog (https://meds.queensu.ca/blog/undergraduate/?p=363).

        The decision to ignore academic context does not appear to be based on an evidence-based approach. The consequences of this system will result in selection and attribution errors based on the peer-reviewed research article provided above.

        2) Can you please clarify the statement that “undergrad GPA (from where ever it is from) is still the single best predictor of performance in the program”? Can you please provide your source? If you truly believe this to be the case why are you collecting and evaluating other data in your decision when you have GPA?

        It may be that GPA may be the best predictor out of a group of factors but still has weak overall correlation. There are several studies that have shown a correlation between GPA and medical school performance is okay to good but not perfect. The correlation has been shown to be significantly weaker between undergraduate GPA and physician performance in the workplace*.

        * One source used: http://www.bmj.com/content/324/7343/952.short

        3) I’m confused how asking questions about the current system, automatically suggests that the only other option is a lottery system. This position was never advocated as there are several options.

        Systems can always be improved upon. While you suggest “comparing grades between different schools is a quagmire of epic proportions”, I also think inaction brings its own set of complications like the ones discussed above. Not improving the system would be a massively missed opportunity. Other industries that seek highly qualified personnel are trying to improve their recruiting systems to tap a diverse talent pool. For instance, Delloite, a top global consulting firm is now using academic context (i.e. comparing course averages to a candidate’s grade) and blinding their recruiters to information (where the applicant went to school) to avoid unconscious bias.

        (http://www.bbc.com/news/education-34384668).

      • So I take it based on your response, there is no evidence.

        While no has explicitly stated the above claims, based on how the admission procedure is currently carried out, students are still ranked based on their GPA without any regard to course difficulty or institutional difficulty. At the end of the day, it’s still based on the major assumption that all GPAs are comparable with little to no evidence to back it up.

        • I don’t think anyone, at least not around here, would be nieve enough to make that assumption. We do however treat all GPA’s as equivalent, recognizing that there are advantages and disadvantages to doing so, and are very comfortable with the trade offs involved.

          • Your response above doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

            You’ve made it very clear that there is no evidence yet consider GPA’s as equivalent. If you have no data for your process, what is it based on? It sounds like its based on an assumption; even if you’re aware that it is an assumption and have some reasons to back it up.

            If you believe that you can directly compare GPAs without any other considerations, then by extension your also claiming (even indirectly) student’s must have been in a similar program with similar difficulty. You simply don’t have the evidence that supports the idea that institutions and programs are similar. Further to your point, there are Canadian medical schools that are naive enough to believe this assumption; they’ve said point blank its based on assumption with no hard data.

            Furthermore, why are you comfortable with the trade offs? How are you measuring it? What’s the threshold for this procedure to be acceptable?

            Perhaps your uncomfortable to simply admit the limitations of your system and assumptions being made.

          • I’m sorry, but I am afraid I am done with this circular conversation. You post under a different name everytime, on different threads, and I have answered your questions several times. I appreciate that you don’t like the answer or think it is legitimate, but I have given up on making this conversation productive. I will no longer be responding to posts on this topic.

      • I would agree with the current system, if it had strong evidence to support it. Since it does not, I am a skeptic and will continue to question long held beliefs and assumptions.

        If you believe that the appropriate response is to shutdown the conversation by all means go ahead. If I have offended you by asking questions or requesting evidence/data about a publicly funded system then I apologize.

        I’m not the first or last person to ask those questions. In future, let’s be hard on the problem, not the people.

  • Hi Dr Walker

    Thanks for all your effort in creating this blog and answering our questions. It is very helpful and reading through this blog answered a lot of my questions. I want to point out an issue/concern about the application to medical schools for applicants from low-income background and applicants that came from countries with war.

    Canada is a multicultural country that accepts immigrants and refugees from many countries. Majority of the time, the students from these countries do not get the same quality of education as an applicant would get in a developed country like Canada. Some applicants might have even missed a few years of school due to constant political conflict or decades of war in their country. When they immigrate to Canada, they might be placed in school based on their age. They might do well in high school because there is a lot of support from teachers and guidance councilors in high school. When they start university, there is not a lot of support for them. It is also a total new experience and they might not be well prepared for it based on just four years of experience as compared to someone who went through more than four years of education in Canada. It takes some time before they develop the necessary skills to do well in university courses. They are usually from low-income families in Canada because a lot of time their parent’s degrees are not accepted in Canada. Their parents have to work on the minimum wage to support them in Canada. Sometimes, one of their parents has no education due to their cultural background or governments that don’t allow women education. In university, they can drop from being a good student to being an average student. In most cases, it is very difficult for those applicants to meet the GPA of 3.2. I read that GPA is a good indicator of success but I also read that those with high GPA don’t necessarily make good physicians. These applicants might not have a GPA of 3.2 but they might know the impact of vaccination, diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis etc on the community. They will also know the importance of being a physician, and how to relate to different people from different backgrounds. Is there any way that university of Calgary or medical schools in Canada can have a few reserved seats for these applicants in the future? I am not sure about the exact numbers but maybe add 2 or 3 seats to their pre-existing 100 seats to make it 102 or 103. Please, comment and share your thoughts on this.

    Thanks

    • Thanks AK. Great observations. I don’t disagree at all with the points you make. We have been trying, more and more, to make sure that our processes are as even handed and open to people from disadvantaged backgrounds as possible. The problem is going to lie in operationalizing your comments. What would define inclusion in that group, and how much lower do we want to go with the GPA? Most people already find out 3.2 overly lenient, and we defend it regularly as an equity issue. Like anything in our process, this would be at risk for abuse and mis-application, probably to a much greater extent than other elements. I can’t even begin to imagine how this would be policed.
      In practice, I think that this needs to be part of our pipeline and outreach work, and that the intervention needs to happen at the HS and UG level to assist students in this demographic in becoming competitive applicants. Anything focused solely at the level of MD admissions is going to be of very limited benefit, IMO.

  • @UC: The manual didn’t explicitly state that previous versions of the MCAT would be included in the global assessment of academic merit score; however, if Dr. Walker could please confirm, that would be very much appreciated.

    I do think, however, that allowing reviewers to see old MCAT scores is not appropriate seeing as how UofC has made a hard transition to the new MCAT. No matter what, if a file reviewer sees old MCAT scores, this will undoubtedly introduce bias in their assessment, particularly if one had a poor MCAT score in the past. It’s important, in my opinion, to keep things fair!

    • “File reviewers will see all MCAT scores from both new and old tests. Your best CARS score will automatically be used in the review scoring. ”

      It might not explicitly say in the manual, however it does state it on UCAN in the MCAT section.

      I whole heartedly agree with UC and GK that if the new MCAT is the requirement, then it should be what the file reviewers have access to. I for one, have an awful MCAT score, where I did decently on verbal, but did not study for the other two. It has haunting me in my Global Academic Merit assessment ever since, and I was really hoping that it wasn’t going to be the elephant in the room for yet a ANOTHER application, despite spending hundreds of dollars on a new tests and HUNDREDS of hours studying for the new MCAT.

      • I respectfully disagree with you. By that logic, they should stop looking at selective portions of the application like transcripts and bad grades. You are choosing a random portion of the application to omit, that benefits you specifically, which is not reasonable. The file reviewers are professional enough to be able to look past minor issues in the application as long as there isn’t a serious trend or as long as you make up for these issues with other strengths in your application. I feel that U of C med school is the most transparent in its application policies and process and they are never thanked for it but instead many applicants seem to be entitled and critical. We all have our opinions and if certain aspects of the application changed in certain ways some people will benefit and others will be affected negatively. I trust Dr. Walker and the admissions team to create the fairest selection process that benefits the school and community best; as they always have. I am thankful for all the info sessions and transparency in the selection process, which is a very difficult task especially with all the criticism. Applying to medicine is a very challenging and frustrating process but the U of C med school really tries to reduce that by giving us the best info and advice possible.

        • I will have to respectfully disagree… even though you weren’t being respectful of myself and other people with the same opinion as me when referring to us as “entitled.” I don’t think that people that voice their opinions are necessarily entitled. But I digress… If the U of C didn’t want to be transparent and didn’t welcome criticism, then they wouldn’t have this blog. They must want to have open dialogue with all applicants from differing backgrounds in order to make their admissions process more fair.

          I think having a completely new criteria (i.e. the 2015 MCAT) for an application, warrants a fresh slate. The admissions committee or the reviewers won’t be referring to my previous entries for Ethics and Professionalism when reviewing my “Maturity and Insight” entries because like the previous MCAT and the MCAT 2015, it’s comparing apples to oranges.

          The MCAT 2015 is a whole different beast, that is more well-rounded and designed to provide more information about what kind of person the applicant is, and what they can offer their community. Plain and simple. The old MCAT didn’t provide much meaningful information and that’s why U of C really only used Verbal for a set percentage of the application and the other parts were subjective. The new MCAT offers them a wider scope, but still going to rely on the old one for subjective rating doesn’t add up especially because U of C has admitted in the past that people with high BS and PS scores didn’t necessarily make better physicians in the long run.

          To me, it seems like the new MCAT was exactly what they were looking for, and for that reason, they should value it and only refer to it, especially if they’ve made it a cut and dry application standard this year with no grace period for old scores whatsoever.

          • I think you dramatically over-estimate the role of the MCAT 2015. It is still very much a measure of academic ability, just covering different topics and structured differently from a blueprinting standpoint. The reality is that we have not changed the fact that we want to score holistic academic merit, and both the old and new (we think) MCAT’s are markers of that thing we want to score. If we were no longer scoring people on academic ability, then yes, I would agree with you and showing reviewers the MCAT’s would be inappropriate.
            Also, to be clear, the new MCAT is abosolutely not a test designed to tell us about what kind of person an appicant is, or what they can offer their community. It is a test of knowledge and knowledge processing. Both things are important, but we have to get them from different places.

      • if it helps…I was a successful applicant last year and my overall MCAT score was definitely below average, however my VR score was average or above. I haven’t seen my application scores and don’t know if I will, but I know that was my main weak spot in my application and it wasn’t enough to stop me from obtaining an interview and ultimately get accepted. So that’s proof that some bad MCAT scores are not enough to have your application thrown out if you have particular strengths in other areas. Also, it doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room. There is a section within the application to address additional comments. If you felt those old MCAT scores were not a true reflection of your abilities then you could try explaining that. Having the old MCAT scores on file also signify that you’ve been considering medicine more than just this past year…that can’t be a bad thing for file reviewers to see.

    • I think you are misusing the word “bias”. It is not a bias if the reviewers consider the old MCAT’s since we know that those scores predict success in the MD program. It may affect the scores assigned for academic merit. Its only a “bias” if the scores assigned are somehow influenced by something that is not relevant to the notion of academic merit, which the old MCAT scores clearly are.

  • Hi Dr. Walker,

    Just wondering when a new blog post will be up to discuss the new applicant manual? I wanted to ask a few questions about why the committee decided that they would review all previous sittings of the MCAT for the subjective academic assessment instead of just considering the new scores as a hard transition as was discussed on the blogs. While I understand the need to provide the reviewers with as much information as you can about an applicant, I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the inferences that the reviewers would be making between the different section scores of the new and old MCAT.

    Furthermore, if the reviewers would be making these inferences on the subjective assessment portion of the application, why can’t that same thinking be applied to the CARS section, which is arguably the section that has undergone the least changes.

    From my perspective, the MCAT policy should be all or nothing where either the old scores aren’t considered at all or if they are, then that consideration should extend to the CARS score.

    Of course as you have said previously stated, there are bound to be winners and losers with every policy change that the committee makes. My stance on the issue reflects my circumstances (multiple old MCAT scores but one good verbal score) which helped me get an interview this past cycle. I am not opposed to there being a truly hard transition for the new MCAT as I think that levels the playing field and whatever advantage (or disadvantage) a previous applicant may have would not matter starting this cycle.

    I appreciate the opportunity to have this dialogue with the admissions committee and I am looking forward to your response.

    Thank you!

    • I will post something about this shortly, but frankly this was a no-brainer for the committee. The holistic review of academic merit section is about all your academic performance measures that are available to the reviewers, and that includes your MCAT’s. Its not that we had anything against the old MCAT, but we made a hard transition because there is no conversion scale between old and new MCAT’s, and some applicants would not have old scores. The fact that you had one good VR after multiple sittings doesn’t mean that that one VR is the most accurate measure of your academic ability. The committee members want to see all of the scores, which is more reflective of your true score.

      • Dr. Walker, your explanation makes sense to me that the average across my MCATs is more reflective of my true score and for those interested, the AAMC actually has more data on this here: https://www.aamc.org/students/download/267622/data/mcatstudentselectionguide.pdf

        However, one thing that still is a little uncertain to me is how a reviewer would assign a score to my subjective file score when they look at the two different versions of the MCAT.

        For example, if my average score for the old MCAT is a 28 and the new score is a 500, how is a reviewer going to derive a meaningful score from this? The 500 score has an entirely new section, is a longer test, took longer to prepare for and etc…

        So I guess the point I am trying to make here is the same one you made in your post which is that there is no conversion scale between the old and new MCATs so in my mind assigning a score based on that comparison (even if it is only a part of the overall subjective score) will lead to the reviewers making inferences that aren’t really justified by any of the published data.

        I wholeheartedly agree that if UofC was still using the old MCAT then the average score of the all the MCATs would be the right way to go (and this is supported by the data above). However, I have to disagree with what is being asked of the reviewers this year since they have nothing to rely on when comparing the two scores.

        Again, it may seem like I am only advocating for this approach to looking at the MCAT because I stand to gain something from it (mainly improvement of my subjective score) but I think if the reason of incorporating the new MCAT in the first place was that there really isn’t any way of comparing the two versions, I think UofC should at least acknowledge that file reviewers may have to make some inferences that aren’t really justified by the data yet.

        I realize that the committee has already reached their decision on this matter and I will probably accomplish little by posting here but I just wanted to point out that the approach UofC is taking with the subjective academics section could have also been extended to the verbal/CARS section, making the transition to the new MCAT less painful for all involved.

        • I think you misunderstand what the reviewers are doing with the subjective academic score. There is no “averaging” of the old and new MCAT’s, any more than there is an averaging of the GPA and the MCAT, or the personal circumstances surrounding the academic performance. That score is an “all in” assessment, taking into account all academic performance to date, which includes all sittings of the MCAT. If we could easily get people’s IQ scores and GRE’s or LSATs we would probably want to look at those too, but that is impractical.

      • Dr. Walker: does this mean that file reviewers will somehow take an “average” of our old and new MCAT scores when determining our score in the subjective assessment of academic merit section? How is this even possible with two completely different MCATs?? Please advise. Thank you for all your help and dedication to us!

        • No, not an average. That would be a meaningless number. All the old MCATs, new MCAT’s, grades, etc will be considered holistically with the guiding question: “To what degree does this applicant demonstrate the academic ability necessary to succeed in medicine?”

  • Who knows what the MMI score is out of?

  • Dr. Walker the concerns about displaying the position or relative positing of applicants on the waitlist are completely understandable and I can see how it can become a nightmare very easily. There are still some important advantages for applicants if they know their position and there might be some ways to avoid all those concerns posed. Aside from the stress and potential false hopes applicants might build, which I believe is a good learning experiences despite the discomfort it causes, there are some some important financial and time advantages when applicants know their position. The obvious is of course making better educated guesses about registering for the mcat or not but other important advantages would be planning for alternatives especially those that have strict deadlines. If applicants only know their position and not other applicants positions and if students are warned about revealing their position to other people and if a confirmation is required to withdraw ones position off the list, one that is sent to the formal email provided by the applicant, I believe most of those problems would be prevented. While this may require more work from the admissions office, it provides some important advantages for applicants and adds to the transparency the office is striving for.

  • Any word on when the statistics for this cycle will be up?

  • Hi Dr Walker,

    I realize that telling WLers our position on the list would be arduous, but I’m wondering if it might be feasible to have UCAN show our initial quartile within the waitlist as part of our application status? The statistic of 35-70+% being offered admission is really only relevant to the top 35-70+% of the WL – for those in the lower quartiles, their chances are not great to remote at best, and that extra information could be helpful to those having to move cities or quit their jobs.

    That being said, you guys have already bent over backwards to make planning easier by releasing admissions early, so I could understand not wanting to make another change to the process. Thanks for being open and transparent about this process!

    • Hi Marcus,

      I can tell you from personal experience that this isn’t likely to tell you much. Because the interview raw scores have a small spread (at least in past years), what this means is that small differences are amplified after the standardization. Then, since the interview is worth 50% of your final score, this further amplifies the effect. The end result is that unless you’re in the top 10-5% of applications pre-interview, it’s likely that the majority/entire decision depends on your interview performance.
      Thus, I don’t think having this information will be informative in any way. For what it’s worth, I’ve dropped from a high percentile pre-interview to very low post-interview.. and it was not due to an “awful” raw MMI score..

      Best of luck however.

      • I think Marcus might be referring to the position/quartile on the waiting list. Now I can see reasons as to why they wouldn’t want to release such info, I think a system such as one implemented by some US medical schools might be an approach that could be considered for future cycles. Its essentially having a high and low chance waitlist which means exactly that. High means one would most likely get in whereas low means that schools occasionally dig into that list.

      • Standardization doesn’t amplify the small differences, it just translates them onto a different scale so that interview scores can be meaningfully compared to file review scores in such a way as to ensure that the contributions of each component to the final score is actually 50%. There is, however, a restricted range effect with the pre-interview scores because only people with pre-interview scores above about the 60th percentile get invited to interview, so if your pre-interview score is 70th percentile, it is actually more like 25th percentile amongst those applicants who actually interviewed. If you combine that with an average interview, you wind up being below average in the file analysis.

    • I agree with Marcus C. As a waitlister, knowing my quartile would help me make a decision about whether or not to sign up for MCAT2015 – if I was in the top 50% I would bet on getting in and hope to save $150 – and still sign up late if I didn’t get in. If I were in the bottom 50% I’d bet on not getting in, sign up, and be pleasantly surprised (and take the loss) if I did get in.

      • Have a look at my response to Marcus. I can appreciate the argument, but I think it is not that simple, and is also the beginning of a slippery slope for us administratively.

    • Hi Marcus. Thanks for the comment, and thanks also for recognizing that there could be another side to this issue. There is, but it is actually not the one you identify. It would not be arduous for us at all. In fact, we could easily build some code into UCAN (not me personally of course) that would display for applicants their current WL position and the number of unfilled spots.
      The reason that we don’t do that (and I don’t actually think anyone does) is largely that many years ago, when we did, we had more than one instance of people attempting to impersonate other people on the waitlist and then fraudulently withdraw from the waitlist on their behalf in order to move up themselves. That, as you can imagine, becomes an EPIC nightmare for us, since offers sent out, even if the result of fraudulent behaviour by a third party, are legally binding.
      We have considered the notion of providing people with quartile data, and although it might help some people, we will inevitably then get asked to tell people if they are in the top half of their quartile or the bottom, and so on and so on without end. We have to draw the line in the sand somewhere, so we chose to make no comments about WL position. What we instead try to do is to be as open with people as possible, and as the WL shrinks, we send emails out to applicants who appear to have only a remote chance of receiving an offer. We sent such an email on Friday to about 15 people.
      I recognize that this explanation won’t satisfy everyone, unfortunately, but it is the best one I can offer.

      • Thanks for your reply, Dr Walker! I guess us pre-meds aren’t always the paragons of selflessness that we make ourselves up to be in those applications. Yeesh. Well, uncomfortable as it is to be uncertain, I’d rather face the uncertainty than have my precious waitlist spot fraudulently vacated by another person pretending to be me. I can absolutely understand the slippery slope rationale as it would apply to giving out information about the waitlist, and since you guys have tried to give out helpful information in the past only to be taken advantage of by dishonest applicants, I’m very happy to trust your judgement to continue the status quo.

        Your willingness to discuss this stuff openly with us on this blog and out into the universe via Twitter is a great reassurance on its own. To get a bit nerdy for a moment, and quote a letter from a young terminally ill nurse to her fellow health professionals (from Kubler-Ross 1975, p 26, quoted in Rakel 2007):

        “I know you feel insecure, don’t know what to say, don’t know what to do. But please believe me, if you care, you can’t go wrong. Just admit that you care… All I want to know is that there will be someone to hold my hand when I need it. I am afraid. Death may get to be a routine to you, but it is new to me. You may not see me as unique!… If only we could be honest, both admit our fears, touch one another. If you really care, would you lose so much of your valuable professionalism if you even cried with me? Just person to person? Then it might not be so hard to die – in a hospital – with friends close by.”

        Comparing death to med school rejection is a bit much, I realize, but I think for many of us (certainly myself), this particular rejection (or the fear of it) ranks among the more significant stresses/fears of our lives (again, for which we should count ourselves lucky!). Your willingness to walk with us through the process, sharing your side of the experience (the pain of having to reject qualified applicants; the joy at being able to accept some others; the desire to make the application process inexorably better for everyone) has been a great salve for disappointment and encouragement to continue, at least for me. And of course given the fact that you’re modeling for us a valid clinical technique for breaking bad news and maintaining rapport with very sick patients, we should all thank you for giving us one of the first lessons in our medical careers, whether we realized it at the time or not! Hahaha! Anyways, thanks very much for being so accessible and engaged with us zygote-docs (maybe at this point we’re fetus-docs) every year.

  • Hi Dr Walker,

    Just curious when the second wave of offers will be made for those who are on the wait list? Thanks!

  • Hi Dr. Walker,

    First off, I want to echo all the thank-yous about giving us as much information and transparency as possible, it is so appreciated for us nervous applicants.

    My questions is a little off topic and is regarding verifiers. As there are lots verifiers for each application, and we try to make sure they are aware that they’ll be receiving verification emails, I still worry about the possibility of a verifier not seeing, overlooking an email, or even perhaps forgetting to answer. If these slip-ups happen, as they may when there are so many different verifiers, does that activity/award/etc. become void if it is not verified? As in, does our application score suffer if this were to happen, or does admissions simply verify a different activity instead?

    • Similarly, if the verifier is not replying back, will admissions try to contact us and get us to approach the verifier before discrediting it? I just hope it isn’t looked at as “misrepresentation” if the verifier doesn’t reply back.

      • If my memory is correct, I believe at some point it was said that they make extensive efforts to contact verifiers and if they can’t get hold of them they let you know and maybe ask for another person who can verify the activity.. I can’t remember where I saw/heard this.

      • No, we are reasonable people.

    • The verifiers have nothing to do with scoring the application. If we can’t reach a verifier, and we have concerns, we will contact you looking for more information.

  • Dear admissions committee,

    any word on releasing invites earlier this year for those thinking about time frames for re-writing the new mcat and planning things around that?

    • new MCAT registration opens on April 21st…that’s three weeks before we are due to find out from UofC. If admissions is ready by then I would appreciate knowing as well. Otherwise I may just sign up to secure a spot then cancel if I get it…but that is a loss of around $150!

      • Sorry for the late reply. We heard you, loud and clear. That is why, this year only, we released the offers early. Didn’t help the WL’ers much, unfortunately.

    • I have contacted Adele at the admissions office and she said that there were no plans of releasing invites early this year.

  • Hi Dr. Walker,

    I’ve heard that U of C wants to release acceptances early this year. I was wondering if you can comment on this. If acceptances are indeed going out before May 15th, could you provide a rough estimate of when we should hear back?

    Thanks!

    • Hello Dr. Walker,
      I am curious to know this too. Especially since the Assistant Dean of Admissions of Ualberta commented during my UofA interview that UofC was considering the idea of sending out offers way in advance of other medical schools this year.

      Thank you.

    • Dear Admissions Team,

      As someone who will potentially need to quit their job, sell their house, pack up a family and move to Calgary any extra amount of time would be appreciated in getting everything organized. I know that I am not the only one in this position too. Given that many students interviewed at multiple schools I understand that the non-refundable deposit is an issue. Personally I would gladly pay a deposit and never see it again (if I go to a different school) just to be able to start making concrete plans as far as wrapping up loose ends before school (hopefully) starts.
      Thanks

  • Yes, we all know that MD application is getting worse, not better. However, for any kind of testing, like MCAT, there is a standard. Are we suppose to think that MD applications is like a gamble as your scores can fluctuate one year from 93rd percentile to 6th percentile with improvements the next year? Even though the scores are released earlier this year, it’s not providing any meaningful feedback to applicants. How are they going to prepare to better themselves for next cycle?

    • I can appreciate your frustration, and there is a element of mirage in assigning scores with decimal places to impressions that are in the final analysis subjective at their core. That said, we have to have a process, and I can only imagine the rage we would face from applicants if we instead simply said that we were going to accept applicants XY and Z simply “because”.
      I agree with you fully that these numbers do not provide much meaningful feedback. I have been saying that for years, and really encouraging people not to think about it as a process of somehow accummulating points. We provide those numbers because you as an applicant are legally entitled to them, and we don’t feel that applicants should have to fill out a foip request in order to get their application scores.
      That said, there probably is some limitted feedback value to them. If your GPA is at the 8th percentile, then you know that that is likely where you want to concentrate your efforts. Similarly, if your MCAT score is at the 80th, you can probably forgo that MCAT re-write. Lastly, I think that it is helpful to people to know roughly how well they did on their interviews, and if you have applied twice and your file review scores have been dismal both times, then I think you do need to consider whether the competition is stiffer than you had realized. At the end of the day, we are sort of stuck. We need to use scores to quantify things that are hard to quantify, because at the end of the day, we need a rank order list that allows us to make offers in a particular order. If we don’t release those scores, we are criticized. If we do release them, we are criticized for using them.
      And yes, MD applications are a bit of a gamble. I have referred to it in the past as a weighted lottery. There is randomness involved, for sure, but it is not totally random, as evidenced by those subset of applicants who get into every program they apply to.

  • Dear Dr Walker,

    Now that interviews are complete and pre interview scores have been released to unsuccessful applicants, I was wondering whether you would consider releasing pre interview scores for applicants who interviewed. I feel that it would allow a similar advantage for applicants who ultimately do not get accepted compared with the pre interview rejections, by earlier identification of weaknesses. Also, since the MMI is 50% of the final score I don’t think it would really would go against your anti competitive stance for the accepted students.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    • Its a fair question, but we do not release scores until the process is complete. As I have said elsewhere, though, I also think that this notion that you can look at your scores and “fix” things for next time is deeply flawed. As any one who has applied a few times will tell you, its nowhere near that precise and scientific.

  • Dr.Walker
    ,
    Just wondering what the cut off for interview offers was this year? I was over 100 but still unsuccessful. Thanks for all the kind words and encouragement though!

    Also wondering what the reviewers look at in terms of communication skills as that was one of my lower scores.

    Thanks!

    • I don’t recall the exact cut off, but if you were at 100, that means you were at the 50th percentile, and we interviewed about 440 of 1300 albertan applicants, so about the top 35%.
      Can’t (perhaps more specifically, wont) comment on what specific things file reviewers are told to look for for the individual attributes

  • Hi Dr. Walker,

    Someone on the premed forum has shed some light on the fact that some interviewees on the 28th knew the scenarios from the 21st and 22nd interview days because some interviewees told them. Someone also commented on the fact that an interviewee from the 28th said that the scenarios did not differ much from the previous interview days. I was wondering if those who interviewed on the 28th would have an advantage if they knew what the scenarios ahead of time? I’m assuming not everybody on the 28th had access to the scenarios, which leads me to another question. If, let’s say, only a few interviewees knew of the questions ahead of time, would it be more difficult to see a difference in data between interview days. Many people who have posted on the forum are concerned about these people having an advantage and doing better, and possibly snagging a few acceptances. A few acceptances as a result of knowing the scenarios ahead of time may not seem like a lot, but it is in my eyes considering there’s only 155 seats. This information is discouraging for many of us, so if you could give us any insight on the situation that would be appreciated. Thank you in advance.

    • BC, If in fact it led to any discernable advantage, which I find would be hard to prove. I doubt that they could adjust for this without being unfair to the vast majority of applicants who had interviews that day. (I had an interview the first weekend, so I can empathize with your anxiety).

      My 2 cents is that if any applicants knew of scenarios ahead of time, rehearsing the answers might end up in a monologue that sounds too contrived.

      • I don’t think there’s anything that they can do at this point, since the proportion of people that actually did this is likely small, however I think it would be beneficial to mention this in future interviews so that people are aware of the policies on this, I think that the people that decided to tell others the scenarios simply used the fact that it wasn’t even mentioned on interview day as an excuse that they thought it was okay. Just a thought.

    • Sorry for being so slow to respond. The available data on the topic would suggest that knowing the questions in advance actually doesn’t help, so to be honest I am not super worried. I think it happens every year. This year people just thought it was ok to talk about it because one one day I apparently failed to explicitly say that the scenarios were confidential.

  • Hi Dr. Walker,

    I am an interviewee this cycle and had one question in regards to scoring. I do understand an average of all the stations is taken, but is it possible for an applicant to be disqualified based on their answer on one station? I just ask because people have told me this is true, for an applicant to be “red-flagged” essentially.

    I ask because at one station during my interview, I cannot believe what I said. My answer really did lack all common sense/judgement and goes against what any mature/sensible individual would do. My situation did not involve harming others, but a nice analogy would be to say I talked about using a solution (lacking any sort of critical thinking) which would put others into harm. Being “red-flagged” would make sense to me in the case of sexist/racist/hate filled remarks, but I wanted to check if it would also apply in cases like this. The rest of my interview felt pretty smooth.

    Thank you very much
    RS

    • Red flags are really saved for egregious behaviour, not just stupidity. We define an “area of concern” as we call it, as “demonstration of an attribute inconsistent with the practice of medicine” That is a pretty high bar.

  • Dr. Walker, I would like to thank you and the admin staff at U of C for your time and effort on this blog. I would also like to say that I appreciate the transparency of your application process. As much as I have found it useful to receive my rejection scores earlier this year… I can’t help but think that it doesn’t even help me in the slightest, except for to find solace that I can essentially purchase a lottery ticket and win the jackpot before I get into medical school based on the fluctuation of a very similar application two years in a row.

    Most of my scores went down by 20-66 percentiles, with a pretty similar application. Last year, I scored above the 90th percentile for Commitment to Communities / Advocacy and this year I scored below the 30th percentile. I find this frustrating as I used the same referee (same reference letter), PLUS added more work and experience in community/advocacy (HIV awareness campaign and a board member for a national park), and a full-time job in health care where health promotion is a huge part of my job. This is only one example of where my application scores were exceptionally different than last years (and all in the wrong direction). I had 4 current U of C med students and a 5th year resident who has been a part of the selection process review my app and made subtle changes because I wanted to make sure it was my words and distinguish my personality that throughout.

    As much as you have explained that there is a level of subjectivity within the application process and that there was an increase in applicants, how do you explain mass perturbations that decimate or accelerate a similar application other than it is a lottery or how it comes down to how a reviewer felt on any given day?

    • I’m so glad that I’m not the only one in this boat, ss. I’ve taken on many more leadership and advocacy roles this year, as well as improved my grades a tremendous amount, only to have my scores plummet well beyond the depths of Marianna’s Trench.

      We’ve got this. We can do this.

      • It’s the same with me …

        Most of my scores preMMI last time were 60-80% then all dropped to 20-40% this time around.

        It’s hard to think positive the next time when it’s so daunting this level of failure.

    • I am exactly in the same position and in particular regarding the Community/Advocacy category…At first I couldn’t believe my score on this category and thought there must be something wrong. Last year, I scored in the 93rd percentile on this category and this year in the 6th percentile !!! with the same experiences in addition to some more strong community/advocacy work. This level of discrepancy from year to year absolutely can not be interpreted as a statistical uncertainty.

      To me this level of fluctuation suggests that reviewers should be provided with some sort of detailed standardized guidelines for reviewing the applications. If such guidelines were in place, they should be revisited to ensure clarify and better compliance rate.

    • I had a similar situation this year. In my previous two applications, I was very close to getting interviews (within two points), and I thought that I had a good shot this year. However, my subjective scores went drastically down in six out of seven categories (fluctuating between 6 – 50 percentiles each) compared to last year. As others have suggested, I understand there can be fluctuations between years, but it’s difficult to accept that most of my subjective scores (almost all of them) were worse this year even when my application, in theory, should be stronger. It gives me the feeling that if a reviewer doesn’t like your background or a particular aspect of your application, the reviewer doesn’t appear to assess each category independently providing scores without being objective.

      • Sorry for the late reply. There is no question that there is variability, and for some, it is large. Even if the reproducibility of the scores from one year to the next is moderate (and it is, we have looked), there are going to be outliers for sure. Is it a flawed system. Of course it is. The problem is that we deeply believe that subjective assessment of non-cognitive characteristics is important in selecting medical students, and that is, by definition, subjective in nature. I think you are right that if a reviewer is unimpressed with an applicant (or particularly impressed, for that matter) that spills over from one category to another (again, we have looked at this, and it is not universal). That is why we use four reviewers not one. Its the wisdom of the crowd, so to speak. There are two things that we could do to improve the reliability / reproducibility of the file review scores.
        1. we could use metrics that were more objective like GPA / MCATS/ total weeks of volunteering, etc, but that gets us further away from what we are actually trying to select for.
        2. we could use more than 4 reviewers. As we struggle to get four per applicant, and the numbers of applicants keeps going up, that is realistically not going to happen.

  • Hi Dr Walker,

    Thanks for putting out pre-MMI scores in such a timely manner. I was wondering what the cutoff was to get an interview this year?

  • Hi Dr. Walker,
    Following speaking with a fellow interviewee, I learnt that there was a fire alarm during one of the MMI sessions. This particular interviewee felt that the alarm, though disruptive, gave them an advantage. They felt the “break” was a chance to reflect and consider responses.
    Certainly these things happen and there was no controlling a situation like this. That being said, I was wondering if you will be looking at the aggregate pre/post-alarm data and inter-session data to determine whether this event had any effect (positive or negative) on interviewee’s scores?
    I do recognize that you have previously stated there is no difference in success rates between interview times and dates, and I presume the process is incredibly robust, such that a fire alarm would not effect it.

    • I don’t think we will be looking at it, actually. The reason for that is that we won’t be void the station. This is so for three reasons.
      1. The available evidence on the topic suggests that having extra time to prepare your answers to the questions does not affect the score results. This has been shown in at least two studies I am aware of. Your friend may think that it helped her, but the literature would say otherwise.
      2. It would be technically very challenging to do, because we would have to pull each data point individually since we track MMI scores based on station number, not the order that a given applicant did the stations in. Also, since we would be talking about finding a difference between a group of 5 interviewees for each station and the other 532, that difference would have to be huge to reach statistical significance, and would need to be present for all 12 stations.
      3. Voiding the station would invariably be unfair to anyone who felt that they did well just because they did well. Why should I get penalized, the argument will go, just because a fire alarm went off.

      • Hi Dr. Walker,
        Thank you for the response. Absolutely understand the logistical nightmare trying to get that data.
        I appreciate the reasoning you presented. All we can do is hope we did the best we could and the rest is out of our hands!

        • LE, for what it’s worth I personally found that the “break” actually increased my anxiety levels – kind of like having to start at the first station again, since you’ve now “fallen out of the groove”. I think it would be hard to draw a blanket conclusion about how the fire alarm affected interviewees – for some it may have been an advantage, for some a disadvantage..

  • I have a few Ws (4) and got an interview this year…I did explain on my application why (health reasons). Did not enter Ws, but they are on the transcripts and I am assuming the reviewers can see this. Anyways, clearly its not an issue if you weren’t just dropping classes all over the place for no reason

  • Just curious to know if admissions may work to try to give their invites for positions out sooner than May 15th of this year. Unsuccessful applicants will have to take the new MCAT and it doesn’t provide a lot of notice to register a spot/study.

    • Not sure about this. We have been discussing. Even if we went with May 15th, that still leaves 3 months, and those on the waitlist are no better off regardless. We have a very functional system in Canada where we have a unified offer date, more or less, and thus don’t compete amongst schools by making early offers. Not sure if this is sufficient reason to upset that arrangement.

  • I have a quick question about your GPA calculation. I am considering doing an evening MBA through Haskayne / U of C. This is a 3 year program. I may then re-apply to UofC Medical School. Because this is “part-time” studies, I am wondering if my graduate degree GPA would be used in the calculation of my overall GPA? I know that a graduate degree only counts toward one year equivalent undergraduate GPA, but was unsure if it would count at all if taken part time.

  • Hello Dr. Walker,
    I am not sure if this is the appropriate place to post this but I feel that I may have to drop a course that I am in right now due to personal circumstances. I have never dropped a course before and this will make me have a total of 4 courses this semester (and so 8 for the year.) What are the repercussions of having one W on your transcript? Will the reviewers see this? And if so what is the impact on the application? Thank you.

  • Hi Dr. Walker,

    Thank you for this insightful and encouraging post!

    I have a question regarding MCAT 2015:

    If we’ve written the “old” MCAT, will our scores be part of the subjective academic assessment in the next application cycle? Or will the reviewers only see MCAT 2015 scores and review those subjectively, in addition to the 10% allotted to the CARS section? Further, will UofC be assigning a cutoff CARS score for the next application cycle?

    Thank you!

    -KM

    • The answer to those questions have not entirely been sorted out yet. I doubt a CARS minimum will be in the cards for Albertans, but seems like a good bet for non-Albertans.

  • Thanks for your encouragement and contextualization, Dr. Walker. I was a bit discouraged as last year I was on the waitlist for admission and this year did not receive an interview, but your post helped to put things into perspective.

  • Hi Dr. Walker,

    How much time does a file reviewer have with each file, or how much time are they given to review each file? Second, do the file reviewers read the top 10s/EC separately from the rest of the application. I ask this as an assumption that academic scores (ie. GPA, MCAT) can possibly affect whether or not the file reviewer reads and scores the top 10s/ECs as thoroughly and as objectively as possible. I understand that this is a subjective score, but was wondering how external factors could affect scoring.

    • Good questions. How long an individual reviewer spends with an individual file is up to them. They have about three months to get through about 100 files.
      They see the whole file at once. I hear what you are saying about academic metrics affecting the scoring of the other attributes, but we have not found that to be the case. When we analyze the numbers, the correlations are poor. Also, we think it is important to take the “whole picture” in when making judgements. This is particularly true when thinking about people’s academic performance in light of their background, their living environment, their need to keep a job, play varsity sports, etc…

  • Hi Dr. Walker,

    I certainly appreciate this post and your kind comments, but have personal experience to share that I think needs to be heard. I applied last year and, though I was rejected post-interview, pre-interview I was slightly over the 80th percentile. I know someone who also applied in that cycle who was slightly over the 90th percentile and was wait-listed. Over the past year, we both gained more publications, extracurriculars, and used the same references – but neither of us received interviews.

    I suppose my issue is that slight fluctuations from year to year make sense to me – it’s fathomable that someone who barely got an interview one year might not get one the next – but to go from being in the top 10 or 15 percentile of all applicants to the lower half seems too great of a jump. I’d put it down to a poor reference or harsher competition this year if it hadn’t happened to someone else I know, and if the jump in ranking for both of us wasn’t so extreme.

    I realize that an entirely fair assessment system is a tricky and elusive thing, and that if there are even 10 cases like mine per year, statistically you’re doing very well. Ultimately, however, it’s a pretty crushing blow to us ‘exceptional cases.’ I understand that I didn’t get an interview this year, and that’s OK – hopefully I’ll have better luck other places I applied, or, as you said, follow a path to a career doing something else. But I did want to alert you to cases like mine, because if you as administration can do anything to prevent this from happening to someone next year – someone who was pretty sure they had the application nipped in the bud based on their scores in the previous year – it’ll save a few people a lot of emotional turmoil.

    • Thanks for your comments, although I am not sure you are entirely grasping what I am referring to in my original post. The system we have is “fair”. It is not perfectly reliable (meaning reproducible), but that is true of every single metric that is used in the MD admissions process, particularly interviews. I am not surprised, particularly, that you have experienced a significant year over year variation. Some applicants have more variability (i.e. file reviewers disagree about them more). Variation is normal. Sometimes it will be small, sometimes it will be large. There are really only two things we could do to decrease the variability in scores. One is to rely more heavily on the “objective” metrics like GPA and MCAT, but we are not prepared to go that route. The other would be to increase the number of file reviewers that review each file. Logistically that would be impractical, and we would probably need to increase it to somewhere in the range of 12-14 reviewers to get stable enough data. As it is, we perform more independent reviews than any other school I am aware of.
      Honestly, I think that the best thing we can do to save people emotional turmoil is to be very transparent about these issues and try hard to divest people of the notion that they can reliably predict their scores for next year based on their scores from last year.

  • How are file reviewers determined?

    • They are drawn from four groups – usually one from each. The four groups are students, Allied health care professionals, patients / community members and faculty members.

      • Interesting. How well are these balanced or is it completely random amongst a pool of volunteers from each category? I can see how there could be a lot of ways that the combination of reviewers may greatly influence trends on the subjective side of things.

        • In general, each applicant is reviewed by one person from each category. We occasionally have to mix that up if we have a reviewer who gets sick, has a personal emergency etc, but for the most part it works out as it is intended.
          It is interesting that you would think that the type of reviewer would affect how they see the applicants. I am not sure I would have assumed that. Why would a nurse, for instance, view your advocacy work any differently than a medical student? There are certainly huge variations in the way that individual reviewers see the applicants, but I doubt much of it could be attributed to the type of reviewer.

          • Hi Dr. Walker,

            I have a potential answer for your question regarding how the reviewer category could influence the scores of any (or a few) subjective categories. Let’s say we have a non-traditional applicant (e.g. Engineer) who has an average GPA (e.g. 3.7) compared to a traditional applicant with a GPA of 4.0 (e.g. Neurosciences, Psychology, Health Sciences, etc.). A physician and current medical student may have a better idea about the academic achievements of a traditional applicant since many of them took similar paths when applying to medical school.

            On the other hand, they could underestimate the academic achievements from a non-traditional applicant because they are not familiar with the applicant’s career path (e.g. worked after undergrad or studied something not related to sciences). As a result, the non-traditional applicant could be evaluated harsher resulting in a lower subjective academic score. Thus I believe it’s important to have a balanced group of reviewers per applicant.

            It’s interesting to read from one of your previous comments (Feb 15, 2015 at 11:17 pm) that there is poor correlation between academic metrics (e.g. GPA, VR, and MCAT scores) and the scores in subjective categories, which is a relief. I hope this is also the case for non-traditional applicants who have taken a different career path before applying to medical school.

          • Look further down the thread for my relatively short answer to this and another relatively long question on the topic.

          • I agree with some of the points that IG made. Certainly there are differences between the rigor of some programs as compared to others. I’m sure that this may be reflected in the subjective academic merit assessment. As this is a relatively small component of the application, I don’t think it would influence your overall score all that drastically.

            A nurse and a medical student would likely not have a vastly different outlook on their opinion of a file, I can agree to that. I feel that they would likely be looking for the same things in what they feel would make a good applicant. My interest is more aimed at what it is that file reviewers perceive to be desirable attributes, and moreover what constitutes evidence of those attributes.

            What I would be most interested in seeing statistics on would be how application scores are reflective of the applicants similarities to the person reviewing the file.

            I think a few examples might make what I am getting at more clear.

            1)

            Say you have a person who teaches piano lessons and another who teaches skydiving safety. Say the time investment is roughly equivalent and both do it for money or as volunteers. I would imagine that in both cases the individual would have to be professional, communicate well, manage their time/clients well, and be dedicated to and well educated in their respective field. These two activities can both showcase a lot of the same attributes in an individual aside from the activity itself, and both applicants write an identical top 10 about each activity. Now as a group of file reviewers, how many of them will be able to relate to a pianist, and how many will be able to relate to a seasoned sky diver? Would a reviewer who is an avid sky diver, be lulled by the an applicant who teaches piano lessons and favor someone who shares his/her passion for sky diving? On the flip side, would a reviewer who has a child who teaches piano lessons be impressed by an applicant who does the same and think that someone who is a skydiver is reckless? How would those opinions impact the reviewers assessment of the applicants professionalism, ability to be a communicator, or a manager? How likely is it that the people who review files are more able to relate to the pianist than the skydiver? Would the skydiver get a leg up for being unique, or would the inherent danger of the activity label them as a risky choice?

            2)

            Take two individuals who spent an equal number of years working full-time as professionals. Both individuals did degree’s in biological sciences, let’s say. After which, one became a nurse, one a mechanic. Say they both write the same top 10 describing how they worked long hours, day shifts, and night shifts. How they have to work in large teams that communicate well, collaborate with other departments, and are constantly being trained in new and improved methods and techniques. Their jobs require that they adhere to strict guidelines and safety protocols. Both have learned how to actively intake information become much more effective and dynamic problem solvers that think more systemically than locally. The nurse manages a team of less experienced nurses, and the mechanic is the foreman on his site. In both careers they touch on all the CanMED framework areas. How would the reviewers view each of the applicants? Would a reviewer panel of a nurse, a physician, a community volunteer (an ex-nurse), and a medical student skew the favor towards the nurse because they’re better able to relate?

            3)

            What about gender of reviewer(s) and applicants activities/attributes? What about the reviewers’ preferred gender for a physician they would like to see if they were the patient?

            If a large majority of reviewers are of one gender, how does that affect file scores? Are there any correlations between gender of reviewer and applicant rating based on experiences/attributes/volunteerism/work experience/gender? Is an advocate for mental health and wellness seen differently than an advocate for mountain climbing safety if the reviewer is male or female?

  • I wish there was a “Like” button so that I can objectively show my appreciation for this post. Very insightful and makes you introspect on what we have done to even get this far. And that last sentence just puts everything well into perspective.

    Thank you, Dr. Walker.

  • Hi Dr. Walker, thanks to you and your staff for your efforts in making this process as transparent and structured as possible, and for all you kind comments to those of us who were unsuccessful applicants. I do have a small question, and I apologize it it has been addressed elsewhere. I am a non-traditional applicant, in my mid 30s, with 10 years experience as an allied health care professional. My GPA barely met your eligibility criteria, and I expect was a big factor in my unsuccessful application. However, I wont actually know until August 2015 when scores are released. Given my age, I feel I have limited time to get this right, and I am struggling with how to best use my time to make improvements where necessary to increase my chances on a second or third application. Is there any way to get feedback/scores before August 2015? Or do you have any other advice? Many thanks.

    • Hello again, I see you have previously addressed my question, indicating there is not much one can do in 6 months. I guess more than anything I would like to know if I almost made the cut, which would encourage me to spend the next few months preparing to write the new MCAT, or, if I was not really a contender, I would accept that med school is not the path for me and move onto something else. As a non-traditional applicant I really am unsure how I compared to other applicants.

    • Hi Raechel,

      I was in a similar position to you in the past couple of cycles! Very low GPA/MCAT. The first time I was well below the cut-off and before even receiving my scores back I knew I needed to improve my academics so I took the MCAT again without even knowing where I stood. Needless to say that made a huge difference in my application (without even attempting to work on the GPA) and last year I was a fraction of a point from an interview. Also, at the beginning of last year (so once again before scores were released for that cycle) I took a set of distance courses while working full-time in my allied health career. I was able to boost my GPA from the 3.3 range to the 3.7 range in one cycle (I am able to apply the 10 year rule for a couple of years and based on your age I am assuming you may be able to as well?!) and now I landed an interview. I wasn’t sure how this year would be and if I needed to apply again next year then with the 10 year rule I wouldn’t have enough undergraduate courses so I am taking another set of 8 distance courses this year to prepare. It may end up being a “waste” of time and money if I do get in this round, but I can tell you that even if I am successful the skills I have gained from working and studying at the same time will only benefit me in a demanding program like the MD. Not to mention that likely impacts the score you receive on your overall subjective academics in a positive way.

      I think the scores are particularly useful in the MCAT/GPA portions. If you are really far below on some extreme(and I think it is actually quite simple to guess where you stand if you look at the previous statistics) then it is likely something you can bring up in a year or two if you put the work in. It definitely didn’t take getting my scores back to know I needed to improve those areas and I was able to do that prior to even seeing them. I

      I know it may take some extra time and money, but take a look at doing some distance courses over the next academic year and you may find that makes a substantial difference. GPA is worth twice the other categories and so having it sit near the average or higher really will help improve your chances (living proof!). It just requires some patience and determination. I did a year through Athabasca and now one through UBC. UBC has tons of interesting ones to choose from and they are based on the semester system, not self guided, so it helps you keep organized.

      Also, don’t let the age thing even get to you. A family member of mine went to UofC medical school in his 40s after another career. If this is something you truly want, but something like a GPA is keeping you back, you can definitely work at it. It may just take a bit more time than originally expected.

      Best of luck!

      • Thanks K, your words of encouragement were exactly what I needed! Congratulations on the interview, I hope everything works out for you. Best, Rae

      • Thank you so much K for your words of encouragement. I was a bit worried when Dr. Walker started talking about scoring below 100 pre-MMI… which is all I have ever done. 2012-2013 was my last application, and I was 0.62 away from the interview cut-off. I will be applying next year, and my GPA will have gone from a 3.6 to a 3.88. I certainly hope I can represent myself well on the application, to show who I am as a person. As a non-trad applicant, the road has been long but I hope to get there soon 🙂

    • Thanks Raechel.
      It is a good point. We have discussed in the office, and will be displaying scores for rejected applicants after interviews.
      Currently simply too busy with the lead up. Hope it helps.

      • Thank you Dr. Walker, to you and your office staff. This additional insight will be most helpful. All the best with interviews.

      • Dear Dr Walker (and all UofC MD Admissions office staff),

        I think I speak for all of those who were unsuccessful this year when I say thank you for your consideration, and decision to post this data after the interview cycle. We sincerely appreciate this opportunity for self-reflection.

        And a shout out to all of those aspiring MDs planning to re-apply to the UofC next year… All the best in your coursework, writing the new MCAT, volunteer endeavours, family planning, working, etc. I strongly believe that our perseverence will pay off one day – and sincerely look forward to studying and/or working with you in the future!

        JM