How to Decide Where to Attend Medical School

Imagine that after interviews with several medical schools, you receive a letter of acceptance — a tremendous accomplishment worth celebrating. If you’re among the most fortunate students, you will have more than one medical school from which to choose, which presents a challenge: which one to choose?

Some medical schools are a better fit for you, your learning style, your career goals and your resources . Here are 10 aspects to consider .


Because you will be studying and perhaps living with other students, an important consideration is at which school you will feel most comfortable. Are there students who share your values in how they treat others? Are they kind and helpful or rather distant and self-absorbed? Will you enjoy the study atmosphere and how students do or do not study together? Do you feel like you are at home with friends when you are around the students from the school?

If you connect well with the students you meet and don’t feel intimidated by them, you can feel reassured that you will fit in because the school will likely select students with similar qualities for the next class.

It’s helpful to know how students in each of the current classes feel about their choice. Try to catch them alone or for a phone conversation later. Ask if they would make the same decision if they had it to do over again. The more people you speak with, the better.

If you were uncomfortable with the students or felt uneasy about how they interacted with each other, you may wish to keep looking. On the other hand, if the students made you feel excited to be part of the school, that’s a positive sign. Liking your med school classmates will help you study more effectively and perform better in the long run.


Most med schools at this time have a very robust curriculum for wellness. It will include mindfulness, exercise, healthy dietary advice and a variety of other sessions offered to every student.

A key consideration is the kind of wellness services and emotional support the school offers, as well as how easy it is to access them. The truth is that the rates of depression and anxiety are high in medical school. Although you may not have experienced these issues, you’ll want to know the support is there if you need it.

If students attending the school reveal limited or delayed access to the support services, it could be a serious warning sign. What have they heard from classmates who may have fallen into depression or anxiety?

[How Long Is Medical School and What Is It Like?]


Sometimes your top-choice medical school may seem too expensive. If that’s the case, beg the financial office or inquire about student employment as part of the best financial package they can offer.

Note that not all medical schools offer federal student loans, and it may be important that you check this out before deciding.

In the end, you will not regret going to a school where you feel happy. If the school is not willing to negotiate on the aid package, you may have better options at other schools where you have been accepted.

Board Preparation

You must pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam, commonly called the USMLE, to become licensed to practice as a physician. Part one is pass/ fail, but it is still a tough exam. Part two, with its score, will impact your specialty choice and residency program options.

Some schools offer review sessions, starting many months in advance of the testing. They may also offer question banks and multiple resources their students can describe.

You will definitely want to know what kind of preparation will be at your fingertips, and what options there are for additional individual tutoring. Again, you may not have needed such services in the past, but it’s crucial to know they exist before you need that kind of help.

Lack of support for national board preparation and inadequate time for study are definite warning signs to consider.

Advising and Tutoring

I have seen tutoring programs on paper that didn’t pan out to be solid when the students were struggling to keep up with the work. Peer tutoring is fine, but what is available beyond that? Sometimes peers aren’t able to provide the support needed.

What is the depth and strength of the advising program? Are students finding tutoring to be expensive or not easily available? If you hear the school has thrown up walls when students asked for more help with the curriculum, or help reviewing tests, be wary.

Be sure to ask for details about how the advising system works and if you will have access early in your training to faculty and residents in specialties to which you are drawn.

Ask about personal support if there is an unforeseen illness in your family or an emergency. How does it operate if a student needs to be absent and make up work?

[Read: How Hard Is Medical School and What Is the Med School Curriculum?]

Clinical Rotations

If you have identified the specialty you want, it will be critical for you to have close contact with faculty and residents in that specialty. You’ll want to know how much decision power you’ll have determining the order of your clinical rotations during your third year, then choosing your electives, and when you will be allowed to take them.

Are the rotations crowded with too many students? Watch out for schools that schedule too many students for a single rotation and cannot provide broader learning opportunities because of class size or limited facilities. This is a more common problem than you might think.

Do they offer enough time with residents and faculty? How much is observation and how much is hands-on practice? Will you train in a broad variety of hospitals and outpatient settings? Which patient populations come to the settings, and what options are there to add more variety?

Unfortunately, some schools may have allowed themselves to grow more rapidly, adding more students than they have the capacity to accommodate in the outpatient settings and hospitals. It may be they have the capacity but not the teachers. If the funding is not adequate to support teaching, these physicians may move into straight clinical practice and away from students.

Do not assume that because you will be associated with a massive medical center that all the physicians teach, or even the majority. Clinical demand may be so great that they turn down the offer to educate. On the other hand, there are some hospitals that require teaching from faculty who don’t want to be supervising students. Ask the students where you want to attend medical school if their preceptors are happy.

Active internships and elective rotations in your specialty choice will be required before you apply for residency. Are students having a hard time arranging this? Ask late third-year students or those early in their fourth year.

Residency Matching

Find out how happy the second-semester seniors have been with their residency match results. This is tricky because only the individual student knows how far he or she dropped down on their submitted residency ranking list, as it is confidential. They learn the results in mid-March.


Allopathic medical schools in the U.S. must meet criteria set by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, or LCME. For osteopathic schools, it is the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation, or COCA.

New schools move from preliminary to provisional status before achieving full accreditation. Once fully accredited, they can be placed on probation if a regularly scheduled review finds they have not met important standards, even after being given some months to make corrections.

In these days of growing regulations, there will almost certainly be items to fix. I recently visited a medical school that had been given their results about a month earlier. The school had detailed plans on all points cited and had moved forward on all. The timeline they set for themselves to have all completed was impressive. Schools take this feedback very seriously and will move mountains to clear their name.

No one wants to be on probation, but there were a couple in 2023. LCME and COCA keep updated lists. If you find a school on the list and you are seriously wanting to attend that school, ask about their plans to recover full accreditation without probation.

[Read: What a First-Year Medical School Student Can Expect.]

New Medical Schools

It appears that 12 new allopathic schools have opened between 2018 and 2024. Three more are planned for 2025 and eight more are in planning in the more distant future. Osteopathic medical schools jumped by 117 between 2018 and the 2024-2025 school year. Nine more are planned or proposed and may be coming in further years.

If you are applying to a new medical school, there are many additional factors to consider such as the possibility of curricular changes and the level of career support. New medical schools need to show that their students can be successful physicians. Warning signs may include scores on national board examinations, or failure rate, and the number of graduates who failed to match for residencies.

In general, new med schools do not get needed accreditation until they have proven they can do these things, but it’s always good to ask. If they had a provisional credit after the last LCME visit, ask what the issues were and how they are being addressed.

As one who attended a new medical school and also helped develop another new medical school, I know that there is both joy and challenge in being a pioneer. I can say with confidence that there’s a lot of creativity and learning on the run for both students and faculty. I would do it all over again, but I certainly don’t speak for everyone.

In California, the Charles Drew School of Medicine at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, a historically Black graduate institution, will be linked to the University of California–Los Angeles and offer support to minority students wanting to expand access to health care for the underserved. It is the fourth historically Black medical school after Morehouse School of Medicine in Georgia, Meharry Medical College in Tennessee and Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

Some students need more assurance and stability. Listen to your gut and consider how much ambiguity works for you.

Caribbean Medical Schools

Some students may wonder if there are advantages to attending medical school in the Caribbean.

There is a tremendous amount of variation in Caribbean medical schools. Classes may be quite large, and student attrition may be problematic. You would want to know where the students do clinical rotations and what choice students have over their rotations. You would also want to know their rate of residency match for at least the past three years, particularly in the specialties that interest you.

Because Caribbean medical schools often have to purchase clinical rotations for their students, the cost of tuition may be higher than you might expect. My position is that it is generally more advantageous for U.S. students to attend medical school in the U.S.

Another medical school is planned for the future at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas for students from the Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands who want to pursue medical training closer to home and where they want to work.

These 10 considerations and related questions are intended to help you get clear answers that demonstrate a medical school’s level of support for its students. If the answers give you pause, then beware.

Anyone who gets into medical school is a star. Remember that for those of you with options, I wish you the very best and hope you select the school that best suits you. Nonetheless, whichever school you attend, know that all your hard work will be worth it in the end.

More from U.S. News

5 Ways Medical School Is Different From College

10 Red Flags That Medical School Isn’t Right for You

The Medical School Admissions Cycle: A Month-by-Month Guide

How to Decide Where to Attend Medical School originally appeared on

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