5 Criteria For Picking Your Med School

by Allen Chiou Dr. David Svec, Joyce Ho, Manuel Lam, and Dr. David Iberri

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Best Book on Med School Admissions.

Choosing where to apply for med school, as well as where you’ll eventually enroll, is one of the most important choices you’ll make. While you are deciding which schools are right for you, here are some important things to keep in mind (in no particular order):

1. Location

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Choosing where to apply for med school, as well as where you’ll eventually enroll, is one of the most important choices you’ll make. While you are deciding which schools are right for you, here are some important things to keep in mind (in no particular order):

1. Location

Never underestimate the importance of a school’s location. The location of your school will determine what type of weather you’ll experience, the opportunities available in the surrounding area, and the people you’ll be able to visit.

I grew up in California. I love its warm weather, and my family lives there. When I was applying to medical schools, I knew I wanted to stay in California if I could.

Maybe you like cooler weather. Or maybe you want to be more independent and live farther away from your relatives. Maybe there’s an awesome city with activities that you have always wanted to experience.

These are all things that should factor into your decision.

2. Research-Centered Schools

If you’re really interested in research, you should choose a school with a good reputation for research. Some schools may have particular facilities or programs specializing in one of your main areas of inquiry. Maybe there’s a particular mentor you’d want to work with.

You can bring these questions up in your application and in your interview. Asking will demonstrate your engagement with the school and give you a grasp on what a school has to offer in terms of research opportunities.

3. Schools That Excel In Multiple Areas

First and foremost, you will want to pick schools that excel in the area you want to specialize in. Each school has its own strengths, so it’s up to you to see how those strengths align with your ambitions. Since you might change your mind about your intended specialty, you’ll want a school that does a good job with your alternative specialties.

What is also important is seeing what other quality programs a school has to offer. If you intend on pursuing an MD/MBA, you should consider a university with a good business school as well, like Harvard or Stanford.

If you were going to Stanford and wanted to get a Master of Public Health degree, you would be traveling across the Bay to take public health coursework through Berkeley. (Stanford does not have an MPH program). Other schools have MPH programs within the school, such as Columbia or Johns Hopkins.

4. Are The Students Happy?

The atmosphere and culture of a school are also important. Take a look at a school’s students and see if they’re generally happy. Remember, if you choose to go to that school, you’ll be one of those students.

If you’re going to spend 4 years of your life somewhere, you should choose somewhere where you’ll be happy.

5. Track Record

After medical school, students go into residency, where they get training in a particular specialty. You should look into previous years' "Match lists", which are lists of residency programs that medical students in years past have gone into. By looking at this list, you can get a feeling for what kind of future training you can reasonably expect.

What residency programs are the students going to? What specialties are they entering? (Some specialties are more competitive than others.) If you can get a sense of these trends, you’ll get an idea of how a school is perceived by residency programs.
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