How to choose a medical school

Most medical school applicants want to get in to the most prestigious institution they can.

But a school's reputation is no guarantee that it will be the best fit medical school for your sensibilities and aspirations. Here are seven questions that will help you evaluate potential schools:

1. What is the academic focus?

Some medical programs emphasize research or specialty medicine, while others focus on primary care. If you're interested in the latter, you may not be happy at a school that gives you little patient contact in the first two years. On the other hand, if you want to become a researcher or an academic, a school whose mission is to educate family practitioners may leave you pining for the lab.

2. How much does the school emphasize and reward teaching?

For the answer to this question, you can check out the faculty to student ratio or consult the admissions office (although their response might be just a little biased). The best way to determine teaching quality is to ask current students for their opinion

3. How intense is the pressure?

The atmosphere at medical school can range from calm and collaborative to cut-throat and competitive. The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, for example, has a reputation of extreme competitiveness, while the Yale University School of Medicine has a unique evaluation system in which there are no grades.

4. What kind of research opportunities are available?

It's not always the high-profile schools that are doing the most cutting-edge research. Different schools have different specialties, and some offer opportunities in partnership with affiliated schools of public health, business or law.

5. What is student life like?

Remember, you're choosing the place where—and the people with whom—you'll spend at least four years of your life. You certainly won't be studying all of the time (pretty close, though). Talk to current students to find out if they're happy.

6. Where will you be living?

What is the climate and culture like in the area? How far will you be from friends and family? Are the clinical facilities close to the school and housing?

7. How much will you owe?

When comparing award offers, consider two factors: how much of your need is being met and how it is being met. Also consider the cost of living in your school's city.

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