October 2, 2018
How to become a physician | UMCAS

How to become a physician in the 21st century?

So you just created your UMCAS account. Splendid! There’s no turning back now!

(well that’s not true; you haven’t actually committed to anything yet, and you can easily close your account – but let’s not do that!).

But do keep in mind that you’re about to embark on a journey that will take up nearly a decade of your life. As you spend a handful of years in medical school and another handful in training. When all is said and done, you’ll be a doctor. Your mom and dad won’t stop bragging about you at all the family gatherings, and you’ll be the envy of all your siblings, cousins and distant relatives. After all, physicians are consistently ranked as top income earners by sources like Forbes. Not bad, eh?

But before you start drifting into a daydream, you’ll need to get into medical school first. That’s what this blog is about; ensuring you’ve taken all the necessary steps and exhausted all your options and resources so that you become a more informed student, regardless of where you go to medical school!

From UMCAS Application to Acceptance.

1. Gather information.

Most astute pre-med students will have already taken the initiative to collect the following documents that all medical school admission offices require. They include:

Transcripts (University &/or high school – Depending on whether you’re applying for the standard ‘mid/post-university/college’ 4 YR MD or the ‘straight out of high school’ 5 YR MD programs.

Test Scores

In this case, the MCAT. Is it mandatory to have? No. Does it increase your odds? Yes. Certain medical schools look at your MCAT scores as a predictor of future performance in medical school whereas others don’t give a sh*t because it’s just one test (and even bright students can have an off-day). But if you have them, and they’re decent scores, show them off! (You might as well since you probably spent a couple of hundred bucks and few months of your life preparing for it).

Personal Statement

This is the standard “Why do I want to be a doctor” essay that most medical schools request. The reality is, every personal statement looks the same and follows a similar skeleton: there’s usually a quote from Aristotle, Hippocrates or Socrates; a major life-changing event; some sick relative whose death or near-death experience curved your future aspirations; and dreams to change the world by healing one person at a time… Whatever you write, just be sure it’s truthful, inspiring, humorous and worth the read! It also gives you an opportunity to introduce your personality to the admission board for the first time (outside the realm of just marks).

Letters of Reference

This is how we see this: Your personal statement (essay) is your chance to give a first-person account of how awesome you are and why you should be accepted. So what do you think the letters of reference are then? They’re really nothing more than a third person account, boasting how great a person you are and why you should get accepted. So who do you get to write these? The usual suspects include physicians, teachers and professors, and employers. And when you do get them written, be sure they speak to your character, your abilities, and your experiences (outside the classroom). Again, your marks usually do the job of telling the admissions office how well you are in class!

2. Fill your UMCAS application

Roll up your sleeves. Now the fun begins. With our new and improved UMCAS platform, completing your online application is a breeze. It really shouldn’t take you more than an hour and one sitting to adequately have the minimum 80% that’s needed before you can begin to apply to schools within our participating roster. Why 80%? It covers the standard questions/data that most schools ask for when deciding who to accept/reject. The UMCAS application (aka Dashboard) is an intuitive, modern take on the old archaic graduate school application – something that many Caribbean medical schools have just defaulted to. The reality is, using UMCAS to apply to numerous schools in one shot just makes sense.

As you proceed through your UMCAS application, you’ll notice a lot of additional and supplementary information that is also collected like ‘how you’re planning on funding your education’ and ‘extracurriculars.’ The more comprehensive you are, the easier it becomes for admission offices to make decisions like inviting you for an interview or offering you admission.

One of the coolest features we like to brag about at UMCAS is the video admission option. In your supporting documents section, we’ve created a spot to upload your own unique admission video. (read our video admission blog to learn more).

Your profile has reached/surpassed our 80% threshold. Now APPLY!

UMCAS isn’t reinventing the wheel here. We’ve adopted standard industry best practices when it comes to online application platforms by working with our partnering medical schools to provide you with more affordable application fees (and a more engaging experience). For example, had you decided to apply to 10 Caribbean medical schools (which is usually the average), it would run you roughly US $1,000. With UMCAS, it’s only half that amount.

But knowing who to apply to and where to apply to is equally as important as knowing how much it will cost.

To resolve this, you could and should visit the websites of each medical school and learn about them thoroughly. And we encourage this! Or you can save the time and just review their detailed profiles on our ‘Medical Schools’ section – which by the way, blows away how each of these schools is currently represented on websites like Wikipedia, FAIMER (IMED), and WHO.

Simply put: our individual medical school profiles just look fricken cool. And they’re functional. Each page is moderated by someone from that medical school. And in addition to learning about everything that school has to offer, there’s also a photo gallery and an up-to-date calendar of upcoming ‘information sessions’ for that particular school.

I’ve paid my fees. Purchased my credits and applied.

Well, now you wait. Every school works differently. I’m sure you’re already familiar with this (if you’ve gone through the ordeal of applying in the US or Canada). Usually, someone from the admissions team will reach out to you. After reviewing your UMCAS application to gather any additional and/or missing information, schedule an interview, discuss other pertinent info.  Ultimately notify you of their decision. Within the Caribbean ecosystem, this all takes place usually within four weeks – pretty fast, and that’s simply because all Caribbean medical schools have a rolling admission process where a new intake of students is welcomed every January, May, and September (more-or-less).

YAY! I got accepted!

Don’t sell yourself short. If you applied to numerous schools and you received a couple of acceptances. Then you should owe it to yourself the opportunity to choose the right one for you. The ball is now in your court, so-to-speak. Now is the time to really push back on schools that have given you an acceptance or conditional acceptance to negotiate certain things like requesting/applying for scholarships, for example, to help sway your decision from one school of the other. This happens all the time and around the world, and not just in the world of medicine. Afterall, choosing to go to medical school can be expensive (we have a blog on the costs and numbers so check it out). By the way, you can also upload a scholarship letter/statement that certain schools ask for as part of their initial selection process. And remember that some schools offer scholarships based on both merit or needs.

From here on in, the journey really begins. At this stage, you’ve been corresponding with the admissions team and probably already received some form of the schools welcome package, etc. You will also have received your first-semester tuition and seat deposit invoice statement. YIKES! That’s never fun. But this is your wake-up call. Once you’ve accepted an offer of admission, the hard work begins. From long days and nights to cram sessions and study groups, to an exam and board prep, the (roughly) first two years of your medical education on the islands will be exhausting. But this is where the foundation for your future career practically built. So take it seriously. After all, you’re spending a truckload of time, and money (the average medical student debt is $250,000USD).

Don’t ignore the obvious.

You’re on a Caribbean island! So spend a weekend or two here and there to really enjoy the beauty of your new ‘temporary’ home. Trust us, when we tell you that all of this may seem like a long and gruesome process. It will be over in the blink of an eye so create those memories. Besides, you’ll need them to keep you awake when you’re doing 36-hour calls down the road!

And let’s face it. If you’re on UMCAS, it probably means you have already told yourself that you WILL be a physician no matter what. If for whatever reason, you weren’t able to secure a spot at your local in-state medical school or within your country (e.g. USA or Canada). Then you also decided that you didn’t want to ‘waste’ another year twiddling your fingers and going through the ordeal of reapplying again. You probably also have friends or heard of someone go through this route. Again, there’s a lot of factors that come into play when someone takes that leap of faith in opting to attend medical school in the Caribbean. (That’s another blog post entirely on its own).

But now that you’re here. You’ll need grit, determination, perseverance and hard work to push your way through. Until you can comfortably don the white coat and stethoscope.

For more information about applying to Caribbean medical schools, check out our full list of medical schools abroad, or feel free to contact us.

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