Medical school can be the beginning of a great career path in medicine, but how to choose the right one?
A good medical school will maximize your chances of getting a great job that will allow you to fulfill your passion and help others. Today let’s look at 7 tips for finding the school that will be right for you.
1). Think About Cost and Value
Before you do anything else, try to get a strong sense of the value of a degree earned from a given school, and compare that with the cost.
Granted, this is inherently a little tricky, because “value” can be subjective: you may value going to X, Y, Z, or the other medical school higher than someone else for any number of reasons.
For a more objective measure, try to find notable alumni. Who can this school claim? What do people who graduate from the school go on to do? How prestigious are they? They’ll probably have testimonials for alumni. For an example, check out the graduate page at: https://www.sjsm.org/.
Next, query around and try to get a more general “sense” of how prestigious the school is, and thus how valuable a degree might be. Once you have a pretty good sense of the value associated with the school, check out the cost and decide which schools are worth your time applying.
2). See What Their Students Are Saying
Getting a sense of what students are saying about the school and the experience of attending is unquestionably one of the best ways you can figure out if it could be right for you. Try to go beyond the no-doubt-glowing testimonials on the website: see if you can track down a LinkedIn contact or someone who attended, maybe a Facebook group where current and former students talk.
If you can talk to people who are either going there or who graduated from there, you will have a much better and stronger sense of the virtues of the school, as well as any weak or undesirable points.
3). Look at the Academic Focus
Different medical programs emphasize different things. For example, some medical programs emphasize primary care, while others emphasize research and specialty medicine.
If you are interested in doing primary care, find a medical school that is focused on delivering that. If you were to instead attend one that was more research-focused, you might be stuck with very little patient contact for the first two years.
Conversely, let us say you are interested in a particular specialty. In this case, look at how highly-ranked this school is with regard to that specialty. Do they provide you with plenty of opportunities to develop your specialty?
4). Investigate Teaching Quality
What is the quality of the teaching at the school? You can learn some of this by talking to current and former students, and indeed they should be your most important source of information.
Current and former students are a potentially very rich mine of information about teaching at the school in question. With that said, also consider the ratio of faculty to students.
5). Research Opportunities
You might think it would be the high-profile, prestigious schools doing the best research work. However, this is not necessarily correct: sometimes the most cutting-edge research in a given discipline will be from a school that you wouldn’t necessarily think of as likely to be cutting-edge.
6). How Do Graduates Fare?
There are at least two very important and topical questions here: 1) How many of the students admitted to the program actually finish?, and 2) How well do graduates far in residency placement?
The essence of this query is figuring out what you can probably expect if you attend, and once you graduate. You want this investment to be well worth your while, and that is much easier when you know you will have a good chance of finishing the program, and then a good chance of finding an outstanding job once you’re out.
7). Location, Climate, and Culture
Factors of location, climate, and culture are less important to your long-term success, and should therefore not rank at the top of your list. However, these factors are still important: medical school is at least a 4-year commitment, so whatever you choose, you will be there for most of the next 4 years at least.
You can again find out about much of this by talking to current and former students. Research the area and try to get a sense for the overall climate.
Choosing the right medical school will always have an element of subjectivity to it, because ultimately only you will be able to know which school is the right one for you, the one that will help you do what you want to do.
Fundamentally, choosing the right school will always come down to a question of “Is the value offered worth the cost?” Hopefully the 7 tips discussed here will help you answer exactly this question.