Applying to med school: a guide for Canadian students

June 23, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Pre med students pose in a hospital in Iringa, Tanzania. Canadian students face a unique challenge when applying to medical school.  A number of questions may come to mind: Will I remain in Canada to attend medical school? Will I attend in the United States? What about medical school abroad? In what circumstances will I be considered an international student? Are the requirements for a Canadian student more stringent than other students?

If you are a Canadian student who is thinking about applying to medical school to become a physician, here are a few things to consider as you begin your journey:

Should I remain in Canada or travel to the US for medical school?

This is a very important question for prospective Canadian medical students because there are a number of key differences between applying to medical school in Canada and the US. First, not all of the 130 medical schools in the US accept international students. Additionally, some US medical schools classify Canadian students as international while others view them equivalent to US students. Websites that can help you determine which US medical schools accept applications from Canadian students can be found with a quick Google search. If your prospective US medical school classifies you as an international student, you will need to obtain a visa to travel and study in the US and provide a financial certificate which confirms that you can afford to pay for medical school, since Canadian students cannot obtain US federal student loans. If you want to study medicine in the US, consider a combined MS/PhD program; many of these programs offer scholarships for promising international students. Know that your chances of admission to a US medical school are low: only about 1% of accepted international students ultimately matriculate into a US medical school, and most of these acceptances are from private medical schools, where tuition is sky-high.

If I decide to stay in Canada, what are my medical school options?

Canadian medical school options are smaller than those in the US; there are only 17 medical schools in Canada. The majority of prospective Canadian doctors attend three schools: McGill University, the University of Toronto, and the University of Manitoba.

Approximately 25% of Canadian medical school applicants who apply to a Canadian medical school are accepted, and this low rate speaks to the competitive nature of pursing medical studies in Canada. Canadian medical schools are significantly cheaper to attend than US medical schools. The tuition is so low that Canadian medical students often choose to specialize in primary care medicine, a specialty that usually pays less than most other specialties but is critical to the overall smooth functioning of the health care system.

What do I need to do to get into medical school, whether in Canada or the United States?

The requirements for medical school admission in US and in Canada are very similar. You’ll need a high undergraduate GPA, high MCAT score, solid letters of recommendation, a powerful personal statement, and a comprehensive resume/CV. You’ll want to ace your interviews as well.

This quick guide just for Canadian students who are considering attending medical school just scratches the surface of the journey. Be sure to speak to specific medical school admissions officers to learn more about individual programs that interest you.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.