Admissions Blog: Part 2 of Advice from our 2018 Admissions Reps
Dion Diep and Heta Joshi are 2nd year medical students at the University of Toronto and were selected as the student representatives for the MD Program Admissions Committee. Their responsibilities included contributing to and voting on admissions policies, evaluating applicant files, acting as ambassadors for the Program by giving presentations and speaking to prospective applicants, coordinating interview days and much more! They took a break out of their busy schedules to chat with the admissions team about their path to medical school, and their experiences since.
Note: this is Part 2 of our interview with Dion and Heta. Find part one here!
You went through the application cycle both as applicants, and now as admissions reps – which gives you an interesting perspective on the process. Is there anything you know about the process now, that you wish you knew when you were an applicant?
As a former applicant, I was uncertain how the MD admissions policies were formed and for what purposes they served. They seemed arbitrary. However, sitting in on the MD Admissions Committee shed a positive light in my outlook for future applicants. I was able to see the vast amount of work that went into the admissions process. From implementing large initiatives, such as the BSAP program, to troubleshooting assessment criteria, everything is done to promote fairness amongst applicants. Every decision made has a comprehensive rationale, backed by the latest evidence. The committee also consists of advocates from diverse backgrounds that work to ensure that no applicants slip through the cracks. Knowing this as an applicant would have made for a less stressful and definitely more hopeful process that the future of medicine is in good hands!
In terms of your undergraduate degree, do something that you genuinely like. It's more probable that if you like something that you'll do better academically, have better time management skills, and perform well in school. Although grades aren't the only part of the admissions process, they're still a part of it and if you are learning something you're genuinely interested in, you're more likely to do well in it.
Make sure medicine is what you really want. As the UofT MD program goals highlight, you're going into a career with life-long learning and that involves a lot of commitment. You'll build the skills that you need as you go through your career so don't be worried about that but make sure this is what you want.
Finally, breathe. I know there's a lot of uncertainty and stress in the process - whether it's waiting for your MCAT score, or your interview, or your offer. In your application, be yourself and present the best version of yourself. It's okay if you haven't done x, y, z, and your friend has - you've done maybe a, b, c, so focus on that. This is a great time to build coping strategies. For me it was meditation, yoga, and just spending time with my close friends that really helped me throughout the process, and even now! Getting into medical school is very competitive and it won't be easy, but it's not impossible.
Are there any myths about applying to medical school or about U of T's MD program that you would like to dispel?
When asking people for advice, you commonly hear phrases, such as: “relax, have fun, do something you are truly passionate in, and the rest will come easy.” While it is incredibly important to do the first three things suggested, what’s never guaranteed is that the application will be easy. Applying to medical school can be a very stressful process and that is completely okay. I can’t list many people who would say that the uncertainty and stress associated with applying was enjoyable; however, most would agree that it was an incredible learning experience.
You're not just a number in medical school. The faculty really cares about your well-being and are always there to support you with any kind of problem or concern you have.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give your pre-med self or to future applicants?
Interested in applying to medical school at U of T, but not sure where to start? You should definitely check out the Community of Support (COS) Program to see if you qualify! My pre-med self had no idea where to start and the COS program would have helped a ton in hindsight. Be sure to click here and check it out!
Understand what you can and cannot control and don’t overthink things that you cannot control. Do your research on all the medical schools you are applying to, be familiar with the admissions criteria, look for opportunities and help along the way, including medical school websites/programs (i.e. the Community of Support Program), mentors, and students who have gone through the process.
What is the biggest challenge as a current medical student?
Figuring out what specialty I’m most interested in is definitely the most challenging task so far. There are so many different specialties and practice settings that it is pretty much impossible to explore them all, even with the amount of time UofT provides us with. It’s challenging to acknowledge that you won’t be able to see or do everything. Despite this, I think the experiences I have everyday serve as an excellent sample of things I enjoy more than others.
The biggest challenge for sure is time management. Things can get very busy and it's important to be organized during these moments but it's even more important to take time out for yourself.
Conversely, what is it about this program/career that gives you the most fulfillment?
This program gives me balance. And I love balance. I’m already a very greedy person, but this aspect to my personality seems to meet its match in the face of U of T’s holistic curriculum. I get to immerse myself in subjects that I am truly interested in and do so through multiple means that fit how I learn best. From didactic lectures to self-directed assignments, U of T has something for everyone. Combined with how we also get unscheduled time to explore our own interests, it’s safe to say that this is exactly where I want to be.
Medicine is a career where you’re often trying to understand an individual’s problem and help them with the knowledge that you have. The gratification after you help them is probably what gives me the most fulfillment. Obviously as a preclerkship student, I’m not as involved in patient care but I have had many chances to shadow physicians. The relationship that physicians have with their patients and the gratification from patients that they receive is what makes me really happy.
Finally, what do you like to do outside of your studies for fun?
I love to stay active through exercising and playing sports. U of T also comes equipped with 3 different athletic facilities, so I always get to switch things up! Also, the U of T Medical Society sponsors all students to be involved in intramurals, so I definitely didn’t hesitate to take advantage of that. Basketball, volleyball, ultimate frisbee… the list goes on. In between, I still enjoy sparring in boxing whenever I can. I also like to watch anime and travel.
Outside of school, I like to dance and travel. I really enjoy dancing salsa and Bollywood. I try to help choreograph songs, and I’m super excited for this year’s talent show. Recently this past summer, I decided to do my first solo trip to Yukon and Alaska. It was absolutely gorgeous. Lastly, because day-to-day life can be very busy and procedural, I try to spend as much quality time with my close friends and family.
About Dion and Heta
|Dion did his undergraduate degree in Health Sciences at McMaster University. He is looking forward to approach his career in medicine with an open mind just as how he approaches life. He always reflects back and think how excited his undergrad self would have been to see where he is now, or how excited his high school self would have been seeing where his undergrad self once was. The possibilities in medical school and beyond are endless and he looks forward to how time will unveil his future career and tie it into medicine. He loves surprises.||Heta did her undergraduate degree in Life Sciences at McMaster University. She is looking forward to integrating her interests in medicine and computer science to develop healthcare management strategies and promote effective patient centered care both locally and globally.|