Congratulations—you’ve decided to pursue a career in medicine! Now what? This is a huge decision, and it can be difficult to know where to start.
Congratulations—you’ve decided to pursue a career in medicine! Now what?
This is a huge decision, and it can be difficult to know where to start. There are thousands of reputable medical schools across the globe and a medical school application is no easy feat. That’s why it’s important to narrow down your list of potential medical schools before it’s time to apply.
Making the right choice in what medical school to attend is vital. It defines your medical education and career path. Surely, you have many questions and inquiries to begin this process. The purpose of this post is to provide you with valuable insights into tailoring your medical school choices to your individual needs and aspirations.
Understanding Different Medical School Types
Medical schools offer a wide variety of focuses and resources for students. It is important to understand what each prospective school offers before deciding to apply. Keep in mind what aspects are important to you in a medical school, and this will help guide you through your application process.
When reviewing a potential medical school, start with the basics. Is the institution research-intensive or primary care-focused? A research-intensive medical school will provide ample opportunities and perform research and participate in research-based programs. For example, the Feinberg School of Medicine prioritizes student research with the Research Intensive Scholarly Emphasis (RISE) program, where students can apply for a fully-funded independent research year.
Primary care-focused medical schools center on the care of the whole patient. If you are still unsure of what area of medicine you would like to work in, a primary care-focused institution may be a good place to start to find what you’re interested in.
It is important to understand what a public institution entails and offers compared to a private institution. Depending on what you are looking for in your medical career path, one of these choices may be a better option than the other for you. There are significant differences in tuition, class sizes, and educational philosophies. Research is your best friend in understanding different medical school types.
The geographic location of a medical school is more significant than one may think. It can affect lifestyle, clinical experiences, and even networking opportunities. There is a vast difference between an urban setting compared to a rural setting, and it is crucial to understand their implications.
Pursuing higher education is a significant adjustment as a whole, even more so in attending medical school. Think about the importance of your proximity to home in making your application decisions. Do you want to be nearby? Do you want to be learning across the country? Having answers here will really help narrow down your medical school search.
Location impacts access to specific populations and medical specializations. This is just one of many reasons why it is important to know what you want in a medical school and education when considering what schools you want to apply to and possibly attend.
Opportunities for Clinical Experience and Specialization
As we’ve discussed, different medical schools offer a wide variety of different opportunities, experiences, and specialties for students. Another great way to evaluate potential medical schools is by reviewing clinical rotation opportunities and available specialties.
Think about your career interests. Even if you’re not quite sure what area of medicine interests you the most yet, that’s okay! You can still make informed decisions based on opportunities to learn and try things to decide where you want to end up in your medical career.
Again, diligent research is your best bet here. Research schools beyond their class offerings and acceptance rates. Look into specific programs and opportunities. Is there a specific specialty or area you’d like to learn more about? Would you rather begin more broadly in your medical education to get a better sense of everything?
Think about the answers to these questions while you evaluate medical schools, as it will help guide you to what may be a good fit for you.
It is no secret that pursuing a career in medicine is a pretty expensive educational path. But, luckily for you, there are many avenues and resources available to prospective medical students that can help in financial areas.
While tuition costs can run sky-high, there are many opportunities for scholarships and financial aid. Review potential medical schools and see what they offer prospective students in scholarships. See where you qualify. There are other scholarship-based resources beyond specific schools, too.
The U.S. federal government even offers full scholarships to medical students who intend to become primary care doctors in areas experiencing health care shortages! The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) offers scholarships to students interested in serving on Army medical teams. These are only two examples of many scholarship opportunities available to prospective medical students.
Regardless of your plans, it is crucial to initiate long-term financial planning for medical school. There are many resources to help students on this journey, but it is important to be prepared for any and everything.
Finalizing Your List of Schools
It can be intimidating to think about narrowing down your list of potential medical schools, especially if your list of favorites is long! But it is important to make your list manageable. Medical school applications are lengthy and require a lot of work. It is necessary to ensure you have the time and dedication to complete a strong application for all schools you are considering.
It is just as important to think realistically in your journey to finding the best medical school for you. There must be a balance between reach, match, and safety schools—no matter how strong your background is. As a prospective medical student, your future classmates are smart, passionate, and driven. Make sure your medical school choices make sense for your background, your career plans, and your lifestyle.
Applying to medical schools can be a very daunting, yet very exciting, journey for future medical doctors! The best way to decide the right medical schools to apply to is to know what you want and what you’re looking for as best as you can.
Make informed, personalized decisions, and take the time to think about where you want to go in your career. It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers yet—that’s normal! But focusing on your own interests is key to selecting the right medical schools to apply to for you!
Rohan Jotwani is the Director of Admissions Counseling at Inspira Advantage. Rohan Jotwani (he/him) is an Assistant Professor in clinical anesthesiology and Assistant Director of education at Weill Cornell University School of Medicine. Dr. Jotwani completed his undergraduate degree at Columbia University and his medical education (MD/MBA) at Tufts University before becoming a chief anesthesiology resident at New York Presbyterian Hospital.