Picking Your Medical School

How to Narrow Down the List

You’ve studied hard, you’ve taken all of your prerequisite courses, you rocked the MCAT, and you’ve successfully gained important shadowing and clinical experience. Now you've reached the moment when you have to figure out where you are going to submit your medical school applications.

You may already have a dream school in mind, or maybe you want to go to any school on the West Coast or near your family. Choosing where to apply to medical school is one of the key steps in the premed journey. In this section, we bring you lots of resources dedicated to helping you figure out how many medical schools to apply to, and where to apply.

When should I start thinking about applying to medical school?

The first question is, When should I start thinking about where to apply to medical school? This can differ for traditional and nontraditional premed students. If you are currently a college student or even in high school, take a look at a valuable timeline with the key steps during your college years.

How many medical schools should I apply to?

Once you are ready to apply, you need to figure out the number of medical schools to which you are going to apply. Premeds apply to an average of 14 medical schools. The ideal number will vary for each student, and it depends partly on how much you're willing to spend on applications.

Applying to many medical schools can be expensive! Use our Medical School Applications Cost Estimator to see how expensive. And yet, you want to apply to enough schools to have a good chance of getting in. We share some key tips in this post for helping you decide on the number of medical schools to which you should apply.

What Criteria Can I Use When Applying to Medical schools?

In Session 22 of The Premed Years, Ryan interviews Allison Greco, a resident in Internal Medicine at Jefferson. In that episode, Allison shared her thoughts on how she went about choosing the best medical school for her from a list of top med schools. I do have some words of caution when basing your decision on "top medical school" lists, however.

Should I apply to MD or DO schools?

Another big question you need to answer for yourself is, should I apply to MD or DO programs? MDs and DOs both practice medicine, but the teaching that you receive in medical school differs between allopathic (MD) schools and osteopathic (DO) schools.

Allopathic medicine is the classical form of medicine, focused on the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases.

Osteopathic medicine is centered around a more holistic view of medicine in which the focus is on seeing the patient as a “whole person” to reach a diagnosis, rather than treating the symptoms alone. We covered the major differences between allopathic and osteopathic medical training and medical schools here.

Opinions about osteopathic medicine

You can click here to read more on some of Ryan’s thoughts about whether the distinction between MD and DO is really even meaningful at this point, and if we should even have a DO degree any more.

In Session 26 of The Premed Years, Ryan talks with Patrick and Jonathan, two 3rd-year DO medical students at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. They wrote A Brief Guide to Osteopathic Medicine which is published on AACOM. They cover some of the biggest myths of osteopathic medical school and lots more.

Medical Student Profiles: How they chose between MD and DO schools:

To hear more from current medical students about how they chose between DO and MD programs, you can listen to some of the following sessions of The Premed Years:

  • In Session 6, Ryan interviews Russell, a nontraditional student who decided to pursue a career in medicine after working as a school teacher. In this episode, Russell talks about why he chose to apply to a DO school as opposed to an MD program. Russell is now a medical student at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine!
  • In Session 11, Ryan interviews Kate, a 56-year-old in her 3rd year of medical school at West Virginia School of Medicine Kate talks about her journey and why she chose to go to medical school at the age of 50 after working as a nurse for years. She also talks about her applications to MD and DO programs. If you want to read more about Kate, you can click here to read her reader profile.
  • In Session 9, Ryan interviews WhiteCoatDO.com publisher Ryan, a 1st-year medical student at Western University College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific. Ryan talks about how he applied to 30 schools, with about half being DO and half being MD. (That is A LOT of schools).

What about MD/PhD programs?

Many students who go into medicine are very interested in research and pursue an MD/PhD degree. The application process and requirements for admission are different when comparing MD and MD/PhD programs. In Session 40 of The Premed Years, Ryan interviews Hanna, a 1st-year medical student in an MD/PhD program at the University of Illinois.

They discuss some of the key differences when applying for and interviewing at the dual degree programs, what she looked for in a program, and ultimately what led her to where she is at now.

Medical School Rankings: Are these helpful?

Now, what about all those rankings? Every year, US News releases the “Top” medical schools in the USA, but should you rely on this information to make your list of medical schools for your applications? Probably not.

Most students don’t know that the US News rankings are based on criteria like research dollars per faculty member and subjective peer assessment scores (deans of one medical school rating another school). We broke down all the criteria here.

The US News does release another list of the most competitive medical schools in the USA. You can find that here.

Just a Start

What is listed above is just a start. Below are posts/podcasts and more that we have marked as important in helping you find the best medical school for YOU. Happy hunting.



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