When you’ve been accepted to more than one medical school, you may feel at a loss as to which one to attend. After all, each school will have its own strengths and weaknesses, and it can be hard to know how each fits with your personality and interests. This guide will help you decide which medical school to attend when holding more than one acceptance letter.
My basic school selection process utilizes a rather simple framework that should be adjusted to fit your own personal goals and needs. I follow a simple hierarchy of rules in which the first rule outranks the second and so on (of course there are always exceptions)!
I'd like to thank my loyal Physician Pharmacist Mentees for providing the inspiration for this blog post! I have received many related questions about medical school selection and wanted to formalize it for future readers with similar success. Hopefully this post will provide some direction!
#1: Go to the MD program:
Before everyone gets mad, this is not to dismiss Osteopathic medical school programs! My rationale for this statement follows the logic bellow;
It will open more doors for specialties in the future. While I personally believe that both osteopathic and allopathic programs provide equivalent levels of education the residency match data suggests that DO's will have a harder time matching into competitive specialties. Ok, but what if you aren't interested in a competitive specialty at the moment? You should still go to the MD program because you will more than likely change your specialty interests several times throughout medical school. This happens to plenty of students who get exposure to fields that pique there interest but never crossed their mind at the forefront. My specialty interests have changed over 4x alone. Now if you are dead-set on practicing family medicine which is historically a less competitive specialty, you should just skip to the next rule as finances should be your decision driver.
You won't have to take 2 sets of boards: Osteopathic students are required to take the COMLEX and most are encouraged to take the USMLE STEP exams. Studying for 2 boards can be taxing and adds to your already high cost of education.
You avoid having to take OMM: Certainly a minor feature, but it's one less course you have to worry about as a student. For those of you asking googling "OMM," it stands for Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine and involves the teachings of therapeutic application of manual pressure or force. Most students will either absolutely love it, or just can't stand it!
Don't mistake this blanket statement and apply this principle to all MD programs in the world! I am referring to U.S. based Allopathic medical schools and do not generally recommend Caribbean programs. Often because of the overall lower residency match rates, extremely limited opportunity to specialize, and exorbitant costs. If your options are between an U.S. Osteopathic school and a Caribbean MD, choose the Osteopathic route!
Below are the NRMP Match rates for 2022 based on MD and DO applicants. If you are feeling ambitious, you can calculate the match rates for a particular specialty and compare between the two. For example, let's examine Anesthesiology since its on the top. There were 1,489 MD applicants and 1,054 MD matches. This comes out to a 70.1% successful match rate. Alternatively, there were 505 DO applicants and 263 DO matches, totaling to a 52.1% successful match rate. Do this with your own specialty of interest!
For a less pixelated data you can view the pdf file. Alternatively you can view the entire data collection from the NRMP Residency Match Data Website.
#2 Go to the Cheapest program:
Medical school education is almost universally identical in that the majority of your education is increasingly being supplemented with 3rd party resources (UWorld, Amboss, USMLE Rx, etc.). Where you get your education has little significance as they will all provide a similar outcome. Of course you may be pressured to attend a higher cost school due to it's alluring prestige (referring to a Top 20 program), but is that prestige advantage really worth an extra $120,000 in loans? Perhaps it might open a few doors to better career opportunities, however I would argue that the potential upsides fall short. Unless you are an aspiring academic physician, want to conduct massive large scale research/clinical trials, are bargaining for a highly competitive specialty (Neurosurgery, Vascular Surgery) the cost of the prestige isn't typically worth the financial strain. Future you will thank you!
Let's take a look at my medical school's reported cost of attendance (CoA). As an instate student, it is expected that I will spend $73,000 (46,000 in tuition) annually. Compare this to Georgetown which reports a CoA of $103,000 ($70,000 in tuition) annually. Attending UB will cost me $292,000 over 4 years assuming I take out the maximum assistance whereas Georgetown would cost me $412,000! I am saving hundreds of thousands of dollars attending Buffalo to receive the same exact education.
I recommend you sit down and look at a programs cost of attendance. See how much they designate toward the cost of living and determine if the metrics advertised are really representative of the current market? Would you actually be able to keep to their generic budget or is it far to optimistic! Perhaps our frugal readers can live far below their means and make it work regardless.
#3 Go where you are comfortable:
Of course your ability to finish medical school should be a major priority and attending a school where you feel comfortable and supported can be essential to that point. One of the most important factors is your assessment of the student body and your ability to "vibe" well with others. There's nothing worse than a non-collaborative vindictive class body who will run you over in the parking lot to clinch a research opportunity!
I am proud to say I do NOT attend a program like this and it has made all the difference! You should also think about;
Strong Social Support: Being close to home can really have it's benefits during medical school. Having loved ones around to cushion the most challenging years of your life to date is truly priceless.
Location: Is your medical school in an exciting city that you could see yourself living in for a prolonged period of time, or is your program situated in a quiet rural town? Taking time away from medical school to enjoy some leisure or explore new restaurants/hobbies
Program Focus: Outside of social vibes, you need to assess if the program you plan to attend aligns with your personal or professional goals. Is the program a research heavy school that actively help you find research? Do they have a strong community focused track record or global health presence?
Fellowship/Residency Opportunities: You will almost always have the best chance of matching into a residency at your home program. They obviously liked you enough to admit you to the school, and that connection is often maintained throughout your education. If you are interested in having a Robust Orthopedic Surgery Career but attend a very small rural medical school that doesn't have a home program, you are already at a slight disadvantage. Not just the fact that you don't have a "safety residency program" but you also will be lacking critical mentorship or exposure to the profession. This is certainly a minor feature as most medical schools have large programs with robust residency opportunities but keep it in the back of your head.
If you are one of the lucky medical school applicants that has the privilege of holding more than one acceptance, hopefully this short post has helped guide your decision making! At the end it needs to be individualized to every persons aspirations, needs, and financial disposition.
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