On Campus

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.