Tips On Getting Into Top Med Schools In Canada

Alisha Shibli
January 7, 2021

There are plenty of reasons why you’d want to get into one of the top med schools in Canada.

Maybe you’re a Canadian who wants to study on their home soil and serve their local community. Or you’re an international student who’s impressed by the strong education system in Canada, has seen how great the medical schools are, and you want top-quality education.

Or maybe you’ve heard about the country’s high standard of living, it’s natural beauty, and the wide range of opportunities–and it’s a place you’d like to call home.

Whatever may be your reason, getting admission into one of the top med schools in Canada requires work. The objective of this article is to help you identify areas that you can improve to ensure you can make your application stand out and get a seat in your desired university.

1. Understand How Your GPA Will Be Calculated

Different universities have different grading systems and their own way of calculating GPA. Often, this is just a matter of matching percentage system or letter grade to a 4.0, 4.22, or other scale.

Some universities, such as University of Toronto and University of British Columbia, drop the lowest grades of students who’ve taken a full course load which usually translates to 5 classes in Canada.

This may be a cause of concern if you come from a system where students have fewer than 5 classes in a term but the admission commission is familiar with the varied grading systems and they normally have a workaround for this.

These things don’t matter much if you’ve excelled in your academics and other aspects of your application are excellent. Your application will most likely have an “Academic Explanations” box where you can add information about any such discrepancies. 

2. Study For CASPer

CASPer (Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) is an online test that’s developed by the researchers at McMaster University. It’s objective is to screen potential applicants for important personal and professional characteristics such as professionalism, ethics, communication, and empathy.

The test presents the students with a hypothetical scenario and asks them what they would do in each case. The score is given based on how well their explanations match up with the ethics and sensitivities of an ideal physician.

CASPer is currently used by six medical schools in Canada:

  • McMaster University Medical School which since 2010
  • University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine, since 2015
  • Dalhousie University
  • McGill University
  • University of Alberta
  • Universite de Montreal

If you’re planning to apply to any of these med schools, preparing for Casper would be your best bet.

3. Create Your Activities List

All the top med schools in Canada require you to submit a list of your extracurricular activities with brief descriptions through their online application portal (except the schools in Ontario, which all use OMSAS)

When listing your activities, choose the ones that best match with the CanMEDS character traits.

(CanMEDS is an educational framework that describes the abilities physicians require to effectively meet the health care needs of the people they serve.)

Some of these activities could be shadowing a physician, being part of a research project, volunteer work (in Canada or abroad)–activities that prove that you’re serious about the medical profession.

You could also include activities from your daily life. Cared for someone at an old-age home? Helped a dyslexic student with their studies? Mention these activities as they show your human side and how you communicate with the society.

If you like other activities such as rock-climbing, painting, playing an instrument, then highlight those as they help showcase you as a more holistic individual who’s able to interact and connect with people in the non-medical world.

4. Get The Best MCAT Scores

Great scores on your Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) are not only a prerequisite but they can significantly strengthen your application. In fact, high MCAT scores can be one of the strongest, differentiating factors that you can have on your application, especially if you want to get into one of the top med schools in Canada. 

MCAT tests you for knowledge of physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, biochemistry, critical analysis and reasoning, psychology, and sociology. Take sufficient time preparing for this exam to ensure that you get as high a score as possible.

5. Apply To Multiple Schools

You may definitely have that one school that you really want to get into but shortlist a few schools and apply to all just to improve your odds. Each school will have its admission committee who you can reach out to if you have any questions or doubts. Make the most of that.

If you still don’t get accepted in the school of your dreams, don’t fret. An MD is an MD irrespective of the school you graduate from.

Conclusion

Great academics and a brilliant resume aren’t enough to get into the top med schools of Canada. You’ll need to build a stellar application that makes you stand out in front of the other applicants. Along with strong academics, make sure you’ve nailed the following:

  • Shared an impressive activities list
  • Demonstrated your love for medicine in your personal statement
  • Added that extra something to make yourself stand out

You could also consult someone who’s been through this process and can help you navigate it. The right guidance, strong personal statement, reference letters, great impression at the interview–it’ll all give you an edge and help you get the acceptance letter you so rightfully deserve.