Originally posted on May 24, 2013. Staff Review added on September 16, 2014.
It seems like match season only just finished. And yet, as the last of the Saskatchewan snow drifts left us, a new crop of medical student clerks (or, as we call them on the prairies, JURSIs) began preparing to sweat through the annual ritual they had been hearing stories about since their earliest premed days: CaRMS. Of course, with CaRMS season comes more mentorship posts. In January/February of this year I wrote a lot about CaRMS interviews for the class of 2013 with posts on pre, intra and post interview periods as well as reference letters.
My blog wasn’t around during the application portion of the 2013’s CaRMS cycle, so I missed writing about this part of the process. When Chris Byrne (the medical student guest author of this great knowledge translation piece on point-of-care ultrasound) requested a mentorship post on CaRMS applications I decided to get right back into it. This post on CaRMS application preparation will focus explicitly on letting you know what information you will need to enter into the portal when it opens on September 4th. It will be followed by a post on CaRMS application optimization later this year.
I think this will be useful because many of you will find yourselves on busy rotations or away on electives when the CaRMS portal opens. I remember being on a busy General Surgery rotation at the time and finding it time-consuming to look up and/or write up all of the information that the CaRMS application requested. I kept thinking that if I had only known beforehand what I would need I could have recorded it as I went through clerkship. Hopefully this will save some of you from that situation and give you more time to procrastinate on your personal statements 😉
What is a CaRMS Application?
A CaRMS application consists of the information that is submitted by every student applying no matter what specialty they are applying to. Basically, it looks like a long CV in a standardized format. Every program that you apply to sees it so it cannot really be customized to a particular program. In general, if you have a detailed CV you will have most of the information that you need to fill it out. However, there were a few things that I had not included on my CV that I had to look up or write. In particular, getting the descriptions of my activities just right took a lot of time.
Based only on my anecdotal recollections, the information that CaRMS requests for their application has been fairly stable over the years that I have applied and reviewed (2010-2013). With the additional disclaimer that I have no idea if they have/will change anything for this year, I hope you can use this information to get yourself just a bit more prepared than I was.
What does the CaRMS Application ask for?
The parts of the application that you may not have on-hand involve elaboration about what you have done over the last number of years. While the personal information and educational history sections are straight forward, other sections ask for things that I had to go look up. The information that I think it would be helpful to start gathering now so you’ll be ready to hit the ground running is below. You could also consider writing out brief descriptions of each item so you do not have to do that later. The majority of my descriptions were around 50 words. I’m not sure if there is a cap, but I wouldn’t recommend writing a whole lot more than that.
Electives – dates you did them, location, names of your supervisors, descriptions of your experiences (ie – Emergency Medicine, Best University, Dr. Awesome, During this I elective I learned this and got experience with that and blah blah blah)
Other Professional Training / Certifications – dates you got them, descriptions of unfamiliar certifications (ie – CPR, ACLS, Lifeguard, Accounting, whatever you think fits)
Work experience – month/year you worked there, company you worked for, address of the company, description of your job
Publications/Presentations – date published, conference or journal/volume/pages, author list, publication type (this is specifically for your publications and presentations)
Research experience – month/year you did the research, title of research project, names of your supervisors, description of your research (when/what you did as a research job to get your publications and presentations)
Volunteer experience – month/year you did it, organizations you volunteered with, location of the volunteering, position with the organization, description of your volunteering
Activities & Interests / Awards – this section allows substantially more room to write about Professional Associations, Memberships and Committees (ie – CAEP, student societies)/ Accomplishments and Interests (ie – cooking, scuba diving, climbing Everest, whatever it is that med students do these days) / Honours and Awards (ie – scholarships, research prizes, extracurricular awards)
This is not groundbreaking stuff. However, it is basic information that I think will help the type A med students that read my blog to start preparing for CaRMS a bit earlier and make the application component of the process a bit less stressful. This would be an easy thing to start from day one of medical school. Building as you go would just leave some simple editing for fourth year when you will be busy with clerkship.
Of course, this is not the only think you will put together for CaRMS. Personal letters (will link to a blog on this when I write it!), reference letters and interviews are also very important parts of the application package and process.
If you think your classmates would benefit from this post please share it! If you want to make sure you catch the next chapter on this subject (CaRMS Application Optimization) later this year you can follow my rss feed, follow me on twitter, like BoringEM on facebook or sign up for e-mail delivery of BoringEM posts in the column on the right.
Thanks for reading!
Peer reviewed by: Danica Kindrachuk, Eve Purdy & Chris Byrne
Reviewing with the Staff
By Dr. Teresa Chan (Attending Physician) [added September 16, 2014)
During this busy period the year, I often get asked a lot of questions about the CaRMS process. Honestly, at the end of the day, this post makes a really good point in that it reminds you that reading instructions CAREFULLY can be the key to success. While this post, admittedly, does not contain ground breaking stuff, I think it’s really important for candidates to really take times to learn the rules of the game. Read the instructions, mark down key dates, and if you’re a procrastinator – program in extra reminders or ‘fake’ deadlines for yourself so you don’t end up missing any of the key periods. Data entry into the CaRMS file still takes time – and while it is the ‘easiest’ part, it can still take a long time. Start early, don’t wait till the last moment. You never know when you might have a server crash or power outage…