Medical schools in British Columbia are limited to just one choice. Make sure you are armed with all the best, up-to-date information about UBC, so that when you send in your application, you know exactly how to impress the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine.
In this article, we will take an in-depth look with the latest data at applicant preferences at the University of British Columbia’s medical school, check out what kinds of academic achievements are preferred at UBC, and see if there are specific kinds of doctors that find placements from UBC.
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What Kind of Applicants Are Preferred for Medical Schools in BC?
Residents of British Columbia
The University of British Columbia favours students who are residents of the school’s home province. In a recent year, 259 BC residents were accepted and enrolled against 29 out-of-province applicants; in that same year, UBC rejected 2,294 applicants, 1,005 of whom were from out-of-province.
In other words, if you are an applicant who is a British Columbia resident, you had an 11.29% chance of acceptance. If you were from out-of-province, your rate of acceptance would have been 1.26%, almost ten times less likely to get in.
Students are considered residents of BC if they hold a British Columbia Services Card by the date of the application deadline.
If you are a resident of one of Canada’s three territories – the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, or Nunavut – you are also considered a BC resident for the purposes of application to UBC’s medical school.
If you don’t live in British Columbia or the territories, don’t give up hope, because there are still plenty of ways you can stand out and get into the University of British Columbia’s medical program.
Wondering how to get into UBC medical school?
The majority of UBC medical school’s doctoral candidates came from UBC’s programs. These programs don’t have the same in-province reservations, and in fact, even accept international students. If you take a bachelor’s degree at the University of British Columbia before applying to medical school, this will give you a full degree’s worth of connections and establish your enthusiasm for the school.
High level grades are always a standout, regardless of which province you come from. If you achieve top grades in the MCAT, CASPer test, with your GPA, and so forth, your application has a luster to it that's hard to ignore.
Then there are extracurriculars for medical school and personal reasons to make an admissions committee look at your application very seriously. UBC is committed to diversity in education, for instance, so if you have a personal connection to Black, Indigenous, or other underserved communities, that will be a standout entry in your application. Volunteer work, experience working in those communities, or a family connection can be the edge you need.
For example, put in your volunteer hours for medical school helping gain political action with a Black student’s group. Or you might have done some research or written a paper on health issues that affect Indigenous communities or reservations.
In an effort to serve underrepresented communities, UBC waives the BC resident edge for students who are Indigenous Canadians or who are Black.
Proof of ancestry is required for Indigenous Canadians, which means an Indian Status Card, a Tribal Enrollment Card, a Metis membership or citizenship card, or an Inuit Tribal Corporation Number or Inuit Registry.
Indigenous applicants will also need a letter, sent directly from a First Nations Band, Treaty, Tribal, or Traditional Council, Inuit Land/Treaty organization, Metis settlement or community organization, or recognized Indigenous organization. The letter must be sent on official letterhead from the organization.
A medical school personal statement is also required of Indigenous applicants, written as a personal story, and covering details of the applicant’s family history, connections and contributions to their Indigenous community, a knowledge of Indigenous issues, and why the candidate wants to be a doctor. It has a 1,500 word count cap.
What you should include in your essay should be, first of all, personal. This is to show your connection with the community. Go deeper than just saying you grew up in such-and-such a community. If you lived on the rez, say how that affected you. If you didn’t grow up on a reserve, talk about when you first started to learn about what it meant to be Indigenous. You could tell a story of a friend or relative who brings you closer to the community.
Next, make sure to highlight the ways that your Indigenous roots have changed your life. Have you ever volunteered to help your community? Have you attended any specific workshops for Indigenous students? Have you engaged with activism or political groups that are bringing about change? These are all great experiences, and can highlight not only your connection with your Indigenous heritage, but show your dedication, perseverance, ethics, and values – all of which will be invaluable in your essay.
Always remember that this is to tell the committee why you are not just a great candidate – you must be competitive – but that you are a great candidate for the specific Indigenous pathway to the MD program. Ideally, you can say something about your values and abilities, but showing a commitment to Indigenous communities is key.
Finally, Indigenous Canadian candidates are often given a panel interview, which will include an Elder, and will be held on the same weekend as the applicant’s MMI – multiple mini-interview. UBC says that this panel interview may be offered, so they don’t say it will happen with every Indigenous track applicant. The panel interview would be in addition to the applicant’s MMI, so don’t forget how to prepare for your MMI.
Applications from Indigenous Canadian students are evaluated by a specific panel – the Indigenous Student MD Admissions subcommittee. Furthermore, Indigenous applicants can, on request, be paired with a current UBC Indigenous MD undergraduate student who will mentor them through the processes.
Black or Black-multiracial Candidates
This track is open to candidates who self-identify as Black or Black-multiracial. Candidates on this track are also asked to write a personal essay, this one addressing why the candidate has decided to apply to the University of British Columbia medical school’s Black Student MD Admissions pathway. UBC asks for the essay to address background, perspectives, accomplishments, and experiences. The essay should make sure to draw connections between the applicant’s identity as a Black Canadian or Black-multiracial Canadian to their future path as a physician. The essay is recommended to be around 1,000 words, although no explicit word count maximum – or minimum – is given.
The essay must always speak to you personally, and it must always show why you are the perfect candidate for the Black or Black-multiracial pathway. A good way in to the essay is to tell the story of how you relate to your racial identity. Were your first experiences positive or negative? How has your perspective of racial identity changed over the years? This can be very emotionally-charged subject matter, but it will also show any admissions committee how much your identity affects you.
Experiences are important as well; UBC also asks for accomplishments. These might be the same thing. For example, you might have been part of a Black or multi-racial students’ organization, starting out as a member but gradually becoming more involved until you were in a position of leadership within the group. This would be an experience and accomplishment. Maybe you worked for a political campaign for a Black candidate, or for a movement that was concerned with Black political advancement. If your work was successful, if real change was brought about through your work – professional or volunteer – that's definitely a major point to showcase in your essay.
Any student applying as a Black or Black-multiracial student will be evaluated by the Black Student MD Admissions subcommittee. Black students are not required to apply through this particular track, but it is available to them.
The BC resident requirement is also waived for applicants who hold a completed PhD by the application deadline. UBC has a mandate to address the need for clinician scientists, so they treat any MD-PhD candidate the same – regardless of home province. If you are from out-of-province and you have an interest in scientific inquiry, this is the place for you.
What Kind of Academic and Non-Academic Achievements are Preferred at Medical Schools in BC?
No preference is given to any type of degree or program for medical school applicants of the University of British Columbia.
Do note, however, that any applicant who is applying to the combined MD-PhD programs is required to have their bachelor’s degree in the sciences.
Science courses, such as biology, chemistry, and biochemistry, are recommended by UBC, particularly because without such courses in a student’s academic history, passing the MCAT – let alone excelling – will be difficult or impossible.
The minimum academic standing for candidates is 75% for in-province and 85% for out-of-province, but that’s just the minimum. In recent years, the average GPA of the entering class was between 88.62% and 89.29%.
The minimum MCAT score is 124 in each of the four sections, but as with the GPA, note that the minimum is not enough. Recently, the average MCAT score of the entering class was 514.49: much higher than the minimum.
The University of British Columbia’s medical program looks beyond academic numbers, and are interested particularly in intentional community involvement; the committee considers all kinds of activities – volunteer or professional, for example – and use intensity and time commitment as two of their factors for evaluation.
Think of what you can put into your application here. What will showcase perseverance, your ability to commit to something important and impactful in a community.
A good example: if you have a long-standing volunteer position at a homeless shelter, a women’s shelter, or as part of something like the Scouts. If you had a job working with a medical facility – great. But, if not, don’t worry, because UBC values work and volunteer experiences outside of medicine as well. Maybe your job was taking care of a National Park – which will have a rural experience bonus – or planting trees. That has huge community impact, demonstrates hard work, and gives you a connection to rural and remote areas – all big plusses.
If you are an immigrant, or come from an immigrant family, putting this experience into your application will give you a diversity angle even if you do not qualify as Indigenous or Black or Black Multi-racial.
The best experiences will be ones that have shaped your life and impacted the lives of others in a community – yours or one you visited – in a profound and positive way. If you have a long experience, so much the better.
What Kind of Doctor Can You Become at Medical Schools in BC?
If you are looking to train and practice medicine in rural areas, UBC might be just the perfect school for you. The University of British Columbia medical school offers special placement programs to give some students an opportunity to learn in a rural environment. These programs allow students to study in one of three areas: the Northern Medical Program, Southern Medical Program, and Island Medical Program.
UBC is committed to using these programs to service underserved communities and avows that students are more likely to practice medicine where they have trained. Providing training opportunities outside of the UBC central campus in Vancouver is essential groundwork for that goal.
Application to the remote and rural campuses is done through the Rural and Remote Suitability Score, or RRSS. This section of the application gauges an applicant’s connections to rural, remote, northern, and Indigenous settings. Applicants interested in remote learning opportunities fill out the Northern and Rural Training Section of the application, and are given a virtual Northern and Rural panel interview, if they qualify for an MMI.
In other words, even though candidates are given an edge for being from BC, an out-of-province applicant can gain competitive edge by being from Northern Ontario and wanting to practice rural medicine. It depends on the kind of doctor you want to be – this is why it’s so important to understand the preferred candidates of any schools you are considering applying to. What is the best fit for you?
If you want to work in the North, apply to this program. You will not only have a personal connection to give your application more weight, you will, if successful, be far more fulfilled.
Candidate who fill out this section may be asked to participate in a Northern and Rural panel interview as well as an MMI.
Northern Medical Program
As the name states, this program is to train physicians for rural and northern areas, but it is also to train students who come from northern and rural areas. The program was implemented as part of UBC’s medical program’s strategic plan, which has a social accountability principle. The social accountability is defined by the University of British Columbia as, “...the obligation to direct their education, research and service activities towards addressing the priority health concerns of the community, region, and/or nation they have a mandate to serve.” They are seeking to ensure that all Canadians, all areas of British Columbia in particular, have the medical care that is their right.
The Northern Medical Program has spaces open for 32 students. Applications are made through the aforementioned RRSS. This smaller class size grants students a close-knit learning experience.
Students will gain valuable insight into working in medicine for communities more off the beaten path, as well as what it means to work as a physician in Indigenous communities and with Indigenous health centres.
Southern Medical Program
The Southern Medical Program also admits 32 students, for a small, close band of students who will learn about medicine at the Okanagan campus.
The SMP gives students an opportunity to learn about medicine in the BC interior, a loosely-defined area covering roughly fourteen regional districts, and just under one million people. This combination of large territory, low population will make for some unique learning experiences and will no doubt grant students a unique insight into medical practice.
Doctors interested in serving small communities, often isolated, will benefit from this experience. Smaller, more remote communities means connecting with Indigenous communities, as well. If you are an Indigenous applicant, this can give you a connecting point that you can bring up. If you aren’t Indigenous, show something in your application that shows how you connect with communities, with diversity, build relationships, and overcome challenges.
UBC Okanagan is home to the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management, which is dedicated to chronic diseases like diabetes and neurological conditions, and works towards both treatment and prevention. If a student were interested in the combined MD-PhD program (read on to learn more about that) the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management would present some opportunities for research topics on the subject of chronic disease.
Island Medical Program
The Island Medical Program is part of UBC’s undergraduate MD program and is partnered with the University of Victoria and with Island Health. Students who are selected for the Island Medical Program will study medicine in Victoria, BC.
Students will have their clinical experiences take place in communities all over Vancouver Island, including remote communities. Because of this, a student seeking a variety of experiences – from mid-sized urban areas to remote or rural areas to Indigenous communities – will find the Island Medical Program rewarding.
Like the Northern Medical Program and Southern Medical Program, the Island Medical Program has room for 32 students; and like the NMP, the IMP’s small class size makes for a close-knit learning experience.
Combined MD-PhD Program
UBC has an interest in training physicians who have a particularly strong connection to the sciences and who have a passion for both medicine and research. These clinician-scientists are of particular interest to UBC.
Special requirements apply to this pathway. Three letters of reference are needed, and the prospective student must have a BSc.
An autobiographical essay is also required. This essay is focused on research interest, much like the American MD-PhD essay. It asks you to speak to why you have chosen the clinician-scientist track, what kind of research you are going to pursue, what you think about – how you perceive – the discipline, and to talk about the medical field that relates to your research, or potential research. There is no formal word count given. Aim for 800-1,000 words to give yourself room to speak to your ideas, but without overloading the applications committee.
If the combined MD-PhD candidate’s application is successful, as reviewed by both the Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, then they will be granted an interview, however the MD-PhD candidates must also undertake a 45-minute panel interview.
The scholastic standards are more stringent here, as the student is essentially applying to two separate sets of admissions criteria, but this track carries with it the benefit of a lower tuition. A combined MD-PhD student will pay $5,404.62 CAD per year where the regular MD program student is on the hook for $19,218.98 CAD per year. Further financial assistance is available for the combined MD-PhD students: $27,000 CAD per year as a stipend. There are requirements attached to the stipend, most of which relate to the student’s obligations to apply for external funding and pursue research.
Some more tips on getting into UBC:
UBC had a very high match rate with its students: 285 received their first match, a greater number than any other Canadian medical school, although in terms of percentage it was behind University of Toronto, University of Ottawa, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and Universite Laval.
UBC’s greatest matches are with family medicine and internal medicine. Combine this with the knowledge that UBC provides great incentives for rural and remote communities and you can see how you can stand out. Family medicine is something that will be needed all through the Interior or the North areas of the province, and it has one of the highest match rates for UBC. If you indicate that these the areas you are planning to go into – both professionally and geographically – that will say to the application committee that you are in the right place.
This is a great school for doctors who are looking to work in BC, in rural communities, or with Indigenous or other undererved communities.
While the University of British Columbia’s medical school favours in-province applicants, there are numerous ways to make yourself appealing to the school in lieu of, or in addition to, that home province edge.
Consider your connection with a diverse cultural heritage or an isolated or rural community, and if you have as much of an interest in cutting-edge research and the scientific aspects of medicine, the combined MD-PhD program can be a rewarding challenge.
1. Do I have to be a resident of British Columbia to go to UBC?
The University of British Columbia accepts out-of-province applicants. Preference, however, is given to BC residents.
Be aware, however, that UBC does not accept international students. To apply for UBC’s medical program, you must be a citizen or permanent resident of Canada.
Refugees are welcomed into the program as well, provided they have permanent resident status. Refugees have a one-year deferral to provide proof of permanent resident status.
Proof of citizenship, permanent resident status, or refugee status must be submitted on interview day.
2. How do I get a BC Services Card?
You have to qualify for the Medical Services Plan (MSP). This means you must be a citizen of Canada, or a permanent resident. You must make your home in BC. You must be present in BC for at least six months in a calendar year (exceptions are made for vacation time).
3. Do I qualify as a diverse Canadian?
Indigenous status is an official government classification and applied to individuals who are First Nations, Metis, or Inuit.
You will require a status card to prove your Indigenous status.
Students who are interested in the Black or Black-multiracial students pathway need only self-identify as Black or Black-multiracial, as there is no official government status here. The personal essay and Black Student MD Admissions Committee show how students applying to this pathway are qualified to do so.
Even if you don’t qualify as Indigenous, Black, or Black multi-racial, you can still highlight any diversity you have – such as coming from an immigrant background – to show to the committee that you have shared values with the school.
4. If I don’t get in to the Combined MD-PhD Program, can I still apply to the regular MD program?
There’s no need to because any candidate who does not meet the combined requirements will be automatically still considered for the standard MD program.
If the regular MD program application is subsequently successful, students can re-apply for the combined MD-PhD after 1 year.
5. Are combined MD-PhD students still able to participate in the rural and remote locations?
Students of the regular MD program as well as the combined MD-PhD program can study in Vancouver, Kelowna (Southern Medical Program), Vancouver Island (Island Medical Program), or Prince George (Northern Medical Program). They are evaluated through the same RRSS scoring that the standard MD-track students use to determine their suitability for remote regions.
6. My GPA and/or MCAT score is low or lower than I’d like. What are my chances of getting in?
Lower, but not zero – depending on specific details.
Consider some strategies on how to get into medical school with a low GPA.
If you are a student with a disability whose grades have been adversely affected through your disability, you might be able to get a little help, too. Submit documentation of your disability and a transcript highlighting the difference between your grades when your disability was not taken care of versus when you were receiving proper, adequate accommodations for your disability. This will allow any committee to understand what you are dealing with and how it has directly affected your GPA. With such reasons in mind, the committee can evaluate your GPA and provide help and support, as well as, hopefully, the boost you need to your scores to get in to medical school in British Columbia.
7. How will my application be evaluated?
On three main fronts: academic criteria, non-academic criteria, and an interview.
Your GPA and MCAT scores form the bulk of the academic criteria. UBC does not weight applications by chosen subjects.
Non-academic criteria covers a wide range of topics: a report on non-academic experiences, employment history, research, awards, and any applicable additional material which is track-related – Indigenous Canadians need to send in a personal essay, for instance.
What the selection committee is looking for initiative, responsibility, leadership, social concern, intellectual curiosity, life experience, and creativity.
8. Do I need letters of reference?
Yes, three of them, but only if you are selected for an interview.
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