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How Do I Know Which Medical School is Right for Me?

Created October 11, 2017 by Cassie Kosarek

Receiving multiple admissions offers to medical school can be both thrilling and daunting for prospective medical students. For many applicants, the simple goal is to get into medical school; a scenario in which one has to choose between multiple programs is simply not considered. But for a fraction of admitted medical students, juggling the pros and cons of several schools becomes a difficult and important task.

If you are one of the lucky applicants who has been admitted to multiple medical schools, you might be wondering how to choose the right program for you. While you will ultimately have to select the parameters that are most important to you, evaluating schools from several angles—including cost, location, academic strengths, and research and volunteer opportunities—may help you identify the right medical school for you.

1. How does the cost of each program relate to your financial plans?

Many medical students finance all or part of their medical education with loans. When considering multiple schools, evaluating the financial impact that each will have is both practical and necessary. Have you been admitted to a state school at which you will receive discounted tuition as an in-state student? Have you received grants or scholarships at any of your prospective schools? Is the cost of living lower in a particular city, and will that lower cost of living significantly decrease your future debt?

2. Will you be happier at a specific location?

Choosing a medical school involves more than identifying an academic program in which you will thrive. You are also deciding where you will spend the next four years of your life, so be sure to think about the kind of environment in which you will live. Are you a city person who would not enjoy a rural environment? Are you someone who cannot stand the snow? Remember that while medical school will consume a significant portion of your time, having opportunities to pursue your interests and the lifestyle of your choice outside of school can contribute to your well-being and academic performance.

3. Does any program have particular academic strengths in areas that interest you?

While many prospective medical students do not yet know which specialty they will pursue, some individuals arrive at medical school with one or more clear ideas about what their future might hold. If you are interested in a particular area of medicine, considering which academic departments are strongest at each of your prospective schools may help you decide which program to attend. Stronger academic departments in your prospective speciality may mean more exposure to that area of medicine as a medical student, more research opportunities in that area, and better mentorship for residency applications in that area.

4. What opportunities will be available to you at each program? 

Though many medical schools offer opportunities to become involved in their surrounding communities via volunteer positions, you might find that you are drawn to a specific population or type of opportunity that is unique to one of your prospective programs. Similarly, you might find numerous research opportunities that suit your interests at one prospective school, but fewer at others. As you consider your choices for medical school, think about what types of activities might be most important to you as a medical student, and evaluate which of your prospective programs best fits your goals.

About the Author
Cassie Kosarek is a professional tutor with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Bryn Mawr College and is a member of the Class of 2020 at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.

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