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Deciding Where to Apply

When deciding on which medical schools to apply to, ask yourself two questions:

1. Am I competitive at this institution?

The application process for medical school can be arduous and expensive. Therefore, it is important you apply to schools that you actually have a chance of gaining admission. This means paying attention to average MCAT scores and GPAs as well as the types (and amount) of volunteer/extracurricular activities accepted applicants usually have.

Another thing to consider is where accepted applicants are coming from (i.e., in-state vs. out-of-state). Private out-of-state schools are often a better bet compared with state schools.  For instance, as a Georgia resident, the likelihood of gaining admission into the University of Washington School of Medicine is very low, as they accept very few out-of-state applicants and even fewer outside of the Pacific Northwest. Similarly, a Washington resident would have a difficult time gaining admission into the Medical College of Georgia. 

Beyond residency, it is important to pay attention to the overall mission of the medical school. For example, the mission of Mercer University School of Medicine is to serve rural and medically under-served populations in Georgia.  Specifically, they are focused on primary care. Therefore, if you wish to specialize in plastic surgery and would like to work in Cobb County (or outside of the Georgia), Mercer may not be a good fit for you, even if you meet or exceed their minimum requirements.

2. Would I feel comfortable attending this institution?

Medical school is an incredibly strenuous (though rewarding) experience. Therefore, it is also important to consider whether you would be happy attending a particular medical school. If you prefer warm weather, a medical school in Michigan may not be the best choice. If you have to be home for the holidays, attending medical school 3,000 miles away may not be the best choice. Moreover, living in Chicago or DC will certainly offer a different experience than living in Athens or Charlottesville.

Curriculum and the structure of a particular medical program should be considered as well when deciding which schools to apply to. Do you prefer lecture-style classes over small-group activities? Do you hope to conduct research?

Additional factors to consider:
  • Tuition/Cost of Living Expenses
  • USLME scores and residency matching rate
  • Research opportunities
  • Options for clinical rotations (in the same city or spread around the state?, etc.)
  • Satellite campuses
  • Dual-degree programs

The best resource to use when deciding where to apply is the Medical School Admissions Requirement (MSAR) handbook. Admission statistics, requirements, and applicant data is compiled every year for each accredited medical school in the US and Canada.