Everyone knows the top schools, but for the most part it’s about personal preference. It’s about how you want to learn and what career you’re hoping to launch. Consider these factors as you research and tour potential med schools. They can serve as a good starting point and help you form questions for campus/school tours.
Curriculum: Most schools teach just about the same information; however, the way they teach it can differ. Some schools continue to use the traditional, didactic lecture classes, but others are moving toward a more “integrated” curriculum or the problem-based learning approach (PBL). Neither approach is considered superior. It all depends on how you learn and process information. Know what works for you and what your prospective schools’ styles are.
Clinical experience: Students will begin to see clinical exposure in their third or fourth year at med school. But, some schools offer more exposure. Typically, bigger schools have larger patient catch areas, offering students more clinical exposure. Also, schools in larger cities like New York, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta, have access and connections to more professionals and resources, which can increase the amount of exposure you will see.
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Research/primary care schools: Most med schools classify themselves as either academic research centers or primary care schools. Strong research programs will provide you with lab space, mentors and the resources needed for research-based work/careers. In research careers, you will be searching for new medications to treat illnesses/diseases and utilizing your extensive knowledge of chemistry and biology. But, if you want to be a practicing clinician in a specific area of medicine, then primary care schools may be best for you.
Again, this all depends on what career you are hoping to launch.
3- or 4-year programs: You will spend about the same amount of time in the classroom in each. But, with three year programs, you do not get a summer vacation or as much time off. Naturally, three-year programs are much more affordable because you don’t have to pay a fourth year of tuition, and they can help you reach employment faster. But, some students get burnt out quickly, and their grades suffer, potentially affecting future employment opportunities.
Finances: Some schools award large amounts of financial aid, others are fairly affordable to begin with and others are very expensive. However, tuition is not the main factor you should consider because it does not represent total cost. Do a little research on the schools you’re interested in to find out how much financial aid they award.
Also, per federal mandate, all colleges and universities now must have a net price calculator published on their website, which is designed to give you an accurate figure on exactly how much you will pay. But, you may need to search around for it.
Debt is another factor to consider, and the median debt level for a graduating medical student was $155,000 in 2008, according to the US News & World Report.
Class size: Some students benefit from an interactive, hands-on education – made possible with smaller class sizes. However, some still prefer larger, lecture halls that touch on much more information – but in a broader sense. Consider how you learn and if you want a specialized or broad medical career.
Choosing the appropriate medical school boils down to one basic question: what type of career do you want? Once you figure that out, it’s much easier to find your perfect school. The aforementioned factors can help you start thinking about that.