What Medical Schools Should I Apply To?

Deciding where to apply to medical school is an extremely important, and very challenging part of the application process. It takes a lot of time and can be expensive – not only because of the application fees themselves, but from campus visits as well. The decision is ultimately yours to decide which schools will be best for you. The Cracking Med School Admissions advisors  have helped hundreds of students make these decisions, and we’d like to share some of the best strategies to help you develop a solid list of schools to apply to.  If you’re applying to medical school this year, ask us your questions by filling out the contact form below and look at our medical school application advising packages here

The two common questions we get from our premed mentees are:

Check out links to our other useful resources down below

Written by: Andrew Park & Rachel Rizal

Applying to schools as an in-state candidate usually gives you an advantage. Many state schools have less than 15% of their class come from outside the state. In-state tuition also tends to be cheaper. Due to these factors, it’s a good idea to research several state schools and apply to a handful that would be a good fit for you. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t get into out-of-state medical schools! Many schools admit over 20-25% of their students from out-of-state.  

Other than the cost of in-state versus out-of-state tuition, geography is a big factor when considering how to decide what medical schools to apply to. 

Here are some other location-based questions to ask yourself when selecting medical schools:

  • Do I care about an urban versus suburban versus rural medical school location? 
  • Do I need a car, especially to get to my clinical rotations during medical school year 3 and 4?
  • Do I want to live close to home?
  • Do I have other friends and family near the medical school I am applying to?
2) Should I consider out-of-state medical schools?

Public schools, in general, do prefer applicants from the states in which they’re located. Many public medical schools with class sizes between 100 and 200 have less than 10 entering students who are out-of-state. However, there are many public medical schools who accept a decent number of out-of-state applicants. This is especially true for larger and more reputable schools — University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is a good example. When a public school has over 25% of its class from out-of-state, there is a reasonable chance of qualified out-of-staters being considered. 

3) GPA and MCAT scores

Each year, the Association of American Medical Colleges publishes the MSAR, or Medical School Admission Requirements. The MSAR contains admissions statistics,  including the school’s average MCAT score and the ranges of overall and science GPAs of successful applicants. Use this data to advantage when forming your bucket list of schools to apply to! Some schools have a very tight range of GPAs; Johns Hopkins, for example, has 3.7 as the 10th percentile, 3.9 as the average, and 4.0 as the 90th percentile. Other schools will be less rigid. Make sure to select a mix of schools where you fall within the average GPA range, and some schools where you may be above the average.

You should take a similar approach for the MCAT. A 215-220 is competitive score for a fair amount of schools, but scores at highly selective schools are often 221 or above. Special circumstances can change the landscape of these score requirements dramatically. For example, if you’re a Rhodes Scholar or medaled in the Special Olympics, but have a low MCAT score, that’s less likely to matter.

Read our other blog post on How To Use The MSAR Effectively: 4 Tips To Apply To Medical Schools That Are Right For You

4) How important should I consider medical school rankings?

Rankings are an important and often overlooked factor. It’s not just the prestige or “name recognition” of the institution that’s important.  The reason rankings and reputation matter is that the better the reputation of your medical school, the more competitive you will be for residency matching. 

At the same time, you should be careful about putting TOO much emphasis on these rankings. The U.S. News and World Report ranking uses a methodology that changes slightly year to year. Remember, you will  get a solid medical education at many medical schools so you need to think more about which schools will be the best fit for you.

5) Financial Aid Considerations

Pay attention to the school’s financial aid policy. The quality of financial aid can be a key deciding factor on where to apply. Also, make sure to read the fine print about in-state vs. out-of-state financial aid. Many schools offer bigger financial aid award to in-state applicants, so you’ll want to be cognizant of this.

6) Medical School Curriculum

Learning Style: Consider your learning style when examining a medical school’s curriculum. Are you a visual learner? Are you a discussion-based learner? These need to be taken into account, and can help you in creating your bucket list of schools to apply to.

Grading Policy: You should also take the grading policy of the school into account. Does the school give out letter grades, or is it pass/fail, or somewhere in between? Some schools rely entirely on a Pass/No Pass grading system because they feel it fosters cooperation rather than competition

7) Medical School Opportunities

Some medical school applicants have a passion for other things aside from clinical medicine. For example, they may have an interest in pursuing community health, LGBTQ+ issues, public policy, advocacy or global health.  Make sure the medical school is a good fit for you and has other opportunities you can take advantage of while you are a med school student. 

Here is a list of ways you can look into to pursue your other interests: 

  • Research opportunities and funding for research during medical school
  • Medical school electives
  • Other graduate school electives
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Medical school clubs
  • Clinical site rotation locations
  • Gap year opportunities
  • Global health electives
  • Partnerships with other non-profits and local governments
  • Internships
  • Work study
  • Other jobs around campus

As a general rule of thumb, we advise our medical school applicants to apply to 20-25 schools. This number has gone up over the years, as getting accepted into medical school is getting more and more competitive each year.  Unless you have a good reason not to, apply to at least 15 medical schools.  It’s better to apply to more medical schools in the beginning and then choose NOT to accept and interview offer rather than applying to too few schools and then not getting enough medical school invites.

Consider applying to more medical schools under these circumstances:

  • Low GPA
  • Low MCAT score
  • Few clinical opportunities or hours in a clinical setting
  • You can’t fathom the idea of applying to medical school again and you are open to attending a wide array of medical schools

Other considerations when deciding “how many medical schools should I apply to?”:

  • Ask your undergraduate premed advising office what the average number of medical schools ACCEPTED undergrads from your institution apply to.  Some premed offices have the stats of previously accepted students. 
  • Be sure to apply to a good number of safety schools vs. target schools vs. reach dream schools.  You can get acceptance data through MSAR or U.S. News and World Report Medical School Rankings.

Recap for “What medical schools I should apply to?” and “How many medical schools should I apply to?”

Some medical school applicants have a passion for other things aside from clinical medicine. For example, they may have an interest in pursuing community health, LGBTQ+ issues, public policy, advocacy or global health.  Make sure the medical school is a good fit for you and has other opportunities you can take advantage of while you are a med school student. 

Choosing where to apply to medical school is a loaded decision with myriad factors affecting the outcome. Start with the above questions and continue to reflect while creating your bucket list of schools to apply to. Definitely reach out to us at info@crackingmedadmissions.com with any questions or fill out the contact form down below. 

We can help you strategize and submit your medical school applications so you STAND OUT! Get help for your letters of recommendation, school selection, AMCAS activities descriptions, personal statement, secondary essays, and medical school interviews! Click here to compare our various application packages today.

If you’re applying to medical school this upcoming application cycle, be sure to read our other useful resources:

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