March Madness – How to Pick Your Favorite Medical School

BasketballIt’s that time of year again when even the most passive of college basketball fans pick up a bracket and start cheering for their favorite team in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Not being a basketball fan myself, I don’t pay as much attention as some people, but I know that I, and many other prospective medical school students, are engaged in our own version of medical school March madness.

Okay, so we have some acceptances, we are waitlisted at some schools and rejected by others. Now it comes down to the last few weeks before May 15th and the official day that students can only hold one medical school acceptance. If you are one of the lucky few who has multiple acceptances, you may find yourself debating your various med school options. I, for one, suggest creating an NCAA style bracket, complete with med school statistics, strengths and weaknesses. Then you can pit your schools against one another until one school emerges victorious.

Some important factors when selecting your medical school:

1. Cost- Turns out that medical school is not free and cost is an important consideration when you realize that tuition at schools can differ by more than $50,000 a year. Do solid research not only on the cost of tuition, but the cost of living. Cost of renting an apartment, getting to campus, and buying food will vary greatly depending on where the school is located.
2. Academic Program Options- Does the school specialize in primary care? Are there MD/MBA programs or MD/MPH programs that you could potentially apply to? Do they have a large percentage of their students matching in their desired residencies? Are there opportunities for studying abroad? It’s important to evaluate all of the available opportunities at the school outside of simply providing a medical school curriculum.
3. School Culture- Is it a school that emphasizes collaboration or do the classes have a reputation for being very cutthroat and competitive? Which environment do you prefer for studying and success? Are there extracurricular activities available outside of class?
4. Support- Medical school can be very stressful and you need to anticipate needing support at some point whether it’s academic or moral support. Does the school have studying resources, student mentors or faculty mentors available? Is the school close to home? Do you know anyone where you are moving?

Unfortunately, I can’t answer these questions for you or help you make the tough decision of where to spend your medical school years. But, we can brainstorm selection techniques. Does anyone have special criteria they are using to pick a medical school? I would love to hear your thoughts on deciding which school to attend!

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