International medical students applying for electives at Dalhousie are being turned away – because they’re applying for the wrong electives.
Last year, 293 students out of 486 were turned away because the departments and times they had chosen were already full. According to the International Electives Office, very few applicants were rejected because they failed to meet basic academic and vaccination requirements.
International students apply for medical electives through the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC). The AFMC’s Dalhousie page states that students will not be informed of spaces available before their application is submitted and there is no guarantee of placement.
Dr. Simon Field is Assistant Undergraduate Dean of Clerkship with the Faculty of Medicine. He said departments, not the faculty, track how many spaces they have available. This affects Dal’s application process.
“Dalhousie has not put a limit on the number of applications that they will accept. Other schools have said they feel it’s unfair to allow people to apply if there’s no chance of them getting an elective … we have not put a specific cap on numbers,” says Field.
For international applicants, this is a financial risk. To apply for a short-term elective, they must pay the $500 AFMC fee as well as the non-refundable $725 Dalhousie application fee.
Dr. Field said some upcoming changes will hopefully make the process fairer.
“We will be moving to only accepting applications in certain time periods. We won’t accept applications all 12 months of the year.”
International students are also at the bottom of the electives hierarchy, since local and Canadian students receive first priority.
Carla Whytock is the Coordinator for international visiting electives. She said the faculty does everything it can to place students, who choose two blocks of time and three placing options when they apply.
“If a student doesn’t place the first time, they may get three more choices,” says Whytock.
Dalhousie uses the same application process for electives as other Canadian medical schools. Its $725 application fee is not the highest (McMaster University charges $775), but it differs from McGill and the University of Manitoba, whose fees are less than $100.
“We are not in favour of accepting applications if we know there’s no chance that somebody will get a spot,” says Field.
But in this regard there is no change coming. International students applying to the program can only cross their fingers and hope one of their preferences has an open spot.