Why is it Hard to Get Into Med School as an International Applicant?

Session 6

Applying to medical school as an international applicant can be a huge obstacle to overcome. But why is it so hard? That’s what we will cover in today’s show.

But first, did you know that we do the recordings of this podcast  live on Facebook at 3pm Eastern on most weekdays? Check out our Facebook page and like the page to be notified. Also check us out on YouTube and all our other episodes on Meded Media.

[00:25] What If You’re Attending Undergrad Here in the U.S.?

The number one schools typically like to see is that your prereqs are done at a U.S. school. That’s the first barrier to entry. But what if you’re an international student here already in the States and taking your undergrad at a U.S. school. You would still not be considered a non international student, since you did your undergrad here.

The “international” comes into play based on your residency status, not necessarily where you did your undergrad. So even if you did your undergrad at a U.S. school, you’re still considered an international student.

[01:15] A Challenge in Translating the Transcript

As an international student, if you have your grades from overseas, how are the schools going to be able to translate your transcripts to the U.S. systems? That being said, there are still a couple of huge obstacles.

[02:02] Are You Going to Stay?

A lot of schools are public schools which are typically supported by the state. The state wants to train citizens and residents of that state, so they hopefully stay in that state and practice in that state. They hope the students go on to contribute to the taxes and the economy in that state.

But an international student is not guaranteed to do that. They may come to the states, get their undergrad degree and medical school education. And then they may go back home to whatever country they’re from, to practice medicine with a U.S. education. Although a lot of international students want to stay here in the U.S. to practice medicine.

[03:03]  Money Issues

Medical school is expensive. Typically, students pay for that expense with federal student loans. Federal student loans are only eligible to permanent residents or citizens of the U.S.

So when you’re applying to medical schools in the U.S., you need to prove to the medical school that you have the funds to pay for it. You need to prove that you’re not going to go and stiff the school with a big, fat bill for your tuition.

[03:58] Postgrad Training Required

Another big thing students worry about is whether or not you’re going to go on and be a productive physician and get a residency slot after medical school. And then continue on and get your postgraduate training.

Lawyers can go out and practice law as soon as they graduate law school; or dentists can practice dentistry as soon as they graduate dental school. Doctors, however, can’t go out and practice medicine until they’ve done (depending on the state) at least one year of postgraduate training and typically three years of postgraduate training.

[04:52] Visa Issues

International students need to be able to get work visas to be able to stay in the states post-graduation; since they’re no longer on a student visa. They will need a work visa to stay in the states and practice.

Typically, the hospital that accepts them or where they match at, is the one that sponsors a visa. I’ve seen plenty of horror stories from student residents that are stuck in whatever country they’re from. They can’t get back to the states to start their residency even though they’ve matched. There are visa issues that come up and the hospital now is losing man hours because the resident is stuck in another country due to visa issues.

With our current administration, there are lots of visa issues. With this travel ban, a lot of physicians in some of those countries that were blocked couldn’t get back here to do their training.

[06:42] Schools Maintaining Good Standing

Schools want to be able to brag that they have great stats. They want their students go and complete great residencies. And if you’re an international student graduate who now has an issue getting into a residency due to visa issues or whatever it is, it looks bad on the school. So they don’t want that to reflect on them.

[07:37] Canadian Friendly U.S. Medical Schools

There are lots of issues when it comes to international students coming to the states. It’s not impossible, however.

Canada has the closest system to the U.S., education-wise and practice-wise. A lot of schools actually consider Canadian undergraduate citizens as U.S. citizens. They will look at you as resident for purposes of acceptance. Obviously, it would be different for tuition purposes.

There are some schools that are very friendly to Canadians. Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine is one of them. I’m also working with a student right now who’s in Canada. She has got an interview at Michigan State University and another in Virginia.

So if you’re in Canada, you need to separate and figure out which schools are Canadian-friendly versus which schools are international-friendly versus which schools aren’t friendly to either. There’s a lot of work on your end to figure that out.

[09:38] Getting In Through an MD/PhD

It doesn’t mean you can get your education here in the U.S. It just means that there are more obstacles in your way. An MD/PhD is typically is easier; but I wouldn’t recommend it if you are an international student just because you really still need to be interested in that MD/PhD path when it comes to applying and interviewing. It’s going to come out anyway whether or not it’s really what you want to do or should do.

[10:19] Do Great!

Also keep in mind that you need as good stats as you can get to make sure you’re competitive. You have to put yourself on another level compared to U.S. graduates. You really need to have topnotch stats to get in.

If you’re on an early journey, get good grades. Get a good MCAT score and get everything else you need for a nice application. Tell a great story in your personal statement and extracurriculars.


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