Admission to medical school is extremely difficult, so it is a remarkable achievement when a premed gets into more than one school. Aspiring doctors in this situation may feel overwhelmed by their options, so admissions experts advise accepted students to keep a few things in mind when selecting a medical school.
Ways to pick the right med school
1. Stick to A Reasonable Number
In this case, quantity does not trump quality. Applying to medical school is an expensive endeavor! Simply adding schools does not increase your chances of getting an interview or being accepted. Each primary is more expensive, and each second is more expensive. All of these things start to add up, often with little to no return. Keep your number between 15 and 30.
2. Still Think About Your Metrics
While you should never choose schools solely based on metrics, it is critical that you consider your personal metrics in addition to the medical school requirement. It is not a problem to apply to a few reach schools. That should not, however, be the composition of your entire school list. If your MCAT score is less than the 10th percentile for that institution, you should not apply. Everyone wants to believe that he or she is the exception to the rule, but unless you truly have a “crazy” life story, I’m sorry to inform you that you are the rule, not the exception.
3. Decide What Kind of Doctor You Want to Be
This is difficult to grasp prior to medical school, but if you have strong ideas about the type of doctor you want to be, it is important to consider.
Assume you want to be a highly research-focused physician. If this is the case, you should attend a strong research institution where you will have many opportunities to get involved in a lab. Research is a bit of an “old boys club” in the sense that networking can be extremely beneficial, and the prestige of where you conduct your research is important.
If, on the other hand, you know you want to be a primary care physician, a program that requires research to graduate may not be for you. If primary care is your thing, you want a program that will expose you to everything and has a higher-than-average number of students matching to primary care. Also, if you are the type of student who learns best by doing, look for clinical rotations at a county hospital where a large proportion of the population does not have health insurance. Students are typically forced to get their hands dirty in these locations due to the high demand for labor.
If you have a strong interest in public health, you will want to ensure that the program offers a variety of public health opportunities. If you are desperate to learn Spanish, consider enrolling in a school in a city with a large Spanish-speaking population. Other students want to gain teaching experience, which is not always available at all institutions.
Consider what kinds of undergraduate or extracurricular activities you want to continue in medical school. Keep those things in mind as you conduct school research.
4. Think About Your Personal Preferences
This is the most subjective topic of all, and it is what drives pre-med students insane. You MUST think about what is important to you. Is it important to you to be in a location where the temperature does not drop below -10 degrees Fahrenheit? If this is the case, you may need to apply to schools in warmer climates in order to avoid colder locations. The same principle holds true for being close to family, living in a rural versus urban area, and so on. This is a personal list that requires some self-reflection to determine what you are and are not willing to compromise on when it comes to your education.
5. Make A Decision for Yourself and Only Yourself
This point cannot be overstated. At the end of the day, it’s your choice. If you are paying for it yourself, you have the right to apply to the schools of your choice. If your gut tells you, “Eh, I’m not sure about this program,” don’t apply. The inverse is also true. If there is something about the program that makes you think, “I don’t know why, but I think this could be a good fit,” add it to your list.
At the end of the day, the decision is solely yours.
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