Medical schools are looking for the brightest and best premed students that are best fit for their program’s mission. Premed students likewise are searching for the best medical school which will allow them to thrive academically as well as in other endeavors. The school you choose will not only dictate your academic path but will also lead to lifelong relationships. These are a couple of factors which one should keep in mind when researching and deciding on a medical program.
- Geography: This will be highly dependent on the type of person you are. Medical school can be very stressful. If you have very supportive family and hometown friends that will understand why you’re often absent from events, then consider staying close to home but if the opposite is true then run for your life. I have seen this go both ways. A friend of mine cried her way through her first year of medical school because she was homesick and yet another friend of mine nearly flunked out of medical school due to distractions from family and friends. If you are a disciplined and independent individual, you can consider an out of state school, but remember you will likely have to pay a higher tuition than your state public institution. My personal choice was to attend a local medical school for lower costs and familiarity. Subsequently, I travel for fellowship which allowed a change in scenery and served as a great growing experience.
- School Ranking: Attending a highly ranked school will certainly look good on any resume and increase your chances to enter a competitive residency. Many of these programs will offer you great opportunities to do cutting edge research and learn from some of the top physicians the country has to offer. At the same time, you can also become very competitive after attending a less prestigious program if you work hard, make very good grades, and especially if you earn entrance into the distinguished Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. Be realistic when applying to these highly ranked programs. Compare your MCAT score and GPA to the average acceptance scores at the schools you are interested in. Do not let these scores prohibit you from applying since these averages include numbers below and above that number. Be sure to research the residency match rate for the schools you are interested in.
- Class Size: Small classes typically have about 50 students (Mayo- 53) while large classes may have up to 300 students (UIC- 315). Your experience in undergrad has probably allowed you to see if you do better in a smaller, intimate setting or in a larger, more diverse group. It is very important that you feel comfortable at your program so the student and faculty make-up may be important in your decision.
- Costs: We can all agree on this one. Minimizing costs is a plus. Medical school tuition can be expensive but don’t forget to figure in those living expenses. Your cheapest option would most likely be to attend an in-state, public institution close to home. This was my choice and I came out with a lot less debt than many other students since I did not need to pay for flight tickets during holidays and I was always home for mom’s good cooking. Private schools do tend to offer more scholarships so do not let this be a deal breaker. Seek and you will find.
- Curriculum: Spend some time researching prospective schools’ curricula. Most schools will provide similar content which will prepare you for your board exams and to become a competent physician. Schools will vary on the organization of the material. Some will use a block schedule (one course at a time) and split these into organ system (cardiology, endocrinology, pulmonology, etc.) or into subjects (pharmacology, anatomy, histology, etc). The first two years (preclinical years) of medical school are spent in class with didactic lectures. Some programs integrate patient care during this time and some offer problem-based learning (small student groups). Make sure to check if class attendance is mandatory. Some students do better if forced to attend lecture while others do better studying on their own.
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