How to Choose a Medical School

Last Updated: 03/17/15

So, you’ve been accepted to multiple medical schools. First of all, congratulations!! That is an amazing accomplishment. Second, how do you choose which medical school you’ll attend? We’ll attempt to answer that question here.

Choosing the Best Medical School

Everyone wants to go to the best medical schools. But, how do you define the best medical school? Sure, there are plenty of rankings of medical schools out there, but what are they based on? Mostly research funding and admissions statistics. What if you’re not interested in research and you don’t care about what MCAT score your classmates achieved? We believe that choosing the best medical school means looking beyond the rankings and finding the right school for you.

Things to Consider

There are several factors you should consider when choosing the right medical school for you and academic prestige is just one part of the equation. Here are some other factors to consider:

  • Medical school grading system – There are several grading systems that exist. The most common are pass/fail and honors/pass/fail. Some medical schools rank their students and some schools don’t. Everyone has a different view on how medical school grading should work. Research your schools and find the grading system that you like most.
  • Medical Student Research Opportunities – Want to do research as a medical student to position yourself for a competitive residency? Or would you rather go to a primary-care focused medical school? Some schools are known as medical research powerhouses and some choose to focus on other areas. Find the best fit for you.
  • The Medical Students – While you visited the school for your interview, how well did you get along with the medical students? Could you see yourself fitting in as a part of their class? These are the people you’ll be spending the next four years of your life with and you’ll need friends in a stressful environment, so this stuff does matter. Did the students get along with one another? Was there a note sharing service and study groups? Or did you get a sense that it was a competitive environment? Some medical schools create an environment where the students get along like a big family, promoting well-being and collaboration. Other schools harbor more competitive environments. This may sound harsh, but competition often encourages studying and produces well-prepared students. Find the best environment for you.
  • The Clinical Opportunities – What hospitals is the medical school affiliated with? Where do medical students generally do their rotations? What is the reputation of these hospitals? Check Health Grades. Would you rather learn in a large, urban hospital with opportunities to see a wide variety of cases or a smaller hospital where you might get a more personal education?
  • Opportunities for the Future – Does the school offer residency programs? Do these programs seem to favor their own students? What does the medical school’s match list look like? Do many students match into a specialty that you’re considering? Do the students match into prestigious hospitals or programs?
  • Financial Considerations – You’re going to be in debt, but how much? It’s easy to lose track of money when your loans are sky-high, but there is a considerable difference between a $30k loan and a $40k loan. It’s irresponsible to think otherwise. Take responsibility for your future and take cost of attendance and financial aid into account.
  • Overall Feel – Sometimes it’s hard to describe, but you just know where you belong. Did you get a special feeling during interview day? Could you see yourself studying at this school? Living in this city? If the school offers a second look day, attend it. If they don’t, call the school to set up a visit and get your questions answered – they’ll be very happy to help an accepted student.