If you’re planning to apply to medical school, you should begin researching medical schools well before applications open. It takes time to put together a strategic list, and by beginning early, you’ll have more time to learn about various schools and which ones are the best fit for you.
In addition to the websites of individual schools, an excellent resource to learn about medical schools is the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) database. Access to the MSAR online can be purchased here through the Association of American Medical Colleges website.
When choosing schools, keep in mind the following:
- The numbers. Determine if the average GPA and MCAT score at a school is in line with yours and then classify the school accordingly as a target, reach, or safety school. Aim for a list of primarily target schools, but definitely have some safety schools on the list – as well as a few “reaches” to give yourself a shot at some of your dream schools.
Number of residents and nonresidents interviewed and accepted: Most public schools heavily favor state residents, making it much more difficult for nonresidents to be accepted to those schools.
- Curriculum. Is the curriculum taught through lectures, small group learning, or a mix of the two? Does the school use an organ systems approach? Or some other way of organizing the material? Determine what suits your learning style best as you choose schools.
- Grading system. Some schools use traditional letter grades, others have pass/no pass systems, and others have a more complicated pass/no pass system that also includes low pass, high pass and honors.
- Location. You’ll be living in the area where you attend school for four years, so location is an important factor is school selection as well. Region of the country, whether the area is urban, suburban, or rural, and other factors should play a role in your assessment of the schools.
Finally, have an open mind as you check out medical schools. Any U.S. medical school will give you the education you need to become a practicing physician, so don’t just limit yourself to “name” schools. A school you may not have heard of previously or one that is newer could end being the one that gives you an M.D. or D.O. degree!