QuARMS stands for Queen’s University’s Accelerated Route to Medical School, a program designed to provide opportunity for Canadian Black-identified and Indigenous students to accelerate their journey to medical school. It’s a highly prestigious program that offers just a handful of students the opportunity to enter Queen’s University Medical School after only two years of undergraduate study. This guide will cover everything you need to know about QuARMS, including eligibility requirements, application procedures, curriculum, and more!
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What is QuARMS?
Each year, the QuARMS program accepts 10 high-achieving Black and Indigenous high school graduates into one of five undergraduate degree programs at Queen’s University. After completing two years of a Bachelor’s program, the 10 QuARMS students are then allowed to apply to Queen’s Medical School without submitting their MCAT score. If accepted into Queen’s Medical School, the QuARMS students will move directly into the four-year medical school program and graduate with their MD after a total of six years of postsecondary study.
The QuARMS program has a dual purpose. Its first purpose is to reduce the amount of time prospective medical students need to spend in an undergraduate program before embarking on their medical studies. Its second purpose is to correct the underrepresentation of Black and Indigenous peoples in the medical profession in Canada. In restricting the program to Black and Indigenous applicants, Queen’s hopes to attract and encourage more minorities to enter the medical field.
It is important to note that acceptance into the QuARMS program does not guarantee acceptance into Queen’s Medical School – you will still have to apply to the medical school after two years of your Bachlor’s program, and you can be denied a place if you fail to meet their requirements. We will cover exactly what you need to do to remain in good standing as a QuARMS student in the “After Acceptance” section later in this article.
The QuARMS program has strict qualifications for prospective applicants. To be eligible, you must meet the following criteria:
Apart from the mandatory criteria listed above, the QuARMS program also has very high standards for the personal qualities they wish to see in their applicants. Read through the list below, and reflect on how you might demonstrate each quality:
- Exceptional leadership qualities. Consider roles you have had that gave you a degree of responsibility, such as being team captain of a sports team or helping to run a club at your high school.
- Curious by nature. Think about the ways you seek to deepen your knowledge as a self-motivated learner: reading widely, music lessons, summer programs, or even travelling.
- Diverse academic interests. Have you taken a variety of electives in high school, or joined academic clubs and interests after-school groups?
- Commitment to service. Are you involved in fundraising activities, volunteering for a local charity like a soup kitchen or animal shelter, or advocacy?
- Proven academic ability. Do you do the bare minimum just to pass your courses, or do you aim high in every class you take in high school?
- Critical and creative thinking. Consider situations in your life where you had to find solutions to your problems. What steps did you take to resolve the problem that demonstrated critical or creative thinking?
- Ability to relate to people. Think about activities you have done that have exposed you to other people and cultures (travel, volunteering, or even reading diverse media), and your strategies for forming strong social bonds with others.
- Maturity and integrity. Are you a focused and responsible person? Do you know how to set goals and achieve them?
- Humility, altruism, and humanitarianism. How do you demonstrate your concern for humanity at large? Examples could include your volunteer activities and your advocacy for the social issues you are passionate about (e.g. poverty, racism).
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The QuARMS program is based on four key principles: communication, critical thinking, scientific foundation, and the role of the physician. The goal its unique curriculum is to nurture QuARMS students by helping them develop these four key principles. One portion of the program enables students to meet the requirements of the first two years of a Bachelor’s degree, while also fulfilling some mandatory course requirements.
The second portion of the program is meant to help you acquire the skills and knowledge relevant to the study of medicine. The special program consists of seminar-based modules that take place for 3 hours every week, and require 1-3 hours a week outside of class for the completion of your assignments. It is important to understand that these modules do not count towards the requirements of your regular Bachelor’s program. You will also complete a mandatory experiential learning module offered in the summer term for both your first and second year. The summer modules are also not eligible towards the degree requirements for your Bachelor’s program.
One of the great privileges of being a QuARMS student is that you will be given a strong mentorship component throughout the two years of your Bachelor’s program. As a QuARMS student, you will be assigned to a “mentor group” consisting of one or more faculty members and medical students from various years of study. You will also be invited to monthly “fireside chats” that are just for QuARMS students, where you will meet practicing physicians and medical experts. You will also be encouraged to volunteer in the local Kingston community by working with select organizations and community groups.
The QuARMS Application Process
The application process for QuARMS involves two main stages: the application stage and the interview stage.
Qualified applicants must first apply to an undergraduate program at Queen’s University through the Ontario Universities’ Applications Centre (OUAC). The application deadline for high school students is January 15th. The base application fee is $150 CDN to apply to three programs, and each additional program application will cost $50 CDN each.
The OUAC application will ask you to enter information about the schools you have attended. You will then select the programs you wish to apply to in the Program Choices section. For QuARMS, you may choose to apply to one or more of the five following Bachelor’s programs: Bachelor of Arts (Honours); Bachelor of Science (Honours); Bachelor of Computing Science (Honours); Bachelor of Life Sciences (Honours); Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours). You will be able to select your desired major within one of the above degree programs. When applying, you MUST select “QuARMS Pathway” as “subject of major interest” from the drop-down menu for at least one of the Queen’s Bachelor’s programs you are applying to on your OUAC application.
Your secondary school grades are usually sent directly from your school to the OUAC, which then forwards them to the university. If any issues arise in receiving your transcripts, the university will contact you to let you know.
After you submit, the OUAC forwards your application to Queen’s for assessment. You will then receive an e-mail from Queen’s with instructions for accessing their SOLUS student centre (Queen’s online student accounts/registration system). In the SOLUS centre, you will find a special To Do list that will list all of the documentation Queen’s needs to consider your application. Your To Do list will depend on which program you applied to. After completing your To Do list, you will be able to check the status of your application through SOLUS.
If you are selected for consideration for QuARMS, you will be sent a supplemental application in February.
If you are one of the 40 applicants who receives an interview invitation in March, you must start preparing for your interview right away. Since all interviews take place in April, you will only have a few weeks at most to prepare.
Effective preparation will be crucial to your success. To prepare for your interview, you should practice answering common questions, such as:
Keep in mind that the right practice can help you grow in confidence and perfect your answers. Practicing with a medical school advisor or professional consultant will help you get feedback on your answers and presentation.
You can also create a good impression for your interview by following some basic etiquette. Show up on time, dress professionally, and be personable and friendly with your interviewer. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the campus layout and where your interview will take place before your interview, so that you know where to go when the time comes.
The application process follows the timeline below:
If you are one of the lucky 10 applicants selected for QuARMS, it is important to know that you still have to maintain your standing as a QuARMS student by meeting the following requirements.
Before you begin your Bachelor’s program, you must submit the following documents:
- A complete criminal record and vulnerable sector (CPIC) screening check
- Up-to-date immunization records. All mandatory vaccinations MUST be complete by the time you begin your studies.
There are no special tuition costs associated with the QuARMS program. QuARMS students pay the regular tuition fees of whichever Bachelor’s program they are enrolled in. If admitted to the School of Medicine, students pay the usual medical school tuition and fees of each year of the Doctor of Medicine program.
If you are accepted into the QuARMS program, you may not defer your offer. Serious extenuating circumstances will sometimes be considered, but there is still no guarantee that the deferral will be granted to you.
Regardless of which eligible Bachelor’s program you enroll into, all QuARMS students will be full-time students, and will have to complete 5 courses per term during the first two years of their program. All QuARMS students must also complete the following courses while in their undergraduate program at Queens:
- BIOL 102/103
- CHEM 112
- MATH 121 (Note that STATISTICS 263, or an equivalent course, can be taken as an alternative if you did not take Calculus in high school)
- ENGLISH 100
- PHGY 215/216. This course is usually taken in your second year, as BIOL 102/103 is a pre-requisite for this course
- STATISTICS 263 should be taken in your second year
First year CORE courses must be taken in-class, and it is very strongly recommended by Queen’s that all of the classes you take during the two years of your Bachelor’s be in-person and not online. You will be required to take all of the 2nd-year core requirements of your Bachelor’s program. Keep in mind that if you decide that QuARMS is not the right fit for you at any point, you may withdraw from the program without any academic penalty.
Applying to Queen’s School of Medicine
Once you have successfully completed the two years of your undergraduate program, you must apply directly to the Admissions Committee at the Queen’s School of Medicine. You will not need to apply through the OMSAS system like a traditional premed applicant, and you will not be asked to sit the MCAT.
The Admissions Committee will review your application and decide whether or not to make you an offer of admission to the medical school. Remember, getting into the QuARMS program does not guarantee a spot for you at the medical school at Queen’s – while the program tries to prepare you for successful admission, and allows you to apply after only two years of undergraduate study, there is still no guarantee of acceptance.
Once you have applied to the medical school at Queen’s, one of two outcomes will take place:
- If you are accepted into Queen’s Medical School, you will start your 4-year medical degree without having to finish the final two years of your Bachelor’s program.
- If you are NOT accepted into Queen’s Medical School, or choose to decline their offer, then you may continue in your undergraduate program as a regular student. You will not receive any academic penalty in your regular Bachelor’s program for having been rejected, or if you have refused the offer to the medical school. If you once again decide to pursue medical school upon graduating from your Bachelor’s program, you may apply to Queen’s Medical School using the usual medical school application system.
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Is QuARMS Right for You?
In determining whether or not you would be a good fit for the QuARMS program, consider the following lists of pros and cons before you apply to the program.
Pros of the Program
Cons of the Program
Since everyone’s preferences and circumstances are unique, you should carefully consider your options before applying to QuARMS. Speak to some of your trusted academic mentors, such as teachers or counsellors, or even your family and friends, if you are unsure about whether you would be a good fit for the QuARMS program. Sometimes hearing an objective perspective from someone else can help you in clarifying your own goals and feelings.
Here's a quick recap of what you need to do after you have been accepted to QuARMS:
1. What is QuARMS?
QuARMS stands for Queen’s University’s Accelerated Route to Medical School, and is a program exclusively for Black-identified and Indigenous Canadians and permanent residents. QuARMS allows successful applicants to follow a special dual-curriculum during the first two years of their undergraduate study, and to apply to the Queen’s School of Medicine after their second year. If accepted into the School of Medicine, the QuARMS student will then proceed to take the four-year medical school program, allowing them to achieve an MD after six years of postsecondary study in total.
2. Who can apply to QuARMS?
QuARMS is open to Black and Indigenous Canadians and permanent residents of Canada in their final year of high school. Multi-racial applicants who have black ancestry and identify with that ancestry are also permitted to apply. All applicants must be enrolled in their final year of high school at the time of their application – QuARMS is not a program for mature students. Indigenous applicants will be required to submit proof of their Indigenous status.
3. Does QuARMS guarantee admittance to the School of Medicine?
No. QuARMS students will have to apply to the Admissions Committee at the Queen’s School of Medicine after the first two years of their Bachelor’s program, and acceptance is not guaranteed.
4. How many applicants are accepted per year?
There are only 10 spots available in the QuARMS program per year, and all spots are reserved for Black-identified and Indigenous students.
5. What are the application requirements?
You must be a Black-Identified or Indigenous Canadian or permanent resident in your final year of high school. While a strong academic profile is a given, the QuARMS program also expects applicants to demonstrate the following key qualities: exceptional leadership abilities; curious by nature; diverse academic interests; commitment to service; proven academic ability; critical and creative thinking; ability to relate to people; maturity and integrity; humility, altruism, and humanitarianism. These key qualities are covered in more detail in the “What are the Qualifications for QuARMS?” section of the article above.
6. How do I apply?
All prospective QuARMS student must apply to an eligible Bachelor’s program at Queen’s University through OUAC (Ontario Universities’ Applications Centre). The five eligible programs are: Bachelor of Arts (Honours); Bachelor of Science (Honours); Bachelor of Computing Science (Honours); Bachelor of Life Sciences (Honours); Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours).
When applying through OUAC, you indicate your interest in being considered for the QuARMS program by selecting “QuARMS Pathway” as “subject of major interest” from the drop-down menu for at least one of the Queen’s Bachelor’s programs you are applying to. If selected, you will receive a supplemental application for QuARMS in the February following your application.
7. What is the timeline for the application process?
You will submit your application to a Bachelor’s program at Queen’s through OUAC during the November-January admissions window. You will indicate your interest in being considered for QuARMS as you apply to your program of choice. If selected for consideration, you will receive a supplemental application for the QuARMS program in February. In March, approximately 40 applicants will receive invitations to attend interviews for the QuARMS program. If you receive an invitation, you will attend your interview during the month of April. At the end of April/beginning of May, you will be notified if your application to QuARMS has been accepted or rejected. In June, successful applicants will be sent a checklist to ensure everything is in order before you begin your studies at Queen’s. You must submit all of the required documentation before you begin your studies at Queen’s.
8. What documentation do I need to submit before starting my studies?
You must submit a completed criminal record and vulnerable sector (CPIC) screening check, as well as up-to-date vaccination records that include 10 mandatory vaccinations. For a full list of mandatory vaccinations, refer to the “After Acceptance” section in the article above. What mandatory courses must I complete during my Bachelor’s?
The following courses are mandatory for all QuARMS students: BIOL 102/103; CHEM 112; MATH 121 (or STATISTICS 263, or an equivalent course); ENGLISH 100; PHGY 215/216; STATISTICS 263. You must be a full-time undergraduate student, taking five courses per term. It is strongly recommended that all classes be taken in-person instead of online.
9. What other program requirements must I fulfil as a QuARMS student?
Because of the dual-curriculum program designed for QuARMS students, you will also be required to attend special 3-hour weekly seminar-based modules to help you develop the skills necessary for the study of medicine, and devote 1-3 hours per week to completing assignments. You will also attend mentorship events and participate in community service activities with your fellow QuARMS students to give back to your local community in Kingston.
10. How do I apply to the School of Medicine as a QuARMS student?
As a QuARMS student, you will apply directly to the Admissions Committee at the Queen’s School of Medicine after completing two years of your Bachelor’s program. The Admissions Committee will consider your application, and either make you an offer to enter the Queen’s School of Medicine, or reject your application.
11. Do I need to sit the MCAT before applying to the School of Medicine?
No. One of the major advantages of QuARMS is that you are NOT required to sit the MCAT. Successful QuARMS students will enter the Queen’s School of Medicine without either the MCAT or a traditional OMSAS application.
12. What happens if I am rejected by the School of Medicine, or change my mind?
There is no academic penalty for any QuARMS student who receive a medical school rejection, or who decides to either withdraw from the QuARMS program or decline an offer of admission to the medical school. If you are rejected or decline the offer, you will be able to continue your Bachelor’s program as a regular undergraduate student. You are also free to re-apply to the School of Medicine as a traditional premed applicant upon graduating from your Bachelor’s program.
13. How do I know if QuARMS is right for me?
The unique nature of the QuARMS program means that it is not an ideal fit for everyone. Every potential applicant must consider the pros and cons offered by the program before applying.
Some of the pros of the program include the accelerated path to medical school, the special mentorship and training offered by the QuARMS program, no MCAT requirement, the ability to apply directly to the Admissions Committee after your second year of study, and the lack of an academic penalty if you are ultimately rejected or change your mind.
Some of the cons include missing out on the final two years of your Bachelor’s program, the fact that the program is designed only for admission to Queen’s School of Medicine, the extra work and commitment due to the mandatory seminars and community service, and the fact that admission to the medical school at Queen’s is not guaranteed. You should consult with your trusted academic mentors, such as teachers and counsellors, or even your friends and family if you wish to discuss whether the QuARMS program is right for you.
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