University of Toronto Medical School Brief Personal Essay Samples
Question 1: The COVID-19 pandemic imposed obligatory changes in all our lives. What have you learned and how has this changed you as a person? Are there ways that you adapted that you would keep going forward?
The COVID-19 pandemic taught me how simple curiosity could change the way I view myself and my ability to explore outside my comfort zone. The pandemic fostered a new curiosity in me to try new things and pick up new hobbies. During the lockdowns, my social calendar ground to a halt, and all my courses were online. I wanted a bit more variety and change in my daily life, but the opportunity to instigate this change didn’t come to me until a friend invited me to join their virtual Dungeons and Dragons group.
I had never tried a roleplaying game before. I didn’t think I’d be cut out for this kind of activity. My assumptions almost made me miss out. I created a character and joined my first session, determined to let any preconceived notions go. As I started playing, the spark of imagination was surprising and exhilarating. The game encouraged my problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills. It pushed me to think innovatively and creatively, both in-character and out-of-character. Had I been afraid to try this new hobby, I would have missed out on not just social fun but on another way to develop crucial skills. And fortunately, I can now continue to play live and in-person, fostering my new imagination and sense of curiosity. (215 words)
Question 2: What is the purpose of a mentoring relationship? What are the 3 most important elements of a mentoring relationship? Discuss a mentoring situation that you experienced in relation to these qualities.
A mentoring relationship is at its best when there is reciprocal value. The point of a mentor–mentee relationship isn’t to transfer knowledge from the top down, but rather for both to gain significant value from the connection. In my mind, this cannot happen without mutual respect, communication, and vision.
The meaning of these values was demonstrated to me during my undergraduate degree by my research supervisor, Dr. A, with whom I worked on a project to develop MS treatments. Dr. A began our mentoring relationship with an emphasis on committing to the project while respecting one another’s time. He clearly defined the roles and expectations he had of me as research assistant and himself as principal investigator. He shared with me his vision for the project and future research into MS treatments. He encouraged me to read more about MS research outside our project and develop my own insights. Each week, he checked in with me about what we had learned and what I suggested as next steps in the research.
Through Dr. A’s mentoring, I gained new knowledge of MS treatment, research skills, and relationships with my peers and supervisors. For Dr. A, I believe he benefitted from my assistance, research, questions, and reports, but especially from having a curious interlocutor to discuss his research with. By inspiring me to continue research in the field, this also ensures his efforts and passion for finding a cure will continue. These are what I see as mutually beneficial connections. (249 words)
The purpose of a mentoring relationship is to encourage mutual growth and instill in the mentee the attitudes and embodied lessons of the mentor. The first key element of a mentoring relationship is trust; if trust isn’t established, then neither party can emerge from their experiences improved and edified. Second, the relationship must have open communication. It’s important to ask questions and clarify statements to learn and apply new knowledge. Third, the relationship should rely on the presupposition that each person has something to gain.
During my first year of undergraduate studies, I worked at a recreational outreach center for kids with mental health disorders. There was one participant named Jinn who was refusing to do her math homework because she found it too difficult. I showed her an easier way of doing simple multiplication and division using small candies as a visual reference. She enjoyed this method and began employing a similar one to complete problems more successfully.
A mentorship like this proves that the relationship needs to show someone a new perspective to help them gain confidence in their new abilities. For myself, as the mentor in this scenario, I learned to appreciate the role of creativity and imagination when tackling challenging problems. The relationship cannot be one-sided; both parties should commit to a personalized and adaptable process of reciprocal learning. (223 words).