Choosing a Medical School

Deciding | Preparing | Timeline | MCAT | Choosing | Contacts

Choosing a medical school is similar to choosing a college/university except that the odds of acceptance to any specific school are substantially lower. Medical schools may only accept a small fraction of their applicants, so even very strong students usually apply to at least 15 programs. To make up your list, consider factors such as residency restrictions, mission of the school, curriculum, whether your GPA & MCAT scores are competitive, cost, admissions options and location. Choosing a medical school is an individual process, so don’t apply to a medical school simply because of pressure from others or just because that school has a strong reputation. Fit is an important aspect of a successful application to medical school. A medical school will consider whether or not your interests and experiences match those of the medical school's mission, philosophy and research/academic opportunities.

Here are some factors to consider when applying to a medical school.

  • Do you prefer a small or large school?
  • Do you like large or small classes?
  • What kind of teaching style works for you, a didactic lecture-heavy traditional curriculum or an integrated problem based learning (PBL) style? 
  • Do you want a school that emphasizes primary care, patient education, prevention, and preparation for community practice or do you seek a school with a strong research program?
  • Are you interested in an MD/PhD option, or an MD and some other advanced degree, for example an MPH?
  • How important are personal factors, such as proximity to family and friends, climate and type of community, be it urban or rural?
  • What kind of student community do you need or want?

Not only will choosing the right location affect your personal life, your education will be affected by different patient demographics as well.

Consider what type of financial aid is available. Get an idea of how much a particular medical school costs and whether or not you can meet those financial obligations before applying. You don't want to apply to schools that are financially out of reach for you. International students must find out which schools will accept them, because they are not eligible for the same kind of financial assistance for U.S. citizens and green card holders. In general, you should always apply to most if not all of the schools in the state in which you claim residency.

There are many of things to consider when applying to medical schools. Note, however, that school ranking and USMLE scores (the licensing exam or “boards”) have not been prominent on this list.  All schools must prepare you for the current medical field and all students take the same licensing exams, so while there are different opportunities at each medical school, the overall differences are not as large as one might think.