Hoping to get into med school?

Don’t be born in Ontario


For med school hopefuls, Ontario might seem like the perfect province to live in.

There are 17 med schools in the country. Six of those are in Ontario, more than any other province. But as I recently discovered, being born in Ontario is actually a huge handicap.

Most med schools prefer applicants from their own province. It makes sense: if you train local doctors, you produce local doctors. It’s not unusual to reserve 85 percent or even 90 percent of the available seats for in-province applicants. Most med schools even have higher entrance requirements for out-of-province applicants.

Everyone likes their own brand.

Except for Ontario. Not a single med school in Ontario reserves spots for Ontario applicants.

On the surface, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario might seem like exceptions to the rule. On it’s website, Northern says that it encourages applications from “students who are from Northern Ontario and/or students who have a strong interest in and aptitude for practicing medicine in northern urban, rural and remote communities.” Western Ontario gives special consideration to applicants from “rural/regional communities in Southwestern Ontario.”

But neither of these med schools actually reserve spots for in-province applicants. Not to mention, those “rural and remote” communities that Northern Ontario mentions could actually be anywhere across Canada.

McMaster’s policy is a bit more complicated. They don’t actually reserve med school spots for in-province applicants. Instead, they award 90 percent of interview positions for Ontario residents.

Yeah, I know. I had to read that twice, too.

It means that once you reach the interview stage, it doesn’t matter which province you’re from.

Even if McMaster offered a genuine advantage to in-province applicants, it wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway. With over 4500 applicants and a success rate of 4.9 per cent in 2006/2007, getting into McMaster is like winning the med school lottery.

Compare this to the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, which reserves 90 per cent of its seats for local residents. Med school hopefuls in Saskatchewan are only competing against applicants from their province. Ontario applicants are competing against the whole country.

Just look at the numbers. In 2006/2007, almost a third of all med school applicants from Quebec landed a spot in med school. In-province applicants to McGill had a better chance of getting into med school than not, with a 57.1% success rate. In 2005/2006, the success rate was even higher: 76.3 per cent. Yes, that means 3/4 in-province applicants to McGill landed a spot in med school. Too bad my Quebec-born parents didn’t raise me in their native province.

Take a look at the rest of Canada. The success rates of med school applicants, by province, are roughly 1/3 across most of the country. This is true of Manitoba (with an overall success rate of 33.7 per cent), applicants from Nova Scotia (32.4 per cent), New Brunswick (32.6 per cent), Newfoundland and Labrador (31.4 per cent), and Alberta (33.9 per cent).

Canada’s North has the best numbers of all. Applicants from Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut had a combined success rate of 41.2 per cent in 2006/2007. Meaning, med school hopefuls in the North had the highest provincial success rate. All 17 of them.

The chances of getting into med school aren’t as horrible as some people might think.

Unless you live in Ontario. At 19.7 per cent, it has the lowest success rate of any province in the country.

I’m seriously considering moving to Saskatchewan. Or Alberta. Or maybe Manitoba.


Hoping to get into med school?

  1. To be clear, Western, NOSM, Mac, and Ottawa most certainly favour certain regions – mostly in parts of Ontario – over others. Application requirements are absolutely higher for non-SWOMEN or non-Ottawa applicants to Western and Ottawa, respectively, and 90% of interview spots reserved for Ontario applicants does indeed mean that 90% of seats in the class go to Ontario applicants. Or about that.

    Now, it’s true that at UofT and Queen’s, there are no special provisions for Ontario applicants; that seems to mean they just get more applications. I don’t know whether there are simply more applicants per spot in Ontario or what’s going on, but the fact that many apply to multiple schools within the province probably inflates those numbers and, correspondingly, decreases the apparent success rate. Just a thought from a decidedly non-Ontario med student.

  2. “On it’s website” – really? It’s?

  3. Thanks. Its great that you helped me out. Its really.


  4. The writer fails to mention that even though BC reserves seat for BC residents, a student from BC still only has a slightly better chance than one from Ontario (slightly over 20%) and only has one in province option for applying.

  5. The writer also fails to mention that there are special provisions at the University of Ottawa for a certain subset of the Ontario population – I think it is for applicants from Ottawa. People from Ottawa have lower GPA cut-offs.

  6. @AWSC: In an article like this, it’s not a ‘failure’ to not include every single known fact about every single med school across Canada. If I ever have the opportunity to write a 10,000 word article about it, those facts will definitely make it in :)

  7. @Josh: To be clear, this article was focusing on the fact that Ontario med schools do not reserve seats for in-province applicants. Western gives “special consideration” to applicants who indicate on their OMSAS application that they are from rural/regional communities in Southwestern Ontario. But this isn’t the same thing as reserving seats for applicants from Ontario. For one thing, there isn’t a set number of seats reserved. And secondly, there’s a big difference between giving a preference to Ontario applicants, and favouring applicants from rural Southwestern Ontario.

    The low success rate of Ontario med schools is indeed affected by the sheer number of applicants versus the relatively low number of seats. And that’s an interesting point. But it’s for a separate blog post :)

  8. @Andrea: Yup, BC med school applicants have it pretty rough, too. But like I said, Ontario still has the lowest success rate, even lower than BC’s. And UBC’s med school reserves seats for in-province applicants, which is the main point of this post.

  9. Mac does not specifically reserve seats for Ontario students, but they do provide 90% of interview spots to Ontario residents, which for all practical purposes is the same thing. As you’ve mentioned, Western (and also Ottawa) gives preference to students from certain regions of the province, something that NOSM does in effect as well. I suppose the students who are really out of luck are those from the GTA where, I’m sure, much of the competition is coming from. Ontario almost certainly could support another med school, probably in the GTA. I don’t imagine many more seats can be added to UofT, so another campus is necessary.

  10. I agree Josh, Ontario could certainly support another med school. Considering how much bigger Ontario’s population is compared to any other province, there’s a disproportionately low number of seats.

    The success rate for in-province applicants to the University of Manitoba is about 37%, much higher than McMaster’s success rate of about 5%. Considering the ridiculous number of applicants to Mac (close to 5,000), there should be at least 1,000 spots open, instead of just 194.

    I’ve interviewed lots of med schools for a variety of articles over the years, and they all say the same thing: every year, they have to turn away tons of qualified applicants, because they just don’t enough seats.



  11. You’re right – I just felt the post was poorly researched. At Western Ontario, the GPA and MCAT cut-offs to get an interview are much lower for SWOMEN candidates than they are for students from anywhere else. Similarly, Ottawa’s GPA expectations for Ottawa residents is far lower than the cut-offs for all other applicants. Both are enormous advantages in favour of certin Ontarian applciants.

  12. FML, no, eff the rest of our lives – just cause we don’t live in villages or farms means we are less likely to get into western or northern. WOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWw

  13. Good article.

    My friend has recently started a blog about his experiences as a medical resident. I’m sure he’ll be happy to answer any questions you guys have.


  14. this is the most bs article ive ever read.

  15. Your comparisons don`t make sense Scott, you`re comparing apples to oranges…

    You say, “The success rate for in-province applicants to the University of Manitoba is about 37%, much higher than McMaster’s success rate of about 5%.”

    You are comparing the acceptance percentage of students in one province to the percentage of students in one university.

    This comparison isn’t fair, you need to be comparing the 37% with the number of applicants in Ontario that gained admission to ANY medical school in Ontario. There are a lot of people who applied to every Ontario medical school, greatly inflating the numbers for applications to ontario, making the percentage accepted to each school low. Manitoba has only one school, so there are absolutely no inflated numbers (due to multiple applications) for the province.