January 25, 2020
How to Write a Powerful OMSAS Autobiographical Sketch
MedApplications: Your Source for Assistance in Creating Outstanding Sketches for School
The Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS) is a tool used by thousands of students applying to Ontario medical schools every year. One centralized service is responsible for collecting, processing, and submitting applicant information to medical schools across the province.
Medical schools in Canada are some of the best and most competitive institutions in the world. With so many excellent applicants, academics alone aren’t enough to equip admissions staff make informed decisions in selecting future students.
That’s why most schools require applicants to submit supplementary materials designed to give admissions officers greater insight into the applicant’s strengths, character and suitability for med school. One essential element of the supplementary application is the OMSAS Autobiographical Sketch.
What Is an Autobiographical Sketch?
The Autobiographical Sketch is essentially a snapshot of everything an applicant has done in their lives from the age of sixteen until their time of application. Successful sketches include detailed descriptions of academic achievements, personal pursuits, and professional experience in up to 48 succinct individual entries.
Any activity that demonstrates the applicant’s leadership skills, teamwork experience, communication skills — or passion for research or community giving — should be included in the Sketch. Whether it’s volunteer work, a retail job, an important project or special research you’ve conducted.
Not all schools require the Autobiographical Sketch, but here’s a list of the schools that do:
- University of Toronto Medical School
- University of Ottawa Medical School
- Queen’s University Medicine
- Northern Ontario School of Medicine
Your ABS is the crowning glory of your application to Ontario medical school. Think of it as an executive summary listing important milestones and relevant personal and professional experiences described — all in 48 easily scannable entries. The key is to prove your readiness and suitability for med school.
What does a Medicine Sketch include?
An entry in the Autobiographical Sketch contains a description of what you’ve done, the date it occurred, where it took place, for how long, and any contacts who can vouch that it did occur as stated. These contacts are called verifiers, and they are an essential component of the Sketch.
A verifier for your Autobiographical Sketch can be anyone who can attest that you did what you described in your entry. They can be former bosses, teachers, professors, research heads, or even friends and family if the entry is non-structured.
Non-structured entries can include any event that occurred outside of a professional or institutional setting. For example, if you helped your neighbor mow the lawn for a few weeks while he was recovering from an accident. Any example of altruism, strength of character, and volunteer spirit within a non-structured setting would apply. The verifier in that situation might be your very grateful neighbor.
The lawn mowing example would fit into the volunteer activities section of the Sketch, but it’s only one of seven sections. The seven section on your Autobiographical Sketch are as follows:
- Formal education
- Extracurricular activities
- Volunteer activities
Attain Full Information of Each Verifier
Additionally, you must obtain the consent, name, title, phone number, address, and a short description for every verifier. This information is put into a verifier list independent from the autobiographical entries. Verifiers are referenced by their number on this list when the applicant uses them for an entry.
Write Concise 150-word Event Descriptions
Alongside names, places, dates, and verifiers, applicants must also include a 150-character description for certain events. Descriptions must be to the point and describe concisely and in the best way possible what the applicant did in that entry.
The contents of the description should let the reader know exactly what you did. For example, if your entry was about research, describe your position in a way that portrays you as competent and intelligent.
Descriptions and verifiers are required for everything that cannot be substantiated with academic records or documentation. For those instances, you may list yourself as the verifier and provide documentation if requested.
How to Prepare for the OMSAS Autobiographical Sketch
Applying to medical school is going to be one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do in your life. Not only will you require top marks in school, but you must also demonstrate a delicate balance between academics and extracurriculars. Good grades alone won’t be enough.
An early start is important when creating your Autobiographical Sketch since everything you’ve done since the age of sixteen will need to be covered. A good approach is to start from high school and create a spreadsheet with a single data point for each meaningful activity.
For each entry, be sure to include the following:
- a description of what you did,
- a verifier the school could contact,
- the time, date, and location of the event.
In the months leading up to your application, be sure to gather all your data, get rid of whatever isn’t important. Sort the remaining points into the seven categories described, succinctly listing all your entries in point form. Do not link to additional pages, CVs, recommendation letters, or anything else.
Biographical Entry Example and Writing Tips
Now that you’ve arranged your entire life into one document, it’s crucial to describe your achievements compellingly in your Autobiographical Sketch. Few common problems that plague applicants on their medicine sketch include meeting the tight word count allotted, finding enough relevant events to list — and finding the right verifier for an entry.
A great many applicants, in fact, fail to use the 150 characters to describe their achievements. Others include irrelevant information in their sketches. Let’s go through an OMSAS Autobiographical Sketch example that would be successful on an application.
Academic entries should be fairly simple and don’t require verifiers or descriptions; sketches for school can look like:
- Category: Formal education
- From: 2014-09
- To: 2018-04
- Description: University of Toronto: BA
- Geographic Location: Toronto/ON
An example of an employment entry would be:
- Category: Employment
- From: 2016-04
- To: 2016-09
- Description: Cisco Systems Canada Corporation: Systems Operation Intern
- Geographical Location: Toronto/ON
- Verifier: 7
- Level of education: 4th year. BA.
- Hours: ~700 hours
- Full/part-time: Full-time; summer term (5 mo. internship)
- Responsibilities: Ensured the smooth operation of Cisco computer systems in the entire office. Implemented fixes to systems using C++, Bash interface, and python.
You want to ensure that you include enough information to make the description relevant without overcrowding it. Remember, you only have 150 characters, so the information needs to be concise and to-the-point.
Writing a powerful description that explains what you did in 150 characters is crucial to your Sketch. You need to show the admissions committee the scope, reach, and results of everything you’ve done.
Remember, your Autobiographical Sketch must portray you as an outstanding, skilled applicant who knows how to apply yourself to any given situation. Every entry in your Sketch should convince the admissions committee that you’ll make a fantastic student and an even better doctor.
Get Valuable Insight into Your OMSAS Autobiographical Sketch
MedApplications can help you make sense of the OMSAS Autobiographical Sketch. Our team of experts knows what you need to create a successful Autobiographical Sketch. We offer a comprehensive ABS review where we look at your entries, verifiers, and descriptions and tell you what needs fixing.
Our team will guide you through OMSAS Autobiographical Sketch examples, so you know what to write. Then, we’ll coach you to write it as powerfully as possible.
You’ve spent years balancing extracurriculars with academics, don’t let that go to waste by submitting an ineffective application. With our expert team of physicians, you can have the peace of mind in submitting the best application — with the most convincing ABS — to your dream school.
Sign up today and receive personalized, relevant feedback in your medical school application.
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