School & Program Selection
When deciding on which schools and programs to apply to, there are a number of things to consider.
Am I competitive at this institution?
The application process for medical school can be arduous and expensive. Therefore, it is important you apply to schools that you actually have a chance of gaining admission. This means paying attention to average MCAT scores and GPAs as well as the types (and amount) of volunteer/extracurricular activities accepted applicants usually have.
Another thing to consider is where accepted applicants are coming from (i.e., in-state vs. out-of-state). Private out-of-state schools are often a better bet compared with state schools. For instance, as a Georgia resident, the likelihood of gaining admission into the University of Washington School of Medicine is very low, as they accept very few out-of-state applicants and even fewer outside of the Pacific Northwest. Similarly, a Washington resident would have a difficult time gaining admission into the Medical College of Georgia.
Beyond residency, it is important to pay attention to the overall mission of the medical school. For example, the mission of Mercer University School of Medicine is to serve rural and medically under-served populations in Georgia. Specifically, they are focused on primary care. Therefore, if you wish to specialize in plastic surgery and would like to work in Cobb County (or outside of the Georgia), Mercer may not be a good fit for you, even if you meet or exceed their minimum requirements.
Would I feel comfortable attending this institution?
Medical school is an incredibly strenuous (though rewarding) experience. Therefore, it is also important to consider whether you would be happy attending a particular medical school. If you prefer warm weather, a medical school in Michigan may not be the best choice. If you have to be home for the holidays, attending medical school 3,000 miles away may not be the best choice. Moreover, living in Chicago or DC will certainly offer a different experience than living in Athens or Charlottesville.
Curriculum and the structure of a particular medical program should be considered as well when deciding which schools to apply to. Do you prefer lecture-style classes over small-group activities? Do you hope to conduct research?
Additional factors to consider:
- Tuition/Cost of Living Expenses
- USLME scores and residency matching rate
- Research opportunities
- Options for clinical rotations (in the same city or spread around the state?, etc.)
- Satellite campuses
- Dual-degree programs
The best resource to use when deciding where to apply is the Medical School Admissions Requirement (MSAR) handbook. Admission statistics, requirements, and applicant data is compiled every year for each accredited medical school in the US and Canada.
Is Early Decision right for me?
The Early Decision Program (or EDP) allows an applicant to submit an application to a single medical school and receive a relatively quick decision.
Specifically, the EDP application deadline is August 1 and a decision provided by the medical school by October 1. If admitted EDP, the applicant is obligated to attend that school for that particular year only (the acceptance cannot be deferred). Therefore, it is important to apply for early decision only at an institution you would consider your "first-choice."
Note: In order to apply EDP, you must complete the MCAT early enough for you to receive your scores before the August 1 deadline.
If you are rejected during the EDP process, you will still have the opportunity to apply to additional programs. However, there is a risk that many interview opportunities at the other schools may have been already offered to other students. Furthermore, it is possible to be admitted at the same school at which you were rejected during EDP during the regular admission cycle, especially if an interview was completed in the EDP process.
Early Decision Programs in Georgia:
- Emory University School of Medicine does not offer EDP.
- Medical College of Georgia requires that EDP applicants have an overall GPA of 3.7 and a combined MCAT score of 509.
- Mercer University School of Medicine allows applicants to apply EDP provided they are Georgia residents and have met the requirements for the regular decision application process.
- Morehouse University School of Medicine allows applicants to apply EDP provided they are Georgia residents and have met the requirements for the regular decision application process.
What about dual degree programs?
MD/PhD programs are specifically designed for those who want to become research physicians, also known as physician-scientists. Graduates of MD/PhD programs often go on to become faculty members at medical schools, universities, and research institutes such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH). MD/PhD candidates are being prepared for careers in which they will spend most of their time doing research in addition to caring for patients. Therefore, it is critical that applicants have a passion for doing both — most MD/PhD graduates feel strongly that they would not be fulfilled by only pursuing medicine or only pursuing science.
Some MD/PhD programs are classified as Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTP). These programs recieve financial support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
MD/PhD programs are typically 8 years in length (although some can be completed in 7 years). Most programs follow a 2+4+2 format: students complete the first two years of medical school, followed by four years of graduate school, and then complete the final two years of medical school.
In addition to providing students with substantial research experience, the benefit of pursuing an MD/PhD is that they are fully funded. This means that accepted students are provided a tuition waiver throughout the entirety of the program, combined with a competitive stipend.
MD/MPH are dual-degree programs in which students receive both a medical degree and a Master of Public Health. These programs are designed to prepare students to work as physicians in the public health field, enabling them to diagnose health problems and risk factors of individuals and communities.
MD/MPH programs can usually completed within five years (4-years of medical school and 1-year of graduate study in public health).
MD/MS programs are a great option if you are interested in research but apprehensive of completing an eight-year program (like the MD/PhD) elect to pursue MD/MS degree programs.
MD/MBA programs are becoming increasingly popular. These programs are designed to provide physicians with the knowledge to run their own practice or hold a management position at a hospital, pharmaceutical company, insurance company or biotech company.
MD/MBA programs are designed for completion within five years (4-years of medical school and 1-year of graduate study in business).
MD/JD programs allows students to obtain both degrees in medicine and law. The law curriculum prepares medical students for careers in health sector law, leadership and policy. It also prepares future physicians for legal aspects of running a private medical practice or heading a group practice.
MD/JD programs are designed for completion within six years.