Med-P is an undergraduate medical program at McGill University, open only to CEGEP students in Quebec, whose selectiveness, convenience and prestige have consistently made it one of the province’s most desirable university programs. The somewhat irrational fascination with the program experienced by many CEGEP students has placed it at the center of many misconceptions about the difficulty of admission, or rather the factors which create that difficulty. McGill is the only medical school in Quebec which uses a holistic admissions process, evaluating a candidate’s CV and personal narrative (PN) in addition to their grades before granting an interview. The uncertainty involved in understanding such a multifaceted process has led to the cliché that “McGill has so many qualified applicants that you can be the perfect candidate and still not get in.” We strongly disagree with this idea, and hope to summarize in this article our current understanding of the meritocratic Med-P admissions criteria and the best strategy for students to adopt in consequence.
Why McGill Med-P?
Despite leading to a medical degree like Quebec’s three other med schools, McGill attracts a disproportionate amount of attention from students. The advantages of McGill’s five-year program for students admitted from CEGEP begins in the first year, as students begin with a preparatory year combining science, humanities and social science courses. The coursework requirements are lax, as the GPA needed to advance to the four-year MDCM program is easily attainable, one course may be taken pass/fail, and students can easily satisfy electives through “easy A” classes. Even though courses taken in the Med-P year are marketed as preparation for med school, it is largely agreed that they are mostly irrelevant, and that the year exists to ensure students are a bit more mature before beginning med school. In contrast, Université de Montréal’s analogous preparatory year is considered as hard as or harder than the subsequent medical school years, thus partially explaining why McGill’s program is so appealing to students.
Following the completion of the Med-P year, students are guaranteed admission (upon completion of certain requirements) to the MDCM program, in which all course requirements are marked pass/fail. Once again, this policy takes stress off students and thus contributes to the program’s desirability, unlike Quebec’s three other medical schools, at which most classes are letter-graded (i.e. A+, A, A-, B+, etc.) and reported on transcripts for residency applications.
In terms of reputation, McGill far outshines its French counterparts. According to the admittedly very subjective QS World Rankings, McGill is the 22nd best medical school in the world, whereas Université de Montréal is ranked in the 51–100 range, Université Laval in the 151–200 range and Université de Sherbrooke in the 301–350 range. The impact of this on residency applications is difficult to quantify, but it seems that the top students at any of the four medical schools can secure competitive residencies, including in the United States; the difference in reputation lies mostly in layman prestige.
How does McGill evaluate applicants to Med-P?
McGill initially evaluates Med-P applicants based on a weighted score of 70% R-Score and 30% CVPN, the latter of which is a document combining a summary of extracurricular, volunteer and work experience with three 250-word answers (Personal Narrative) linking life experiences to key aspects of medicine.
Based on these factors, McGill decides to grant an interview to an applicant, to waitlist them for an interview or to deny them. The applicants who make it that far are invited to the Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs), which are a series of short timed stations that expose applicants to a set of actor-based, task-based and traditional interview situations. Following the interview, McGill claims that the final decisions are based 100% on the interview performance; as such, differences in R-Score and CVPN, no matter how drastic, would no longer matter. There is some speculation as to whether McGill literally applies this policy, or rather evaluates each file comprehensively post-interview. Regardless, it is safe to say that the interview is crucial.
What can we deduce from these selection criteria?
The initial 70% R-Score / 30% CVPN criteria is somewhat misleading, because we are given these strangely precise proportions, yet it is impossible to understand what they mean if we don’t know the scale used for scoring each aspect. However, they hint at a little-known principle of Med-P admissions: a high R-Score can consistently outweigh a mediocre CVPN, but an outstanding CVPN cannot consistently outweigh a low R-Score. The effect of the R-Score is not only greater, but also reduces the uncertainty of the outcome.
Another common misconception is that the extracurriculars must necessarily be impressive and showcase leadership (e.g. student union president). This is false, and again comes down to the R-Score-heavy balance in selection criteria. We approximate the outcomes for different R-Score ranges as such:
- <33 R-Score: Obtaining an interview is highly unlikely no matter the quality of the extracurriculars.
- 33–34 R-Score: Similarly to the previous range, even a candidate with perfect extracurriculars in this range is never guaranteed an interview. To be successful, an impressively uncommon PN is most likely needed.
- 34–35 R-Score: The extracurricular-friendly range. A surprising number of Med-P students had R-Scores in this range, where above-average extracurriculars (ideally showcasing leadership) and a high-quality PN can make an interview extremely likely.
- 35–36 R-Score: With average extracurriculars and a PN which doesn’t raise any red flags, candidates can be very certain to get an interview.
- 36+ R-Score: In this range, even slightly below-average extracurriculars (including those involving simple participation rather than leadership) and a less-than-optimal PN makes an interview close to guaranteed.
As such, when choosing a CEGEP as a high school student, you should look for a school where they will perform best academically, and which offers an abundance of extracurricular opportunities that interest you. On a daily basis, if given the opportunity to invest an hour into studying or into extracurriculars, you should probably choose studying. As well, you should make sure to maximize off-periods, which include summer and winter breaks as well as the first few weeks of school, to accumulate noteworthy accomplishments.
What we haven’t covered
Due to their personalized nature, some key points related to this article would be best discussed in a one-on-one meeting with you. Those parts include:
- How to create a CV specifically tailored to your activities and the qualities you were able to learn;
- Various ways of writing a unique personal narrative;
- In-depth preparation for the various types of MMI scenarios.