My Low MCAT Success Story

Authored by: Christina G.

I was recently accepted to medical school by Western and good-waitlisted by Ottawa after my first cycle applying. I promised myself that when I got in, I would share my experiences and help others in any way that I could. So without further ado, here is my story:

I began my first year of undergrad at UofT in the Life Sciences program. As a first-gen Canadian, I had no one to guide me when it came to education, which made the transition to university extremely difficult. First year passed in a blur and I ended up with a measly D+ average. As someone who received 90s in high school, going down to a D+ was shocking and I just felt so depressed. I was too ashamed to share my grades with those around me and kept making up lies to hide my failures, just to present myself as this intelligent miraculous being sent down from heaven to show off my superior brain skills. But I don’t blame anyone for my failure, my study habits and time-management skills were horrible. Having no one else to go to, I went to an academic advisor to get some advice, but instead I was told to drop-out because university “isn’t for everyone”. That was one of the most important wake-up calls in my life, and it completely changed everything. I began to work extremely hard and was able to end up with a cgpa of ~3.5/3.6. While it’s not as impressive as a 3.9 or 4.0, it meant a lot for me going from almost being placed on academic probation to graduating with high distinction.

I decided to do a 5th year of undergrad because I wanted medical schools to use that year when calculating my gpa. It wasn’t easy for my parents to understand this decision and it was difficult to explain it to them while hiding my first year grades. During the summer just before 5th year, I wrote my MCAT (around the time pusha t dropped daytona, idk why I remember this). Honestly, I didn’t really have a study plan to stick to and I had not completed organic chemistry, biochemistry, or physics. I was just going through one subject per day trying to learn completely new topics, doing practice problems from the Kaplan and Princeton Review books, focusing on AAMC material, and listening to a lot of lofi. I rescheduled my MCAT 3 times that summer, because I didn’t feel ready. For applicants to Canadian med school, there are no rolling admissions so writing your MCAT early doesn’t provide any additional benefit other than the fact that you can rewrite it if you’re not satisfied with your score. So please don’t write the MCAT without being fully prepared, even if you have to push your appointment back. Also, you will never feel completely ready for the MCAT, I think once you are satisfied with your practice scores and content with the effort you put in, you should go ahead and write it. I finished with a 513 which was okay I guess, but I completely bombed CARS (124). As someone who read a lot of books throughout my life I was confident that I would score well, but it just didn’t pan out how I imagined. I was super disappointed and decided not to apply to medical school. Those around me kept telling me that I was dumb for not applying, but oh well, I did what I thought was right for me. I guess it was the fear of failing to get accepted that made me not apply.

I’ve learned through this journey that it’s okay to fail, it’s okay if you don’t meet these often crazy standards that we set for ourselves. It’s okay if people are expecting you to do great things but you come up short. Live your life people. Life is short, enjoy it. I personally went on a very long and much-needed vacation after my MCAT and those experiences were so beautiful, I wouldn’t trade them for anything, and I will never forget them. Anyways, I decided to rewrite my MCAT during the next summer (after my 5th year). I felt good about the sciences, and I also felt that I had improved my CARS ability (I wasn’t expecting a 129 or anything, but thought that I could manage at least a 127/128). Once I got my score back, my score had dropped to a 511 but my CARS increased to a 126. My summer was ruined and I felt so down, but I decided to apply anyways. I applied to UBC (oop), UofT, Queens, Mac, Ottawa, and Western (Non-swomen). During this gap year, I was doing some pre-requisite courses such as organic chemistry and biochemistry for schools like Ottawa, and for American medical schools in case I decided to apply there. Time went by, and one day when I was at the gym, I saw posts on premed101 that Ottawa had released their interview invites. I decided to check my email because I thought that even if I get rejected, at least I have the gym to occupy my mind. Surprisingly, I received an interview invite. I was over the moon, called my family, friends, everyone who helped me along the way, I was just so happy in that moment. I later received an interview invite for Western as well, which was definitely unexpected given my CARS score. My GPA for each school based on their weighting formula was as follows; Western (3.9) and Ottawa (3.89).

As someone who is extremely shy and lacking in confidence, I knew I had a lot to overcome. I practiced for my interview everyday for about 3-4 weeks for Ottawa, and an additional ~2 weeks for Western (which was later). I was able to find a document with pages and pages of possible medical school interview questions from reddit (I’m sure u can find it floating around, hmu if you can’t), and went over each question to brainstorm answers based on my real-life experiences. I practiced in person with many people who gave me incredible advice and helped me fix mistakes that I was making.

Once my first interview came around, I was so nervous and didn’t know what to expect at all. The interviewers were incredibly kind and asked both general and ethical questions. One of the interviewers was actually eating while I answered questions. I’m not sure if they were doing that on purpose, or if they were actually very hungry (I don’t blame them, they were probably there for a long time). I felt like I rambled on a lot for my answers, but I was content with it being my first interview. For my Western interview, the interviewers were so kind and really seemed to take an interest in my experiences. Again, it was a mix of both general and ethical-type questions. Leaving the interview, I felt that it went amazingly. I was able to highlight my experiences, my reasons for pursuing medical school (Western in particular), and display my critical thinking ability.

The next couple of weeks were difficult. I kept overthinking my interviews and convinced myself that they went poorly. I kept myself occupied with physical activity, cooking, chilling with friends, playing games, etc. And then finally, it was the last week til results came out. Then 3 days, then 2….and finally 1. I decided not to check at midnight because if I got rejected, I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I woke up the next day around 12pm, glanced over the premed101 forum, took a shower, and came back to my laptop. I sat for a while mentally preparing myself for a rejection. At the end of the day, I made it much further than I had initially expected and knew that I gave it my best effort. Knowing this, I decided to open my email. Lo and behold, I see an email from Schulich Medicine with the subject “good news” (the same subject line when I received an interview invite). I was so excited that I accidentally sent the email to my trash folder and couldn’t find it later, so I thought I imagined my acceptance (true story lol). In that moment I was so incredibly happy, that I started crying (I’m not a very emotional person might I add). I told my parents who were ecstatic, my siblings, my friends, all of the people who helped me make it this far in life. Even typing this out right now feels so surreal, but at the same time I know that this journey is just beginning.

Although I’m happy, you realize that life isn’t all about getting accepted to medical school as I had previously thought. Yes, it’s a huge accomplishment and something that I’m very happy to pursue, but it’s not everything in life (idk if I’m the only one who feels this way among accepted applicants). I feel that there’s much more to life than getting accepted to medical school. I’m not saying this to be arrogant or anything, just something that I’ve been thinking about after much reflection and trying to enjoy life in the moment (if that makes sense). I’ve heard so many people say “I’ll enjoy life after I achieve this goal”, but that after never comes. You’ll always have some sort of goal to achieve. My point is, enjoy life in the present. Yes, focus on your goals but don’t let it consume the totality of your happiness and focus.

I’m sharing my story to hopefully inspire someone that feels hopeless, someone that wants to give up, someone that just needs that extra encouragement to continue on their path and that goes not just for Medicine, but for any field that you might be in/wish to be in. Don’t give up. That is the simplest way I can put it. I believe in all of you. Just because you don’t have that perfect 4.0 gpa or that 520+ MCAT score, does not mean you should give up. If this truly is your passion, there is no doubt in my mind that you can also make it. Failure is a part of the process, don’t let it put you down.

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