January 25, 2020
Factors To Consider
I approached this decision practically, as I think others do: the right school would be the one that accepted me. I applied to schools broadly and initially made the decision to travel wherever I needed to go to get a medical education. In Ontario and in Canada generally we are fortunate to have outstanding medical schools. There are no wrong decisions from a pure content and education perspective. Where I would say choice matters is in terms of your learning style, comfort moving and fit. With regards to learning style, not all schools are equivalent. Some, like McMaster, rely heavily on problem-based learning models, where you become your own teacher and learn through solving problems. Others, like U of T, use lectures to deliver most content. Some are in between.
Some schools provide more free time to shadow and explore career options, while others provide a fuller, more regimented schedule. To make it a bit more complicated, some are in the process of adapting their curriculums. Knowledge and skill is the end goal, but how you get there is critical. You’re going to want to reflect on how you best learn and which school caters to that style.
A Challenging Pursuit
In terms of comfort, medicine is a challenging enough pursuit without having the added stress of packing up and moving across the country or world. For some this can be an exciting fresh start and a positive stress, but for others it can limit their ability to succeed or they may have other reasons to stay close to home. I was more in the latter category. I knew that despite my initial thought that I’d go anywhere that accepted me, I wouldn’t have been able to thrive without my family and friends around. It was a hard decision and limited my choices, but one that has led to more happiness, comfort and I believe more success during my medical training.
Determining the Right Fit
Learning Style Compatibility
Finally, I’d like to reinforce the obvious. There is nothing better than visiting a school, plus meeting its students and faculty, to determine if it’s the right fit for you. Fit is hard to explain and define, but you know it when it’s there. It’s associated with the culture of the school, the other students, the class size, the teachers and admin staff, plus an innumerable amount of other factors. Go to the school, walk the halls, sit in a classroom and see if it fits!
The bottom line. If I were to do it all again, I would still apply broadly to schools since there are many good ones. If I got accepted to more than one I would assess for learning style compatibility and comfort moving there. I know it’s strange and flips the script a bit, but I would look critically at schools as if I were interviewing them. I’d also go there and see if it fits on a more visceral level. Having said all that, if I got accepted to one school, I’d go there!
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