Keys for International Students Considering U.S. Medical Schools

Over the past year, I have heard from many international students looking to apply to medical school in the U.S., and want to address some of their questions and concerns.

The truth is that just a relative handful of international applicants get accepted into U.S. medical schools. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, 75 medical schools in 2013 reported they would accept applications from international students. During this time, 1,777 international applicants applied, 346 were accepted and 264 matriculated into U.S. medical schools.

If you’re intent on pursuing a medical education in the U.S., consider applying at private schools; they generally are more open to accepting international applicants than are state schools.

Get more [tips on applying to U.S. medical schools as an international student.]

Grades and transcripts: All allopathic medical schools in the U.S. use the American Medical College Application Service. Although you can list the course work that you’ve taken at an international university, AMCAS neither accepts the transcript nor verifies what you listed.

As an international applicant, you will need to verify that the school you’re applying to will accept your transcript from your undergraduate school or accept a translated version. No matter how excellent your grades were, they will not show up on the application or be reflected in your GPA.

Many schools require another degree from a U.S. or Canadian school. If you have grades from these experiences, they will show up on your AMCAS, but they will not factor into the overall mean GPA for the school where you would matriculate. On occasion, an international school might allow students to take some courses for credit through a U.S. or Canadian school, and these classes and grades can appear on the official application.

Find out [how to maximize your AMCAS application.]

Paying for medical school: If you are accepted into a U.S. medical school, officials will likely ask that you put a great deal of money into an escrow account to show you can pay for your education. This may be easy for some students whose parents can support them financially, but for many students, this monetary ask is incredibly challenging.

Each school creates its own policies. For example, one school might ask that the escrow account have adequate funds to cover a year’s tuition and living expenses. Another school might require the account to cover two years’ tuition and living expenses. Yet others may require all four years be covered.

Financial resources for international students are limited. International students may not apply for U.S. federal funding, as only U.S. citizens and permanent residents have access to these loans. Often, the only option for a student is a family member or friend who’s willing to take out a private loan for their education.

Fluency in English: When invited for an interview, you will be expected to be fluent in English. Practice interviews are important for any applicant, and it’s critical for international applicants to practice these interviews in English. If you have been told by an English-speaking person that you are difficult to understand, I would highly recommend taking some conversational English classes.

Follow [four steps to assembling a stellar medical school resume.]

Citizenship and visa status: The AMCAS will ask for your citizenship and visa status. If you are fortunate enough to be accepted to a U.S. medical school, the school will guide you through the steps to be taken so that you may start medical school on time.

International students who have the opportunity to study in the U.S. or Canada, the experience undoubtedly puts them in a better position to land a residency in the U.S. after medical school. In my opinion, sharing a class with international students is advantageous to the U.S. medical students because it allows them to experience diversity, learn about other cultures and hear about how medicine is practiced in other parts of the world.

Although applying and getting accepted to a U.S. medical school takes significant planning and hard work, the end result is extremely worthwhile.

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