The Mentorship Spot
Application Tips - McMaster Health Sciences
Hi! My name is Bhargavi Venkataraman. I am a third-year Health Sciences student at McMaster. I am also a VP Content at The Mentorship Spot. In this article, I hope to provide any current or prospective applicants some insight into writing this supplementary application. I know that this is an application that is often widely discussed. I remember there were a lot of discourse, misinformation and rumours swirling around when I applied and Reddit and other online forums sent me into spirals about what I was doing. I am here to tell you that the truth is that there is no real rule to writing these applications. The marking is subjective and all you can really do is write a well-written application that is true to you. It may sound cheesy but that’s the only way to really maximize your chances. I will provide some basic tips below (I am not allowed to discuss the contents of my own application), with the caveat that even after having been in this program for 3 years, I am not entirely sure how I got here. Any tips I provide are just based on my personal experiences and I don’t guarantee that they are applicable to everyone. Still, I hope these tips will be helpful for you to complete this application and even applications for other scientific programs or endeavours. Best of luck!
Answer the question: This may seem like common sense but is often an issue whenever people are completing any kind of application. They are so focused on showing off their experiences and accomplishments or just trying to tell a story that they forget to give a direct answer to the question. According to the McMaster BHSc website, “Each question has a limit of 1,500 characters of plain text (no bold, italics, underline are accepted) which includes punctuation and spaces (line breaks will count as characters towards your text limit). If you use citations/references, it will count towards the maximum 1,500 characters per question.” This is not a lot of space so it is crucial that you are concise and crystal clear about what you are trying to say. Don’t ramble unnecessarily and edit to ensure that you are cutting down on fluff. You don’t need to always dress up your words as long as the content is solid.
Know your audience: This is something that a lot of students forget to think about. The people assessing your application include current fourth year Health Sciences students and faculty who have done this reviewing process for many years. That means that they are either close to your age and can detect fluff and empty writing, just like you could, or they have honed that detector through experience. Remember this when you are inserting points about your accomplishments in areas where it is not completely relevant. I am not saying that you should never talk about your extracurriculars or other experiences. I am just saying that when you do, make sure it is genuine and directly related to the question. Everything you write should be organic to you and all your answers should showcase who you are to the readers of your application.
How you write your application is just as important as what you write: I think that with supplementary applications, especially those with very conceptual or creative questions, something that often gets overlooked is the importance of polishing your application. Ideas and concepts are a very important part of a good application but none of that will get through if you have a lot of grammar and spelling errors that cloud your writing. I recommend doing multiple drafts, especially if writing is not something you enjoy, and ensuring that there is clarity in your sentences.
These are my main tips for your application. I hope it helps you get some structure and clarity regarding how to write. Lastly, I will leave you with this quote from the Dean of Health Sciences at McMaster, Stacey Ritz “My best tip is not to waste time trying to figure out what you think we want to hear — instead, spend your energy thinking about what you have to say and expressing your unique voice authentically. We want our community of students to be one of diverse talents and perspectives. There is no ‘right’ answer, we are looking for people who have something to say for themselves. I would also suggest starting early so that you have lots of time to think about what you want to express — the questions for each year are posted in the fall, so applicants have months to contemplate their answers.” Good luck to all applicants!