Information for Non U.S. Citizens or Non U.S. Permanent Residents
Gaining admission to U.S. medical schools and obtaining funding to pursue that education can be difficult for individuals who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Many medical schools will review the application of an international student without any bias, but many others, particularly state schools, admit few if any international students.
Students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents are not eligible for the federal government-sponsored loans that are used by most U.S. medical students to fund their medical educations. Some medical schools require that students prepay tuition or deposit money sufficient to cover one or more years of tuition and fees into escrow accounts.
A small number of medical schools have merit scholarships that are awarded without regard to U.S. residency status. Canadian students can often secure loans for medical school through the Canadian government. Some students may be able to secure loans or grants from their home countries, but this varies greatly from country to country.
NIH-sponsored Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) grants for MD/PhD positions are limited to U.S. citizens. However, there are some medical schools that exclude international students from their MD programs but will accept these students into their MD/PhD programs. Funding for these students comes from institutional funds, rather than MSTP grants. An AAMC chart (pdf) provides a summary of the MD/PhD programs, policies, and funding.
Information about Medical Schools that accept Non-Canadian Applicants who are not U.S. Permanent Residents
This chart contains information about the number of International Students who apply, are interviewed, and matriculate at U.S. Medical Schools: U.S. Medical School Admissions Information - Financial Aid policies, MCAT policies, and information about in-state, out-of-state, and international applicants.
This chart contains information about the financial aid policies regarding International Medical Students for the schools that accept Non-Canadian Applicants who are not permanent U.S. residents. The bottom of the chart also lists information regarding financial aid resources for medical school for international applicants.
Information for Canadian Students & Students Selecting Canadian Medical Schools
Canadian Students Selecting U.S. Medical Schools
- Many U.S. medical schools consider Canadian applicants the same way they consider international applicants.
Canadian Students Applying to Canadian Medical Schools
There are 17 medical schools in Canada, all of which are described in Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). A much more comprehensive view of these schools can be obtained from “Admissions Requirements of Canadian Faculties of Medicine, Admission in 2017” published by The Association of Canadian Faculties of Medicine (ACFM) at Admissions Requirements ACFM and from the individual school websites. Residency match rates for the individual schools can be viewed on the website of the Canadian Residency Matching Service.
The General Information section of the ACFM guide provides an excellent starting point for understanding the process:
- The number of places available is determined by provincial governments based on educational and financial resources as well as Canada’s future physician workforce requirement. Since the universities are under provincial jurisdiction, the majority of places in a faculty of medicine are allocated to permanent residents of the province in which the university is located.
- An applicant must decide to which faculty or faculties of medicine application will be made. Obviously, the geographic location of a faculty of medicine is of critical importance to a prospective applicant. For those applicants who are free to move to any location where a place may be offered, chances of success in gaining admission may be considerably enhanced. Those who apply to only one faculty of medicine have the smallest chance of being offered admission. As the number of applications increases, so does the chance of being offered a place at a faculty of medicine.
- The competition to enter a faculty of medicine is very keen so it is important that applicants ensure that they fully meet the entry requirements of each faculty of medicine to which they apply.
Information about the schools
The language of instruction at Laval University, the University of Sherbrooke, and the University of Montreal is French. The University of Ottawa teaches in French and English. The language of instruction at the other schools is English.
3-year versus 4-year programs
Most schools have 4 year programs. Laval University lists the program as 4-5 years. McMaster and Calgary both have 3-year programs.
The majority of Canadian medical schools are less expensive than U.S. Medical schools, particularly for residents of the province or residents of Canada more generally, varying from a few thousand CAD to as much as 95,000 CAD for foreign applicants (for the schools that accept foreign applicants). Residents of Ontario can apply for grants and loans through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). Some schools offer merit scholarships. Lines of credit with reasonable rates of interest are commonly used by medical students. Applicants may also want to consult this resource: Financial Aid for Canadian Students.
Selection criteria tend to be more rigid, more formulaic, and more focused on academic and interview performance than on activities, but are also considerably more transparent as compared to U.S. schools. Individual schools clearly list their selection criteria on their websites. For example, the website at McMaster clearly outlines the following:
Selecting our Students
The Undergraduate Medical Program uses two formulae to rank applicants - the first provides a rank order list for invitation to interview, and the second provides a rank order list for advancement to Collation (full file review). The overall weightings reflect our commitment to consider the cognitive and professional qualities of applicants equally.
- Formula 1: 32% Undergraduate Grade Point Average, 32% MCAT Verbal Reasoning OR Critical Analysis and Reasoning Score, 32% CASPer Score and up to 4% Graduate degree bonus (1% Master's/4% PhD).
- Formula 2: 70% Multiple Mini Interview Score, 15% Undergraduate Grade Point Average, 15% MCAT Verbal Reasoning OR Critical Analysis and Reasoning Score.
Course requirements vary from no course requirements at some schools to extensive and specific requirements at other schools, so applicants to Canadian schools need to plan ahead and make sure they are meeting the requirements for the schools to which they plan to apply.
The MCAT is required at 11 schools and not required at 6 (Universite Laval, McGill University, Northern Ontario, University of Montreal, University of Ottawa, and University of Sherbrooke). Some schools have discrete cut-offs. Some schools consider only a portion of the MCAT (e.g. CARS section only). Some schools require additional on-line testing for personality traits (CASPer).
Different schools use different methods for calculating GPA’s, but these are all spelled out on the respective school websites. Some Canadian schools calculate the grade “A+” into the GPA and since Harvard does not grant this grade, this can be a slight issue in terms of comparison. This is, however, not true for other schools. The Ontario Medical Schools Application Service (OMSAS) uses two different scales, one for colleges that use “A+” and one for schools that do not, so this helps to boost Harvard GPA’s. Schools that use OMSAS may use the OMSAS GPA for their initial cut and then recalculate GPA’s using their own criteria. Some schools create a more complicated academic score based on GPA, course load, level of difficulty of courses, and the presence or absence of graduate courses. GPA’s are generally treated the same regardless of the institution of origin, meaning there is neither a penalty nor a bonus for a Harvard GPA. Some schools weight the later years of school more than the first year, while some count only the last three years for students who have completed all 4 years.
Canadian students commonly take 5 courses per semester and at least the University of Toronto Medical School admissions office drops a certain number of the lowest grades for students who have taken a full load. Students who have not taken a “full course load” will not have courses dropped. Again, since Harvard students do not generally have a large number of “extra” courses to drop, this may also tend to make some Harvard students appear less competitive by comparison. On the University of Toronto website, it is stated that students who wish special consideration of weighting for “unusual circumstances should submit their request, supported by reasons using the Academic Explanations Essay.” We cannot recommend for or against doing this, but rather suggest that students take into account their individual circumstances and make a decision. Some schools require that students have taken a full load for the last two years, but several medical schools and OMSAS have assured us that they are familiar with U.S. colleges, understand that the full load is not 5 courses, and do not hold this against U.S. applicants.
For the individual Canadian schools for which the information is available, the acceptance rates ranged from approximately 6% to 20%. There is a wider acceptance range among individual U.S. schools.
The six medical schools in Ontario use the centralized Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS) while the other 11 medical schools require individual applications. Most Canadian medical schools strongly favor applicants from within the province and some are only open to Canadian citizens/permanent residents. Students who are planning to apply through OMSAS should carefully review the OMSAS Instruction Booklet.
Deadlines vary considerably among the different medical schools. Applicants applying to Canadian medical schools are advised to make a careful list of deadlines for all medical schools. Unlike U.S. medical schools, early submission is not decidedly advantageous since no applications are reviewed until after the deadline for submission. Applicants are advised, however, not to wait for the last possible moment. One school (Dalhousie University) indicated that a preference for interview site (Halifax versus New Brunswick) was given to early applicants as opposed to later applicants, but that this was a small advantage. For one school, applications are available all year round. For other schools, applications open at various times between June and November with application deadlines as early as August 15 and as late as March 1. There are a variety of processes and interim deadlines for the individual schools that need to be carefully monitored. These are subject to change every year, so applicants should research these closely.
Letters of Recommendation
Individual schools have varying requirements for letters. For OMSAS, you can send in 3 individual letters, each with the required Confidential Assessment Form as well as the letter from your house committee. The house committee letter does not count as one of the three letters and does not require a Confidential Assessment Form.
At present, many Canadian medical schools use the MMI format, and some schools have a hybrid MMI model. Many also use CASPer (computer-based assessment for sampling personal characteristics). Interviews tend to be later than at U.S schools and some school offer only one or two very specific dates. Some schools interview as early as November and many interview as late as April. February, March, and April are the most common times. Applicants to multiple Canadian schools need to check their spring availability carefully since so many dates are concentrated in those months.
Acceptance dates tend to be later than those at U.S institutions and are quite variable. Most schools send acceptances in May, however this varies and ranges from February to August.
As stated above, for many Canadian medical schools, the spaces are more limited and the selection criteria are more objective as compared to U.S. schools as a whole. A corollary of this is that some students who would be considered perfectly qualified for admission are not admitted in a given year because there simply was not space, but may re-apply without prejudice in a future year.