Medical Schools in the US and Canada that Accept International Students
Pursuing a medical education is a dream shared by many, and for international students, studying medicine in the United States and Canada is an aspiration that offers world-class education and diverse opportunities. This guide aims to provide international students with a comprehensive overview of medical schools in the US and Canada that accept international applicants, along with valuable insights into the application process and challenges they may face.
Why Choose Medical Schools in the US and Canada?
1. Reputation and Quality:
The US and Canada are renowned for their exceptional medical education systems and globally recognized programs. Medical schools in these countries often rank among the top institutions worldwide, providing students with an excellent foundation for their careers.
2. Research Opportunities:
Many medical schools in the US and Canada boast robust research programs, allowing students to engage in cutting-edge medical research and innovations, contributing to advancements in healthcare.
3. Clinical Exposure:
With access to a diverse patient population, medical schools in North America offer extensive clinical training opportunities. This exposure is crucial for students to develop practical skills and gain hands-on experience.
North American medical schools welcome students from all over the world, fostering a diverse and inclusive learning environment. This diversity enriches the educational experience and prepares future healthcare professionals for a globalized world.
Do All Medical Schools in the US and Canada Accept International Students?
While many medical schools in the US and Canada do accept international students, it’s important to note that the admission process can be highly competitive. It’s crucial for international applicants to thoroughly research each school’s policies and requirements to determine eligibility.
Eligibility and Admission Requirements for International Students
One of the main hurdles in medical school applications for international students is the limited range of schools available. Only 82 medical schools across the U.S. and Canada accept international applicants—64 allopathic and 18 osteopathic.
Navigating these schools involves understanding various eligibility criteria, which differ between institutions. It’s important to review specific requirements at each school you’re interested in, but be prepared for common expectations:
- Completion of coursework at a U.S. or Canadian accredited college or university, often involving at least a year’s worth.
- Demonstrating English proficiency, frequently through the TOEFL exam.
However, certain medical schools have additional prerequisites. For example, some like Boston University mandate that prerequisite coursework must be from American or Canadian institutions. Others, like George Washington University, admit international students only if they hold a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. or Canadian school. There are even more stringent requirements, such as the University of Rochester, which solely accepts international students with an undergraduate degree from the same institution.
In some cases, American medical schools exclusively consider Canadian citizens. Due to the recognition of Canadian degrees, applicants from Canada often have an advantage in U.S. medical school acceptance.
Despite the limited options, international students can still apply to prestigious institutions like Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and the University of Toronto. With these general requirements outlined, let’s delve into the essential credentials and activities for medical school admission, tailored to international students, specifically those currently enrolled or planning to enroll in a U.S. undergraduate program.
1. Extracurricular Activities:
Participating in extracurricular activities is a significant concern for international students. These activities include shadowing doctors, volunteering at clinics or hospitals, joining student organizations, and potential part-time work. However, international students on F-1 visas must carefully navigate the rules to gain valid extracurricular experience.
During the first year at an American undergraduate school, F-1 visa holders cannot work off-campus or engage in unpaid internships. This restriction is manageable since the initial year focuses on adjusting to American education and coursework. Nonetheless, participation in student groups is allowed. After the first year, working off-campus may be possible with proper authorization, while volunteering is generally permitted. It’s important to distinguish between volunteering and unpaid internships based on the organization’s nature and compensation. Unauthorized paid work or unpaid internships violate visa terms and may lead to complications.
Participating in research before applying to medical school is recommended for all premed students. This usually involves reaching out to professors or joining campus projects. However, international students should be cautious, as some research involvement could be considered employment. It’s wise to avoid private company research unless authorized to work in the USA.
Many schools offer on-campus summer research programs, allowing students to contribute to ongoing projects and receive mentorship from faculty. Some opportunities also include scholarship funding. For international students seeking research roles, focusing on on-campus options is advisable, even though choices might be more limited than for other premed students. Seeking guidance from premed advising or the international student office can provide valuable assistance in finding suitable opportunities.
3. Letters of Recommendation:
When preparing to enter medical school, you will need to secure letters of recommendation from individuals such as professors, professionals, or doctors with whom you’ve collaborated. This requirement applies to international students as well, and the process should generally proceed smoothly.
Although most schools ask for a minimum of three letters, aiming for six is advised. This broader range allows you to showcase perspectives from various sources, spanning professors to colleagues. Seek recommendations from professors whose classes you received letter grades in, any physicians who observed your patient care contributions, and individuals from extracurricular activities you engaged in.
By including recommendations from those who have observed your performance both in academic and non-academic settings, you can effectively present a compelling case for your suitability in various medical school programs.
4. Secondary Application Requirements for Medical School:
Applying to medical schools in the USA starts with AMCAS, a common application system. This applies to international students studying at U.S. institutions too. However, it’s important to target schools that admit international applicants. After the initial application, schools send a secondary application with more personalized questions to understand you better.
The secondary application includes essays, a chance for you to showcase qualities beyond grades. It often features a ‘diversity essay’ focusing on your unique background. Here, you can discuss experiences from your home country that shaped your medical aspirations and explain how they’ll contribute to the student community. Be aware that for all essays, proper language is crucial. Writing assistance at your university can help if English isn’t your first language, ensuring clear and error-free submissions.
The GPA, or grade point average, is a grading system used in the United States. It calculates the average of your class grades on a scale from 0.0 to 4.0, with 4.0 representing an A+. Medical schools in the U.S. consider these GPA scores from your undergraduate years.
Maintaining a high GPA is crucial for successful medical school admission. Most medical schools require a minimum GPA around 3.5, and for those accepted in 2022-2023, the average GPA was 3.75. As an international student, your application options are limited, with fewer schools accepting international applicants and fewer available seats.
Many institutions welcoming international students often have substantial resources and can facilitate visas for clinical rotations. This makes top-tier grades necessary, especially for elite schools demanding exceptional academic performance.
Alongside an outstanding GPA, all U.S. medical schools, including those accepting international students, require completion of the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test), and performing well on it is essential.
For the most prestigious institutions such as Yale, Harvard, and Cornell, the average MCAT score for admitted students hovers around 520. Achieving a score of 520 places you in the 98th percentile, with the highest possible score being 528. Aspiring to attend a top U.S. medical school might bring intense competition, but it’s certainly achievable. Whether you’re a U.S. citizen or an international applicant, striving for your highest attainable score is advisable.
7. Premed Coursework:
The coursework required for premed studies is consistent for international students and their American counterparts. Core subjects encompass biology, chemistry, physics, math, and English. However, the exact courses necessary may differ based on your university. Consulting your school’s pre-health advising office is recommended to confirm you’re following the correct path. The AAMC offers a useful list of individual school requirements for your reference.
Three Important Points for International Students
Taking the MCAT Outside of the USA and Canada
Studying for MCAT is mandatory for those aiming to get into U.S. medical schools. Doing well on this test significantly affects your chances of being accepted into a medical program.
In the U.S., most students cover the MCAT material during their premed science courses and introductory psychology or sociology classes in their undergraduate studies. If you have an MBBS degree or are enrolled in an MBBS program, you likely have encountered this material before, and there aren’t extra requirements for registering for the test. However, it’s a good idea to reach out to the MCAT Program if you have specific questions about your situation before signing up.
When you’ve decided to take the MCAT and have registered, you can choose a testing center within your country. International MCAT testing centers are currently available in several countries, including Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Qatar, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. Additionally, testing centers can be found in U.S. territories like Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Keep in mind that if your country doesn’t have a testing center, you might need to travel a considerable distance to take the exam.
Converting Your Country’s Grading System to U.S. GPA
When international students apply to medical schools in the U.S., they usually need to translate their home country’s grading system into the U.S. GPA scale. This helps admissions teams understand their academic performance in a way that’s comparable across different education systems.
Since grading systems vary widely between countries, this conversion ensures a fair evaluation for all applicants. Medical schools provide guidelines or formulas for international students to convert their grades accurately. This process might involve translating individual course grades or overall academic performance to align with the U.S. GPA scale, which ranges from 0.0 to 4.0.
Medical schools aim to make this conversion clear and manageable. Some schools might offer conversion tables that simplify the process for common international grading systems. By following these instructions, applicants can ensure that their academic achievements are fairly represented on the U.S. scale, allowing for an equitable evaluation of their application.
Completing USA Accredited Coursework
For international students aspiring to attend medical school in the United States, an additional step involves successfully finishing coursework at an accredited U.S. educational institution. Most U.S. medical schools do not consider an undergraduate degree obtained from another country as equivalent to a U.S. degree due to differences in curriculum. Their preference is generally to ensure that you are familiar with the U.S. education system.
This situation can typically be categorized in two ways:
- Some schools mandate completion of a year’s worth of coursework in the U.S. prior to applying.
- Certain schools exclusively admit students who have already obtained their undergraduate degree within the United States.
It’s crucial to verify the requirements of each school you intend to apply to. A comprehensive list of schools that accept applications can be found here, providing some of this information as well.
Financial Aid and Scholarships for International Students
One of the toughest parts of being an international student at medical school is often dealing with limited financial resources. Unfortunately, most international students are unable to access federal loans. In certain situations, medical schools might even demand proof of adequate finances for all four years of the program or require applicants to hold the full amount in an escrow account.
While this might seem disheartening, don’t lose hope just yet. Another option is to explore loans or scholarships provided by the school itself. Especially well-regarded medical schools like Yale, Johns Hopkins, and Harvard assess international students for need-based aid in a manner similar to U.S. citizens, except they won’t qualify for federal loans. Nevertheless, the available aid might encompass various scholarships and institutional loans to help cover expenses.
Investigating private scholarships and loans is another avenue. International applicants seeking financial support can refer to the International Education Financial Aid (IEFA) website, which maintains a collection of scholarship and loan possibilities tailored to international students.
Numerous other databases and scholarships might also be a suitable fit. Here are a few detailed below:
- Access Scholarships: A searchable database featuring scholarships in the USA for both domestic and international students. Opportunities span from high school to graduate school.
- Tylenol Future Care Scholarship: This award, up to $10,000, is for students enrolled in a graduate medicine program. While applicants must be residents of a US state, this could still be relevant for international students completing their undergrad in an American school.
- White Coat Investor Scholarship: Open to those already enrolled in a professional school in the United States. If you’ve been accepted, this scholarship might substantially offset costs.
If you’re considering MD-PhD programs as an international student, your situation is similar to peers on the traditional MD path. This applies especially to Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTP), which receive federal funding from the National Institute of Health. Some MD-PhD programs, including MSTP ones, do offer alternative funding sources for international students. Others might not provide funding but could still admit you if you can cover your expenses independently or secure external funding.
List of Medical Schools that Accept International Students
Here is a comprehensive list of medical schools in the US and Canada that accept international students for MD and DO programs, as well as MD-PhD programs:
Allopathic (MD) Medical Schools
Osteopathic (DO) medical schools that accept international students
- Western University of Health Sciences–College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (Pomona campus)
H. List of MD-PhD programs that accept international students
In this section, we have gathered MD-PhD programs that are open to international students. We have divided them into two categories. The first list includes MD-PhD programs that consistently accept international students. We have this information based on our advising experience and available admissions data.
Beneath that, we have provided a list of other MD-PhD programs that also welcome international students. While these programs might not be as explicitly focused on international applicants as the ones in the first list, some of them have a history of interviewing and/or admitting a small number of international candidates.
MD-PhD programs that routinely accept international students
Other MD-PhD programs that accept international students
- Texas A&M College of Medicine (Canadians only)
Applying to medical school is a demanding process, and international applicants aiming for American and Canadian medical schools face even more requirements. In addition to a strong GPA and MCAT score, you’ll likely need to have studied at an American or Canadian university and be proficient in English.
If you meet these criteria, focus on making your applications stand out. Spend time and effort on your AMCAS personal statement and secondary essays. These essays are where you can convince admissions committees that pursuing a medical education in the United States or Canada will prepare you to be a great doctor and help you achieve your career goals.
If you have any questions about any stages of your admission process, you can count on Jack Westin’s expert advisors. We also offer various courses that are invaluable sources of help in your road towards medical school.