Getting Started Series: Reflections

After the two most recent “Getting Started” series blogs were published (“Choosing a University” and “Choosing Courses”), this infamous article among the premed community by MACLEAN’s, “Gambling on an MD”, was brought up again by many keen students and their parents. After answering numerous questions that prospective candidates had regarding this article, I have decided to share some thoughts upon reflecting my personal experiences of choosing university programs and courses.

The key message I want to share with you is that: the more ignorant you are, the more you rely on reputations when making a decision. Often, we do not have enough time to do research before we make every decision in life. These decision-making processes usually involve events with insignificant consequences, such as, where to eat for lunch or which movie to watch. Unfortunately, when it comes to choosing a university to attend, I did almost zero research other than looking at school rankings. In fact, I already made this mistake once during high school when I moved from Canberra to Melbourne in Australia, not knowing in the latter school system I could have taken more courses to score a higher final mark. What’s worse was that I didn’t take this lesson seriously to do more research during my subsequent academic planning.

After completing high school in Australia, I was really excited to begin undergraduate studies in Canada, and only applied to University of Toronto (UofT), McGill University, and University of British Columbia, simply because that’s the only three I had heard of. I eventually enrolled in UofT, simply because of its reputation. Then, out of all the colleges, I choose University College, once again, simply because of its reputation (and it was the only college with the name that sounded normal to me at that time). It turned out to be the college that offered the least amount of scholarships in my opinion (based on talking to many students and reviewing hundreds of CV’s, but no statistics to back it up). You can all laugh at how ignorant I was and how ridiculous some of my thoughts were, but I want to share with all of you so that you do not make the same mistake again. I find it fascinating to see that people spend more time and effort researching on what phone to get than on academic planning.

In addition, you must critique the quality of advice that you get from research. In my opinion, “Gambling on an MD” offered terrible advice despite of MACLEAN’s reputation. It serves as a reminder for all of us to take all advices with a grain of salt. Why gamble on it when you can almost be sure to get it if you followed the right steps from the beginning?

Having said all this, I still enjoyed my experiences at UofT and have made numerous lifelong friends. It is an amazing school. All I want to say is that I wish I spent the proper time and effort to research different schools and different courses before making the decision. It would have been better had I known what to expect before starting the undergrad journey.

Ever since starting undergraduate, I have always done ample research before getting involved in a project, clinical shadowing, specialty, etc. I have learned my lesson and I hope you won’t be as ignorant as I was with your academic planning.