Medical School Acceptance as an International Student

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PMY 371: Medical School Acceptance as an International Student

Session 371

This new med student will help cover the unique challenges faced by international applicants, as well as valuable healthcare experiences to include in apps.

If you haven’t yet, please check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media for more help with your medical school application.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[01:45] Interest in Becoming a Physician

Jerry’s interest in becoming a physician started way back in childhood. She had a family member with a health issue and witnessed the doctors taking care of them. Growing up, she wasn’t sure what she really wanted to do.

In college, she started as a pre-physical therapy student. Then she took an EMT class and started taking anatomy and physiology. The more she learned about these, the more she learned about the medical field, and the more exposure she got. She realized that what makes her more fulfilled was more than just physical therapy. She wanted more involvement in patient treatment. 

Seeing the different aspects of medical care drives her into the idea that being a doctor is the job she wants to do and the way she wants to help people.

What initially drew her to physical therapy was seeing a basketball player having a leg fracture. She started looking at all the medical background inside of it and she realized it was something she really liked.

Moreover, she was doing a lot of shadowing in different settings while at PT school. At that point, she was also taking the EMT class, getting medical exposure in different aspects of the healthcare field. She thinks PT is cool and awesome but seeing what the ED doctors are doing, it was something she knew would get her fulfilled.

[06:00] Being an International Student

Being an international student, she had a lot of doubt about transitioning from pre-PT to premed. She realized that while most PT schools accept international students, only a few medical schools accept international students. That being said, she never thought it was something not doable.

'There's no can't in my dictionary.'Click To Tweet

Fortunately, she got a lot of great mentors. She also sought advice from her friend who was also an international student applying to med school. She also got great advice from her premed advisor. 

She has a lot of premeds in the premed community and seeing how amazing they are, she knows everyone has the same starting point. But because they’re international students, they have to have something else that would convince the medical schools that they’re worth investing in. 

They have to be special enough for them to be admitted because they could just admit someone else who’s as good as they are. Because admitting them would mean more documentation, more obligations, etc.

[Related episode: Medical School For International Students and More Q&A ]

[10:40] Financial Resources

One of the biggest hurdles for a lot of international students is the financial obligation. They have to prove to the medical school that they can pay for their medical education because international students aren’t eligible for normal student loans that most students get.

Jerry is lucky not to worry too much about the financial side. As she was transitioning from pre-PT to medicine, one of the first things she had done was to have a conversation with her family. She had long discussions with her mom and she was fully supportive of her plans. She was lucky that money was not a barrier when she was looking at schools.

To show evidence that you have financial means to pay for school, it depends on the school. Most schools require students funding for x years of tuition and fees. They provide you the cost of x years attending school.

Usually, they will set up an account and have you transfer your funds into that account before the school starts so they know for sure that you can pay the tuition. There are schools that require one year and some require full for years of tuition. Then they just take money from that account once you start school.

'There are other schools that will require four years of full tuitions transferred to that account before they can issue you an I-20.'Click To Tweet

You may also apply and get a letter from the bank that you’re approved for a loan. It works like when you get a house mortgage.

[Related episode: Securing Your Financial Future as Premed and Medical Student]

[14:26] Figuring Out Which Schools Accept International Students

Not every medical school accepts international students. A lot of schools say they do accept but they really don’t. Jerry had to compose a school list which was challenging for her.

The first thing is to look at MSAR. It’s worth the money to get a basic understanding of how schools recruit students. They have a filter search feature where you can click on International and only 50-60 schools appear on your screen.

“The MSAR is worth the money to get a basic understanding of how schools recruit students.”Click To Tweet

There are some schools that say they accept international students but Canadians only. So you really have to look into the actual school profile and exclude those schools from your list.

Then start looking at the number of international students who get invitation invites and acceptance. 

Also, listen to Episode 304 about making up your school list as this has also helped Jerry a lot with her school selection. She didn’t look at the tiers because she thinks the most important thing is getting that medical training. She also looked at their mission and vision while she was doing her research.

She specifically looked at hands-on experiences and connections to the communities as she enjoys volunteering a lot. She used to volunteer to help students with disabilities which played a huge part in shaping who she is right now.

Other than mission-vision as they can look similar from one to another, she also looked at the specific programs of schools. She looked at schools that emphasize clinical experiences or helping the community with free clinics. And it took a long time for her to study different schools.

'Clinical experiences or helping the community with free clinics – those are things I look for when I go into a website. It's like studying the school specifically.'Click To Tweet

Ultimately, she ended up applying to 20 schools overall. It’s hard when you get to the 19th-20th schools because when you look at their acceptance data, it’s most likely 0% for the past year.

[19:40] What Stood Out in Her Application

Jerry has done a great deal of clinical experience and shadowing. She did the EMT class as well as some volunteering since her freshman year.

'My shadowing experience doesn't just come from one field of healthcare.' Click To Tweet

She also included her pre-physical therapy experience in her med school application because it’s one aspect that led her to decide to do medicine. It was from there that she knew medicine was the only path she wanted to do.

She shadowed PT’s as well as some paramedics when she was doing her EMT class. After she decided to do premed, she shadowed a lot of ED doctors. This gave her an idea of how it was like in the pre-hospital, hospital, and post-hospital care. 

Her volunteering experience with students with disabilities was something very important which she thought help her stand out in her application. Because this was her inspiration for pursuing her dream.

If a student is pre-nursing, pre-PT, pre-PA doing clinical experiences, then include that in your medical school application. What you don’t typically include is the shadowing involved with those things. Or if you do, make sure it’s not the only shadowing that you have because physician shadowing is very important.

[Related episode: The One Thing You Need to do to Stand Out as a Premed]

[22:11] Visa Concerns and Not Having a Plan B

She was thinking that if her student visa expires after she graduates, she doesn’t have any choice but to go back to her country. After she finishes her application to medical school, she plans to take the GRE and potentially apply to some PT schools while waiting.

When she started taking the GRE and planning her plan B, she didn’t actually realize how much time and energy medical school application could take away from her.

Or if you looked at this the other way. How much time and energy focusing on the GRE and PT application would have taken away from your medical school application? That’s why I tell students not to have plan B because it’s taking away from your A

'Having a plan B is taking away from your A.' Click To Tweet

Jerry now understands why there shouldn’t be any Plan B because it’s not doable to do it at both times.

[24:15] The Interview Experience and Pizza Party!

She found her interview trail to be really fun. She had to travel to all the places. She stayed at a student host for two of her three interviews. She recommends doing this because it gets you involved and entrenched in the culture of the school. 

'Living with a student host is a really interesting experience. I highly recommend it.' Click To Tweet

Both her student hosts shared their experience of their med school journey and how to survive. Overall, her interview experience was nice.

Staying at the student host helped her a lot in terms of learning about the medical schools and how being a student there feels like. But in terms of it being a factor of the schools accepting her, most of them say they don’t give feedback to the admissions committee.

Regardless, she’s happy that they’ve given her a lot of ideas of what the medical school is like and how it feels to be a student there. Plus, it saved her a lot of money!

Two of the three interviews she had a gathering the night before the interview which she attended. It was 1000% worth going to. You basically sit with other applicants and hosts randomly chatting about med school life and other topics.

The other one was a pizza party at the place she stayed at. All the interviewees for that day stayed in the same area which was like a residence hall for medical students where rooms were designated for the interviewees.

What she likes about this experience is that this gives you a feeling of the school from the student side because you get to see the student community. It’s also interesting to see how students interact with each other. This then gives you an idea of how you’re going to be interacting with other students there.

'You don't just want to get into a medical school. You want to go into a medical school that fits you as well as you fit them.' Click To Tweet

[30:26] Looking at DO Schools

She started looking at DO schools as she was starting her application. But during med school research, she had this wrong idea that DO schools don’t accept international students.

After talking to her fellow premed international students applying in that school cycle, she now recommends considering DO schools as well. She had seen both DOs and MDs during her shadowing experience at the ED and they were doing the same thing so there wasn’t any difference.

[31:31] Final Words of Wisdom

It’s a hard thing to do. It can get really discouraging at some point. But keep reminding yourself about your motivation and your dream.

'Put in the effort and it will reward you in the end.' Click To Tweet

Also, utilize resources such as listening to this podcast, prehealth advisors, and your peers who have gone through this journey. Lastly, make sure to take care of yourself mentally and physically because you have to be prepared for this long journey.


Meded Media


PMY Episode 304: How to Choose a Medical School and Put Together a School List