There are 17 medical schools in Canada, spanning the country from Vancouver to St. John’s. Granting the MD degree, these programs are your first stop on the road to becoming a and eventually an independent physician. In this blog, you will learn how to get into medical schools in Canada, compare the latest admissions data for these schools, and find the most up-to-date list of tuition costs for in-province, out-of-province, and international students.
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As the table above shows, there is a great deal of diversity in both admissions guidelines and application criteria among these 17 medical programs. Fortunately, though, there are some general organizational similarities when it comes to the application process.
One of the shared components is the , a series of roles formulated by the to help clarify what qualities and abilities are to be cultivated by medical students to “effectively meet the health care needs of the people they serve.” The structure of CanMEDS depicts six distinct roles as part of “medical expert” as the central, uniting or integrating role. As we discuss the various components to medical school applications in Canada, we’ll note how these 7 roles fit into the selection guidelines for each criterion.
Canadian medical schools do not utilize a standard application service like AMCAS in the US. Instead, schools in every province, except Ontario, utilize school-specific application services, making it crucial to double- and triple-check the and requirements for the schools to which you’re applying.
utilize the centralized system, which makes applying to the six medical programs in the province somewhat easier. OMSAS is the medical school-specific arm of the , so if you’ve already applied to undergraduate schools in Ontario prior to medical school, you’ll have some familiarity with the overall structure and interface OMSAS uses. Understandably though, OMSAS features a slew of unique application dimensions, featured in the infographic below.
Looking for more info on OMSAS? Check out our infographic below:
It’s also worth noting that you’ll encounter a different application system at the end of medical school when you apply for residency: . Like its US sibling , CaRMS utilizes structures somewhat similar to those used in initial medical school applications, but will dig into your performance in medical school, including your clinical rotations and clerkships. CaRMS isn’t a concern for you if you’re a premed, but it’s good to have a sense of the full roadmap ahead as you begin your journey into medical education proper. Also worth noting is that only Canadian citizens and permanent residents can participate in CaRMS. International medical graduates with Canadian citizenship or valid PR status are allowed to participate, but priority is given to those who graduate from Canadian medical schools. If you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, unfortunately, you will not be able to match in Canada.
Not every medical school has specific prerequisite courses, but many do. For example, the and the have very strict prerequisite requirements. On the other hand, the does not have strict requirements regarding coursework; they simply recommend an array of science and humanities courses that they feel will best prepare students for their MD program. The most commonly required prerequisites are:
While these are the most common prerequisites, some schools will require additional courses in the following:
In addition to mandatory , some schools also list “suggested” prerequisites, but our advice is to treat these as mandatory unless you absolutely cannot take the course. Not only will this show medical schools that you’re detail-oriented in having combed through all of their admissions information, but given how competitive admission is you’ll want to do everything you can to stand out.
As with all medical schools and graduate studies in general, Canadian medical schools pay careful attention to students’ undergraduate performance, quantified in the GPA. There’s a fairly wide range of approaches to weighing and considering the GPA from school to school, but there are some general trends. The first is that, even if a school doesn't have an explicit GPA cutoff, its admissions committees will still have some degree of GPA expectation, even if it's slightly flexible or unofficial. This means that even if you apply to schools without specific , you should understand that there will still be some level of expected performance. Additionally, utilize what's called a Cote de rendement collégial (CRC) or "R score," which is a specially calculated class-standing score based on both individual performance and performance relative to one's classmates. While more complicated than a simply GPA calculation, the CRC is ultimately still a reflection of students' academic performance in coursework. There's simply no way around needing to perform well in your undergraduate coursework.
To put this into perspective, the at the University of Manitoba has a specific GPA threshold that a student must obtain for their application to receive further consideration, while the lists this as a percentage, and bases this decision on the CRC or R score. Generally speaking, students with higher grades and GPAs do tend to fare better in the selection process, though having a high GPA is in no way a guarantee of standing out amongst the crowd.
This all ties to the “Scholar” role in the CanMEDS framework to a great extent; the aspect of physicianship that relies on a lifetime commitment to learning and contributing to medical and scientific scholarship. Standing out as a strong scholar even before you apply to medical school is a great way to ensure you’ll be viewed at least somewhat more favorably by admissions committees.
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Scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) are the other central quantitative component in your medical school application, and are often weighed in concert with your GPA. If your GPA is on the lower end of acceptability, your MCAT will play a larger role in admissions committees’ decisions, and vice versa. While there are indeed some , in almost all cases you’ll need to take this extremely daunting exam before applying to an MD program. In Canada, the MCAT is not required by any of the medical schools in Quebec, University of Ottawa medical school, and Northern Ontario School of Medicine. If a school does require the MCAT, you should check to see if they weigh specific sections more heavily, such as at McMaster, which considers only CARS scores. Similarly, the at the University of Calgary has established a minimum MCAT CARS score for non-Albertan applicants. So, if you are planning to apply to Cumming School of Medicine, make sure your CARS score is no less than 128; otherwise you will not even be considered for admission. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should only focus on the more heavily weighted section/s, but it’s good to know ahead of time if you really need to excel in a specific part of the exam.
In the context of application timelines, it’s crucial to determine exactly so that you can both ensure a good and that it will be available to your desired schools on time. You’ll want to begin by checking current , and then constructing your around 6 months ahead of your chosen test day.
Activities and Experiences
One truly universal element in medical school applications is some version of an important activities and experiences section. For US students, this is the , and for students in Ontario it’s the , but each individual medical school in Canada will have some version of this as well. For example, the requires applicants to fill out a section on "Personal Activities", where they can demonstrate their non-academic achievements, while provides students with a CV template they have to fill out. Additionally, the requires the submission of an abbreviated autobiographical sketch, where you will need to provide a list of experiences that can speak to Schulich’s core values. The point with this element is to establish how you’ve developed both academically and personally through a curated list of pivotal and formative activities, whether or educational.
Specifically, you'll be given a limited number of characters or words in which to describe what kind of volunteer and/or work experiences you've pursued since the age of 16 or so. There will be different timeframes from school to school, but for the most part schools will want to know what you've been up to from high school onward. These experiences may include jobs, leadership roles, volunteering, and even physician shadowing. Regarding this last activity, medical schools in Canada don't require shadowing at all. In fact, Canadian laws prevent Canadian premeds to shadow patients in Canada. However, if you are a US applicant, you can include this experience in your application.
Along with the short essays, this is the portion of your application materials that will allow you to really dig into CanMEDS roles and show how your work and time so far has shaped you into a fit candidate for medical education. The contents of this section should be relevant to your medical aspirations and related scientific and communicational proficiencies, and so will connect to CanMEDS roles like “communicator,” “collaborator,” and even “leader” depending on what you have been up to. It’s important to not treat sections like this like a checklist, but having a firm grasp on what aptitudes and admissions committees are ultimately looking for is crucial to knowing what to list and how to contextualize it.
In the US, applicants to medical schools are required to craft a , which provides committees with a brief narrative that answers the question Canadian medical schools, in most cases, use a variety of short essay prompts for a similar purpose, although these will often be much more specific. These are much more akin to US than a full-length personal statement, and will demand you to not only be economical in your wording but address specific questions that will demand some creativity on your part when it comes to addressing CanMEDS roles. This can be quite helpful though, as having a more defined scope will stop you from getting lost in sorting out what to include or exclude.
As with most other application requirements, the exact type of essay required will vary from school to school. , for instance, requires both a personal statement and special essay for out-of-province students, while the will require you to respond to 4 questions with 4 separate essays, each of which requires some mix of reflection on past experience and/or constructing a response to a hypothetical event.
The general point here is that there should be as little overlap as possible between short essay responses and the personal statement, so take your time and carefully craft your responses so that you provide a picture of yourself that comprehensively addresses each prompt without repeating yourself. Read your short essay responses aloud after each draft/edit to ensure your language flows properly, and addresses each detail of the question sufficiently.
12 of the 17 medical schools in Canada . This is part of the and is a computerized situational judgement test that assesses students’ empathy, communication skills, motivation, and ethics. CASPer examination runs around 100-120 minutes broken into 2 sections with 2 optional breaks, and focuses on 15 situations in which students are asked to read and understand a prompt, followed by a series of questions based on this prompt. These prompts are typically scenarios followed by different question types covering topics like policy, personal, or scenario details. In the first section of the test, you will be asked to type your answers to the follow-up questions, while in the second part of the test, you will be required to video record your responses. Keep in mind that you are only given 5 minutes to respond to the 3 questions in the first section, and only 1 minute to record an answer to each of the follow up questions in the second section.
Interested in learning more about Altus Suite and how to ace your assessment? Check out our video below:
, or Letters of Reference, are an important application component that allow faculty members or other people you’ve worked or studied under to speak directly to admissions committees on your behalf. As with every other element, requirements for reference letters will vary from school to school. Some are very unique! For example, the contacts your references by phone and asks specific questions about your candidacy for medical school. However, most schools stick to written letters that have a general structure: a 1-2 page letter that speaks to your strengths, weaknesses, and goals as a student, as well as your character and personality. Some schools will only require reference letters following an interview, and some schools like in Newfoundland and those in Ontario using OMSAS have very specific guidelines that require references to answer specific questions using the system itself, not through separate letters. OMSAS asks referees to answer the following questions:
- Would this applicant make a good physician?
- Rate the applicant’s communication skills, problem-solving skills, professionalism, and empathy.
- Identify and comment on 1 area of improvement for the applicant.
- Share any other information you feel may be relevant to a medical school’s admission committee.
Given the scope of these, it’s easy to see why selecting the best referees possible is crucial. The good news is that typically only faculty that have a good opinion of you and your prospects will agree to write your letters, so with some initial discussion you should be able to trust that their letters/responses will be advantageous for you.
Other schools’ guidelines specifically request that you source your letters from specific references, such as science faculty. As a general rule, if there’s no specific breakdown on the type of reference, you should strive to include at least 1 academic referee such as an instructor or advisor.
Last but not least comes the medical school interview, which is often the phase of selection students fear most. Whether it’s the or a traditional format, the last stage of your application process will include at least some common that will test your ability to think and communicate clearly on the spot. Keep in mind that some medical schools in Canada, such as the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine have created their own interview formats, such as the MPI (modified personal interview).
The interview affords the most in-depth evaluation of your aptitude in the CanMEDS roles, so expect questions to dig into your ability to communicate, navigate ethically complex situations, and evince leadership qualities under pressure among much else. Finally, most medical schools will describe their interview format on their website so, as always, consult your specific schools’ websites to determine how best to prepare.
After you interview, if a month or two go by without any updates from the school, you might want to consider writing your top-choice school a . If you are planning on sending such a letter to your program, first, make sure that your school accepts such letters. Every school is different and some might welcome any updates about your candidacy, while others will not consider any additional documents.
Check out the interview process of every medical school in Canada:
With so much information to consider, you must be wondering stand out and what you can do in your interview to leave the committee with no question as to your candidacy. So here are our expert tips on how to increase your chances of acceptance to medical schools in Canada.
Do not forego the academic requirements
While a high GPA and a high MCAT score do not guarantee acceptance, they are incredibly important in making sure your application is considered. This is also tied very closely to the provincial borders and residency status of applicants. Whether you want to cast a wider net by applying to multiple schools in multiple provinces or you choose to stick to your own province, you must strive to meet the GPA and MCAT thresholds set by your schools for your candidate category. This means that if you are applying to the University of British Columbia as an out-of-province applicant, you must meet the 85% GPA requirement just to be considered. However, if you want to stand out, whether you are out-of-province or not, we would suggest aiming for the percentile set by previous year’s matriculates or higher. But the point is, you must keep these numbers in mind when you apply.
You may be the perfect candidate for your school based on your experiences and skills, but some schools will not even continue with your application if you do not meet the minimum set GPA and MCAT requirements. For example, in order to continue in the selection process at Queen’s, you must first meet the GPA requirement for the admissions committee to move on to your MCAT. This means that even if you have 528 MCAT score but your GPA is below the established standard set for that application year, your application will not move forward.
While the numbers are not everything, you cannot ignore the GPA and MCAT requirements. Err on the side of caution and apply to schools where your GPA and MCAT meet the set standard.
Consider location and school preferences
There is no denying that the competition for a spot in medical schools in Canada is fierce. are quite intimidating. This is additionally exacerbated by the fact that most schools give preference to certain groups of people based on provincial borders, locations, residency status, language, and so on. This is why planning and where to apply is even more important for those seeking to attend a Canadian medical school. Why?
You must carefully plan where you have the most chance based not only on your academic and non-academic achievements, but also on your location, residency status, language, and so on. To stand out in your application and to have a greater chance of getting that interview invite, you must show the schools you are applying to that you are from a candidate group they prefer. For example, if you are applying to NOSM and you cannot show any connection to rural or remote areas, if you have never even visited the Canadian north, and you are not francophone, then you will have very little chance of acceptance, even if you have amazing grades and impressive experiences.
If we look at , particularly its only school the Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine, you will see how important it is for the admissions committee to see that you have genuine commitment and connection to the Maritimes. Your application essays must demonstrate that you understand the location and the culture you will be studying and working in, so keep this in mind if you choose to apply to Dalhousie. Can you demonstrate a real connection to Nova Scotia? Or maybe another Canadian Maritime province, such as New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island? If no, you might not have the best chance of getting acceptance.
This is all to say that when it comes to choosing medical schools in Canada to apply to, you must be careful to research all the nuances that the provincial borders dictate. Choose schools you can demonstrate genuine connection to, whether from your personal life, work and experiences, or academic endeavours.
Start your application early and research the schools
This is a commonly given advice, but it’s worth repeating. Because you need to carefully research each school and its requirements, preferences, and so on, you need to start your school list and application early. You need to carefully consider how you can use application components like OMSAS ABS, short essays, activities sections, and more, to demonstrate your suitability for your chosen schools.
For example, if you are applying to , your application must somehow showcase skills, experiences, and knowledge they want to see in their candidates. While more than 80% of seats at the Cumming School of Medicine and the University of Alberta are reserved for Albertans, this does not mean that you are in just because you are a resident of this province. Your application must demonstrate that you have taken the right steps to be the perfect candidate for these schools.
This will take careful planning. Not only will you need to acquire strong recommendations that would highlight the right skills and experiences, but the activities you choose to include must speak to the qualities these schools look for. Research their mission statements, goals, research projects, matriculant data to see what kind of experiences you can highlight on your own and what kind of experiences and skills your reference writers can emphasize in their letters. Do not be shy to provide your writers with a list of qualities that you want highlighted based on the schools’ preferences.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? That’s why it is so important to start early. Even though Canadian medical schools do not have , it’s best to have all your components ready early and of the highest quality. Take your time to craft an application that will show your suitability, your flawless communication skills, and attention to detail. This will take some time to complete.
While each school outside of Ontario utilizes their own unique timeline, typically the only differences are the application opening and deadline dates. We’ve included a general timeline below, but as always please check the timelines provided by the specific schools to which you’re applying. Additionally, this is a timeline for MD programs—MD-PhD and other dual programs will have slightly different timelines.
in the US is legendary for being incredibly expensive, but fortunately medical schools in Canada are much more affordable—for Canadian residents at least. Below is a table with up-to-date tuition estimates for Canadian residents, Quebec residents, and international students.
Canada’s 17 medical schools share many things, from utilizing the CanMEDS framework to general curriculum and application timelines. But there is, as seen throughout this article, a great deal of diversity, allowing you to seek out the type of medical education you want in a great variety of different environments. And for better or worse, most of these schools also focus on recruiting and admitting Canadian students to join their ranks, making it far easier for most Canadian students to get into even highly competitive Canadian schools than less competitive programs elsewhere. While the initial process of getting into your desired MD program in Canada may seem overwhelming, with the right information and early planning you can succeed and enter medical school with confidence and a wealth of strategies that will benefit you once residency appears on the horizon. And as always, we’ll be here to help!
1. Which Canadian medical school is the hardest to get into?
With an overall acceptance rate of only 1.8%, Queen's University is Canada’s most competitive medical school.
2. Which Canadian medical school is the easiest to get into?
The University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine leads the pack in accessibility with a warm and friendly 18.6% overall acceptance rate. Keep in mind that this acceptance rate most reflects acceptance rates for in-province and Indigenous applicants, not out-of-province candidates.
3. Do some Canadian medical programs offer a French-language track?
4. Are there medical schools in Canada that are French-only?
5. Is there a central application service for Canadian medical school applications?
Unfortunately, no. Schools in Ontario utilize the OMSAS service, though, which does centralize application service for the province’s six medical programs. While there isn’t one universal application service for the rest, their timelines do largely align, with deadline varying by only a few weeks from school to school, in most cases.
6. Are there application materials common to each of these programs?
The application itself, transcripts, and some form of short essay are a part of nearly all medical school requirements, while the MCAT is required for only about 2/3 of these schools.
7. I have a somewhat low GPA. Can I still get into a Canadian medical school?
McMaster and Northern Ontario each have a fairly friendly 3.0 GPA minimum, although you’ll still be competing with hundreds of other students with high GPAs, so the minimum will not be enough for an acceptance. And with the exception of McGill, medical schools in Quebec don’t post specific GPA cutoffs, instead assuring students that their selection process is holistic and won’t heavily weight any one part of their application materials. Nonetheless, having a lower GPA will certainly not help you, so if this is your case and you haven’t taken the MCAT or completed your other application materials yet, consider reaching out for expert help to make sure you maximize your exam score and qualitative application materials.
8. What Canadian medical schools accept international/foreign students?
9. Do Canadian medical schools give preference to in-province applicants?
Almost all medical schools in Canada do to some extent, though this is especially so in Quebec. The and the , for instance, have higher requirements for out-of-province applicants, while Dalhousie requires higher scores and an additional essay for out-of-province applicants. , on the other hand, has the same requirements for both in- and out-of-province applicants but pays attention to your background, and doesn’t have distinct requirements but does have a slightly lower acceptance rate for out-of-province vs in-province applicants—3.9% vs 4.4%, respectively. Lastly, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine lists one of the more unique in-/out-of-province preferences, favoring both francophone students and those who specifically aim at working in rural areas.
10. Do all Canadian medical schools require reference letters (aka letters of recommendation)?
Nearly all do except for the University of Ottawa and each school in Quebec. However, since Ottawa uses OMSAS, there will still be a requirement for verifiers of the information you provide in your autobiographical sketch.
11. Do Canadian residency programs, using CaRMS, accept international applicants?
Students graduating from specially accredited international schools are allowed to participate in the R1 or first-round match in CaRMS, but they must be Canadian citizens or hold a valid Canadian permanent resident card. The criteria for this is very specific and somewhat complex, so please consult the page for more info.
To your success,
Your friends at BeMo
BeMo Academic Consulting
Disclaimer: although we have made every effort to provide the most accurate information, admissions information changes frequently. Therefore, we encourage you to verify these details with the official university admissions office. You are responsible for your own results. BeMo does not endorse nor affiliate with any official universities, colleges, or test administrators and vice versa. If you see an error here, please notify us with the updated information, and we’ll send you a FREE copy of a BeMo ebook of your choosing! You can receive our Ultimate Guide to Med School Admissions, our Ultimate Guide to MMI Prep, our Ultimate Guide to Medical School Personal Statements & Secondary Essays or our Ultimate Guide to CASPer Prep! Please email us at content [at] bemoacademicconsulting.com with any corrections, and we’ll arrange to send you your free ebook upon confirming the information.