Choosing a School

There are two different stages in the process of picking out professional schools. First, where to apply? For many students the answer is everywhere. This is a struggle however because you should only be applying to schools that you would be willing to attend and the application process is very expensive and time consuming. The second stage comes once you have notification of acceptance from several schools. Which one to pick? This is the time to dig a little bit deeper and determine which schools truly fits your goals best!

Where to Apply: Considerations when Choosing Schools

State residency iconState Residency 
Your best chance of acceptance lies within the state in which you hold residency. For the purposes of schooling, you can only be a resident of one state. In looking at out-of-state schools, be sure to pay close attention to the number of students accepted from within the state. By and large, private schools do not favor students from within a particular state, but there are exceptions to this rule.

Location iconLocation
Not only is residency an issue, you should also be looking at schools for their geographic location and their location within a community or institution. For example you may have family or friends that you want to stay within easy travel distance from. Also some programs are housed in very urban or rural areas, and possibly not even on the campus of their home school.

Mission and Focus Icon Mission/Focus
A school’s mission and focus can provide a good insight into the motivation behind the program. Some schools emphasize on primary care; if you are interested in research this may not be the setting you are looking for.

Financial Support icon Financial Support
While you want to find a school that has the right fit, you may also need to be considering the financial ramifications behind these decisions. How much is tuition for in state vs. out of state, public vs. private?

Grading system iconGrading System 
There are two systems for grading at the professional school level: graded or pass/no pass. The pass/no pass system allows for students to work together in a very collegial manner, sharing information and studying. Many of the professional schools work within this model, while some are still using a graded system, one that often breeds a more competitive environment. Everyone works in different ways and diverse environments allow you to find the system where you will be able to thrive.

Where to Matriculate: Items to Consider when Choosing the School 

Now that you have received acceptance offers, the big decision has arrived: where will you go? This is the second phase in process of choosing, during which the following elements are useful in finding the best fit for you. A lot this information can be found and observed during the interview, but if you have questions, do not be afraid to contact the schools again.

Curriculum icon Curriculum
Most programs have a thematic purpose to their goals. Each one focuses on different elements in the fields of health. You will want make sure that the theme fits with your goals whether they be general, specific or research oriented. You should also be investigating the layout of the program: how many credits per semester, format of the classes, patient contact, etc.

Facilities icon Facilities
Most likely, at an interview you will have a chance to tour the facilities. This will give you the chance to look at the facilities. How up to date is the technology and what will you be able to use and learn on? Find out the student to cadaver ratio to assess the availability of individualized study. It is also important to know where your rotations will be taking place and how this may affect you in terms of transportation and housing.

Student body icon Student Body
While every cohort of students is different, you will want to see if you have similar passions, interests and goals to the students attending a particular medical school. Not only will you be taking courses with these students, they will also be your colleagues and professional connections in the field of medicine.

Extracurricular Activities icon Interdisciplinary/Extracurricular Activities
If you are the type of student who is very involved, you may be interested in continuing to be so, even in medical school. Some medical some offer curriculums that have time for extracurricular activities built, others will not.

Financial aid icon Financial Aid
Not only does the cost of tuition come in to play at the beginning, it becomes often more important when deciding which school is right for you. Weigh your options in financial aid, including are you being offered scholarships or grants and how much would you be taking out in loans. While financing your education should not be the ultimate decision, it is a very important factor.

support icon Support and Administrative Services
Building a support system is always essential and often priceless. It is important to know how accessible the faculty and administration are. Some medical schools even have mentoring programs set up to make sure you get the support you need.

This list is based upon a presentation given by Ms. Sylvia Robertson, Dean of Admissions, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, in 1997

Resources for Exploration

  1. Allopathic Medicine
  2.  Osteopathic Medicine
  3. Podiatry
  4. Dental
  5. Optometry
  6. Pharmacy


Check out the Association of American Medical Colleges webinar recording for insight from directors of admission on the importance of applying to schools with missions that fit your goals and interests.

Mission Fit: Applying to the Right Medical Schools for You