By Aly Madhavji, CPA, CA, CMA, CIM

Aly received his BComm with Distinction from the University of Toronto in 2012 and he is currently pursuing his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from INSEAD. He is an international award-winning author, motivational speaker, and community builder. He will be discussing how to build your soft skills.

The medical school admissions process is complicated, and it goes beyond academics; it’s about your entire portfolio of what you bring to the table. This will also include your work and volunteer experience, causes that you are passionate about, and other selling points that are relevant to the medical school admissions committee. When you review your work and volunteer experience, think of the vision that you are trying to share with the review committee. Try to look objectively at your personal brand. What are some of your strengths? What are some of your weaknesses? Think about how you can enhance your strengths and overcome your weaknesses.

You will likely have to try new experiences and pursue opportunities you never thought you could do. This may be during or following your undergraduate studies. You can try leading a student group, organize a social-development related volunteer opportunity, or a large-scale fundraiser for a passionate cause even if you think you might fail. Failure is one of the most valuable lessons you can learn, including how to build resiliency from those failures and to bounce back stronger each time.

The opportunity to take risks and to pursue certain demanding but rewarding goals is best during your undergraduate studies, even though you may believe your time is quite limited. It is important to make this a balancing act of finding the time to invest in worthwhile initiatives. Set challenging goals for yourself, even if you are unsure on how you will accomplish them. It’s a win-win for you. If you succeed, you will develop beyond expectations, build confidence, and realize that you have accomplished something great. If you fail, it’s tough, but you will learn an incredible amount from your mistakes, and it will significantly help your personal development.

When I was in the midst of my undergraduate studies, I took on some significant volunteer opportunities amounting to over 40+ hours a week while taking a full course load. At times, I struggled with balancing my schedule and would miss my classes to attend meetings and run events that I was passionate about. I tried to justify this to myself but after a number of poor interim grades, I realized that I was letting myself down academically. I ended up dropping some of these courses and considered it a significant personal failure. This was incredibly tough for me to overcome because exceeding your personal and academic goals is a vital part of university. I felt like this failure was a major low point for me. After taking some time to re-calibrate I worked to plan my time better and developed personal goals to attend all of my classes. However, at the same time, I planned to continue with these volunteer roles that I was passionate about.

Looking back, the experience and opportunities I gained through overcoming this personal failure, along with these volunteer opportunities, have played an immense role in my personal development. Ensuring that you are taking on challenges and getting out of your comfort zone will help you write your story. These are the types of challenges, experiences, and resiliency that program admissions committees value, but most importantly, that you will benefit from after overcoming adversity.

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