Applying to Medical Schools

7 Things to Remember When Applying to Medical Schools in the United States

Thousands of Canadian medical school applicants across the border each year in search of a medical degree. While there are obvious disadvantages (adjusting to a different health-care system, returning to a Canadian residency, and much higher education costs), the higher acceptance rates in American medical schools (around 36.2 percent overall, according to the AAMC, compared to around 19.6 percent in Canada) can make an American medical education appealing. If you’re a Canadian considering going south for medical school, here are some things you should keep in mind:

1. Consider what you’ll do after medical school.

The decisions you make today will decide your future course. Do you wish to complete your residency training in Canada? In such a scenario, you should study allopathic medicine; graduates of approved allopathic medical schools in the United States are qualified for the Canadian R-1 match.

Osteopathic graduates are also eligible for the CaRMS R-1 match, but only Quebec accepts them unconditionally at the current moment; the rest of the provinces consider them international medical graduates (IMGs) with extra credentials. However, with the recent (2020) combined match in the United States blurring the line between osteopathic and allopathic training, D.O. graduates are anticipated to get more respect in the coming years.

 An osteopathic residency programme might be a good choice if you want to stay in the United States for your residency. The College of Family Physicians of Canada recognises D.O. residents trained in the United States, making it easier for you to return to Canada following your residency.

2. Timing is important.

The application season in the United States begins significantly sooner than it does in Canada. While it is possible to apply later in the season, you should strive to be among the initial group of foreign applicants to offer yourself the greatest opportunity. This implies that you must:

  • As soon as feasible, submit your primary application. The application season for allopathic schools began on May 3rd, and the first day to submit is May 31st; the season for osteopathic schools began on May 4th, and you may apply as soon as you’re ready.
  • Return your secondary essays as soon as possible (within 10-14 days of receipt).

This timetable necessitates a strenuous schedule, but one that will pay dividends in terms of acceptances. If you’re approved, you’ll have time (perhaps a long time) to get the I-20 visa you’ll need to study in the United States.

3. Use only as necessary.

The Medical School Admission requirements (MSAR®) is your guide to each school’s requirements. You’ll get a list of 59 programmes if you filter for US institutions that accept Canadian applicants. However, you must read the tiny print thoroughly. Canadian alumni of the University of Nebraska and the University of Rochester, for example, are welcome to apply, but other Canadians are not. The University of Cincinnati welcomes Canadians who have completed 20 scientific hours in a U.S. university. Others, such as Mayo and Wake Forest, say they accept Canadian applications on a case-by-case basis, but the fine print stipulates that applicants must be US citizens or have permanent status in the United States. The University of Arizona accepts applicants from Canadians, but students must be citizens of the United States or have permanent status in the United States by the time they matriculate.

 Admissions committees that admit a larger number of Canadian candidates nonetheless assess them differently. Some allopathic colleges consider them international applicants who must meet more stringent admissions requirements. They may be considered after applicants from the United States. The following schools fall within this category:

Medical schools in the United States that recognise Canadians as foreign applicants

Program NameAcceptance rate for all international applicants
Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons0.58%
Duke University School of Medicine0.76%
Emory University School of Medicine2.87%
Howard University College of Medicine2.05%
New York Medical College2.05%
Northwestern University The Feinberg School of Medicine3.09%
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School0%
Saint Louis University School of Medicine3.80%
San Juan Bautista School of Medicine0%
Tufts University School of Medicine0.39%
University of Colorado1.50%
University of Connecticut School of Medicine0.41%
University of Illinois College of Medicine7.38%
University of Louisville School of Medicine0%
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine1.09%
University of Utah School of Medicine0.62%
University of Virginia School of Medicine6.08%
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine3.21%
Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University0.47%

Allopathic institutions that are “Canadian-friendly” examine Canadian applications in the same way as applicants from the United States (although state schools may view them as out-of-state applicants, who often have a lower acceptance rate than in-state applicants). These are some of the schools:

Medical schools in the United States that accept Canadian applications in the same way as American applicants.

Program NameAcceptance rate for all out-of-state applicants
Boston University School of Medicine3.59%
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine6.17%
Central Michigan University College of Medicine>.5%
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth2.59%
George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences1.80%
Georgetown University School of Medicine2.53%
Harvard Medical School2.58%
Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai3.19%
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine3.88%
Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans>.5%
Medical College of Wisconsin>1.2%
Meharry Medical College>1%
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine>.32%
NYU Grossman School of Medicine2.11%
New York University Long Island School of Medicine1.06%
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania4.15%
Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University5.61%
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School2.03%
Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University3.18%
Stanford University School of Medicine1.58%
SUNY Upstate Medical University Alan & Marlene Norton College of Medicine4.71%
Tulane University School of Medicine>1%
Universidad Central del Caribe School of Medicine>1%
University of Arizona College of Medicine0.87%
University of California Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine2.15%
University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine3.37%
University of Hawaii John A Burns School of Medicine1.14%
University of Maryland1.64%
University of Massachussetts Medical School4.47%
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine1.19%
Virginia Commonwealth University3.49%
Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine6.63%
Wayne State University School of Medicine5.07%
Weill Cornell Medicine3.62%
Yale School of Medicine4.47%

Others will consider Canadian candidates on a case-by-case basis, usually with some limitations. These are some of the schools:

Medical schools in the United States that examine Canadian applicants on a case-by-case basis

Program NameCriteria
Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern CaliforniaN/A
Loma Linda University School of MedicinePreference to qualified members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Mayo Clinic Alix School of MedicineRequires proof of Canadian provincial or federal financial support
Ponce Health Sciences University School of MedicineMust demonstrate proficiency in Spanish
University of California Davis School of MedicineRequires strong ties to California
University of Cincinnati College of MedicineMust have completed at least 20 hours of BCPM coursework at a U.S. college or university
University of Kentucky College of MedicineRequires undergraduate or graduate degree in Kentucky; not eligible for loans or institutional scholarships
University of Nebraska College of MedicineRequires degree from UNebraska
University of New Mexico School of MedicineRequires strong ties to New Mexico or tribal affiliation
University of Rochester School of Medicine & DentistryRequires degree from URochester
USF Health Morsani College of MedicineN/A
West Virginia University School of MedicineN/A
  • Finally, osteopathic institutions in general have a more inviting atmosphere. The “Canadian Initiative” at Michigan State University even offers special tuition reductions and accreditation as an authorised non-Canadian medical school for the Canadian residency match to Canadian medical students interested in promoting osteopathic medicine in Canada.
  • Other osteopathic institutions should keep in mind that osteopathic medicine is not well-recognized in Canada, thus you’ll almost certainly have to do your residency in the United States. You should be able to practise eventually, but you’ll have to jump through a few hoops first.

Use the MSAR (for allopathic programmes) and contact individual schools to learn more about the particular criteria for institutions that interest you. (Although there are listings available online, don’t rely on them completely.) Some students are too old to attend the newer schools, and school regulations change often.) You won’t lose time or money if you conduct your homework ahead of time.

4. Demonstrate a well-rounded personality

Successful Canadian candidates tend to have extraordinarily high MCAT scores and GPAs, even if they carefully choose their school list (American programmes consider both science and non-science GPAs). Even D.O. institutions, which depend less heavily on mathematical requirements, frequently need non-US students to have higher than average GPAs.

However, American medical schools, more than Canadian medical schools, prefer to go beyond quantitative measurements and consider candidates as a whole. Extracurricular activities (research, community service, and, most importantly, clinical experience) are essential for this. For a long time, Canadian candidates have struggled to gain clinical experience. Access to the medical arena has always been restricted due to legal limits, and pandemic restrictions have just aggravated the problem.

You’ll have to think outside the box to get around this. Working as an EMT or paramedic is one approach to obtaining clinical experience; another is to participate in clinical missions abroad. If none of these options is available to you, look for additional ways to help your community, particularly its most vulnerable individuals. While it isn’t clinical experience, organisations that support homeless communities, addiction and mental health services, food banks, and other similar organisations are frequently in need of assistance, and while it isn’t clinical experience, it can help you demonstrate qualities like empathy and cultural competence, which admissions committees value highly.

The epidemic, as bad as it has been, has provided new chances for Canadian premeds. Previously, most Canadians seeking shadowing experience had to go to the United States, where privacy and patient care rules were less stringent. Virtual shadowing, on the other hand, has exploded in popularity in the last two years. It’s not quite the same as being in a doctor’s office with a patient, but it’s a close second. It could also introduce you to some of the less well-known specialisations that you wouldn’t find through regular shadowing. Virtual shadowing companies abound, and a fast Internet search will reveal them. Some even give you a certificate to prove you were present and paid attention. You may keep track of these hours (while keeping in mind that they are virtual) in your programme.

5. Select your sources carefully.

Find people who know you well and are willing to provide wonderful recommendations for you. Canadian self-deprecation has no place in evaluation letters. Provide a list of your highlights as well as a CV when requesting a letter, and be as clear as possible about any specific areas you’d like your recommender to mention. They will, in most situations, welcome such advice.

6. Demonstrate your fitness

When the secondaries arrive, be prepared to show them some love. It’s not enough to say things like “early clinical exposure” and “excellent faculty.” Examine each program’s goal and philosophy, as well as its facilities, curriculum, research, and student-led activities. You aren’t ready if you can’t figure out what makes the school special.

It’s also a good idea to mention any ties you have to the school or the surrounding region. Have you ever visited this location? Was your research supervisor a postdoctoral researcher there? Do you have any relatives that live nearby? Will you be able to rely on others for help? You can demonstrate your fit by citing your expertise in the programme as well as your local support network. 

7. Get ready for the interview

Unlike Canadian institutions, which frequently use MMIs, most American programmes employ a typical interview approach in which you must talk about yourself. Adding practise time to your early preparations will make a major impact if talking extensively about your life and experiences is not something you’re comfortable with.

In conclusion

Applying to medical schools in the United States might be difficult, but if you follow these procedures, you’ll be in the best possible shape.

Do you need assistance applying to medical school in the United States or elsewhere? Explore our Medical School Admissions Services and work one-on-one with a seasoned application specialist who can help you get into the ideal medical school for YOU.

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