Katherine Cole is an out-of-province second-year medical student at McGill University and originally from Red Deer, Alberta. She completed two years of her undergraduate degree in evolutionary biology at Red Deer College and the University of Alberta.
McGill Tribune: What medical schools did you apply to?
Katherine Cole: I actually applied for the first time in my second year at the University of Alberta because they accepted people in their third year. When I wrote the MCAT—because that is required in Alberta—I didn’t really put that much work into it. I just kind of assumed it would be easy, so I didn’t get in after that year.
KC: I also applied after my third year, and again my MCAT scores were also not that good. Finally, in my last year of my degree I said to myself, ‘Okay, I actually need to focus and write this exam.’ I ended up getting in to the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary. I also ended up applying to McGill kind of on a whim, but I thought it would be really cool to go here, even though I didn’t have great odds. [McGill] was actually the interview that I felt the most comfortable in.
MT: Was the application process difficult?
KC: You want to set aside quite a bit of time to do it […] getting letters of reference from people, figuring out why you want to apply in the first place and doing a good letter of intent—even the mental preparation and the waiting and the stresses associated can sometimes be challenging. It is good to have a good set of social supports around you when you are applying so you feel that there are other people rooting you on.
KC: Every school is different in terms of what you are looking for, but at the end of the day they are kind of looking for someone who is willing to put in the time and effort, which is shown in how the application is structured—it’s not a five second job. It’s not a fun process, but it does really make you understand why you wanted to apply in the first place.
MT: What can one do to improve their chances of a successful application?
KC: In my experience, the thing you need to have the most when applying is passion for something. If you are volunteering for the sake of volunteering, or if you are trying to build up your leadership experience and not enjoying it, you are kind of missing out on the whole process itself.
MT: What type of medicine do you plan on pursuing?
KC: I think I am very interested in psychiatry right now. I have had a lot of really great clinical experiences and I have read some great papers—the material is really interesting to me. I am quite confident that is where I will end up.
MT: What are the ups and downs parts of medical school?
KC: The best part about medical school is that you are on a track now where the education you are doing will contribute to a career. In your undergraduate you are working towards that goal, but for out of province students you have to have a degree before you can access the medical school. Once you’re in the program, you know that at the end of these four years, you will have a career, which is [amazing].
KC: [On the other hand], medical school is a lot of work. You have to make sacrifices sometimes in terms of making sure that you review the material enough, because you have to stay on top of things for sure. I am a person that loves to procrastinate a lot, and that kind of paves the way towards very stressful days. You really have to make sure that you manage your schedule. That being said, it is also very important that you have an active social life outside of that, because that gives you the amount of self care that you need to do well in school.