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The OMSAS Application: What You Need to Know About Applying to Ontario Medical Schools

Are you planning on applying to an Ontario Medical School? If so, you will have to understand and deal with OMSAS. Mcat scores, OMSAS GPA conversion and prepare in advance to meet the OMSAS application deadline and all rules that apply. These are just some of the many challenges you’ll face in making a successful application to a med school in Ontario. Read on, for everything OMSAS you‘ll need to know.

What is OMSAS?

The Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS) is the online centralized application service at the Ontario University Application Centre (OUAC). (Yes, we know, lots of acronyms.) Click here to visit OUAC and find out about OMSAS there. You will need to be registered with OUAC to proceed with your OMSAS application.

OMSAS accepts and assesses applications from thousands of students annually. That includes students from around the world who use an OMSAS application to apply to any medical school in Ontario. For this reason (so many students with different native languages) it is required to be a very clear, concise and effective system designed to consolidate and help assess and process many applications.

To which Med schools do you apply through OMSAS?

There are six Ontario medical schools, each of which require you to have high enough OMSAS MCAT scores and meet the OMSAS application deadline in order to be considered for admission. 

The Ontario medical schools that require you to make an application through OMSAS are:

Where do I start with my OMSAS Application?

A good place to start is with the OMSAS instruction booklet available through the OMSAS website. Be sure to review the OMSAS Instruction in detail. This is your secret to OMSAS application success. Most of the questions you have right now – and as you think further on your OMSAS application – will be answered in these instructions. These include:

  • Specific questions about each Ontario medical school (also consult the school’s website)
  • The OMSAS application deadline
  • OMSAS GPA conversion
  • OMSAS MCAT scores, and more

You’ll find that most of the burning questions you may have regarding different medical schools are answered in this booklet and on their respective school websites. If upon reading the booklet something is still unclear – like the OMSAS GPA scale or your OMSAS MCAT scores — you can reach out to the Ontario Universities Application Center (OUAC) staff directly or check the FAQ section on the instruction booklet.

Want your OMSAS application to truly stand out and rise above the rest?

Here are four areas to clear up confusion and help guide you – so you can make the grade with the OMSAS reviewal committee.

1. Accurately identify your home university for easy transcript release — and OMSAS MCAT score request: 

OMSAS makes this part easy, especially for Ontario residents. Simply identify your home University (if within Ontario) and your transcripts will be released electronically. If you are applying from outside of Ontario, you will have to go through a traditional transcript request procedure, so best to attend to this part way ahead of the OMSAS application deadline. On your OMSAS application you will also be asked to fill in your grades and OMSAS will check the conversion of your grades once they receive your official transcript(s). Since the grading systems vary from university to university in Canada, (i.e. 4-point OMSAS GPA scale, 9-point OMSAS GPA scale, 12-point OMSAS GPA scale, letter grades) OMSAS has designed a method to standardize everyone’s GPA regardless of their school’s grading system. Your OMSAS MCAT scores will be automatically released upon your electronic approval.

2. Take time to make the right university choices: 

You will be able to submit and application (through OUAC) to any of the 6 medical schools in Ontario. The schools are: The University of Toronto, Western University, The Northern Ontario School of Medicine, The University of Ottawa, Queen’s University and Mc Master University. Some schools such as the University of Ottawa require applicants to include a language stream for their MD program. For example, if you are French-speaking and you are not fluent in English, Ottawa should be your targeted school. Check the OMSAS booklet again to ensure you include the right stream for your language skills and desired training. Don’t be too quick to settle on the choices. You can mull over the options and delay your final decision until you are about to submit your OMSAS application.

3. Write a killer autobiographical sketch

Your autobiographical sketch is one of the most challenging areas to fill out for most students. It’s a good idea to start working on this critical section early so that you don’t rush last minute and miss out on some important details. The key is to be thorough and include all your relevant activities since age 16. Be aware that there are seven categories of activities and experience you need to capture. These are:

  1. Formal education – all the courses and degrees you have completed
  2. Employment – Where have you worked, part-time and full-time – and what skills/knowledge did you develop/use?
  3. Volunteer Experience – What organizations and events did you participate in or play a key role? Where did you donate your time – and why?
  4. Extracurriculars – What kind of pastimes have you engaged in – and have you learned valuable skills through these extracurriculars?
  5. Research – Have you written any significant works or taken an interest to delve deep into a particular topic? 
  6. Awards—  Have you been recognized for achievement in academia, sports, arts or volunteerism?
  7. Other —What other significant life experiences and accomplishments shaped you as a strong potential candidate for medical school?

The best way to approach it is to brainstorm first, without editing. Enter an achievement  – perhaps a volunteer job you had – and write as much as you can on the details, making sure to answer the five w’s: who, what, why, when and where. Both a structured and unstructured approach to this autobiographical sketch is recommended for your OMSAS application. For the structured part, you might clearly reference a specific research paper you wrote, or a volunteer term you served. Unstructured achievements may include random acts of kindness, examples of your personal innovation or your problem solving. Perhaps you cared for a grandparent, mentored a child in need – or once performed CPR during a medical emergency? Be forewarned, it is not enough to dream up noble activities. OMSAS will look for solid verification of the accomplishments listed in your autobiographical profile. Reviewers are trained to detect fictional content included to make a good impression, so be specific and credible.

Quality over quantity – and careful editing is advised:

The biggest tip of all is this: choose quality over quantity. Once you have a long and detailed rough draft, be sure to edit down your sketch and emphasize the most important items only. The idea is to prioritize and highlight those examples that support and demonstrate the essential skills, knowledge and character required to be successful in the field of medicine. Specifically, you want to use your autobiographical sketch to show you possess abilities in these categories, valued in medicine: Observation, Communication, Motor Skills,  Intellectual/Conceptual and Behavioural/Social. Oh  – and don’t forget to carefully proof-read your final draft! Typos make a terrible impression.

Finally, be sure to show your experiences rather than tell what you learned.  the adjudicators will connect the dots on what you truly accomplished and what it says about you…

Keep in mind too that not all medical schools in Ontario consider the autobiographical sketch. McMaster and Western University do not take this part of your OMSAS application into account. Nor does it outweigh your OMSAS MCAT score or GPA.

4. Get a head start on selecting strong referees:

To complete your OMSAS application, you’ll need to ask three people to e your referees. Be sure to inform them early enough of your application to med school and have them complete the Confidential Assessment Form. It is important to be careful who you choose to play this important role in your OMSAS application.  Select a referee that is committed before you fill in the details and download the form. Also remember, one of the referees needs to be a non-academic/character referee – so choose this one carefully who can vouch for your suitability in a career in medicine. Remember that once you’ve filled in the details and downloaded, you cannot go back and change the names or switch out the referees, so you must be confident in who you select.

5. Applying to University of Toronto or the Northern Ontario School of Medicine? Here is some bonus advice for completing supplementary applications:

University of Toronto Supplementary Application: Each year the University of Toronto creates a 4 question supplementary application, asking of applicants to comment on controversial quotes, news reports, written statements or topics of interest. Themes may include healthcare and non-healthcare related. Often, applicants find these questions confusing and are unclear where to begin. To start, think about your own experiences, do they relate? Think about your strengths, do they relate? Our doctors help you define yourself in the context of these challenging questions. Start by brainstorming, think out of the box and get creative!

NOSM (Northern Ontario School of Medicine) Supplementary Application: NOSM always has and always will emphasize rural medicine and the recruitment of future medical students with a deep-rooted passion for practicing in Ontario’s North. Do you have this passion? Do you have experiences that show this passion? Creating a competitive NOSM application begins with focusing on rural health, rural health experiences and why you think you would be the best contributor and advocate for patients in Ontario’s northern communities.

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