MD Program Admissions

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

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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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Waitlist Update – June 2nd

June 2nd, 2017 by Dr Ian Walker

Uptake of offers has, thus far, been a bit higher than in past years.  As of right now, there are 4 positions vacant in the class of 2020, and 4 offers made which we have not yet had a response to yet.  Since most people who are going to accept an offer do so immediately, I suspect a few more offers will be made next week, and then a very small number who have already accepted here will change their minds and go elsewhere.  Will be sending out notes to those low enough on the waitlist that they are highly unlikely to get an offer to let them know that in the next little while.

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First Action on the Waitlist

May 29th, 2017 by Dr Ian Walker

We offered a number of positions off the waitlist this morning (10 to Albertans, 15 to non-Albertans).  We have given people 3 days to respond, so expect that we will make a few more later in the week.  From this point forward, the stream of offers will be small, but ongoing, as people settle in to their preferred MD program.

I will post more when it is starting to look like the stream is drying up.

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Update for Applicants

May 4th, 2017 by Dr Ian Walker

At this point, we are anticipating making offers on May 9th, AT THE EARLIEST.  The rank order list and Alternative Process candidates are being reviewed by the committee at their meeting on the 8th.  If all goes well, we should be able to make offers the next day.  Please note that this is in no way intended as a guarantee, but if we cannot make offers on the 9th, for whatever reason, our main webpage will feature a message to that effect.

Good luck to all, and as always, I encourage those who are not successful to be circumspect about it, recognize that this is not a judgment on you as a person, to persist in pursuing your goals.

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Staffing Changes in the Office of Admissions

April 8th, 2017 by Dr Ian Walker

Lots of administrative change for us in the last little while.  As some people already know, our Coordinator of Admissions, April, is currently on medical leave.  This has left us a bit challenged to respond to applicants in a timely manner and to carry out some of the other functions of the office.  Our new staff member, Renee, is coming on board on Monday and we are very excited to get her up to speed as quickly as possible.  Please be patient with us as we do so.

Also, applicants should note that we have moved.  Phone numbers remain the same, but our office is now G212, not G740

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Update for Interviewees

February 5th, 2017 by Dr Ian Walker

You can expect to receive something from me the week after next, but while you wait, a few teasers.

The MMI this year will consist of 10 seven minute stations, with two minutes between stations.  There will also be a 20 minute group activity station prior to the beginning of the circuit which will be scored in much the same way as the other MMI stations.  So, all told, there will be 11 assessments of each applicant.

MMI stations will adopt a number of different formats.  At the end of the day, these stations are meant to assess different skills, and we therefore attempt to do that in different ways.  While there will certainly be the hypothetical “what would you do and why” stations that have come to be viewed as typical of MMIs, they are not the only tool we use.

If you are wondering about practice, I would suggest that you make sure you are comfortable with the format (rapid changes, moving from one topic to another) and that you concentrate on practicing thinking on your feet.  I would encourage you to resist the temptation to practice rehearsed sound-bites.  You likely will not get a chance to use them, and if you do they will sound like, well, rehearsed sound-bites, and this not impressive to anyone.

The start time you have signed up for is the start time we need you to arrive for registration, not the actual start time for the circuit.  There is no need to arrive an hour early as some people invariably do every year.  10-15 minutes to make sure you are not late or running and stressed is fine.  anything more than that and you will  find yourself standing around a bit awkwardly.

There will be lots of medical students around during the interviews, both in official and unofficial capacities.  Make sure you come  with your questions about the program.  They will give you the straight goods, both positive and negative.

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Two Weeks to Interviews

February 5th, 2017 by Dr Ian Walker

Interviews will be in full swing in two weeks.

All told, we invited 537 people to interview, or about 37% of our applicant pool.  Once again, this is a new record low percentage for us, and underscores the competitive nature of this process.  Basically, as an applicant, you have a one in three chance of getting interviewed, which are not great odds, and I am quite certain we turn down hundreds and hundreds of people for interview who would be outstanding physicians.  I hope that those of you who did not secure an interview spot this year keep that in mind.  For those of you who have interviews elsewhere, congratulations, and good luck.

We continue to have staffing challenges in our office, and may not be able to respond to emails and phone calls as promptly as we would like.  Thankfully, there have not been two many, and other than a couple of people registering for the last MMI spot in a certain circuit at the exact same millisecond, the scheduler worked like a charge.

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Update for Applicants

January 9th, 2017 by Dr Ian Walker

So, recognizing that I have been uncharacteristically quiet this cycle, we do have a few updates for people.

  1. We are still finishing off the file reviews.  Some applicants are done, some are not.  When your four file reviews are complete, your status will change automatically in UCAN.  Whether your status changes early or late in the process means exactly nothing.  It all depends on who your reviewers were and when they did their work.  There are still several hundred reviews that have not been completed.
  2. We anticipate having all the reviews done within about 10 days, and making interview offers by the end of the month.  Can’t be more precise about that.  Due to some staffing challenges (see below) we are running a little later than usual.  We are sorry about that, but it is largely outside of our control.
  3. Applicants invited to interview will be sent information on the interview format so that they know what to expect when they arrive.  The interview process takes 4.5 hours, and we do three groups a day.  There is no advantage to being in any one group over another.
  4. We have a very small office.  Myself and two full time staff people.  Sadly, our Admissions Coordinator is off on an extended sick leave for now, so we are making do with skeleton staff.  This is why we may not be able to respond to emails in a timely fashion or return phone calls.  Bear with us.  We are hoping things will improve when we can get some temp help in to the office.

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Reference Stats for Last Cycle (finally)

September 9th, 2016 by Dr Ian Walker

My apologies that this has taken so long to get finished.

Will be available on our website next week, but for now, here is copy.


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