Our question today is a very common question from a student who started medical school at a Caribbean medical school and dropped out. Is there still a chance to get into a U.S. medical school?. This is not only limited to Caribbean schools but it goes out to other international medical schools as well.
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[03:41] OldPreMeds Question of the Week
“Hi, I was a medical student in a Caribbean medical school. I finished the first two years of medical school there but was not able to take USMLE Step 1 within the designated period due to family and financial circumstances, and ended up getting dismissed for that reason.
Things have settled in my life and I want to get accepted into a medical school within U.S. It has been almost a year since I got dismissed. What are my chances of getting admitted into a medical school in U.S. and what should I do to go down this path?”
[04:36] Schools Are Concerned with Their Pass Rates
The majority, if not all, of Caribbean medical schools, will “force” you to take a pretest a USMLE Step 1 pretest. Now, this is very common in the U.S. as well, but the U.S. schools typically have a lot more flexibility with when you’re taking it, the scores, and helping you through this process.
Caribbean medical schools, on the other hand, use this as a function to weed out weaker students who maybe shouldn’t have been in school in the first place. This is so they can then turn around and boast about their high USMLE Step 1 pass rate.
What students don’t realize is that very similar to how many pre-health offices work, they would say their acceptance rate for students maybe 99%. But they don’t tell you about the other 30% of students that they wouldn’t help because they didn’t think those students were going to get into medical school.“Probably a large percentage of those students did get into medical school, but they're cooking the books. They make it look better than it is. “Click To Tweet
Pre-health offices do the same thing the Caribbean medical schools are doing. And U.S. medical schools are maybe doing some similar things as well.
But specifically in this case, what they will do is they will give you a pretest. They’ll give you a diagnostic. You want to think about it in MCAT terms, and they’ll say, your Step 1 score isn’t good enough and provide you with some remediation steps. You have X amount of time to fix this, to retake these diagnostic tests to be able to sit for the real test.
[06:41] If You Fail to Take the Test Within the Specified Time
Now, if you don’t sit for the test, then your score is not going to count against you. They can filter out students who they believe are not going to pass USMLE Step 1.
Our poster today seems like they had a family issue and financial circumstances. Taking Step 1 and preparing for it cost money. Living situations cost money. This student wasn’t able to take Step 1 in that designated time period.
Let’s assume this student failed the diagnostic and they were given time to improve. But to improve, that would have taken more money to improve their study skills, their study resources, all of that stuff. To improve, they needed to stay on the island for a little bit longer to continue working on their Step 1 prep.
Now for whatever reason, this student wasn’t able to pass or take their diagnostic in whatever window the school gave them. If you didn’t go within that hour, they assumed something sketchy was going on. So they don’t want to waste any more time on you. And that’s unfortunate that the school gave up that easily.
Now, obviously, this is just a one-sided conversation. But assuming that’s what happened, the school would say they can’t break that protocol for whatever circumstances you were in. Then they’ll move on.
You have to remember that most Caribbean medical schools have a huge number of students going through every year. They’re working off of a model that gets more people into school so that they can graduate a certain percentage of them.“The attrition rate for Caribbean medical schools is atrocious.”Click To Tweet
Many Caribbean schools accept a lot of students who have no business in medical school. The goal of the premed process is to prove that you can handle getting through medical school.
[09:58] Quality Depends on You
Now, this is where a big kind of misunderstanding comes with Caribbean medical schools. Your quality of education is completely dependent on you. You can put in the work, whether you’re in the Caribbean or the U.S., Ireland, or Australia. Your ability to study, it’s all on you.'Wherever you are going to school, the quality of that education is dependent on you.'Click To Tweet
The quality of education that you can get at a Caribbean school can be just as good as the quality of education that you can get here in the U.S.
Just because you got in doesn’t mean you’re going to get through. And so when a student says they weren’t able to take Step 1 within the given time period, that potentially tells me they didn’t have the ability to do well on Step 1.
[11:01] Can You Still Get Into U.S. Medical Schools?
Yes, potentially. But there are things you’re going to have to do. And that may mean basically erasing your whole history and starting at square one.
What do you need to do right now to prove yourself as a premed student? Obviously, that’s assuming you didn’t prove yourself as a premed student, to begin with, or else you would have gone to U.S. school.“Was that your GPA? Was that your MCAT score? Was that your extracurriculars? From here on, focus on improving yourself as a premed student right now.”Click To Tweet
You’re also going to have to say that you matriculated into a school before. Then talk about why you left that school. Why were you dismissed from that school?
[12:03] Overcoming Doubt from te Admissions Committee
You’re going to have to overcome the negative perception that comes from that too. Did you just give up and you’re using family and financial circumstances as an excuse? Did you fail and you’re using family and financial circumstances as an excuse?“There's going to be an even heightened level of doubt. That's where admissions committees start.”Click To Tweet
You’re going to have to overcome much more doubt. They are going to want to understand what you have been through, the struggles that you have had, how you’ve overcome them, and why those aren’t going to be an issue. Again, they were already an issue once. How do we make it so they’re not an issue?
[13:24] What It Means When They Tell You Not to Go to a Caribbean School
You need to plot your path to get into U.S. medical school with another application.
Especially, if you dropped out of a Caribbean medical school and you weren’t necessarily kicked out then the chances of you getting to a U.S. medical school are better.
But the question is, you didn’t get into a U.S. medical school the first time so what has changed? And it may take a lot longer than you want, but it’s possible.
The prehealth advising world tells students not to go to a Caribbean school. It’s not because of the quality of education. There are tons of amazing physicians out there who have gone to Caribbean medical schools and they have put in the work.“The question is have you put in the work to prove that you can get through the education? Because it's still hard.”Click To Tweet
Just because they may not need an MCAT score, just because you get an acceptance doesn’t mean they truly believe that you are going to get through medical school. That’s the harsh reality of Caribbean medical schools. They’ll accept a lot of people.
I only know one person personally that was ever rejected from a Caribbean medical school. And I had him on the podcast back in Episode 230 of The Premed Years Podcast. Chad got into a couple of DO schools after being rejected from a Caribbean medical school. He figured out how to study. He figured out how to prove to himself and to prove to U.S. medical schools that he could handle the curriculum, and now he’s thriving in school.
So that’s what we talk about when we say don’t go to a Caribbean medical school. Prove to yourself first that you can do well in medical school. And if you have to go to a Caribbean medical school for some reason, then sure, maybe a Caribbean medical school is right for you. That’s a very individual decision.
[15:37] Final Thoughts
You can get into a U.S. medical school after dropping out of a Caribbean but it’s going to be very hard. You have to overcome all those initial issues of why you didn’t get into a U.S. school. And you’re going to have to overcome the doubt that’s in their head about why you dropped out.'Most of the conversation around Caribbean schools is very negative. But it doesn't have to be.'Click To Tweet
The match rates are much less for Caribbean students. The attrition rate is atrocious for Caribbean schools. But you can do this if you really want this. Go and work your butt off. Prove that you can handle studying. You can handle standardized tests and do well enough on the MCAT.
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