Julian – “Looks Good on Paper”

We’re digging in to one student’s application at a time to give you guidance about how to present yourself on your medical school application. Julian’s the “Looks Good on Paper” pre-med, what will it take for him to get in?

Overview of the applicant’s story:

Julian is currently in an honors undergraduate program at McGill University, where he has been involved extensively in multiple research labs. Besides receiving many honors and awards in academics and leadership, Julian has also been involved in a variety of extracurricular activities, including volunteering in a hospital, clinical shadowing, tutoring, and student organizations.

Vital Stats:

Undergraduate college: McGill University, 2017

Major: Honours Physiology with a Minor in Psychology

Overall GPA: 3.94

Science GPA: 3.95

MCAT: 518 (Physical-132, CARS/Verbal-127, Biological-130, Psych-129)

Do you consider yourself disadvantaged?: No

Race/ethnicity: Caucasian

Exposure to medicine (location, your role, hours, rate on scale of 1-10):

  • Hospital Volunteering – 60 Hours – 9
  • Run Clinic in Dominican Republic – 500 Hours – 10
  • Shadow Cardiothoracic Surgery – 5 Hours – 9
  • Volunteer at Retirement Home – 40 Hours – 6
  • Co-Op McMaster-Mohawk Nursing Skills Lab – 220 Hours – 9

Volunteer experiences (location, your role, hours, rate on scale of 1-10):

  • Volunteer Tutor for Freshman Science – 20 Hours – 7
  • Volunteer Tutor for Math – 300 Hours
  • Volunteer Elementary School Volleyball Coach – 320 Hours – 9
  • Junior Camp Counsellor – 640 Hours
  • High School Morning News Floor Director & Anchor – 200 Hours – 7

Research experiences (location, your role, hours, rate on scale of 1-10):

  • Research Intern at Cystic Fibrosis Lab – 450 Hours – 6
  • Research Intern at Cancer & Immunology Lab – 450 Hrs – 5

Leadership positions held:

  • Founder of International Healthcare Charity
  • Started undergraduate Physiology Clinical Journal Club
  • 9 years of Executive Student Council over 3 schools
  • 2 years as Teaching Assistant for Histology
  • Head Junior Counsellor at Science & Engineering Camp

Letters of Recommendation: How well do your two science professors know you?

  • 7/10
  • 5/10

How would you rate your writing skills?


How would you rate your interviewing skills?


What is your admissions goal?

Get in somewhere allopathic (MD)

Things to definitely highlight in your application:

  • Strong numbers; the multitude of experiences you have which are relevant to medicine.

Things to definitely address in your application:

  • You don’t have any red flags, but you should ensure that your personality and true passions are reflected in your application, because it is easy to miss these among all your experiences.

Strategy #1

Humanize yourself as an applicant, and bring your application to life beyond the high GPA, strong MCAT score, and relevant experiences.

According to this AAMC grid for applicants and acceptees from previous application cycles, the acceptance rate percentage for applicants with your GPA, MCAT score, and race/ethnicity is 89% (https://www.aamc.org/data/facts/applicantmatriculant/157998/factstablea24.html). Your chances of being accepted to medical school are high, but even students with very strong numbers are not accepted. You need to demonstrate the unique qualities that you have by telling a story about who you are. You are a well-rounded student who has strong numbers and strong experiences, so your application won’t raise red flags or bring up urgent questions. To avoid seeming dull to the admissions committees, demonstrate your personality so you stand out. Listing your various experiences seems like a checklist, so a better way to write about your activities is to tell detailed stories in which you show the admissions committees the qualities you have, rather than listing the qualities themselves. You should apply to medical schools early (submit your AMCAS application within the first week of June); schools will want to interview students with high numbers earlier in the rolling admissions process.

Strategy #2

Don’t overwhelm the admissions committees by including every single experience. Instead, wow them by focusing on the most significant ones.

Because you’ve been involved in many experiences, it can be easy to list every small activity in your application essays. However, your goal is to convey your true passion for going to medical school and ultimately becoming a physician. In order to convey your personality and passion, narrow your stories down to the most meaningful and impactful experiences, interactions, activities, etc., which show the admissions committees more about you. Rather than focusing on what qualities physicians in general should have, focus on which of your personal qualities will make you a good physician, then write about experiences which exemplify these characteristics. If the reader focuses on the important activities that you have highlighted, your whole application becomes meaningful. Avoid boring the admissions committees with a laundry list of all your previous experiences.

Strategy #3

Apply to Canadian schools and American schools that accept international applicants.

Though not explicitly mentioned in your application to us (that was our fault, not yours), we have reason to believe that you are a Canadian citizen.  As such, you should focus on Canadian medical schools, which give overwhelming preference to Canadians.  Be careful, though: not all Canadian schools accept Canadians equally.  As with American schools, many focus on in-province applicants, so be sure to check each school’s website to determine whether it accepts students from your province.

For American med schools, you will need a subscription to the MSAR to determine which ones are available to international applicants.  Don’t just look at the box that tells whether the school accepts international students; instead, look at the number of international students in the incoming class.  Many med schools claim to accept international students, but didn’t actually take any in last year’s class.  Don’t waste your time with these schools.

Also be on the lookout for certain schools (Wayne State comes to mind) that treat Canadian students the same as Americans for the purpose of the application process.  Being put on a level playing field will be helpful in gaining admission!

What Does This All Mean?

Medical schools want to know who you are as a person beyond the checklist of experiences and activities that are presented on your resume. You have solid numbers and experiences, so your priority should be putting together a vivid, exciting application that conveys your personality and interest in medicine.