Choosing the schools to which you will apply is an important part of this process. You should spend time reflecting about what you think you want and need from your medical education and then research individual schools to find those that might be the best fit.
The following admissions guides published by the various professional organizations are designed to help you to learn more about each school. These guides are definitely where you want to begin your search, but you may then find it helpful to go to individual school websites to read more extensively about the school's curriculum and other special features.
Medical School Admission Requirements of the US and Canada (MSAR) Published by The American Association of Medical Schools (AAMC) $28.00 or free with AMSA national membership.
Osteopathic Medical College Information Book - published by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) $15
Official Guide to Dental Schools, Published by The American Dental Education Association (ADEA): $40.00
Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements in the US and Canada Edited by: The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) $35.00
How many schools?
The number of schools students apply to depends on their state of legal residence and the strength of their candidacy. Although all medical schools are exceedingly selective, there are important distinctions amongst them. These distinctions should be weighed carefully. Because medical school applicants are so numerous and admission is so competitive, students must apply to a range of schools. The recommended number is between 15-18 schools. Remember that the admissions process is very expensive, as well as time- and labor- intensive. You won’t be able to do a good job on your applications if you apply to too many schools. Also, students should remember to consider location, curriculum, size, and atmosphere in making their decisions.
Evaluating Your Options - Factors to Consider:
Location and Residency: Many medical/dental and veterinary schools are state-affliated and as such give some preferential treatment to applicants who qualify as residents of their state. The percentage accepted in-state vs. out-of-state should be something that you look at closely, for it will vary by state school. There are some states that only accept their own residents and others that accept up to 50% from out of state. We do recommend that all applicants apply to their home state school for it most often increases their odds of being admitted. Applicants should also carefully research where they will be considered a state resident for the requirements vary considerably by school and state. Applicants may also want to consider where they think they may be most happy in terms of location, considering your support systems etc., While many Columbia applicantss express a desire to stay in NYC, this is not always possible given the competition and therefore we would recommend that you expand your geographic search and look for other locales that may have features similar to what you like about NYC.
Special Regional Opportunities:
WICHE: Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education operates a professional student exchange program enabling students in 13 western states to enroll in selected out of state professional programs, usually because those programs are not available in their home states. Exchange students must be certified by their home states. Exchange students will receive preference in admission and usually reduced tuition. WICHE has exchange programs for the following professional fields, Allopathic Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, Physician Assistant, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Public Health, Pharmacy, and Optometry.
WWAMI: The University of Washington School of Medicine serves as the public medical school for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho (WWAMI). Students from these states will all be considered in- state students for purposes of admission and tuition. Through this program, students from these states complete their first year of medical school at participating universities in their home state.
FAME: Finance Authority of Maine’s Maine Access to Medical Education Program has entered into contracts with three medical schools (Dartmouth, Vermont & UNECOM) to provide PREFERRED ACCESS seats at each school for a total of twenty incoming, certified Maine residents each year. Essentially, this program removes Maine applicants from the national pool of applicants and allows them to compete for medical school acceptance in a pool consisting solely of Maine residents. The probability of being invited to interview at any of the schools participating in the Access Program is greatly increased if you apply under the auspices of the Maine Access Program.
DIMER: Delaware Institute of Medical Education and Research : Through DIMER, Delaware has a relationship with Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA, resulting in Jefferson Medical College functioning as Delaware’s medical school. Through the program, the state of Delaware provides payment to Jefferson Medical College to reserve at least 20 admissions places each year for Delaware residents. In addition, DIMER has a relationship with the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), Philadelphia, PA. Through that program PCOM reserves at least 5 admissions places each year for Delaware residents.
Medical schools all prepare you to practice medicine, but the way they structure the curriculum varies from place to place. Applicants should pay attention to how the years are structured, how much independent learning vs. lecture vs. group work there is and evaluate fit based on your learning style. It is also important to consider grading policies. There are many schools that have gone to a purely Pass/Fail grading scale for the pre-clinical years, while others have maintained the Honors/High Pass/Pass/Low Pass/Fail system. Additionally some schools require a research thesis and/or build in time for a scholarly project, while others have a focus on community service, the needs of the underserved or specific foci like rural practice. Some schools have opportunities for joint degrees, with public health, business etc., - these might be things that appeal to particular applicants. Additionally, it is also important to understand how the clinical training is organized and integrated across the four years - what is the structure of the clerkships and how much elective time is there for exploration. These are all important factors when considering which schools most appeal to you.
While medical schools are all relatively small in size - there are some differences ranging from a small class size of 45 to a larger size of 275. This may make a difference to you.
Culture and Support Services:
Schools undeniably have their own individual culture and feel - and it's important that you feel comfortable during your visit. Additionally, you may want to better understand the other support services, including counseling, learning support, advising, financial support for special projects of student initiatives. Each of these things will tell you a little bit more about the values of the school.
Cost of Education/Financial Aid:
The cost of education will vary from institution to institution - this number will include tutiion and fees but also living expenses. While state schools may appear to have lower sticker prices, the most important number to look at is the average indebtedness of graduates - this number is the better comparison because it takes into consideration the financial aid that may be provided by the school. While your education is certainly a sound investment, cost and debt should be considered.
While all medical schools are highly selective, there are some differences between average metrics. Some schools perhaps because of their location or reputation get far more applicants than others - it is important to take these issues into consideration when building a balanced list of schools to which to apply.