How to go about making a list of schools to apply to

I feel like the title speaks for itself, and might come off sounding dumb to others but I genuinely am curious. I have yet to take the MCAT as I am a couple of years away from being qualified to take it since I’m finishing pre-reqs. I would like to know how others came across making a school list or any advice! Thanks!

There are a lot of things to consider, and you’re really going to have to prioritize what exactly you’re looking for in a school. Generically, geographic location may be a higher priority for you than for others.

The cheapest thing to start with is finding a list of schools in any area you’d be willing to live in and scour their websites to what their requirements are and what they have to offer students. You’ll probably ultimately end up using school websites toward the end of your decision making so you can gather info and come up with questions to ask during your interviews.

MD schools have a database available for purchase online called the MSAR (can find it if you google MSAR medical school or something). It’s a subscription service that you may or may not want to use this early in the process. It contains general school profiles, MCAT scores, GPA, notes about the curriculum, etc that can help you sort through different options. There is also a limited filter option to cut down on how much it shows you.

DO schools have which is not as user friendly in my opinio, but it’s been awhile since I’ve looked at it.

Ive heard that the average number of schools applied to is 15? that seems incredibly high to me (and expensive).

I know ‘they’ say don’t worry about the admissions statistics and to apply where you want to go, but I’ve always been one to think realistically.

So geography is important, yes. At 15 schools though, theres no way that all of them satisfy that equally. What other factors led you to your decision? Stats (likelihood of getting in); alumni recommendations/affiliation; university affiliation; tuition costs; residency placements?

I applied where I wanted to go but quickly got shot down by my “reach” school. I didn’t think any school on my list was a “safety” school either. There is luck and a ton of different variables that go into getting accepted that it almost feels a crap shoot and the best you can do is hedge your bets.

Things I considered, not necessarily in order of importance:

  • Cost of Living
  • Tuition would’ve been on my list had I not known I was going to be on scholarship (HPSP)
  • Would my family be happy in the area (moving cost not a factor)
  • Was I within about +/- 2 of the average MCAT
  • Was I reasonably competitive with average GPA
  • Is it private/how much do they consider out of state applicants
  • Is there an attached teaching hospital (or rather could I do all of my clinical rotations locally)
  • General quality of the program/facilities (US World News isn’t that great unless you care about research money)
  • Type of curriculum (traditional classroom vs condensed curriculum vs heavily self-directed learning)
  • Is there an emphasis on research (I preferred a more clinical emphasis)

    I scoured MSAR for all of the schools that accepted online credits (had 4 classes online for prereqs). Then I narrowed it further roughly with the above in mind. There’s a thought that you’re only as competitive for residency as you make yourself. Sure, the school will have something to do with that in how they teach, but there’s SO MUCH INFO that you’re required to know for the boards that you end up doing a lot of learning on your own. There’s a reason why school board scores range from ridiculously high to barely passing within the same class.

    I applied kind of late in the cycle, so I was pretty happy that I got any interviews. Where I ended up ultimately came down to being accepting to 2 schools, only one of which fulfilled most of my criteria (the other being a local school that was brand new with a regional clinical rotation area).

Kennymac sounds like you either have ptsd or just lived through some board testing…

Thanks for the answer, definitely a lot to consider.

Ha, no flashbacks, just loss of about 9 hours of memory… I’m in between boards at the moment, so, y’know, I get to take 8 other tests over the span of 12 months before taking step 2.

What I was trying to stress, though, is that I wouldn’t use a school’s average board score or their match lists as primary drivers for where to go. There’s too much variability between classes (ie what % wants primary care and who wants to go where for whatever reason) that I don’t think it’s a very good indicator of YOUR potential to match somewhere. School name may be a discriminator between two similar applicants, but going to Harvard won’t make up for bombing the boards. Plus, like I said, board performance is pretty individualized and not necessarily just the result of the curriculum.

And yes, applying to medical school is pretty expensive. AAMC has some sort of program you apply to in order to have some of the fees waived. Some of the schools will also waive secondary application fees based on some financial criteria (usually if AAMC gives you the waiver, they may also). The stupid expensive part is getting to interviews if they aren’t nearby. I’m not sure what strategies people use to cut costs for that besides trying to schedule interviews in the same area, if you have that luxury. To add insult to injury, most (all?) DO schools give you a very short period of time following acceptance to pay a non-refundable place-holder, so withdrawing after that also hurts the wallet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any cheaper until you’re in residency (tuition, board exams, residency interviews, moving, etc) or maybe an attending, when your income outweighs the costs.

Yeah I guess I better get used to digging the debt hole deeper now…

I hear that schools accept within their own, especially state schools. Should this factor into my list of schools?

Its been said to apply to every school within your state, but my state (SC) only has 3. I really like the setting of big state schools, thats a big factor to me. Does this mean I shouldn’t apply to any? Is there a way to tell their stats of accepting IS vs OOS?

If I recall correctly, the MSAR delineates how many interviews were given to in-state vs out-of-state applicants. (yup, that means you have to spend more money to buy the MSAR).

For tax/funding purposes, state schools tend to accept people who are classified as residents of their state. In-state students will pay way less in tuition over the 4 years, and I believe a lot of schools say that once you start paying tuition as an out-of-stater, you can’t switch over while you’re in school (might be wrong on that). I applied mostly to private schools, as my state school (WA) is pretty picky and accepts people from the region vs just the state. I did apply to some places as a non-resident and even landed an interview at one. Private schools have uniform tuition across the board. They may favor in-area applicants for the hope that some will stay in-area to practice, but that’s a pipe dream these days. I definitely got a lot more interest from private schools.

Lots of private schools are also attached to large universities or hospital networks. You’ll pay a lot more but can still get a strong lecture-based and clinical education. My hospital is a regional tertiary care center, so we tend to get a ton of very complex patients and rare diseases. This is probably good for overall experience but can detract from learning the more basic medicine stuff that is covered on the boards. There are pros and cons to each different type of setting, so I guess that’s another thing to consider.

If you know you want to do primary care, you should look into the National Health Services Corps scholarship to pay for school. A lot of places also have performance and/or need-based scholarships.