MD Program Admissions

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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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10 responses so far ↓

  • Is it safe to say that if we (waitlisters) haven’t heard anything by now then we didn’t get in on the first round of waitlist offers and we are fairly unlikely to get in at this point?

    • If you haven’t heard, then you weren’t in the first round of waitlist offers, but there is a slow trickle from here on in, so, no I don’t think you can assume the latter.

  • Hi Dr. Walker,
    If you have a few moments, can you please provide us an update on the status of the waitlist like you’ve done in the past? How many seats still available? How many offers pending? Has the uptake of offers been briskier than past years? Any predictions regarding how many more offers to be sent? When will people low enough on the waitlist receive emails to let them know that their chance is very low?

    Any information will really, really help. This is a very stressful time. Thank you very much

    • Yeah, we recognize it is stressful. Its an unavoidable evil, I am afraid.
      I just posted an update. WL uptake has been comparable to last year. Cant predict the future, though. These things vary a great deal and sometimes surprise me. All I can promise you is that we will not leave people hanging any longer than necessary.

  • Hi Dr. Walker,
    If you have a few moments, can you please provide us an update on the status of the waitlist like you’ve done in the past? How many seats still available? How many offers pending? Has the uptake of offers been briskier than past years? Any predictions regarding how many more offers to be sent? When will people low enough on the waitlist receive emails to let them know that their chance is very low?

    Any information will really, really help. This is a very stressful time. Thank you very much

  • Hi Dr. Walker,

    It’s interesting that you state that medical school admissions is like a project that can take up to 5 years. While I agree it can take time, I’m interested in the specific 5 year timeframe.

    1) Is that simply your opinion, or do you have data/evidence to support that timeframe? Can you please provide your sources?

    A 5 year commitment is a long time commitment for any individual to make just to get to the starting point of medical school in late 20s. Apparently you can miss the mark 5 times, and all you learn from it is that you may be below average in an opaque and flawed admission system. That’s not a particularly useful lesson that translates to other careers, nor should take 5 years to find out. I guess the old adage, “fail fast” goes out the window.

    2) What actually happens to the people who apply 5 times, and make no progress; what are their career prospects, income etc.? Have you actually interviewed or gathered data on such individuals? If you don’t have such data, do you think students should have some transparent idea of their prospects?

    3) The opportunity cost isn’t factored in and it’s closer to 10 years. The 5 years you spent focusing on failed medical school admissions could have gone been fully devoted to launching a career, going to grad school, or building your own business. Instead you could waste up to 5 years to find out your application is below average, and then have to start from scratch building a career.

    I’m pretty sure 10 years ago, applying 5 times wasn’t the norm, but now it’s acceptable. In a few years’ time maybe applying 7 or 10 times will be the norm. What are your thoughts?

    • So, maybe a few points of clarification are in order. When I say “5 year project”, and I have been saying this for years, my point is simply to emphasize for applicants that if they do not get in after applying once or twice, it does not follow from that that they cannot get in, and they probably should not give up at that point. The other thing I emphasize over and over again is that there is never a guarantee of getting into medical school (here or anywhere else) and that while applying to medical school, people should pursue their lives and careers. Since you can apply to medical school regardless of what you are doing currently, there is no need to put your life on hold while you apply, and there should, in fact, be no opportunity cost to applying to medical school other than the time energy and money that goes into the application itself. If you don’t get into medical school after your first try, then pursue your alternative career, and do it with enthusiasm and vigor. Not only will that contribute to launching your life, but it will certainly not harm you as a medical school applicant.
      A number of years ago CaRMS, perhaps in association with AFMC (I honestly don’t recall), looked at pooled data and found that, the median number of applications a Canadian medical student had made prior to be admitted (thats number of years, not number of schools) was 2.7. It also fits with our own data that shows that there is, on average, about a 17-18% chance of getting accepted to our medical school each year. For applicants with GPA’s >3.7, its about a 40% chance. We also know that there is an inescapable element of subjectivity to the application process (as there is for any selection process). Although there are some applicants who are clearly superior and some who are weaker, which is why some applicants get into every medical school they apply to, and some get not a single interview, there is a big group in the middle who are perfectly capable applicants who would be good docs, but the volume of them massively outnumbers the available spots. For those people, there is a significant element of luck. The problem is that as an applicant, and for us as an admissions office, it is hard to know after a single application, which group a particular applicant falls into. That, in part, is why we release people’s application scores – not so that they can over-interpret them and worry about differences of 15 percentile ranks – but so that they can look at them and reflect. If one’s GPA is at the 3rd percentile, MCAT is at the 5th, and the file review comes in at the 10th, then there is still a chance of getting on based on the element of luck, but you can make an informed decision about how much energy you want to invest in applying again, since the odds are probably not in your favour.
      Where I come up with the 5 years is this. Say you have a GPA of 3.7, a CARS of 125 and fairly typical assessments on your file review (recognizing the luck involved in those assessments), your chances of getting rejected are about 60% the first time you apply. So you apply, and you don’t get in. What can you conclude? You can conclude that the most likely outcome came to pass. Say you apply twice in a row and don’t get in? Well, there was a 36% chance of that happening. Can you conclude anything about your future prospects based on that? Probably not. Its really about probabilities (which we use in interpreting test results in patients all the time), and eventually the probabilities get to be low enough that you have to possibility that the outcome is no longer due to chance alone, but rather to the fact that you actually ARE a weaker than average applicant.
      Here are the numbers I use, with the assumption that the only driver is random chance (which we know to be untrue, but since we don’t know how big of a contribution in makes, I use this for illustrative purposes)
      Chance of not getting in after one attempt – 60%
      Chance of not getting in after two attempts – 36%
      Chance of not getting in after three attempts – 21%
      Chance of not getting in after four attempts – 13%
      Chance of not getting in after five attempts – 8%
      When I reflect on that, I think that it is not till you get down into the single digits of probability that you can really start to seriously consider that maybe its not just chance driving this, and maybe I should give up. If I am that person, I am saying to myself: “Ok, maybe I am just really really unlucky and that is why I didn’t get in, but it is starting to look more probable that for whatever reason I am actually an objectively weaker than average applicant, and my chances are not going to get a whole lot better if I apply again”. Thats going to be an individual assessment though, and some people are going to think, “no, its just bad luck, and try again.” Some of those people will ultimately be successful, but most will not. My primary point is that deciding that after two or three cycles of applying is probably premature, and doing so will, in many cases, be the result of mis-attributing an outcome based on chance and probability to an applicant’s actual quality as an potential physician.
      I find your comment about this being “now acceptable” interesting. Its not that it is acceptable or not acceptable. Its just a fact. the number of medical school positions is static. The number of applicants goes up every year. Thus the chance of getting in goes down every year for any given applicant. The net result is that for the AVERAGE applicant, it is probably taking longer to secure a spot. Not sure that it is something that is under the control of the medical schools themselves. I have heard talk of trying to cap the number of times an individual can apply, the way the MCAT caps the total number of times you can take the test, but my lawyer friends tell me that would likely fail if challenged in court, so we are not going to go there.

  • Could we get an update on the status of the waitlist please?

  • Hi Dr. Walker, will you start sending out offers from the waitlist tomorrow (Friday) or Monday? Thank you!

  • Hi Dr. Walker,
    Thank you for your update. It really helps! I want to ask how the uptake of offers at this point in time (mid-May) in this cycle has been compared to previous years. Any rough prediction of how much the waitlist might move (more, less or probably the same as compared to previous years)? Any information you can provide will truly help a ton! Thank you!