How to Find The Best Medical School For You

With so many factors to consider when applying to medical school, it’s difficult to figure out what school is truly the best fit for you.

I didn’t fully realize what I was looking for in my best fit medical school until I started interviewing. Sure, any medical school’s website will give you lots of important details, but after actually seeing the school in person and talking to students about the program, the real differences between schools begin to crystallize.

So, for everyone out there who’s applying to med school, I’m going to try to make your selection process easier. Based on my experiences interviewing and interacting with med schools, here are 4 factors to consider when figuring out what med school’s the best fit for you:

MD vs. DO

There are two types of medical schools: MD (allopathic) and DO (osteopathic). Choosing between MD and DO will likely be the first step in your med school selection process. While both schools teach the same basic curricula, DO schools also teach osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT).

MD also schools tend to require higher GPA and MCAT scores from applicants than DO schools. MD schools may also offer additional research opportunities for their students.

Despite these differences between schools, remember that one isn’t necessarily more or less than the other. Whether you attend an MD or DO school, you’ll still come out a physician.

Research vs. Clinical

Medical schools are often broken down into two components: research and clinical experiences. In fact, U.S. News ranks medical schools based on these criteria.

During your pre-med experiences, you may start to realize you really enjoy conducting research. In this case, you may prioritize schools that rank highly in research. In my experience, I’ve found that the very prestigious medical schools like Harvard and Stanford draw students that are heavily involved with research during their undergrad years.

The same goes for clinical experience. If you enjoy the patient interaction part of medicine, you should look at schools that allow their students to interact in large hospital settings with diverse patient populations. Also, be sure to look at the school’s curriculum. Highlight schools that give students clinical exposure early on (check out Baylor College of Medicine), or provide Longitudinal Clinical Experiences (check out Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai) where students are paired with a patient for the entire medical school career.

Location

For me, location was a huge factor when deciding what med school I wanted to attend.

Location determines the types of clinical experiences you’ll have. For example, if you decide to attend a school in a diverse city, you’ll likely encounter patients of various racial and economic backgrounds, as well as different types of illnesses. You won’t get this type of experience at schools in smaller towns with less diversity.

Location also determines life outside of school. Med school is busy, but there will still be time to have fun. If you like going on hikes or a quiet coffee shop during your time off, you probably don’t want to live anywhere metropolitan.

Personality

Personality is an underrated factor in choosing between med schools. A med school’s personality is determined by the character of its students and faculty.

To get an idea of a med school’s personality, watch the school’s YouTube videos. Better yet, check out the types of student organizations the school has. This way, you can see whether or not your interests match those of the students at the school you’re looking at. For example, some schools may have social justice clubs, and this may pique your interest if you’re into healthy policy.

You’ll get a better idea of a school’s personality during the interview process. Make sure to ask questions about how collaborative vs. competitive the school’s environment is, and be sure to take note on whether or not students are happy where they are.

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imaz-athar

Imaz Athar

Imaz Athar is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, double majoring in Neuroscience and Sociology. He aspires to become a physician and plans on attending medical school in Fall 2017. Imaz fell in love with the art of writing at a young age and is currently the Publisher of Pitt's undergraduate-run science magazine The Pitt Pulse. When he's not writing or keeping up with classes, Imaz enjoys running, playing basketball, watching Empire, singing (in the shower), and listening to all kinds of music.