Grad SchoolMCAT

How to Decide What Medical School Is Right for You

With any accomplishment, new opportunities emerge but new challenges also arise.

An athlete who wins a championship immediately faces the challenge of defending the title. A parent who raises a valedictorian is rewarded with the challenge of upcoming college tuition. An employee who earns a promotion is met with the challenge of new career expectations. 

Congratulations on your accomplishment . . . here is a new challenge!

The same is true for students who receive acceptance letters from multiple medical schools. What an accomplishment! It’s hard enough to gain acceptance into one medical school, but to have several offers is quite the feat. Having numerous options brings opportunities, but it also comes with this challenge . . . 

Which school should you choose?

As an ambitious, industrious, overachieving student, this isn’t a challenge to stress about, this is a challenge to embrace and enjoy. Here are a few things to consider when choosing the medical school that is right for you:

What Is the Price Tag?

Cost shouldn’t be the only factor when choosing a medical school, but it is an important one. This is a reason many students select in-state schools as opposed to more expensive out-of-state options. If you are considering a school that is more expensive than your other choices, be sure to apply for scholarships in order to ease your financial burden.

The amount of debt you occur in medical school can later affect your work-life balance and your eventual specialty choice. Therefore, when selecting a medical school, it is important to avoid unnecessary debt. 

In addition to tuition costs, research other costs as well . . .  

  • What is the cost of living in the city where the school is located? 
  • What relocation costs might you incur? 
  • If  you’re far from home, how much money will be spent in travel? 

These expenses can add up quickly and should be taken into consideration.

Many students make the mistake of choosing a medical school simply because it was one of their initial “reach” schools or because of its recognizable name. However, such programs can sometimes be much more expensive than other schools with comparable educational opportunities. Be sure to do your research and make a financially wise decision.

What Are the Graduation Rates and USMLE Passing Rates at This School?

One way to gauge if a medical school will properly prepare you for a career in medicine is to see how well that school has prepared others. Obvious metics like graduation rates and USMLE passing rates should be considered thoughtfully.

According to the AAMC, four-year graduation rates for M.D.-only students have hovered around 83 percent since the 1980’s. 

According to USMLE.org’s 2019 performance data: 

  • Step 1: 97% passing rate for first-time test takers (M.D.); 96% passing rate for first-time test takers (D.O.)
  • Step 2 CK: 97% passing rate for first-time test takers (M.D.); 97% passing rate for first-time test takers (D.O.)
  • Step 2 CS: 95% passing rate for first-time test takers (M.D.); 85% passing rate for first-time test takers (D.O.)
  • Step 3: 98% passing rate for first-time test takers (M.D.); 96% passing rate for first-time test takers (D.O.)

Do your due diligence and find out how a school you are considering compares to these percentages.

Are the Community, Culture, and Opportunities at This School Right for Me?

Medical school can be a trying and stressful time for students, so it is important to be in an environment where you feel safe, supported, and invigorated. 

When looking at a variety of schools, consider things beyond just the academics . . .

Does this school offer support services for students? 

Does this school offer leadership opportunities, research projects, and specialty training that align with my passions? 

Is this school representative of values that are important to me, both personally and professionally?

When you find a school that feels like home, while offering education and hands-on experience in fields of specialty that interest you, you’ve found a place where you’ll love to learn each day.

What Are Students and Alumni Saying?

Perhaps the best way to learn about a school is to talk to people who attend or who have graduated. This is when you will get a true take on what opportunities are available and what life on campus is really like. 

Visiting the school, talking with current students, interviewing alumni — these are all helpful ways to gain a firsthand knowledge of what your experience might be like at the school of your choice. 

If you are a student preparing for your upcoming MCAT® exam, discover how UWorld can help you. With over 2,000 MCAT-style questions, one-of-a-kind explanations, and precise performance tracking, UWorld will have you confident and prepared for MCAT success.