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Blog / Jw Guide For Navigating U S Medical School Admissions As A Canadian Applicant

JW Guide for Navigating U.S. Medical School Admissions as a Canadian Applicant

Written by Seza on Sep 11, 2023

JW Guide for Navigating U.S. Medical School Admissions as a Canadian Applicant

More and more Canadian students are choosing to study medicine in the United States due to various reasons, such as seeking international exposure or escaping the competitiveness of Canadian medical school admissions. This shift raises questions about differences in the application process, acceptance rates, tuition fees, and future prospects for training and citizenship. This guide aims to answer these questions and provide a clear path for those considering pursuing a medical degree in the U.S.

U.S. Medical Schools for Canadian Students

When it comes to aspiring Canadian applicants applying to U.S. medical schools, the path isn’t without its challenges. Just as Canadian medical schools are known for their competitive admissions, U.S. medical schools also have a rigorous selection process. Only 41 percent of applicants were accepted in the most recent application cycle. This is due to the growing demand for medical education, matching the increasing need for doctors in both countries.

Canadian applicants, however, have certain advantages. Canadian citizens who completed their undergraduate degrees in Canada usually face fewer obstacles in getting their previous coursework recognized. Some U.S. medical schools even consider them on par with out-of-state U.S. citizens. Yet, the acceptance rate for international students, including Canadians, remains relatively low at 9 percent due to funding preferences for U.S. citizens.

Financial Considerations for Canadian Students

Studying medicine in the U.S. comes at a significantly higher cost compared to Canadian medical schools. Tuition for non-resident students in the U.S. can amount to around $88,095 to $90,945 CAD annually, which is approximately five times more expensive than the average Canadian medical school tuition. Scholarships and financial aid typically available to U.S. students are often not accessible to Canadian students.

For most Canadian students, this means relying on hefty student loans or lines of credit, potentially accumulating a substantial debt of around $330,000 CAD upfront (excluding living expenses). Considering limited income during the medical degree and a residency salary ranging from $60,000 to $75,000 CAD per year, repayment could be significantly prolonged compared to a Canadian medical degree costing around $67,200 CAD in total.

Residency Prospects and Implications

Choosing a U.S. medical degree could impact your residency prospects. Canadian medical school graduates tend to have higher matching rates for Canadian residencies compared to their U.S. counterparts. While a U.S. medical degree might provide an advantage in the U.S. residency matching system, there’s still a preference for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Canadians aiming for Canadian residencies face high matching rates, while those considering U.S. residencies have to navigate visa limitations.

While a Canadian medical degree maximizes chances for Canadian residencies, a U.S. degree is advantageous for North American residencies compared to degrees from other foreign countries. Education standards align more closely between the U.S. and Canada, resulting in better preparation for licensing exams and evaluations.

In both systems, international medical graduates face challenges, with match rates considerably lower. This makes the choice between Canadian and American degrees crucial based on residency goals. It’s essential to evaluate these factors and consider the long-term implications before making a decision.

Navigating U.S. Medical School Admissions as a Canadian Applicant


1-Choosing the Right Medical Schools: The Golden List

When considering medical schools, it’s important to strike a balance. Canada has 17 medical schools, while the United States boasts 155 MD-granting institutions. Applying to an excessive number of schools can negatively affect your application quality and resources. To avoid this, create a list of 15–25 schools that align with the recommended guidelines. This ensures a balanced mix of competitiveness and practicality, safeguarding both your effort and financial resources.


2- Understand U.S. Application Basics 

Comprehending the U.S. application process is vital for Canadian applicants. Most U.S. medical schools utilize the American Medical School Application Service (AMCAS) for admissions. However, Texas medical schools have their own system, TMDSAS. The application generally involves:

Application Component Description
Undergraduate Transcript Submit a transcript from a Canadian or U.S. post-secondary institution confirming completion of specific academic prerequisites.
Personal Statement Craft a personal statement within 5,300 characters that showcases your motivation and perspective.
MCAT Scores Provide scores from the MCAT, a standardized test for medical school admissions.
Secondary Essays Prepare secondary application essays that provide additional insights into your candidacy.
Reference Letters Obtain 2–3 reference letters supporting your application from individuals familiar with your qualifications.
Panel-Style Interview Engage in a panel-style interview as part of the application process.


Academic prerequisites for U.S. medical schools include science courses (biology, chemistry) and often humanities courses. While Canadian coursework is generally accepted, it’s advisable to confirm policies with chosen schools. The AMCAS process timeline typically involves:

Timeline Stage Time Frame
Applications Open End of May
Application Deadline End of June
Secondary Application Questions Released Early–Mid July
Interview Phase September–February
Decision Announcements Mid-October – April 1st


Essential steps for applicants include confirming prerequisites a year ahead, arranging recommendation letters six months before, and taking the MCAT up to three months before the application deadline.

3- Focus on Extracurriculars 

Canadian applicants to U.S. medical schools often share similarities with their American counterparts in terms of research, leadership, and medical system-related volunteering experiences. However, these common activities might not sufficiently set candidates apart from the competition. While essential, they are commonplace, underscoring the increased importance of a well-crafted personal statement that genuinely reflects on these experiences.

Nonetheless, some Canadian applicants perceive challenges in their extracurricular profiles for U.S. medical school admissions due to certain reasons. Firstly, legal constraints in Canada can hinder clinical exposure opportunities before applying to medical schools, a factor highly regarded by admissions committees for assessing students’ understanding of physician roles. Limited availability of experiences like shadowing further compounds the issue.

Secondly, Canadian candidates might lack experiences directly addressing the history, practices, and issues of the U.S. healthcare system—a significant asset in training doctors for local contexts. While some opt to address this through international experiences, a more effective approach could involve locally addressing transnational healthcare problems. Volunteering with groups tackling healthcare issues like nutrition or geriatric care and connecting these experiences to similar issues in the preferred U.S. school’s region can provide a unique perspective.

Activities with local resonance, such as Vancouver’s safe-injection sites, have garnered attention in the U.S. as potential models for combating opioid epidemics. Similarly, experiences like counseling friends on mental health or working with women’s and senior centers can be of universal significance. Bridging local experiences with U.S. context is pivotal, offering a distinctive edge to Canadian applicants seeking to stand out in the U.S. medical school application process.

4- Craft Your Personal Statement (2–3 Months Before Deadline)

Writing your personal statement is a pivotal step in the U.S. medical school application. This statement offers a chance to demonstrate to admissions committees your potential as a skilled physician. The AMCAS personal statement prompt is intentionally open-ended, allowing you to share how your experiences have shaped your perspective on empathy, important medical issues, and more. It provides up to 5,300 characters to express your motivations.

Creating an impactful personal statement is vital, as generic ones can lead to rejection. A strong statement goes beyond listing accomplishments, avoiding clichés like the notion of being a doctor as an honorable duty. Rather, it links experiences to personal qualities and principles. Our comprehensive guide offers valuable insights for crafting an impressive essay. For Canadian students, it’s beneficial to highlight experiences with some connection to the American context. While discussing specific Canadian events might be too niche, addressing universal themes like distrust of medical professionals in immigrant communities can be relatable and compelling.

5- Complete the AMCAS Work and Activities Section: Showcasing Your Qualities

The AMCAS Work and Activities section, much like Canadian universities, allows you to depict up to 15 extracurricular experiences. You have a maximum of 700 characters for most entries and 1,325 characters for three. Just as the personal statement reveals qualities that make you an excellent future doctor, the activity descriptions are more than mere accounts of tasks – they should reflect what you learned and how it shapes your potential as a doctor.

When describing activities, aim to highlight different aspects of your character. Remember that American readers might not comprehend the significance of Canadian-specific experiences like working at an indigenous healing center. To bridge this gap, connect such uniquely Canadian experiences to broader global concerns. For instance, elucidate how your involvement at the healing center exposed you to the unmet needs of marginalized groups due to mainstream medical oversight.

6- Secondary Application for U.S. Medical Schools

Once you’ve reviewed the previous steps, most schools will request a “secondary application,” typically within about two weeks after the initial deadline. This application will involve a fee, yes or no background questions, and often a few short essays. Similar to the personal statement and the descriptions of your AMCAS activities, this is your chance to emphasize the qualities that would make you a strong doctor.

Our guide on medical school secondary essays will assist you in understanding the types of questions you may encounter and how to effectively respond to them. These questions include topics like your unique perspective as an individual, significant challenges you’ve overcome and learned from, and your reasons for wanting to attend a particular school.

If you decide to use your Canadian identity to address the diversity question, consider discussing experiences that American applicants are less likely to have encountered. For instance, growing up in Canada’s universal healthcare system, where certain expensive but highly effective surgeries are sometimes denied, could provide a distinctive perspective on healthcare access. However, remember that your diversity essay isn’t limited to your nationality. Your academic background, non-medical interests, and factors such as ethnicity, race, or gender can offer equally interesting viewpoints.

Furthermore, pay special attention to the question about why you’re interested in a specific school. Canadian students should avoid providing generic answers, like repeating the school’s mission statement. Instead, research the school’s offerings, faculty, research, community engagement, and curriculum. Connect these aspects to your personal story to overcome the perception that Canadians are only seeking degrees and won’t contribute to addressing the doctor shortage in the U.S.

7- Prepare for Interviews

Once your primary and secondary applications capture the attention of admissions committees, you might be invited for an interview between mid-October and February. While most American medical schools opt for the conventional panel interview style, some employ the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) approach commonly used in Canada or even unique variations they’ve developed.

Our detailed guides on both traditional medical school interviews and MMI interviews offer valuable insights to assist you in your preparations. Make sure to explore them to get a comprehensive understanding of what to expect. Additionally, remember to visit the websites of the schools you’re interested in to find specific details about the interview format they follow.

Best American Medical Schools for Canadians

US. Medical Schools that Evaluate Americans and Canadians Equally 

Here’s a compilation of American medical schools that are considered welcoming to Canadian students pursuing allopathic medicine. This list is based on information from the AAMC’s Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR).

The term “Canadian-friendly” is defined in a couple of ways for this list. Some schools formally notify the AAMC that they evaluate Canadian applicants alongside out-of-state U.S. candidates rather than treating them as international applicants. Others adopt a holistic approach, considering all applicants equally, regardless of their citizenship. Admissions data from these schools show that they consistently accept and enroll Canadian students into their programs.


Allopathic and Osteopathic American Medical Schools That Accept Canadian Applicants

Discover a comprehensive list of both allopathic and osteopathic American medical schools that extend a warm welcome to Canadian applicants. This compilation includes esteemed institutions that offer valuable opportunities for Canadian students aspiring to pursue a medical education in the United States. Whether you’re interested in allopathic or osteopathic programs, this list provides valuable insights into potential options for your medical journey.



Embarking on the path of studying medicine in the U.S. as a Canadian student is an exciting and transformative choice. The challenges you’ll face are stepping stones to success, shaping you into a resilient future physician. Remember, you’re never alone—Jack Westin’s team of expert advisors is ready to assist with any queries you may have. Embrace the journey, stay determined, and have faith in your capacity to excel. Your dedication will drive you toward a rewarding medical career where you can make a real difference in the world of healthcare.

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