As summer is quickly approaching, many people are starting to think about plans for the summer. For some, the summer will entail studying for one of the many grad school admission tests: MCAT, LSAT, PCAT, OCAT, GMAT, GRE, etc. I took my MCAT the summer after my first year, and a big decision was to choose if I was going to self-study or take one of those notorious prep courses offered by Kaplan, Princeton Review, Prep101, or other test prep companies. There are certainly both pros and cons to each choice. Self-studying is of course the most economical option; you can often find very cheap (or even free) books/resources online to study from, whereas prep courses often cost upwards of $2000.
Since my switch from Neuroscience to Psychology, the biggest obstacle I faced was the enormous amount of assigned readings every week. At an average of 20 pages per course, per week, I personally found assigned readings to be even more time consuming than the main course lectures themselves. This was a huge change from my past experience in biology based courses, where the testable exam material stemmed solely from the lectures. Memorize everything on the professor’s PowerPoint slides, and you are good to go for the exam. Even in courses where there is a “recommended textbook”, it is supplementary, and most, if not all of the exam material still come from the lectures.
By this time of the year, the majority of medical school invitations have already been released. A huge congratulations and good luck to those who are advancing to the final stage of the application process!
I am very fortunate and grateful to be part of that group continuing to the interview stage and just wanted to share my some of my own plans for the next daunting step, as well as some of the approaches and strategies recommended to me by various students who have gone through the process already.
As I have blogged about in the past, I am a huge supporter of enhancing one’s undergraduate experience with both volunteer work and extra-curriculars. Not only does it allow you to meet new people and de-stress from your papers, assignments, and exams, it also helps you develop and strengthen skills applicable to your future careers. For students interested in a career in healthcare (medicine, nursing, physiotherapy, etc.), I think another important experience to obtain during your undergrad is shadowing experience. For those who are unfamiliar, shadowing entails following a healthcare professional around in their daily environment (the hospital) and observing various aspects of their work.
So I have blogged about research many times in the past, both about my own experiences in the lab as well ways to get involved in research (see here, http://blogs.mcgill.ca/caps/2014/10/05/getting-into-research/). McGill in general is a very academically oriented and research intensive school so it should not come as a surprise that there are numerous opportunities for students to get involved!
Activities night for the 2015 fall semester is happening September 8th and 9th from 4pm to 8pm! For those who don’t know, it is an event held in the SSMU building every semester where over 200 McGill clubs and organizations set up booths that students can visit. It’s a fantastic way for students to learn about different clubs, discover new interests and get engaged on campus! There is astounding diversity within the McGill community.
Yesterday was my last official day of work at the lab for the summer! I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and cannot express enough my appreciation for my supervisor and the other lab members.
Last summer, I worked at the same lab, and because it was my first wet-lab experience, I did much of the grunt work. Nevertheless, I was grateful for the opportunity, and by demonstrating my abilities and desire to contribute, I was tasked with a much more exciting project this summer which entailed me to learn numerous new techniques.
Hurray! I just finished the final draft of my “brief essays” for Toronto medical school. After 6 drafts and major overhauls, it has not been an easy process. It’s one thing to know who you are as a person and where you stand on issues, but it’s another to put it down on paper, explain why, and give an accurate representation of yourself. In addition to the autobiographical sketch (which is required by all Ontario medical schools), UofT requires 4 “brief essays” on 4 questions revealed each year, as well as brief descriptions of 3 activities you engaged in that you feel demonstrate what they are looking for in an applicant.
I had a meeting with the PI (principle investigator) of my lab today, not about my project, but about my plans for the future, and for the first time, I mentioned my intentions of applying to medical school this upcoming fall. Training students like me in various lab techniques takes up a lot of valuable time and money, and so usually labs prefer to hire students who are able to make a long term commitment to the lab, in order to make the time and money spent on training worthwhile. Despite my news of early application (meaning I would possibly leave his lab earlier than planned), he was incredibly supportive and gracious.
As I have previously mentioned on the blog, I had the privilege of working briefly this summer as an undergraduate teaching assistant for Organic Chemistry 2. This was arranged of through the Tomlinson Engagement Award for Mentoring program (http://www.mcgill.ca/tpulse/tomlinson-engagement-award-mentoring), which selects qualified students who had previously taken the course, to work as a undergraduate TA and assist with the course alongside the instructor and an graduate TA.