There are literally hundreds of medical schools in the U.S. to choose from – how do you choose where to apply? Ask yourself the following five questions – their answers will help you narrow down your school selection list and choose the ones that are best for YOU.
Question #1: Should you go in-state?
This is a great place to start as state schools are often cheaper, not to mention easier to get into for residents.
Question #2: Where do you stand competitively?
You need to know where you stand when compared to other applicants. While some aspects of your profile won’t be able to be measured objectively (like your clinical experiences or unique background), others are simple facts that are easily comparable. Check out recent rankings to determine average MCAT scores and GPAs for entering classes at the schools on your list. Then narrow down accordingly.
Question #3: What’s your area of interest?
For example, if you have a strong interest in doing health policy, then you might want to look at somewhere like Georgetown in Washington, D.C. as it offers great access to different health policy resources. Look at different areas that interest you or that you have some background in and then select the schools that focus on that, whether it’s infectious disease or rural medicine or emergency medicine or whatever it is that you’re passionate about pursuing.
Question #4: Who do you know?
If you are friends (or friends of friends) or colleagues with professors, doctors, students, or alumni who are connected with one of the programs on your list, then you should definitely talk to them about their experience – their likes and dislikes.
Question #5: How are the vibes?
A school could look perfect on paper, but if you step foot on campus and get negative vibes, then the school may not be for you. A school’s culture – the atmosphere on campus, the way the classes are run, the professor/student exchanges, and the students themselves – can’t be felt by browsing a website. Often first-hand experience is needed to truly get a feel for what the experience of med school will be like. While it may not be feasible to visit every school on your list, you should certainly visit as many as you can, and then fill in the gaps by attending info sessions/premed fairs, and connecting with students and alumni off-campus (as in #4 above).
Why these questions are so important
Going to medical school is a huge investment – both financially and time-wise. You’ll be spending the next four years of your life at this institution and if you’re not happy or if it doesn’t contribute positively to your future career, then it would be a waste.
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