TIME SENSITIVE: McGill vs. Haverford for pre-med

Hello! I am an American who have just been admitted to McGill University’s faculty of science under biological sciences. I am deciding between McGill and Haverford College. Haverford needs me to make my final decision by the end of the day on Sunday, so I have to decide about McGill before then. I have a ton of questions, but my main question is which institution would be better for pre-med?

Here is a list of my other, more specific questions about McGill:

  • Can you take classes in faculties other than your own?
  • Is it difficult to switch majors or faculties?
  • Should I be concerned about attending McGill as an American during the COVID 19 pandemic?
    • What is McGill's admit rate into american medical schools (for American undergraduate students who are applying)?
  • As an American, how difficult would it be to gain residency status in Quebec and subsequently apply to med school in Quebec or elsewhere in Canad as a Canadian resident? I ask because I know that Canadian medical schools take very few out of province/international applicants. How long would it take to obtain Canadian residency and/or citizenship?
  • How accessible are professors to undergraduate students in regards to academic support (office hours) and research opportunities? Is it difficult to get help during office hours since a lot of the classes are so large? Are the large size of the classes ever an issue? Are students able to be involved with research as an underclassmen? How accessible is advising, internships, and clinical opportunities for students?
  • Is there a "cut throat" or "weed out" atmosphere in premed classes? Does the university offer letters of support (committee letters) to all students wishing to apply to med school? I ask because I know that it is very difficult to get into American medical schools if your university did not write you a committee letter since they are trying to boost their statistics of the percentage of applicants that get into medical school. Are some of the science prerequisite courses for medical school (general chemistry, organic chemistry, etc.) graded on a curve, making it so that your grade depends on how much better you did than your peers rather than how well you actually understand the course content?
  • To what degree are electives available to premed students who are studying biology?
  • If I decide not to do pre-med, would I still have a lot of career options as a biology major?
  • Would I be able to work in Canada after graduation? Is McGill well-known among graduate schools and employers in the USA and other countries?
  • Do a lot of students drop out of pre-med because it's too intense?
  • Is it difficult to find clinical opportunities to volunteer/shadow in Montreal if I'm not fluent in French?
  • Do you need to be fluent in French in order to apply to medical schools in Quebec and other provinces in Canada?
    • Is it easy for students to form close relationships with their professors so that they will be able to write them strong letters of recommendation for medical school?

How would name recognition, research opportunities, and other important factors for pre-med compare for these schools?

I apologize that I have so many questions, but it is important for me to ask these things so that I can make an informed decision.

A short answer, if you have so many unknowns for a Canadian University, why take a chance ? Go to Haverford college and you can take all pre-med pre-requisites and do all medical ECs there.

Thanks for your quick response! The reason why I have so many unknowns is only because I just found out that I have been admitted, so I have not had much time to research it, and it is hard to find answers to such specific questions.

Even though there is a lot of uncertainty, McGill has a lot of advantages for me. McGill would be less than half price of Haverford (possibly even less if I can get my French citizenship approved), which is especially appealing since medical school is so expensive. I am from Philadelphia, so it would be more exciting for me to go to McGill and be in downtown Montreal, rather than stay in the same area. McGill is much larger, so that could open up more opportunities. Haverford has the consortium, which helps, but still isn’t the same as having all of the resources of a huge research institution on one campus. Being in Canada also is appealing for me.

Haverford has a 94% acceptance rate into medical school. I don’t know what McGill’s acceptance rate into medical school for undergrads is.

If finance is a critical component, what are the other colleges you have admission in US, specially any IS public schools. Is it possible for you to commute from home for Haverford to contain the cost or is it possible to complete your UG in 3 years.

Don’t look at the acceptance number at face value from any University, unless you got and understood all fine prints. It is better to study at US school especially if interested in medicine.

Hope fully others with more knowledge on Canadian schools will respond.

@GoldenRock Thanks for your response! My only other options other than Haverford and McGill are Penn State and Temple (unfortunately I had to decline all of my other options because of May 1 deadlines). If I went to Haverford then I would have to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans for medical school, but maybe it is worth it if it is a significantly better option? I was under the impression that McGill is just as good, if not better than Haverford, but I am just confused about what it would be like to do pre-med there. The financial aspect is definitely a very important consideration, but I’m not sure if I should let it dictate my decision.

Canadian universities don’t do letters of support.

Biology majors don’t have a lot of career options, but you don’t have to be a biology major to get into med school.

You do not need to be fluent in French to apply to med schools outside of Quebec. You do need to have proficiency in French for Quebec medical schools.

You can certainly study many courses outside of biology or whatever your major is.

McGill is well known to employers and grad schools.

You may be able to stay in the country after graduation. It would likely depend on if you find a job.

Citizenship takes 6+ years.

There are 2 seats per year available to international students at McGill medical school.

@bouders Thanks for the info! Which college do you think would better set me up for success for a career in medicine? Would going to McGill give me more options or would it be more limiting?


Nothing can be done on spilled milk. When finance is a critical factor, not considered Penn State and Temple (assume some aid was given) appears things are not deliberated at length. Penn state allows till June 1.

Even now I am afraid some decisions are going in the same path.

  1. How clear are you about medicine?
  2. Are you considering to get MD in Canada (to save money) or US or both?

If medicine is clear and finance is critical, then do your UG where it is going to cost less. The chances of controlling MD finance is practically nil, whereas controlling UG cost is very high.

I have not done any research on studying in Canadian schools nor about Canadian MD schools either for Canadian or US citizens. So you need to research that before committing to McGill. As long you can apply to US MD schools with McGill BA/BS, then doing at McGill is not a bad choice if that controls your UG cost.

For medical school admission, choice of these 2 college that not matter because what you do in these 2 colleges in the next 3 year matter more.

How are you planning on paying for the extra cost for Haverford? How much (over 4 yeras) does the extra cost total? This is important for your decision.

@JustinAdler: What is the COA (annual cost-of-attendance) for McGill & for Haverford College ?

Will you need to take out any student loans in order to attend the more costly Haverford College ?

Broadly speaking, Haverford College will be a more personal & intimate college experience, while–for you as a Philadelphia resident–McGill should be a much more exciting college experience.

McGill has some very large classes–hundreds of students.

Not too difficult to get be able to remain in Canada for work if you attend & graduate from a Canadian university.

Such TOTALLY different schools.
Sorry I don’t know much about Canadian schools - but US med schools - basically all about GPA, MCAT, and some research experience.

So, REALLY important to consider:
What type of environment would YOU thrive in, both academically and socially? Where would YOU be most successful so that your chances of doing well and getting into med school are as high as possible?

  1. Really small class sizes (your professors know you) vs. Very large (difficult but doable to make connections)
  2. Everyone knows you vs. Lots of anonymity
  3. Close to home vs. Needing to fly home
  4. Small social intimate setting vs Large social setting (more on your own)

Canada and the US have a harmonized medical education system. US medical schools accept pre med prereqs taken in Canada. Graduates of Canadian medical schools are not considered “foreign” medical graduates in seeking US residencies and licensure. McGill operates on the American system, not the British system. You can take courses across faculties. Science is one of the most selective faculties at McGill so if you want to transfer to a different faculty (except Desautels) after first year that would not be a problem. Acceptance of international students to any Canadian medical school is VERY limited. While McGill Medicine teaches in English a functional knowledge of French would be necessary for the clinical years. Medical schools in other provinces would not require this.

Okay, all that said. You have not been clear on finances. As a French citizen your tuition at McGill would be about C$10,000/year or US$7200/year. How would you afford Haverford?

Academics at McGill are rigorous. And as others have said support would not be as readily available there compared to Haverford. Universities do not get students into medical schools, the student gets himself into medical school based on what he does at the university.

Montreal would be a great experience for you but what you make of it would be up to you.

And something to consider, since you mentioned citizenship: it’s very tough for international students to get accepted at US medical schools.

Regarding college-medical school is extremely expensive. In this case, it appears you favor McGill, which is also much cheaper.

@oldlaw I believe the OP is a dual US/France citizen.

He mentions seeking both Canadian citizenship in his original post(" How long would it take to obtain Canadian residency and/or citizenship?") and French citizenship(post #3), and says nothing about being a dual national once he obtains those citizenships.

@oldlaw He says he’s American in the first sentence.

@JustinAdler McGill will not be limiting. The only things that will be limiting in admission to a US med school coming from McGill are your GPA and your MCAT score. The average GPA at McGill is likely lower than at Haverford. However, the most important factor for your GPA is you. Go where you will be happiest and the GPA will follow.

Many students who can’t get into med school right after undergrad do a masters or PhD and then reapply and are successful.

Given your citizenship, I would plan to apply primarily to US med schools. You can apply to Canadian schools if you want, but admission will be much more difficult.

The average GPA at Haverford is a 3.4. I’m not sure of McGill’s but that could give you a starting point for comparison. You could also compare how the schools are handling the current situation as it may continue into the next school year. Are you full pay at both schools?

@oldlaw. Quebec allows French citizens to pay the low Canadian tuition rate. They do not need to seek Canadian citizenship. It doesn’t matter if one is a dual US/French citizen.