OMSAS: The 2020 Inside Guide

To The Ontario Medical School Application Service

Updated: October 22, 2020

All medical schools in Ontario use the Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS), an online centralized application service to accept and assess applications from thousands of students annually. When filling out your application, the most important step is to review the OMSAS instructions in detail. Most of the questions you may have will be answered in the instructions. Specific questions about each school are addressed in there as well and also on the school websites. This blog will cover all the sections of the OMSAS application so by the time you'll finish reading, you'll understand exactly how to fill out each OMSAS section.

We're going to cover the following sections:

Address Information & Personal Information

Questions

Choices

Sketch

School Submissions & Referees

MCAT & GPA

Postsecondary Education & Transcripts

FAQs

Conclusion

Address Information & Personal Information

This is relatively self-explanatory but here are a few important points. For Aboriginal applicants, the declaration is an important way that schools identify you for their Aboriginal Applicants stream. The criteria by which schools assess ancestry vary so you need to look at each school’s policy separately. For the “First Language” field, include the language you learned at home as a child.

The Mailing Address is where you are physically living and usually refers to the place you’re living during the school year from September to April. The Home Address is like your Permanent Address and could be your parental address or the place where you’re based while in school. Ensure that you tick the “Use home address after May 1” box if you’re planning on leaving your school address for home during the summer. For mature applicants, the Mailing and Home Address are likely the same.

For students interested in applying to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, the Rural Origins section is an important assessment tool. Include the postal code where you attended most or all of high school. Even if you’re not applying to NOSM, complete the Section as practice ensuring you’ve crossed all your t’s and dotted all your i’s.

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Questions

The questions in this section are crucial in determining your eligibility to apply for medical school in Ontario. Answering ‘Yes’ to one or more of these does not mean that you will not ever get into medical school but it means the schools will pay special attention to your application and apply additional scrutiny. Lying on these questions will absolutely catch up with you so we strongly advise against answering falsely. This is fraudulent and it will not work.

The questions are:

1. Have you ever been enrolled or are you currently enrolled in an MD program at any university? Indicate the name of the medical school.

2. Have you ever failed a year at university or been required to withdraw from or been denied re-admission to a university?

3. Has your undergraduate program been interrupted for reasons other than academic failure?

Each school describes its “special consideration” criteria on their website. There is little that unites the schools in terms of these criteria so please explore them based on your unique situation.


Choices

This is where you tell OUAC which schools you want them to submit your application to when the deadline rolls around in early October. The choices are: McMaster University, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, the University of Ottawa, Queen’s University, the University of Toronto and the Schulich School of Medicine.

Five of the six schools have historically offered MD-PhD programs. The program has traditionally been funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) but the research institution recently announced that they would no longer be funding the program. This may change so if you are planning on applying to an MD PhD vs MD program please contact the school directly to see if they will be establishing alternative funding for the program. 

The University of Ottawa also asks you to apply to a language stream for their MD program. Please review the instructions again to ensure you’re including the correct stream for your language skills and desired training.

You can always edit your choices up until the point where you actually submit your application. Once you’ve made your selections, do not forget to actually click the button at the bottom of the screen.

Sketch

Medical schools in Canada do not require applicants to submit medical school personal statement. Instead you are required to submit an autobiographical sketch (ABS). It is not unlike the AMCAS Work and Activities section of the American application system. The sketch shares a technical, standardized portrait of who you are with the schools. The OMSAS sketch takes a lot of time to build properly so start early. We always recommend that students keep a running list of what they’ve done, with whom and for whom over the years, starting at age 16.

You can enter up to 32 items in your Autobiographical Sketch in seven categories: employment, formal education, volunteer activities, extracurricular activities, awards and accomplishments, research and other. Once you enter an item, you will be prompted to add details. Ideally, you have a spreadsheet with the essential details already made up and it becomes a matter of data entry and fact-checking.

The experiences can be both structured and non-structured, which is basically the distinction between formal and informal.

You will need to assign a verifier to each activity listed. The verifiers can be added by clicking the View/Update Verifier button. Note that these individuals are not referees who provide you with medical school recommendation letters

School Submissions and Referees

This section is where the specific needs of each school are satisfied through supplemental questions, such as the University of Toronto’s Brief Personal Essays. Additionally, some schools will ask you to highlight your top life experiences that relate to study of medicine or particular characteristics that they are looking for. If you're thinking that this is reminiscent of AMCAS Work and Activities most meaningful experiences, you are correct! As with all sections, follow the instructions given by schools very carefully and ensure that you answer the questions. You will not be allowed to violate the character count.

Now, the referee section is where you allow the system to cross-reference the letters they get from professors, employers, and the like from across the country with your particular application. You will ask three individuals – early, very early – to complete the Confidential Assessment form. Entering your referee address and information into the respective referee area will populate a PDF with a unique form. Download and print or save the form. Send the form to your referee. Do not ask to see your form nor discuss the assessment with your referee. It is to remain entirely confidential. Ensure that you have a committed referee before you download the forms because they cannot be changed once they are complete. At least one referee should be a non-academic/character referee.

MCAT & GPA

This section just requires your AAMC ID and your most recent MCAT test date. Double-check for accuracy. Use our OMSAS GPA Calculator to convert your grades from any university to the OMSAS GPA without the need for any confusing charts. Remember that every school has its own medical school GPA requirements, so make sure to check them before you apply.

Postsecondary Education & Transcripts

This is where you provide your academic history. Enter any university, college or CEGEP that you’ve attended in your life. It gets very repetitive which makes it easy to make errors, so use your transcripts to enter the details of each course and double-check your entries. The entries are divided up into layers including year summary, year details, course summary, and course details. OMSAS will calculate your GPA as you complete the entries.

The transcripts form the basis of confirming the assessment of your academic record. They will be used to calculate your GPA. They should be ordered by you and sent to OMSAS at 170 Research Lane, Guelph, Ontario N1G 5E2 by the your former schools before specified deadlines.

Remember that this includes any post-secondary institution (university, college or CEGEP) at which you have registered, even if you have not attained a grade because a course is in progress, you withdrew or cancelled the course. This also includes institutions where you only took a summer course and these should be entered as Supplemental. These courses will be used to calculate your GPA at some schools and not at others. It is fraudulent not to include all transcripts that meet the criteria.

Check out our video for putting it all together:

FAQs

1. Can I use the same verifier for multiple sketch entries?

Yes, this is acceptable.

2. I haven't received all of my references, can I still submit my application?

Yes, you can still submit your application if you haven't received all of your references. Keep in mind that OMSAS won't notify you when your references come in, so it's up to you to check your application and make sure all documents are received by the deadline. You'll be able to check that your references are received 1-3 business days after submitting your application.

3. Can I make changes to my application once it's submitted?

Once your application is submitted, you can make some changes (address, transcript request, etc.), but keep in mind you will not be able to make changes to the following areas once submitted:

  • Academic record (except to add an institution)
  • Prerequisites
  • School submissions
  • Autobiographical Sketch
  • Verifiers
  • Status in Canada

4. I've received an offer of admission, how do I respond to it?

Log in to your application and select “Choices/Offers” in the “Applicant Links” menu. You should see your offer of admission displayed on this screen. Click on the offer and you'll be taken to the “Response to Offer” screen where you'll be able to respond.

5. I wasn't accepted this year, is there any way I can keep a copy of my application?

Yes, you can log into your account and then print off a copy of your application. Keep in mind that OMSAS will delete your account at the end of June, so make sure you do this beforehand.

6. I've accepted an offer from one medical school, will I still be on the waitlist at other schools?

No, once you've accepted an offer, you'll be automatically removed from all medical school waitlists.

7. I keep getting an error message when I try to submit my application, what should I do?

OMSAS will not allow you to submit your application with an error, you'll have to read the error message carefully, correct the issue and then you'll be allowed to submit your application.

8. My reference wants to write me a letter in French, will this be accepted by OMSAS?

Unfortunately not, all reference letters must be written in English. The only exception is if you are applying only to the University of Ottawa or Northern Ontario School of Medicine, then your reference letters can be submitted in French. 

9. I'm applying to the University of Toronto's MD-PhD program, what extra documents do I have to submit?

You must submit an additional three letters of reference, along with the accompanying MD-PhD Reference Form. In addition, you'll have to submit your CV via the Secure Applicant Messaging (SAM) system.

10. My referees don't want to use the online referee system, how can they create a reference letter for me?

In the reference section of the application, don't fill out the “referee email address” field. By not including an email address here, the system will automatically create a reference form that you can download. Simply print the form, and give it to your referee to fill out.

11. Is it easy to get into Ontario medical schools?

No, it's very competitive. If you would like to learn more about medical school acceptance rates, check out our blog with lists of easiest medical schools to get into.

Conclusion

The entire process will require patience and attention, as well as several weeks of your time. Do it right so that you don’t waste an entire application cycle on a silly error. If you’re unsure about where something in your life or situation fits in the application, just search the booklet or email OUAC/OMSAS.

You will do well if you take good care of the details. Best of luck.

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BeMo Academic Consulting