How to Evaluate Medical Schools

When choosing a medical school, your first order of business is to decide what's important to you. Do you want a traditional program focused around lectures or a program centered around Problem-Based Learning (PBL)? In what sort of learning environment do you thrive best? Do you want to live and study in a city, town, or rural environment? You will need to take a number of factors into account when assessing which programs fit your wants and needs, including:

Culture Curriculum
Hospital Rankings Faculty and Research
Rotations and Internships Grading Policy
Match Rates Location
Campus Setting Class Profile
Cost Class Size

Resources for Researching Medical Schools

Finding credible sources of current information on medical schools is key. There are several guides published every year that provide rankings of schools, as well as data about acceptance rates and median GPA and MCAT scores. In addition, some rank schools according to their reputations among students, professors, or prominent people in the field.

Put your MCAT score and GPA alongside the median numbers of schools that interest you. The comparison will give you a rough idea of where you stand. But remember, MCAT and GPA are not the only criteria for admissions. Many other factors like recommendations and "intangibles" like activities and relevant experience can factor prominently into the admissions equation.

Be Strategic

A sensible application strategy will include schools in three general categories:

  • Dream schools—places you'd love to attend, but where your chances of acceptance are up in the air or even unlikely.
  • Good possibilities—programs you'd like to attend and where your grades and MCAT score are close to the median.
  • Safeties—schools where your numbers make acceptance more likely.

How many medical schools you should apply to is best determined by your strength as an applicant, the difficulty of admission at schools to where you're applying, and the general difficulty of getting into any program in your discipline. If you're applying to nine or ten med schools, pick a couple of dream schools, several in the "likely" category, and one or two safeties.

A good way to get a sense of how med schools perceive you is to create a fact sheet with your MCAT scores (or projected scores), overall GPA, and GPA in your major (and minor, if applicable). Relevant outside activities, work experience, internships, publications, etc. will also contribute to the overall strength of your application.