Choosing a medical school to attend is a tough decision that can determine the course of not only your career but also your life. There are many factors to consider, including the quality of programs, tuition costs, and the location. The latter is important not only in short term, but also in long-term career planning.
Canada is well known for its quality medical education, so it's no wonder that some US students are interested in attending medical school there. Canada's medical schools are among the highest-ranked in the world and graduates of Canadian medical schools have tremendous freedom to practice medicine domestically and internationally, given the schools’ strong reputations and global connections. With that being said, there are a lot of things to consider if you're a US citizen who wants to apply to medical schools in Canada.
In this blog, you’re going to learn everything you need to know about Canadian medical schools that accept US students including applicant selection process, tuition costs, and admission requirements. Finally, you'll find a full list of Canadian medical schools that accept US students.
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Do all Canadian Medical Schools Accept US Students?
First of all, it is important to note that not all Canadian medical schools accept international and US students. Some Canadian medical schools have special arrangements with certain foreign countries to accept a limited number of international applicants who will be expected to stay and practice medicine in Canada. The Canadian government greatly subsidizes these schools as they hope these graduates will attend to the health care needs of their own taxpayers.
In most Canadian medical schools, applicants are divided into the following categories:
1) In-province applicant pool
2) Out-of-province applicant pool
3) International applicant pool
In-province applicants are considered the more likely candidates for acceptance. Schools intentionally attract in-province students and make admission requirements more difficult for out-of-province and international applicants. Admissions departments feel more certain that in-province applicants, and eventually graduates, will remain in the region to practice. Most faculties also reserve several spots for out-of-province applicants. This leaves international applicants, including applicants from the United States, facing strong competition.
How Difficult is it for US Students to Get into Canadian Medical Schools?
Medical school admissions rates in Canada are quite low compared to those in the United States - averaging around 10%-20% versus 46% percent in the United States. In fact, in recent years, 81% of Canadian applicants faced medical school rejection from high admission standards, this may be due to simple math: there are significantly fewer medical schools in Canada compared with the United States. Canada has only 17 medical schools, while the United States has over 150. As previously mentioned, many Canadian medical schools give preference to in-province residents. For example, McGill University in Montreal does not require the MCAT for Quebec applicants but writing the MCAT is mandatory for out-of-province and international applicants. Keep in mind that most schools only consider seats for international students after they have accepted in-province and out-of-province students, so there is quite a stiff competition for an American applicant to get in, which may require additional efforts and help from a professional medical school advisor.
Did you know that 81% of Canadian applicants face medical school rejection?
Tuition Costs at Medical Schools in Canada vs the US
Generally, Canadian medical schools are much more affordable than American medical schools. Especially considering that the majority of US medical school applicants seek to attend out-of-state programs, which really increases their tuition costs. According to the AAMC, roughly 78% of US medical school applications are sent by students to out-of-state medical school programs. Some states do not have medical schools, which forces their students to apply to out-of-state and international schools. The cost of tuition in public schools for out-of-state applicants is much higher than their in-state counterparts. The cost to attend US public medical schools for out-of-state applicants ranges from US$50,000 to US$99,000. Average private medical school tuition costs for in-state and out-of-state applicants range from US$60,000 to US$68,000.
Overall, tuition for US students applying to Canadian medical schools is lower than out-of-state tuition for applicants in the United States. For example, international tuition costs at Quebec medical schools range between US$20,000 to US$30,000. Tuition cost is around US$23,000 for international students at Memorial University of Newfoundland. International students attending medical schools in Ontario pay between US$60,500 to US$67,660, which is comparable to fees required by US public medical schools for in-state students.
Keep in mind that the cost of living in Canada is quite high, especially in large urban areas like Toronto and Vancouver. If you’re applying as an international student you can apply for a Work-Study option, which would allow you to work a limited number of hours per week. Working while you study helps to reduce the overall cost of living but might be a challenge considering the busy schedule of medical students.
Admission Requirements at Canadian Medical Schools
There is no standardized system of admission requirements for medical schools in Canada. While each medical school will require different courses in order to apply, there are common medical school prerequisites that will be requested by most schools.
Typically, Canadian medical schools ask for 90 credits of university coursework or a 4-year Bachelor's degree from a university or college in order for Canadian and US applicants to apply. Despite what you might think, your degree doesn’t have to be in science. Some students spend countless hours studying a discipline that they think will look good on paper. They sacrifice other areas they would be better suited for and may have even performed better in. To best prepare yourself for medical school, it is important to complete your undergraduate degree in a field of study that you are interested in - not in a field that you think will impress the admissions office. It is important to choose a major that will highlight your strengths and showcase your dedication and motivation for pursuing medicine. You should show medical schools that you are passionate and well-rounded and that you are willing to spend four years studying a subject you love. Keep in mind that each school has its own set of requirements, so ensure you review the most up to date information on each school's admission website before you apply.
In general, commonly accepted prerequisites for medical school include a minimum of 1 year in:
- General biology
- Physics with laboratory
- General chemistry (inorganic chemistry) with laboratory
- Organic chemistry with laboratory
GPA and MCAT requirements
Most Canadian universities set minimum MCAT and medical school GPA requirements in order for applicants to be considered for admission. The average GPA of Canadian matriculants is 3.8, a bit higher than the 3.7 average GPA of US matriculants. Understanding what is a good MCAT score is also important. While these scores may say little about your character and personal qualities, medical schools pay much attention to these scores as to them, your performance is an indication of your ability to handle the challenging medical school coursework. The sections of the MCAT are similar to the required courses: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior, and the challenging Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section. Be sure to review our MCAT cars practice blog to help you prepare for this difficult section. The average MCAT score for MD matriculants in the United States is 511 and 510-513 for Canadian matriculants.
Personal statement and extracurriculars
Unlike US medical schools, Canadian medical schools do not require a personal statement. Personal statements take a tremendous amount of effort and time to write and edit, which cuts into valuable preparation time for medical students. While this may create an impression that Canadian schools are less concerned with the applicants’ personal characteristics and more concerned with test scores and grades, note that this is not the case. Canadian schools make it their priority to assess each applicant’s personal qualities necessary to care for a variety of patients. Canadian medical schools require a list of your extracurricular activities with brief descriptions, similar to the AMCAS Work and Activities section for US applicants. This list of activities is one of the only ways the admissions committees can see into your personal life, so you need to select the best extracurriculars for medical school and write about them concisely.
CanMEDS educational framework identifies and describes qualities physicians must possess to effectively meet the healthcare needs of the people they serve. CanMEDS outlines the roles of physicians as communicators, community collaborators, leaders, health advocates, scholars, and ethical professionals. In your preparation for applying to Canadian medical schools, it’s a good idea to write down significant experiences you’ve had that would fall under these six categories. This will help you to assemble your list of activities when filling out your medical school applications and will also help you during your interviews. Thinking through your experiences and qualities in relation to CanMEDS categories will make planning your Canadian medical school application much easier.
There are many Canadian medical schools that require CASPer, so there is a good chance that you'll have to complete this test if you apply to medical schools in Canada. If you are applying to schools in both Canada and the US that require CASPer testing, you'll have to write your CASPer test twice. Ensure that you review our blogs so you understand how to prepare for CASPer in advance so you can ace your CASPer sample questions. In addition, be sure to review CASPer test dates so you can register appropriately.
Canadian Medical School Admissions Deadlines
Deadlines differ significantly between universities and provinces. Ontario medical schools coordinate their applications through the Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS). Their timeline usually looks like this:
Other Canadian medical schools that accept US students use their own online application services. Each year the timelines are slightly different, but application deadlines usually fall within the following periods:
September: Memorial University of Newfoundland
November: McGill University
January: University of Sherbrooke
March: Laval University and University of Montréal
Remember, these are only estimated timelines. The final deadlines to apply to Canadian medical schools that accept US students vary from year-to-year, so be sure to check individual medical school application timelines.
How do Canadian Medical Schools Calculate my GPA?
Each Canadian medical school has its own way of calculating GPA. Usually, this is just a matter of matching a letter grade or percentage system to a 4.0, 4.33, or another similar scale.
Some Canadian medical schools that accept US students, like the University of Toronto, drop students’ lowest grades if they have consistently taken a full course load, which in Canada typically means five classes per term. You don't need to worry about this if you come from a school where you took fewer than five classes. University admissions offices are familiar with grading systems at other institutions and will not penalize applicants for taking less than Canadian standard course loads.
How do Provincial Borders Affect my Chances of Getting into Canadian Medical Schools?
Three out of four schools in Quebec instruct ONLY in French, including Laval University, the University of Sherbrooke, and the University of Montreal. All out-of-province and international students must pass a French language proficiency exam. This will be a significant challenge for US citizens who do not know French at an advanced level. Studying a subject in English and then shifting to another language can be a great challenge, especially in medicine given its professional terminology and vocabulary. Even if you are quite fluent in French, please keep in mind that colloquial French and professional language are quite different!
The majority of Quebec medical schools are focused on the development of medicine and health sciences in Quebec in particular. They put most of their efforts and finances towards supporting local medical institutions and professionals. This means that these schools will do everything in their power to promote Quebec applicants, rather than out-of-province and international students.
The situation is similar in the Eastern provinces. The Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty of Medicine and Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine have accommodated lower GPA and MCAT scores to encourage local students to apply, train, and stay in Eastern Canada. The growing need for family physicians in rural Eastern and Maritimes communities greatly influences this initiative. While this is a significant benefit for Maritimes applicants, there is a growing number of competitive out-of-province and international applicants who are interested in practicing medicine in Eastern Canada. As a result, these candidates find it incredibly challenging to secure interview invites given the limited landscape of medical school acceptance.
How to Obtain a Study Permit
Once you’ve received a letter of acceptance from medical school, you'll need to apply for a study permit. You can apply for a study permit online, or you may obtain a paper application from a visa application center. There is an application fee to apply for a study permit. Be sure to verify the requirements which may change over time, but in general, to apply you'll need:
1. A valid passport, in most cases
2. A letter of acceptance from the college stating the program of study, including start date and expected end date
3. Proof that you have enough money to support yourself and your dependents during your entire stay in Canada
4. A letter from your sponsoring organization, if you are being sponsored
5. If you have applied to an institution in the province of Quebec, then you will also receive, along with the acceptance letter, a “Certificat d’acceptation du Québec” (CAQ)
How to Plan Your Residency in Canada
In Canada, the system of securing a residency position is similar to that of the United States. You will need to learn about the Canadian Resident Matching Services (CaRMS), an online portal that applicants use to apply for a residency training position. If you are also applying in the US you can learn about ERAS, the Electronic Residency Application Service, from our blog.
Generally, the United States has a lot more residency spots and more for specialties compared to Canada. If you are a United States citizen interested in establishing your career as a doctor in Canada, you will have a much better chance of obtaining a Canadian medical residency if you get a Canadian medical degree. To qualify for most Canadian medical residency programs, you must be a citizen or permanent resident of Canada. Foreign students who have studied for two years at an accredited Canadian postsecondary school may apply for permanent residency.
Although there are many more residency spots in America, there are also many more candidates for each spot. Around 91.6% of graduates of Canadian medical schools are successful in obtaining a medical residency in Canada, compared to only 58.5% of graduates of American medical schools.
It is even more difficult for an American graduate to acquire residency in Canada. Some Canadian residency programs do not even consider IMG (International Medical Graduates) or USMG (United States Medical Graduates), while others, such as the University of Toronto and McMaster University, have fees for such applicants. The Association of Medical Schools of Canada has recommended in the past that IMG and USMG cannot apply for residency until after the second round of admissions. Of course, a Canadian medical degree does not guarantee a match with Canadian residency but it certainly will increase your chances. If you would like to increase your chances of matching with your top choice residency program, make sure you read the best residency personal statement examples and get ready for your interview by reviewing common residency interview questions.
All in all, if your goal is to match to a Canadian medical residency program and practice medicine in Canada, it would be much easier if you attend a Canadian medical school.
List of Canadian Medical schools that Accept US students
Out of 17 Canadian medical schools, only 7 accept US students. Please refer to the list below to learn more about these programs, requirements, and admission rates.
University of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario)
Applicants must complete three years of full-time study, two full-course equivalents in life sciences, one in either social science, language, or humanities. On average, approximately 8.3% of applicants are admitted every year. 86% of accepted applicants are from Ontario, 12% from out-of-province and 4% are international. The average GPA of matriculants is 3.95, and the recommended MCAT section score is 125. The University of Toronto does not accept transfers. All applicants must take part in an interview that takes place between February and April.
Admissions website: https://applymd.utoronto.ca/us-international-applicants
McGill University (Montreal, Quebec)
A four-year bachelor’s degree (120 credits) is required at the time of admission. The average cumulative GPA of all applicants is approximately 3.69, however, the average GPA of applicants invited to interview is 3.83. The MCAT is required for all applicants who hold undergraduate degrees from non-Canadian universities, but it is not a requirement for Quebec applicants. The MD program admits around 183 students per year, of which 2 positions are available for international students, including US students.
Admissions website: https://www.mcgill.ca/medadmissions/applying/categories/int
McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario)
The acceptance rate for all applicants is 4.1% and on average, 206 students are admitted annually. 98% of admitted applicants are in-province applicants, while the remaining 2% are out-of-province and international students. The mean GPA of admitted students is 3.87 and the mean score for the critical analysis and reasoning skills section of the MCAT is 129.
Admissions website: https://mdprogram.mcmaster.ca/md-program-admissions/who-should-apply/international-applicants
Memorial University Medical School (St. John’s, Newfoundland)
A full course load in each year of undergraduate study is preferred but is not necessarily required. The program admits 80 students annually. On average, 75% of students admitted are residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, 18% are applicants from other Maritime provinces and the remaining 7% are international students and students from the remaining provinces. The mean GPA of successful applicants is 3.85. The MCAT is required and it is recommended that the test be written within a six-year period prior to application.
Admissions website: https://www.med.mun.ca/Admissions/home.aspx
Laval University (Quebec City, Quebec) – French language*
This four to five-year MD program admits 223 students yearly. The University of Laval Medical School primarily accepts Quebec residents, with the majority of seats reserved for them yearly. The province of Quebec has restrictions on positions available for Canadians outside of Quebec and international students. The admission rate for Quebec residents is 7.7%. Out-of-province applicants have a success rate of 4.9%, while the international applicant success rate is 1.4%.
Admissions website: https://www.fmed.ulaval.ca/candidats-etrangers/
University of Montreal (Montreal, Quebec) – French language*
This medical school offers a four-year MD program with a curriculum in French. University of Montreal Faculty of Medicine accepts roughly 291 students. During last year's admission cycle, 281 students were Quebec residents. Of the 11 remaining seats, nine were from Francophone communities in other provinces that have agreements with Quebec, and two were international students. On average, only two international students are admitted per year. The MCAT is not a requirement for the University of Montreal. This program values GPA scores and French literacy results in their admission decision.
Admissions website: https://medecine.umontreal.ca/international/etudiants-internationaux/admission-les-etudiants-internationaux/
Sherbrooke University (Sherbrooke, Quebec) - French language*
The four-year MD program at the University of Sherbrooke Medical School admits around 199 students yearly. The University of Sherbrooke Medical School reserves most of these seats for Quebec residents, as the school’s primary focus is towards serving the province’s medical and educational needs. The University of Sherbrooke Medical school is divided between three campuses. Of the 199 students admitted, 142 study at the Sherbrooke campus, 33 at the Saguenay campus, and 24 at the Moncton campus. International applicants must complete the CASPer exam in French. If selected, international applicants will be invited for a video interview instead of an MMI. Only one student is admitted yearly from the international pool, making for a 0.5% acceptance rate.
Admissions website: https://www.usherbrooke.ca/doctorat-medecine/admission/contingent-international/#c144606-1
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