Medical School Spotlight: University of Calgary

What is a typical week for a University of Calgary medical student?

The schedule varies from day to day, but typically first year students are in class from 8:30am to 5:30pm, Monday through Friday, with an hour for lunch from 12:30pm to 1:30pm. Included in the class schedule are one to two independent study blocks per week. This gives students a chance to catch up on their work, or schedule shadowing experiences. While this may seem like long days, the University of Calgary does a great job at keeping students engaged throughout the day by varying how the material is taught. Students are taught using a variety of techniques, including: 

  • Traditional PowerPoint lectures: Students are lectured in a classroom setting using PowerPoint. These lectures are often podcasted, providing students with flexibility, allowing them to complete the lecture at a different time if needed. 
  • Flipped classroom lectures: Students are provided podcasts and learning material to review prior to class. During lectures, students discuss what they’ve learned and apply their knowledge to cases. 
  • Small groups: Groups of 9 to 10 students work together with the help of a preceptor to go over problem sets. This typically involves discussing diagnosis and treatment schemes and reviewing cases. 
  • Clinical core groups: Groups of 4 to 5 students learn from practicing physicians through shadowing experiences in a hospital setting. These sessions align with topics being taught in class. 

After the first 18 months of medical school, students have completed the class based learning and enter clerkship for the remainder of the three years. 

Why should I pick the University of Calgary over other medical schools?

There are many reasons to pick the University of Calgary! Firstly, Calgary is a fun and vibrant young city! It’s the biggest city in Alberta, offering tons of amazing restaurants and shops. Moreover, if you’re an avid hiker or skier/snowboarder, Calgary is the place to be! You can be at the mountains in under an hour. You not only get the fun of a bustling city, but also the great outdoors! Moreover, the University of Calgary is a three year program. Not only will you receive your MD one year sooner than typical four year programs, but the three year program runs year round, preparing you for residency and working life. While the three year program may seem daunting, you still get plenty of breaks, including long weekends, two weeks over Christmas, two weeks in the spring and three flex days per year, which can be used whenever necessary. Further, the University of Calgary provides an incredibly supportive learning environment. The Student Advising and Wellness (SAW) office is open everyday during the week and encourages students to come in with any concerns they may have. The SAW office also plans many wellness activities, including therapy dog sessions, and fitness classes. Additionally, the University of Calgary pairs first year students with both a faculty and student mentor. This helps incoming students feel comfortable and provides them with one-on-one support and guidance. 

How can you make your application stand out for the University of Calgary? 

A huge component of the University of Calgary’s application is the “top 10”. The “top 10” section involves writing about ten of your most meaningful experiences. This could be anything from research to volunteering to traveling experiences. Its important not to write about what you think they are looking for, but to rather write about experiences that you are passionate about and that have shaped who you are. The University of Calgary values diversity and well-rounded students. My classmates have interests from anthropology to football to baking. Your “top 10” is meant to describe who you are. I would recommend starting this section of the application early, so that you have a chance to reflect on each of your experiences and to give you time to edit. Moreover, each of your top 10 experiences requires a verifier. It’s important you contact each of your verifiers prior to listing them on your application to ensure they are comfortable with what you’ve written. Another important thing to note about the University of Calgary application is that references are not asked to provide a traditional reference letter, but rather each of your references are required to answer specific questions relating to how you’ve demonstrated either collaboration, leadership or advocacy. As the applicant, you are able to select which of your references will write about each characteristic. Thus, its important to think about which of your references will be best able to write about each characteristic. Lastly, the University of Calgary runs a MD Program Admission Blog, through which the Director of Admission posts about key information and responds to applicant questions. This a really great resource.

Check out our full Medical School Spotlight series below!

Medical school spotlight: University of British Columbia (UBC)
Medical school spotlight: McGill University
Medical school spotlight: University of Toronto
Medical school spotlight: McMaster University
Medical school spotlight: University of Ottawa
Medical school spotlight: Western University
Medical school spotlight: Université Laval
Pharmacy school spotlight: Ferris State University