Where to Apply to Medical School: Factors to Consider when Making Your School List

By AAMC Staff

If you’re applying to medical school this year, you’re probably starting to think about what school you’d like to attend. Many students are encouraged to apply broadly, and on average, applicants apply to 16 medical schools. While the right number of schools is different for everyone—you may apply to more or less—a good rule of thumb is to only apply to the medical schools you would attend if accepted. This will save you time and money overall, even if it means doing more research before the application cycle begins.

Here are five questions you should ask yourself before deciding where to apply to a medical school:

1. Does the school’s mission align with mine?
Schools may have a specific focus, such as research, primary care, or serving under-served communities. It’s important to make sure that the school’s area of emphasis is a good match for your own personal goals and interests. Admission officers often factor in whether an applicant is a good fit for their mission, so applying to schools that share your interests will make you a more qualified candidate for that school.

2. Do they accept out-of-state applicants?
Some medical schools, particularly public ones, may not accept out-of-state applicants or have a preference for applicants who are residents of their state. This is typically because their mission is to train future physicians who will stay and practice in their community or region. Unless you can demonstrate strong ties to the area, it’s best not to apply to schools where the majority of their incoming class are in-state residents.

3. Is their education style a good fit for me?
While all schools will give you a foundation in the medical sciences and training in clinical skills, each school has its own specific curriculum, course format, and academic schedule. Programs can vary in their grading system (pass/fail, letter grades, or a combination), whether attending lectures is mandatory or if they’re recorded, on dress code, and the timing of when students will begin interacting with patients. It’s important to consider your own learning style, interests, and the kind of environment where you can see yourself being most successful.

4. Would I want to live there?
Your medical school’s location will be your home for at least four years, so make sure it’s somewhere you can see yourself living. Some things you might consider about your location include proximity to your support system of family and friends, whether you want to live in a big or small city, if you can use public transportation or will need a car, and what kind of housing options are available. It’s good to be open to change, but consider what you would be comfortable with and rule out any locations that would ultimately be a deal breaker.

5. Am I being realistic?
Schools consider many factors in addition to your academic metrics, but it’s important to compare your potential school’s acceptance data around MCAT, GPA, and prerequisite coursework requirements to your own scores and transcript. And if you have questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your pre-health advisor to help you with your decisions. If you don’t have a pre-health advisor, you can be connected with one through the Find an Advisor service through the National Advisors Association for the Health Professions (NAAHP).

You can learn about all of these factors on each school’s website or in the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR).