For Canadian students that aspire to become doctors, it’s important to know that there are only 17 Canadian medical programs to choose from.
Unfortunately, due to the limited number of Canadian medical schools (and thus the intense competition for the short supply of medical program spots in the Canadian university system), many highly qualified students end up left out of the selection process.
This guide to the Canadian medical school admission requirements will offer prospective students insight into the selection process used by medical school admissions committees, and also offer some potential alternatives (such as medical school abroad), in the case that you were unable to secure one of the few, coveted spots in the Canadian medical school system.
Prerequisite Courses Required for Medical School
For students who want to complete the prerequisite courses required by Canadian medical schools, a Canadian university bachelor’s degree from a pre-med program is the leading choice. But, it is definitely not the only way of satisfying admissions committee requirements.
In fact, the successful completion of any four-year bachelor’s degree from a recognized university with a focus on life science courses (such as physics), chemistry courses (such as organic chemistry and general chemistry), and math courses can prepare students very well to succeed in an MD program.
Even students who opt for a full course load of the social sciences during their undergraduate studies can go on to become successful medical students – so long as they plan ahead and take equivalent courses to satisfy science prerequisites.
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) & Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirements
Strong academic performance is the first thing that medical schools want to identify in their admissions process, which is why academic performance indicators play such an important role.
In the past, the sole consideration was an applicant’s grade point average (GPA score), but schools are now moving towards a more fluid calculation to determine academic performance. Some schools use minimum score thresholds, while others express their GPA requirements in terms of percentages.
In practice, the minimum GPA score required for acceptance is normally around 3.6, however, to compete with top candidates at many schools, such as the University of Toronto or Memorial University, a minimum GPA of 3.8 or higher is needed.
Medical College Admission Test scores are usually put on the same level as GPA scores. They are required by all Canadian medical schools, except for Quebec’s medical schools, the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.
As with other requirements, they vary somewhat from school to school, but applicants should target a MCAT score in the low 500s to be considered for admission.
In addition to traditional academic requirements and prerequisite courses, Canadian medical programs also use a variety of other means to judge the non-academic qualities of prospective students and decide who will be admitted.
Confidential Assessment Forms
Each Canadian medical school has their own confidential assessment form(s) that they use at their discretion to help make difficult admissions decisions.
Personal Statement / Personal Essays
These requirements vary at each different Canadian medical school, but their goals are similar. They help flesh out each student’s portrait and give students the opportunity to express their motivation for applying to medical school.
In some cases, students are presented with a short prompt to reply to, while others simply require a personal statement.
CASPer Test Results
This situational judgement test is quickly gaining popularity in the Canadian medical school system, as it is now required by a dozen of Canada’s 17 medical schools.
Each Canadian medical school integrates the CASPer test differently in their admissions process, but it is becoming a widely-used tool to identify the candidates with the greatest potential to succeed in medical practice. This is true of both Canadian faculties as well as medical schools in the Caribbean.
Reference letters are an important part of many academic applications, and especially so for medical school applications. Admissions committee members want to hear about your ambition and strengths from people in positions of authority in places you have worked or studied in the past.
These requirements vary from school to school, but usually involve at least one letter from an academic referee, such as a professor from your undergraduate studies, and one from a professional referee, such as a supervisor you had in a working role.
Interviews in front of med school admissions committees are nothing new, but their format has evolved over time. Now, many schools prefer the multiple mini-interview format to pose complex questions involving hypothetical, ethically challenging situations to put the critical thinking and communication skills of prospective students to the test while under pressure.
Citizenship and Geographic Considerations
Given the limited number of medical schools in Canada, many institutions have policies in place that favor in-province applicants over out-of-province applicants and international students. This situation comes as a result of the longstanding doctor shortage in Canada, as policy makers believe that it favours students who will go on to a medical practice in Canadian communities.
One of the ways in which certain Canadian med school admissions committees favour local applicants over out-of-province applicants is by raising the bar for academic requirements, such as minimum grade point average and MCAT scores.
For example, at the Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine, the minimum GPA score required for in-province applicants is 3.30, however, the minimum score is increased for out-of-province and international applicants to 3.70.
Even seemingly accessible Canadian medical schools have similar policies in place to prioritize local applicants. The best example of this dynamic at work fis found at the Canadian medical school with the highest overall acceptance rate, the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine.
For this Canadian medical school, the overall acceptance rate stands far above the Canadian medical school average, but the academic barrier to entry is increased for out-of-province applicants through increased MCAT score requirements, and they do not accept international students In fact, just over half of Canadian medical schools are not open to foreign students because they require Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status in order to apply.
Applying to Medical Schools in Canada
There are several important dates to keep in mind during the medical school application process, notably the opening and closing dates for the application period, as well as the timeframe for interviews.
These vary from school to school, but they are broadly aligned and arrive at the same time of year, so anyone applying to multiple Canadian medical schools should get a head start on the process in order to avoid potential scheduling conflicts for interview or missed application deadlines.
Although tuition costs are usually what people are focused on when making plans for medical school, the fees associated with the application process can add up quickly. Each institution charges a fee ranging from $70 to $150, with additional fees required for out-of-province applicants and international applicants in most cases.
Options for Canadian Students
There are many moving parts involved in applying to medical schools in Canada. For young Canadians, getting accepted requires not only a strong academic background but also making sure that your qualities shine through the application process.
In recent years, over 80% of applicants have been rejected, leaving many aspiring doctors stuck on their path to achieving their career goals. For these students, medical schools in Caribbean, such as the American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine, offer a great alternative.
As a top-tier Caribbean medical school, AUA offers a quality of education and accreditation status comparable to medical schools in Canada but with far greater accessibility. International medical graduates from AUA are eligible for Canadian residency programs, licensure and clinical rotations.
Prospective students can avoid many of the academic and economic barriers they encounter in Canada by studying at AUA. Canadians in the AUA MD program are eligible for Canadian student aid, loans and scholarships, as well scholarships and awards offered by AUA.
Founded with a commitment to support underserved communities, AUA uses a holistic approach to ensure diversity and fairness when selecting students, so medical school applicants from Canada do not have minimum MCAT score requirements for admission, only for matriculation.
AUA offers Canadians a much needed, accessible alternative to the Canadian medical school system.