Pick a school! Any school!

There are approximately 160 accredited medical schools (not including a several accredited institutions in the Caribbean and other countries) 61 dental schools, and over 100 schools in the United States. So its no wonder choosing where to go for professional school can seem like a daunting task, because it is! Since its neither financially, or emotionally feasible to  apply to all of them, there has to be some sort of system to narrow things down once you’ve decided on an area of interest.

Some major factors to consider when choosing where to apply are:

1. Location

–  North, south, west, Midwest

– Proximity to relatives and friend

–  Cost of living

– Climate

– Social scene in the city – you won’t have a lot of time to socialize, but you will have time, so when you do get some   free time, it needs to be a in city that has things for you to see, do and enjoy.

2. Academics and selection criteria

Look at the average MCAT / DAT / PCAT requirements and science GPA. This will help you as you try to generate a balanced list of schools to apply to.    Its important that your final list of schools  has schools that are considered “reach” schools, some match schools that you have a fairly competitive application for, and then a few safety spots that you have a great chance of getting secondary based on numbers alone (which isn’t the only thing admissions committee members look at).

3. Curriculum / Class Size

– There are constant transitions and changes in how medical education is conducted.  Schools are straying away from the traditional didactic, lecture style and incorporating more problem based learning (PBL), small group interactions, earlier clinical experience etc.  It’s important to consider the school’s curriculum and learning philosophy as you narrow your search.

– Grading system:  Some schools use a strictly pass/fail system, others use a gradation ( honors, high pass, pass, fail) .

– Focus on academics and research vs clinical medicine

– The class size is also important.  Some people have a preference for a more intimate class size of 40 – 50 versus 200+

4.  Finances

How much does this school cost?  Now, that shouldn’t take any school off the list, but it’s important to know how much tuition is up front, because as interviews and acceptances roll in, the private school that is $55K a year, may not look as nice as the public school that is $40K a year.

5. Extracurriculars

Outside of academics, what are some of other things this particular school focuses on.  Are they mission oriented?  Are there opportunities for community projects / community involvement?

6.  Extra perks / assets

– Technological capabilities and advancement

– Early clinical exposure ( standardized patients, SIM centers)

You will need to go over your list a few times and keep cutting as you go, based on whatever criteria you have chosen as most important to you.

  1. The key is to have a system for narrowing things down.
  2. Know what your must haves are.
  3. Understand going in that you will this list will have multiple revisions, don’t try to settle your list on your first search.
  4. BE ORGANIZED, so you don’t get overwhelmed. For  each school that makes it past your preliminary cut, consider having an easily accessible system like flashcards, spreadsheet that  includes specifications about the school: Name, location, grade system, extra perks, cost of tuition, application materials required,etc.

Additional Resources

Medical School Application Requirements (MSAR)

Dental School Application Guide

Pharmacy School Application Requirements

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