How did I choose which medical schools to apply to?
Now that you have decided on going into medicine, established your application timeline, and developed a study schedule, you may be thinking: “I just want to be accepted to medical school, to any medical school!” Many of us, myself included, had similar thoughts as we applied. I am now going to encourage you to move beyond those initial thoughts and take some time to reflect on what makes you thrive—your definition of “thriving.” For instance, for some people spending time with their family once a week makes them the most productive and fulfilled, for others not so much. Medical school can be isolating and uncomfortable thus setting yourself up for success from the start can be critical. I will now go over some of the things that many of us looked into when deciding what medical/professional school to attend:
Mission Statement & Values: Going to the schools website is a good first step in getting a feel for the culture and the values of an institution. You want to train at an institution that will help foster your interests.
Location: Taking into account where you want to live is more important than some may initially think. For instance, if you live at home for undergrad, like I did, moving out of the state would probably make your transition more challenging. However, some students find that they are ready to take on a new season in their life and explore new places. I would say that the key here is taking an honest look at what you need in terms of being close to family and having space to develop individually. I will say that having a home cooked meal every now and then is not a bad thing.
Patient Population: Why are you going into medicine? Do you want to work with a specific population: immigrants, patients with language barriers, insured/uninsured, transplant patients, critically ill patients. Are you interested in medically sick patients? Trauma patients? Some schools will have more exposure to specific populations than others. Asking early on can help you understand what your training will be like.
Campus Environment: What is the overall feel when you walk on campus? Do people look happy? Friendly? It may also be helpful to stop a few students and ask them about their experience with the school. Things like greatest strengths and challenges as a student can spark good topics of discussion. This is also the time when you want to see if there student organizations that are important to you represented at the school. I wanted to continue my work with LMSA and SNMA so I made sure to meet students from those organizations when I visited schools—which ended up being a great resource as I transitioned into Medical School.
Cost: Although I want to stress that the decision on where you decide to go to school should not come down to cost, I also understand that this is a very real concern. Out-of-state is generally more than in-state tuition. Proactivity is the name of game in financing your education and there are many scholarship resources which you can start applying for now. In addition, you may consider contacting the schools financial aid to ask questions such as “How much debt do students graduate with?” “Are there other scholarships available for incoming/continuing students?”
Curriculum: Some schools place more focus on traditional sciences such as biochemistry while others have more of a social sciences focus. My institution had curriculum that included a course titled “Racism in Medicine.” It was important for me to be at school where we address the latter as some of the motivating factors for me going into medicine are around health disparities or differential treatment of groups of people that lead to differences in a community’s health. Looking online or asking representatives, current students about the focus of the curriculum may be very helpful if you are hoping to be part of an institution that shares similar values when it comes to medical education.
Faculty: Are there any potential mentors? It may sound a little cliché but if there are faculty members that you would like to look like when you grow up, professionally, Contacting them to speak about their path and what brought them to the institution may be a good start to a long standing relationship as well as preparing yourself for success as a professional student.
Support & Administrative Services: Some schools have an office of Multicultural Affairs or Center of Diversity and Inclusion. I found such resources to be helpful in finding mentors, determining what study materials to use, and how to best transition each year.
You are already on your way to becoming that amazing healthcare practitioner. Prepare yourself for success by choosing an environment you will thrive in!