5 min read

How to Make a Portfolio for Medical School Applications

Published on
June 3, 2024

In the previous articles discussing GEMSAS medical school admissions, we mentioned a select few GEMSAS schools that have a criterion beyond GAMSAT and GPA when considering interview offers. This additional element in the medical school application is the ‘medicine portfolio.’ 

A portfolio can serve both as a strength and a weakness for a candidate. Therefore when applying for a portfolio medical course, consider whether the effort of putting together the best portfolio will meaningfully improve your chances of admission. In other words - while an application to a portfolio medical school may be pragmatic, these universities are explicitly looking for candidates with rich and extensive life experience. An impressive GAMSAT/GPA combination is not enough to gain an interview invitation at these schools. 

Having said this, however, many students have had interesting and unusual journeys leading them to their medical admission. Furthermore, as is the case with other GEMSAS universities, the portfolio medicine courses are unique in their teaching style and structure, which may entice particular students. If either of these circumstances is relevant to your case, then it time to consider your medical portfolio content.

In this article, we will briefly outline the values and structure of a portfolio and discuss some useful tips for tailoring your answers specific to your university of interest. 

What Is A Medical Portfolio?

A medicine portfolio is essentially a structured cover letter that an aspiring medical student provides to the GEMSAS university. While the content and structure of a traditional cover letter are left up to the preference of the application, this is not the case for a medicine portfolio. Both the University of Notre Dame and the University of Wollongong create a series of a few dozen questions, which require the applicant to refer to elaborate on their motivations and past experiences specifically.

These portfolio questions may range from standard, broad queries such as why the candidate is a perfect fit for the medical school, all the way through to more complex requests to elaborate on specific challenges and achievements in their professional life this far. 

The complexity of the medical portfolio contents is, however, only half the battle. To successfully select for a medical school interview, you have to answer the medical portfolio questions appropriately. You have to do so under the strict word limit. This means that the long and detailed answers that many students incorporate into more traditional cover letters have no place in the medical portfolio. In fact, the best medical portfolio is one that is candid and direct. This is why, in the absence of a diverse lived experience, it is nearly difficult to achieve a successful portfolio grade from GEMSAS. 

What Should I Include In My Medical School Portfolio?

Many students often ask - “how important is volunteering for medical school?” If you aspire to attend a portfolio medical school, the answer to this question is - it is crucial. Wollongong University request portfolios of their candidates because they view their educational model as more holistic than that of other GEMSAS medical schools. The portfolio universities are more or less interested in academic high-achievers (although this remains a priority) and are more interested in the social responsibilities of becoming a doctor.

In a traditional sense, these can include research, engagement with the community, and displaying leadership. In short - these medical schools are interested in a practical demonstration of your interests and passions, as they believe these to be a marker of your character. This means that a few dedicated years of service at the local fast-food chain is unlikely to impress the admissions committee. 

There are a few other key points to consider when constructing your medical school portfolio. Firstly, it is important to stand out. While this may appear to be an obvious statement, candidates often forget that the achievements that make them unique in a university cohort may not be particularly rare in a medical candidate pool. For example, an outstanding GPA, or perhaps a challenging undergraduate degree, are part and parcel of an average medical applicant's resume, and therefore do little to highlight a portfolio. A second key consideration is the relevance of an experience that you wish to include in your portfolio.

Given that you are applying for a position whilst nearing your undergraduate degree completion, it is generally considered inadvisable to include high school experience in your medical portfolio. The medical institutions to which you are applying are far more interested in your adult achievements. The inclusion of high school accolades (impressive as they may have been) only serves to draw the admissions committee's attention to the absence of a university achievement in its place. 

Are you considering an undergraduate medical degree? Check out our detailed Undergraduate Medical Interview Guide to help you ace your interview!

What Are The Medical Portfolio Universities?

To effectively tailor your application to your institution of choice, the content of your portfolio must reflect the values of the relevant medical school. The next few segments of this article will give you a brief description of the major GEMSAS medical schools requiring portfolios for admission. Fraser’s Interview strongly recommends that all portfolio candidates independently complete a thorough review of their preferred medical school website and program to tailor their medical portfolio. 

University of Wollongong Medicine Portfolio 

The University of Wollongong is a multidisciplinary institution with a research-intensive and rurally focused medical school. The program prepares doctors to work in diverse rural, regional, and remote areas in Australia and international sites. Students will be exposed to a wide range of challenges, including the social determinants of health and Indigenous Health. 

The university selects high-performing graduate students from diverse backgrounds. Domestic applicants will be assessed on whether they currently live in a rural setting or have significant ties to rural residency and schooling. The university places high emphasis on evidence-based, patient-oriented care with enthusiasm for rural practice. Students will receive a broad education focusing on rural medicine and skills to train in any specialty and geographical setting. 

What Should I Be Reading Now?

For a deeper dive into all things portfolio, check out our comprehensive medical portfolio guide or learn more about general applications with Fraser’s Ultimate Guide to Medical Applications.