How to get accepted in Canadian Universities

Author : Dr.Hasan Alajmi*

The main objective of these article is to explain the author experience in interviews among Canadian universities for acceptance in any medical residency program. These are suggestions and ideas that worked with several applicants in different specialities in which they have obtained an acceptance at different Canadian Universities (McGill University, Dalhousie University, Ottawa University, and Winnipeg University). Nevertheless, Instructions and information contained in these documents are mainly to help the applicants for their interviews

To begin with, here are some information you need to do before you travel to Canada for interviews
Always write an understandable statement of purpose, explaining how much you wanted to be a physician, your dream of being a good doctor, and your interest in the specialty you have chosen CV or Resume is an important document about you and your life , it is not just for your job or for the interview , it is about your life achievements your goals and objectives , your current and previous studies , your future plans , your hobbies and interests , your personal data and information

Arrange papers for your CV as the following
A- Statement of purpose
B- CV C- Medical Diploma
D- Internship Certificate
E- Honors, if any
F- Recommendation letters
G- Certificates you have for the workshops and symposia
H- Language testing system, TOEFL

Send your papers as early as possible to the Saudi Bureau in Ottawa, Canada, some universities would require you to apply online, it is always a good idea to visit the canadian universities websites to explore more
Always keep in contact with Saudi Bureau office by email, Twitter® or Facebook®

How to prepare for the interview
As soon as you obtain an invitation letter for interviews in your designated specialty, try to communicate with senior residents or fellows working at that university, first contact is by a formal email; writing about yourself, your interest and your interview date.
The second contact always with a phone call, ask about the program,strength, and weaknesses
Arrange your arrival to the city you will be interviewed at five days earlier, try to have a meeting with resident/fellow, express your interests, prepare yourself for your interview, know more about the program. Always, try to attend any meeting with the program before the interview for two days, i.e. attend mortality and morbidity rounds, a journal club meeting, or teaching rounds
By the end of the meeting event, introduce yourself to the program director and specialty staff, stating you are a candidate for the interview and looking forward to be part of the program.

N.B. DO NOT INTRODUCE YOURSELF AS DOCTOR always say your name with no titles.

How to be a good applicant
 Dress smart, always a suit, dark colors are preferable, white shirt is a must, and a tie. DO NOT WEAR or CARRY the following:

Go to your interview earlier so you get the chance to be familiar with the location, always be confident and speak a good, clear english, always make an eye contact, DO NOT look at the floor or away from the person who is interviewing you, be serious on your answers unless it is not necessary, think before you answer, DO NOT interrupt your interviewer, listen to questions, understand them and try to answer them in a chronological manor.


A- Tell us about your self? , or introduce your self

My name is …….. , I am …. years old , I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia or wherever you were born at, where I did my medical school there , I graduated from the medical school in ….. 200X, I finished my internship in …… 200X; I ranked an honor degree “either in internship or in the medical school or both”.

Then you ask the interviewer “Would you like me to continue?” in this way you get his/her attention to listen to you so he/she will not be bored. Continue saying” I started my residency in ……….. (mention the specialty of medicine you are in and how long have you been there , mention the different rotations you were involved in , and mention what are you doing now) , for demonstrators , you should mention that you are helping in organizing the student lectures , bedside teaching and other academic activities.

B- Why did you choose your specialty

When I was a medical student I had the chance to be exposed to the specialty, and I found myself very attached to it in a way that: For example: 1- Plastic Surgery covers different parts of the body comparing to other specialties. 2- It has an element of art. “You need to prepare good reasons for your specialty”, and then you Continue Saying the Following: That is why I took an extra rotation during my internship in the specialty. On top of that, the region or the hospital I am working at, serves a large community with high demand of the specialty, so to get both, the interest and demand I decided to be “mention your specialty”.

C-Why did you choose the University? “For example: Toronto, McGill, or Dalhousie
In the college or the hospital I am working at, professionals tend to trust doctors who graduated from CANADA and especially this university because: 1. I have seen and worked with doctors who are graduated from this university, I noticed how efficient and highly qualified they are and I am looking forward to be at their level. 2. This university is a well-known figure for research which I am very much interested in. 3. I had the chance to attend meeting “mention the meeting you have attended” and realized how efficient, knowledgeable, friendly the team is and I would like to be in part of that 4. This university is in “mention the city “, which is a metropolitan city with pleasant people, that is why I came 5 days earlier to the interview to spend sometimes in.

D- What is your strength? What makes you different from the other applicants? Why do you think we are going to choose you
I am full of enthusiasm, motivated, initiative, hard worker, I got along with my colleagues, I keep good interpersonal communications, I take good care of patients; on top of that I am very much interested in research, medical education and in the specialty.

E- What are your weaknesses
Hold for a moment then start answering “ I believe one of my weaknesses is that I spend much time in the hospital in away that I forget my social obligations and personal life, beside I keep thinking about patients especially the critical one of them even when I go home, I keep thinking about them all the time”. You could also add if you are interviewing in a French state, you can say “as far as I know that about 50% of the patients I am going to see speak French language and I would like to have an easier access to those patients and to understand their needs, I believe I should work on my French more.”

F- What would you add to this program
For the current time I will add someone who is hard working, get along with my colleagues, initiative, motivated, provide a good service to patients, and very much interested in research, medical education and (the specialty you are interested in). For future prospective : I will extend the knowledge I have gained from this university to the region I will be working in , in away that I am going to help residents I will be observing , to continue researching , and to provide good services for patients I am going to take care of.

G- How do you see your self in ten years from now
Professionally, I see myself in 10 years from now as a good doctor who is holding the Canadian board of the specialty with adequate knowledge to help medical students and residents, continuing researching, and to provide a good service for patients. Personally I see myself as a father in a happy family, raising my children with good values, and more open minded to different cultures.

H- What are your interests and hobbies
 Professionally I am very much interested in “specialty”; I am into medical education, and research. Personally, I like to do sports like: “mention your sports”. , “Computers: mention the things you like in the computer “, and mention things you like for hobbies.

I- What is your back up plans
 If I am not accepted here, I will try to arrange other interviews with other universities at the same specialty (if you have other interviews mention them), and if I do not have the luck, I will go back to my country, continue the exposure to my specialty, continue medical education and providing good service to patients, and I will REAPPLY again for the next year.


Write questions in a paper that you think you can ask the interviewer, bring it with you, so interviewers would know you have gone through the program and you know about it. Read the summery about your program from CARMS and university website
Questions to ask:
1. What support do you give residents to initiate and accomplish research in term of : A- Time B- Fund C- Support D-And do you allow residents to go for national and international presentations if it is a good research?
2. As far as I know that this program is suitable for those who are in academic career, in what basis this statement would help me and do you provide external courses for research and education?
3. While I was reviewing the website for this program, I have noticed that the program is very much interested in research, my question is do you allow residents to do a higher degree in education and research?
4. I know that the program will start in 1st of July 200X; do you allow new residents to come earlier to the program even as an observer to get familiar with the system and the culture?

For the previous questions you can ask them to the program director and staff of the program. However, for residents in the program you need to go specifically to questions for the program, these questions you need to see residents in the program and ask them about it before the interview then you ask them to interviewing residents in your interview and to staff but not to the program director.

 Question you SHOULD NOT ASK in your interview:
1. How many calls I have per month?
2. When does the work start and finish?
3. How many free weekends I could have per month?
4. When can I have my vacation?
5. How many hours I will work per day?
6. When can I have free time?
7. What is the percentage of residents who pass the Canadian board from this university? Or any question would jeopardize the feeling of not being a hard worker…

Suggestions for the one who is traveling:
1. DO NOT go with a colleague or colleagues in the same specialty for the same interview; try to go with someone who is not in the same specialty so you could practice more with him/her.
2. Speak good English, express yourself, do not be shy, arrange your answers and always answer questions in a chronological way.
3. DO NOT interrupt the interviewer or try to show off.
4. Always use the word I instead of we, remember you are only one person not 2 or more.
5. If you want the interviewer to repeat the question DO NOT say WHAT, say pardon, excuse me, I beg you a pardon.
6. Wear a smart suit, be confidant, do not be hesitant, and DO NOT ask questions with yes or no answers.

*Craniofacial, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon Fellow, Microsurgery , Vancouver General Hospital

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