Competition is high among students for places within Ontario’s medical schools, and for this reason the application process can be stressful and peppered with more than a few sleepless nights. One part of the process that gives applicants the most trouble is the OMSAS autobiographical sketch, so if you’re applying for medical school in the near future, it pays to begin outlining your sketch as early as possible to give yourself plenty of time to craft an effective presentation of your experiences and achievements.
What Kinds of Activity Should the Sketch Include?
Your sketch can cover the following 7 areas:
- Formal Education
- Extra-Curricular Activities
- Volunteer Activities
- Awards & Accomplishments
- Publications & Research
The categories are mostly self-explanatory, however if you’re wondering what you could include under ‘other’, this is the place to list things like cultural experiences and travel, as well as any certificates or licenses you’ve obtained.
Obviously, you’ll need to include details of your education and employment, but you should be selective about which activities and accomplishments you choose to list.
While you can include up to 48 items in your sketch, it’s better to focus on the quality of the entries and the relevance of the experience rather than trying to fill every slot.
When you’re evaluating your activities for inclusion in your application, ask yourself what impact the experience had on you. If you can’t remember, or if you can’t find anything positive to say about an activity, then you should probably leave it out.
Having an expert carry out an OMSAS application review can help you to select the best activities to include.
Don’t Focus on Challenges or Mistakes
Your application isn’t the place to try to be humble and highlight lessons learned from your mistakes, instead you should use your entries to create the most positive impression that you can.
Your sketch entries have a character limit and it’s very difficult to condense a learning experience in such a way that you fully capture its positive benefit in just a few words. Remember that your application is your opportunity to sell yourself to the admissions board, so give them the best version of yourself that you can conjure.
Your Sketch Should Be 100% You Focused
When you summarize each experience, concentrate on what YOU did, not what your team or group worked on or achieved. Go through each entry and rewrite any instances of ‘we’ so that you bring the focus onto your specific achievements.
You Must Be Able to Provide Verification for Each Activity
With the exception of your academic record which will be verified via your transcripts, you will need to provide verifiers for the activities in your sketch.
Structured activities (employment, internships, volunteer posts, sports activities, etc.) should list the contact information for your supervisor, coach or other person able to confirm your involvement in that activity.
For informal activities, you can use friends or family members.
Assign each verifier a number and include that number in your entry. The number should correspond to the correct individual on your list of verifiers.
Your sketch is your opportunity to make a great first impression so don’t leave its content to chance. Once you’ve completed your first draft, ask a knowledgeable person to review it for you and give their feedback, and don’t hesitate to obtain a professional opinion if you think that you need some expert guidance.