Autobiographical Sketch (ABS) - The Scholar Cluster

Sep 17, 2020

The autobiographical sketch is one of the components used to assess the non-academic qualifications of an applicant to U of T's MD program. Applicants are advised to share their accomplishments and experiences on the ABS, while keeping in mind of the MD Program’s 4 attribute clusters. One of the 4 clusters is often seen as a bit more challenging when preparing the ABS: the scholar cluster. What constitutes an item depicting scholarly attributes? How do we define them on the ABS, especially under COVID-19 circumstances? 

Student Studying in Library

While information on an applicant's academic performance is always available on their transcript, students are sometimes at a loss on how to demonstrate the scholar cluster across their non-academic application submissions. A student's academic standing can be reflected in a scholarship or award that is given in recognition of high marks or marks above a certain level, and some opportunities, specialties, or internships may also be tied to a high academic standing. The terms and requirements should be referenced in the extended autobiographical sketch. An example includes an opportunity to study at the Sorbonne in the summer term, which was only available to the top five students in a French class of 100.

Research completed at the undergraduate and graduate level can be included in the ABS, as well as research undertaken on either an employment or volunteer basis. If this was an employment position, please do not list it twice under both categories on the ABS. The activity should be used in the category where it fits best.

We understand that Covid-19 has had an impact on students' ability to attend conferences, present posters and access their labs. We understand that internships, co-op placements and international exchange opportunities may have been canceled or altered or that students may have decided to pull out due to health concerns. An applicant who was selected for a research award or selected to present at a conference or other opportunity may list that activity and provide a brief explanation in the extended autobiographical sketch as to why the opportunity was declined or canceled.

Applicants should remember that these clusters do not exist in a bubble: activities and achievements will very often demonstrate more than one attribute from the different clusters. Leadership or executive roles in student clubs or government, teaching activities or organizing initiatives to address a social issue or community need may all have an aspect that demonstrates the scholar cluster.