How To Choose The Right Medical School

August 17

Table of Contents

How you approach the challenging process of choosing the medical school for you will inevitably impact your professional and personal lives. The more pertinent question, as opposed to how many medical schools to apply to, should be which schools are best for you.

The right selection process can make your four years of medical school a happy and rewarding experience, regardless of whether you are still debating between applying to some of the best schools in the nation or the most straightforward medical schools to get into.

Making this choice can be challenging. Applicants must weigh a plethora of criteria. Since there is no one-size-fits-all method for selecting a medical school, you must carefully consider your options. 

This article guides you in choosing the right medical school for you. We will discuss the factors you must consider and some tips on picking the medical school to which you should submit your application. 

How to Choose the Right Medical School: Factors to Consider

The challenging portion is over. You were accepted to med school! Suppose you are one of the fortunate students who have a choice of several acceptances. In that case, you may wonder how you will pick where to enroll.

To help you decide, here are the different factors that you need to consider:


The cost of attending medical school is high and rises yearly. Many college students do not receive the proper guidance regarding the federal loan application procedure, and some may not be aware of the distinctions between undergraduate and graduate loans.

The government pays the interest on your undergraduate loans. At the same time, you are enrolled in school but are liable for the claim that starts to accrue on your graduate school loans when you start taking classes.

Loans for graduate school have substantially higher interest rates as well. Minimizing the number of student loans you must take out should be one of your top priorities when selecting a school if you cannot fully finance your education through savings or your parents.


Your school's curriculum, which determines how and when you are taught, will most likely have the single most significant impact on your student experience after you begin medical school.

All medical schools used to follow the Flexner model

It requires students to spend two years (the preclinical years) learning the fundamentals of physiology and pathophysiology. 

Then, they spend another two years completing core rotations and electives at their school's affiliated hospital or other locations.

For the first two years, schools used ABCD grading, and for clerkships, they used ABCD grading under a new name (Honors/High Pass/Pass/Fail). 

However, numerous institutions have made significant curriculum revisions over the past ten years. Many institutions have shortened the preclinical years to only one or even 1.5 years, allowing students to start their clinical training considerably sooner.

Additionally, many schools have switched to a Pass/Fail grading system for the preclinical years, significantly reducing student stress and allowing them to concentrate less on tests and more on enriching activities like research and extracurriculars. A few institutions have even added clinical years to P/F grading. 

Last but not least, case-based learning has replaced or supplemented lectures in many schools, replacing the lecture model as the main style of instruction. The best plan combines P/F grading with an expedited preclinical program and optional lectures.


Although it can be challenging to define, your medical school's reputation plays a role in the residency match. 

The yearly published US News & World Report rankings, which place medical schools according to their financing for research and other factors, are among the most often recognized orders.

Even though this ranking is not ideal, it does provide you with a reasonable understanding of aspects like how straightforward it is to locate research opportunities at your school (which is crucial if you want to match into a competitive specialty) and how residency directors evaluate graduates from your school.

The Doximity rankings, which evaluate residency programs by field in terms of reputation, are a metric that needs to be considered. Some medical schools, like the University of Miami for ophthalmology, may be at the top of their domains for a particular specialty even though they do not place in the top 20 in the US News ranking.

Thus, if you have a specific specialty before enrolling in medical school, the quality of a school's home program in that specialty may be more important to you than the institution's overall ranking.


Location is another aspect that is crucial in selecting a medical school. But in this instance, there is not a particular optimum solution. Some people adore the bustle of a big metropolis like New York or Los Angeles. In contrast, others might find it distracting and would rather live in a more tranquil environment.

You might not have to worry as much about housing and living expenses if the medical school is nearby. You should consider living expenses, housing, and out-of-state tuition if you decide to attend medical school far away.

Campus Life

While academics will be the most significant portion of your stay there for the next four years, you must also consider certain other parts of your life while attending medical school. 

Does this school have a reputation for promoting inclusion and diversity? Or are the accommodation alternatives for medical schools among the best in the nation?

Maybe they have excellent student support systems that can get you through the challenging parts of your rotations or coursework. 

Or perhaps you can continue your preferred extracurricular activity once you start medical school because the institution has the resources to accommodate your interests?

This will contribute to the rewarding and joyful experience of attending medical school.

Admissions Statistics

Although low acceptance rates for medical schools should not influence your decision to apply to schools or not, you should be aware of the level of competition you will face. 

A competitive institution with a low admissions rate will give you an estimate of your prospects of getting in.

Focus more on if there is a significant difference between the school's in-state and out-of-state admission rates rather than whether they are nearly equal. Some medical schools prefer applicants who are state residents; we shall go into more detail on this topic later in this blog.

Even though many medical schools in the US welcome applicants from outside their state, you should be aware that your chances of admission will be significantly reduced if the school offers unheard-of favor to residents of the state.

USMLE Pass Rates

You must pass the three-part United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) to practice medicine in the US. 

USMLE pass rates should be taken into account by potential students. First-time pass rates are the most crucial statistics to take into account. 

If a school's statistics go below 90%, there could be cause for concern. A school risks losing federal student aid funds if its rates fall below 70%.

Student Profile

You must consider the backgrounds and experiences in addition to achieving the benchmarks established by your peers. This information is distinctly displayed on a chart in MSAR

By observing the types of applicants most frequently admitted, you can determine the activities your preferred institutions appreciate the most.

Let us assume you lack relevant knowledge of premedical research. If this is the case, consider how much research experience the preceding matriculants had. 

For instance, the Medical College of Georgia Augusta University or the University of South Alabama College of Medicine have very low percentages of matriculants having research and lab experience compared to Ivy League Medical Schools, which are research-intensive institutions. This would imply that these institutions would fit your profile more effectively.

Your MCAT and GPA Scores

Meeting the school's minimal GPA and MCAT standards is insufficient. Your GPA and MCAT score must at least match those of the most recent graduating class for you to be considered for admission.

The MCAT and GPA are still seen as the initial signs of your intellectual aptitude, even though most medical schools profess to assess your application holistically. 

You should also be aware that many institutions employ GPA and MCAT to weed out applicants at the beginning stages of application assessment due to the intense rivalry for spaces in medical schools.

This means that the committee might not even look at the rest of your application if your GPA and MCAT are below the standards set by the school. This is why it is so essential to adhere to these guidelines.

Consider applying to medical schools that do not require the MCAT if your MCAT score is not competitive. You need more time to retake the exam.

Financial Aid Options

Although it is advisable to see your education as an investment rather than a purchase, it is still crucial to consider how to pay for medical school, so be sure to view all your financing options.

Although student loans are a standard option, it is preferable to begin looking at non-repayable alternatives. 

If you qualify, research medical school scholarships as well as military benefits. Some scholarships, like the CityDoctors Scholarship Program at St. George University, may cover the entire cost of tuition for students who agree to work as primary care doctors in a specific region. Also, consider what you or your family can do to support your education.

Even though it will be more pertinent once you graduate, you could also want to look into different loan forgiveness programs. 

Suppose you make ten years of payments while working for an eligible business. In that case, you can, for example, have the outstanding balance on your loans forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

10 Tips for Choosing the Right Medical School 

The majority of candidates for medical schools aim to get accepted by the most prestigious schools. However, just because a school has a good reputation does not mean it will be the ideal medical school for you and your goals.

Below are a few tips when choosing the right medical school for you:

Research About the Medical School

It is a good idea to start by learning about the best medical schools in the United States. 

Finding the ideal medical school is challenging because they are all unique. Comprehending the school's guiding principles and how they align with your objectives is crucial. 

Read about each medical school's founding and accomplishments in the institution's history. To comprehend how a university might affect their career path, prospective students feel that learning about its successes and how they impacted history is helpful. 

Mission statements help you comprehend a medical school's primary objective. You will know a school's goals and its pupils' learning objectives. The medical school's mission can assist prospective students in deciding if the institution is the perfect fit for them. 

Put Your Personal Preferences Into Account

The fact that this topic is the most arbitrary of all of them is what pre-meds find so infuriating. It would be best if you thought about your priorities. Is it crucial to you that you are somewhere that does not get down to -10F?

In such a case, you could apply to universities in places with warmer weather. The same rule is valid whether you live far from your family or near to one, in an urban or rural setting, etc. This list is unique to you, so think deeply about what aspects of your education you are and are not prepared to sacrifice.  

Make a Decision About the Kind of Doctor You Want to Be

Although it may be challenging to imagine this before entering medical school, it is crucial to remember if you have strong beliefs about the type of doctor you want to become.

Let us imagine you want to become a doctor heavily focused on research. If so, you should enroll in a reputable research university with plenty of options to join the research. 

A program that requires research to graduate may not be for you, though, if you are confident that becoming a primary care physician is what you want to do. If primary care is your thing, you want a program that will expose you to everything and has a higher-than-normal proportion of students who match the field.

If you are the student who learns best via experience, search for clinical rotations at county hospitals where a sizable section of the patient population lacks insurance. Students frequently have to work hard in these places because there is a great need for labor.

Think about the kinds of extracurricular or undergraduate activities you would like to continue in medical school. Remember those things while you conduct your academic research.

Ask Current Medical Students About Their Opinions

Contact existing students at the medical school if you are unsure if it is the best choice for you. They may provide you with first-hand accounts of their experiences. 

Current or former students frequently leave testimonials for medical schools, but nearly never negative ones.

Former students will probably be responsive if you contact them through your networks or cold email. That is one of the best resources for program information.

Consider Your Support System

Whether it comes from an internal or external source, you will require assistance while in medical school. This means looking at programs close to your home, for example.

College is a change, but medical school is a life change. In a short amount of time, there is so much information. It is convenient to have a safety net in case you require one. 

Without the support of family members close by, adjusting and adapting to a new stage in your life could be difficult. 

Recognize the Various Types of Medical Courses

There are two distinct course types: the traditional and integrated courses. Ensure you know various teaching philosophies and consider which best fits you.

  • Traditional Courses

    In traditional courses, you first learn in a classroom setting during your preclinical years before moving to a clinical location in your third or fourth year. This is only present in a few medical schools.

  • Integrated Courses

    Integrated courses teach you by topic rather than discipline and integrate the classroom and clinical settings from the beginning. You will discover that the instruction in these courses is either problem-based, case-based, inquiry-based, or a combination of these.

Discover Each Medical School's Shortlisting Procedure

Understanding how various medical schools select applicants will help you know what they seek. They will shortlist you in a variety of ways if you have completed the entrance requirements:

  • Some employers would rank candidates only based on their UCAT or BMAT scores, inviting the top scorers to interviews.
  • Some will give you points based on your UKCAT/ BMAT score, academic accomplishments, and other characteristics; after ranking applicants based on their total points, those who received the most will be invited to an interview.
  • Some medical schools may utilize your personal statement as part of their shortlisting process. In contrast, others might not even read it.
  • Some might anticipate that you have a particular level of professional expertise, and some may have more stringent standards.
  • Some will request that you complete their own form, such as the duties and responsibilities form Keele has, and utilize this as part of their shortlisting procedure.

The good news is that information about shortlisting and admittance requirements may be found on medical school websites. Before making any judgments, carefully read and research.

(Still) Consider Your Metrics

It is essential to consider your measurements, even if you should not select schools based purely on them. Applying to a few reach schools is not a problem. But your entire school list shouldn't be made up of that.

Only apply if your MCAT score is within the institution's 10th percentile, which is the conventional rule of thumb. Everyone wants to believe that they are the exception to the rule. Still, unless you have a "unique" life story, you are the rule, not the exception.

Visit the Shortlist of Medical Schools

Institutions offer escorted campus visits, and anyone interested is strongly advised to take advantage of them. You can interact with real students to understand the campus culture. You have the opportunity to learn things that are not available online.

Make a Choice For You and You Alone

It is imperative to emphasize this idea. You can apply to the schools of choice if you cover the costs. If your instinct tells you, "Eh, I do not know about this program," do not apply.

The inverse is also accurate. You should add a program to your list if you discover something in your investigation that makes you think, "I do not know why, but this could be a good fit."

The choice is ultimately up to you and you alone.

4 Mistakes Pre-Med Students Make When Choosing a Medical School  

A lot is at stake when selecting medical schools, and you could hurt yourself if you make a mistake. 

Many pre-meds need to learn from their mistakes when applying to colleges; instead of taking the time to consider what is best for them, they frequently rely on rumors and rankings.

These are the most common mistakes that you have to avoid when choosing a medical school:

Not Spending the Time to be Unbiased or Conducting Research

It is utterly daunting to think of being still and reflective unless you regularly practice mindfulness

  • What will we discover if we examine ourselves?
  • Will we let ourselves down?
  • Can we frighten ourselves?

This is the most crucial initial step when choosing the finest institutions to apply to, despite being frightening to some. You must be aware of YOU. 

Along with an objective and accepting view of who you are as a person and what you desire, you also need an accurate idea of where your skill sets and performance metrics lay.

Strictly Selecting Schools Based on Metrics and "Credibility"

Knowing where you stand and selecting a variety of institutions is essential for "reach," "competitive," and "safety."

Additionally, you want to confirm that YOUR personality, passion, and purpose align with the specific institution's culture, initiatives, and mission.

A fast tip: US News & World Report often rates universities based on their spending on primary care, research, or the competitiveness of their departing residents. This information is largely irrelevant to how your didactic and clinical instruction will be structured.

For instance, Harvard is ranked first for research in the world according to US News and World Report, and this position is based on faculty research activity and NIH funding. That does not tell you anything about how involved students are in research during medical school, nor does it indicate the clarity of your physiology courses.

Not Paying Attention to the People That Came Before You

It would be unwise not to consider the advice of those who have gone before you on your journey. Although MS1 students (First Year) may interpret things differently than MS4 students (Fourth Year), all of the input is worthwhile. The majority of medical school is spent learning how to work more efficiently.

By dismissing the suggestions of medical students already enrolled in those colleges, do not try to recreate the wheel. Assuring them will be objective and offer you the good, the bad, and the ugly of their programs would be the only sticking point. 

As much as you wish there was an institutional Holy Grail, we can confidently state that there isn't one.  

Listening Only to Those Who Have Gone Before You

Different people hold different values. Attending a program with a lot of research content may be the main benefit for certain people. Others would rather live in a specific region or be nearer to their families.

There is still peer pressure in medical school and presumably for the rest of your life. Do not let anyone persuade you to apply to colleges that do not align with the principles that YOU consider essential.

How to Judge Whether a Medical School is Worth the Cost

Aspirants to medical school should seek out the institution that offers them the most value or a good education at a fair price. It would be best to think about your financial condition and how going into debt for medical school may impact your capacity to choose your own route later. 

Medical school debt can make it more challenging to have children when you want to, and it may make it harder for you to choose between a high-paying medical specialty and a less lucrative one.

Cost-conscious admitted students weighing different medical school scholarships or financial aid packages might want to consult with medical residents and other recent medical school graduates because they can offer advice on the effects of debt on quality of life.

Additionally, attending a public medical school as an in-state student is typically the most affordable choice. U.S. medical schools are heavily controlled, the most of them are of a respectable caliber. 

However, there is a significant quality difference across international medical schools, so it is crucial to investigate them and evaluate their program before choosing where to enroll.

Additional FAQs – How to Choose the Right Medical School

How Should I Choose the Right Medical School For Me?

Look for colleges that would be a perfect fit for you academically and socially before you apply.

Select institutions where you meet the GPA and MCAT averages and where your extracurricular and academic experiences will be valued to improve your chances of acceptance.

Once you have admission letters in hand, take some time to decide which institution best suits your requirements. To lower your costs, try to enroll in a school that can provide you with some financial aid. Also, find out what kind of residency preparation the school offers.

Does It Matter What Medical School You Attend?

No. You will eventually graduate as a doctor regardless of where you attend. 

Selecting a university that will fit you well is still a good idea because different colleges offer different student experiences.

How Many Medical Schools Should I Apply Into?

You can choose how many medical schools to apply to. 

However, most candidates apply to 15 or 16 because the primary and secondary applications can take a lot of time.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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