How to Pick the Medical School That is Best For You

January 13, 2014

“It’s not where you start but where you finish.” For many students, the college they begin in the fall of their undergraduate career may not be the one that grants them a degree. Applying to medical school, however, requires students to look at their options with a different mindset, because the medical schools they start at are the ones they’ll finish at.  With 170 medical schools to choose from (141 MD schools and 29 DO schools), there are a finite number of options for those interested in a medical career.  Here are several factors to consider as you determine which medical schools you’ll be applying to:

Location, location, location:  Many medical schools are located in large, metropolitan areas. You’ll need to determine whether you’ll be willing to move a great distance from home or stay local.  Both choices have their advantages.  You’ll need to consider the climate of the school.  For example, if you don’t love cold weather, medical school in Minnesota might not be for you, even if you know you’ll be admitted.  Location may appear to be a superficial factor, but consider it your starting point, since you’ll be living there full-time for the four years you’re enrolled in medical school.

Dentistry in IndiaAcademics and Research Opportunities:  Though the basics of medical training are mostly similar across medical schools, you’ll find that teaching practices and curricula presentation can vary. Do you prefer lectures or hands-on learning? Do you want opportunities to learn about special medical cases, or are you more interested in primary care? Some schools offer a three-year option, some schools offer combined degrees (MD/PhD, MD/MBA, etc.), and some schools offer traditional, four year, MD-only programs.  Know the specifics of the teaching program and research opportunities at the schools you’re applying to in order to make sure they match with your interests and ultimate career goals.

Follow the money:  Medical school tuition is notoriously high, and financial support can be difficult to come by.  You’ll need to determine what price you’re willing to pay for your medical school training.  If attending an Ivy League medical school, expect that the tuition will be many thousands of dollars higher than a state school. In addition, you’ll need to factor in living expenses.  Attending medical school in an urban area will cost significantly more than one in a suburban or rural area.  You may find yourself in the lucky position of having a partial or fully funded ride to medical school, but you won’t know this until well after you’ve submitted your applications.  Assume you’ll pay full price for medical school, and make your choices from that point.  

Of course, there is no way to know in advance which schools will accept you and which one, of those, will be your perfect match.  But imagine your perfect school, its location, curriculum, and cost, and choose those that closest match your needs.  Perhaps add one to your list that matches none of those criteria… because you never know which medical school will be the right one for you! — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.