Some suggestions from a student applying for UBC Medical School from Mathematics
Informal Advice
This advice was kindly provided by a student who successfully applied to the UBC Medical School in the 2016 cycle (and had applied before). The student, Nicholas Steinberg, may be available to give advice. While very thoughtfully prepared by the student, you should of course read carefully the Medical School information for the school you are applying to. A number of students have gone from Math degrees to Medical School.

I took a longer route to medicine. I graduated with a B.Sc. in honours math from UBC in 2010, but by my fourth year, I realized that, as much as I enjoyed math, a career in it wasn't in the cards for me. A took a job in software development and considered my options for a few months before deciding to pursue medicine and re-enrolling in unclassified studies to get some classes I needed (back then, UBC Med had a large number of pre-req courses). I continued my job on a part-time basis, started in a few volunteer positions to build my resume, and wrote the MCAT. I ended up taking most of a second bachelors degree (in the Humanities program at SFU) out of interest and to raise my GPA.

In 2012, I applied to med schools across Canada, and did not receive any interview invites. In 2013, I applied only to UBC and the University of Calgary, the two Canadian schools that gave me in-province status, as well as some American schools, and received an interview invite to the University of Calgary. In 2014, I applied only to UBC and U of C, and interviewed at Calgary again. In 2015, I wrote the new MCAT (a requirement for U of C) and interviewed at both schools. I was waitlisted at U of C and accepted into UBC.

If you are even considering medicine as an option, the best thing you can do for yourself is to start work on the long-term parts of your application immediately. Things like the MCAT and the interview, while important (the MCAT less so), can be improved in a shorter period of time. Starting right now, you should get the best grades you can (without being tempted by shortcuts like loading up your fourth year with easy courses), spend your spare time in productive ways, and build good relationships with your professors and employers. Even if you don't end up applying to med, you'll end up better off.

Spending your time in productive ways can mean a lot of things. There is a stereotype that premeds have to spend all their time in healthcare-related volunteering. There is nothing wrong with this (I did it), but it is not a necessity. Working, playing a team sport, tutoring a high school student, learning a second language, etc. are all great. You want your activities to tell a story about you: you shouldn't stop doing things that are just fun (hanging out with friends, video games, etc.), but you should realize that file reviewers probably cannot learn anything useful about you from these things. It's actually kind of mathy: the file reviewer is thinking, "What is the conditional probability that a person will be a good doc, given that this is how they spend their time?" Working after school in your parents' store three days a week while you were in high school might show the file reviewer that you're dependable, mature, take responsibility, have people skills, manage time well, and are willing to do actual, hands-on work -- everything you want a doc to be. Spending three weeks in summer as part of a volunteer group helping build a school in a developing country probably doesn't tell the file reviewer much about you, other than the fact that you like travel and you have access to money -- neither of which affect the conditional probability that you'll be a good doc. A key here is long-term commitment; and you really should pick fun things so you can do them for years without burning out. Having at least one community-service oriented activity is a very good idea.

At the time of writing, it seems that med admissions in Canada are de-emphasizing science skills and are looking for people-skills. In the upcoming 2016/17 admissions cycle at UBC, they have removed all science prerequisites and will have no specific requirements other than six credits of English. U of C has for years not had any prerequisite courses. Science courses are still good for helping you prepare for the MCAT, but you should select a course of study based on interest. I can think of three reasons for this: your grades will be better if you're really into the material, you will build better relationships with your professors if you're genuinely interested (knowing your profs will enrich your university experience in its own right, and will also open doors to research opportunities, letters of reference, etc.), and you will have a good back-up career if medicine doesn't work out. The last one is really important and neglecting it was a mistake of mine: I stressed myself out not knowing what I should do if I didn't get into medicine, which is a pretty likely scenario for anybody. No one is a shoo-in.

If you are one of the lucky few to be invited to an interview, congratulations! I'll tell you what someone who helped me practice for the interview told me: the admissions committee has determined that you're smart enough and have the skills and experience needed to be a doctor, and the last thing they need to test for is your personality. When you are a doctor, will you put others' needs ahead of your own? Are you going to be a good colleague, someone who's self-reflective and easy to work with, or are you going to cause problems with others? I did interview practice for countless hours with other premeds, but the most valuable practice I got was from a few short hours with some med students, residents, and doctors that I know, who really get what it takes to be a good colleague and doctor. For me, what was valuable about interview practice was not memorizing formulas for answers, it was learning which of my characteristics would make me a good doctor, and which would stand in the way. When you're called into an interview room and put into a difficult situation with an actor, or when you're asked to play a game with an interviewer, all your rehearsed soundbites and principles of ethical decision-making go out the window and you're left with nothing but how well you understand yourself and how well you can put yourself in others' shoes. Like everyone else, I read "Doing Right" to help prep for the interviews, but I did not find it useful. I know it's cheesy, but I listened to an audiobook of "How to Win Friends and Influence People" while jogging over a few weeks and found it much more helpful. In my first ever interview, I thought I did well but I ended up scoring an absolutely dismal sixth percentile. I was crushed! I think it was this very right-brain way of preparing, which seems weird to me and a lot of other premeds, that rescued my interview score.

I didn't mean for this to go on so long! The most important points are: - If you have any interest in medicine at all, start working on your GPA and your extracurricular activities right now. - In school, work, and extracurricular activities, make a conscious effort to build good, long-lasting relationships with others. - Don't worry about the stereotypical premed stuff (healthcare volunteering, majoring in biochem, comparing yourself to others on premed101, spending your summers washing petri dishes in a microbiology lab). Plan a backup career, and let it take you to med. - Take your right-brain with you to the interview. -Nicholas Steinberg, May 15, 2016 (Entering UBC Med 2020, VFMP)