Opinions on how many schools to apply?

I have a bit of a dilemma and I would love to get honest opinions from the forum.

I am very dedicated and serious about becoming a Dr, but I don’t know if I can allow myself to move out of state to go to med school. Not only will it be a significant financial burden on me, I don’t know if I can leave my father who suffers with prostate cancer. My soon to be husband will have to be my provider while I am at med school. He works at a local university where I am taking my post-bacc classes and I will qualify for free tuition in a year and a half so that part is WONDERFUL. But I don’t think we could survive if I move aimlessly to another state and wait for him to get a job. Having him support me financially for 4 years through med school is asking enough, I do not think it’s fair to have him move wherever. Now maybe when I match for residency, that may be a different story.

As I mentioned about my father—I just cannot bring myself to abandon him. My mom just passed away rather sudden a few months ago and shortly after, his prostate cancer metastasized to his spine.

I understand that this will limit my chances of getting into medical school dramatically. However, I do live in a rather good hub for medicine. I’m in Cleveland, OH, and there are 3 MD options within the area for med school and soon to be a fourth for DO.

There is Case Western Reserve

NEOMED (which actually has a partnership with the school I’m going to for post-bacc)

And Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (part of Case and more research focused)

And the DO option (unsure of when it will open) will be part of Ohio University’s med school partnering with the Cleveland Clinic

First of all, am I limiting myself too much to just 3–4 options to apply? I know this will mean that my stats are going to have to be pretty impressive to even be considered. I will be taking my time with my post-bacc classes to ensure that I am completely prepared for the MCAT and that I get the grades.

Secondly, is the fact that I want to stay in Cleveland, not only for med school, but ideally for residency and after, make me a more desirable candidate or would divulging that hurt me?

I appreciate any thoughts on this!!

My situation is somewhat similar, in that it would be best for me to stay where I am for medical school. So I’m interested in opinions on this subject.

In all I have read and in communications with people, I hear that I should be applying to anywhere between 15-30 schools. However, in the same breath people tell me that your own state school is your best opportunity.

How many people applying to MD programs are accepted by out-of-state or private schools but are rejected from their state school?

Usually I hear you should apply to 12-20 schools, more if your stats are low. But I have had 2 preceptors who applied to only one med school and only one residency for similar reasons. Can’t advise it but you are not the only one who feels limited to a particular region.


While I can certainly relate and understand your delimma, my experience is that adcoms tend to think applicants are less serious about becoming a Doc when they limit themselves geographically.

With that in mind, I’ll ONLY be applying to schools in my home state the first year and if I’m not admitted, I’ll consider out-of-state schools the following year.

I understand your situation completely. There’s only one medical school in the state where I’m living, and I’m planning on only applying to that school this cycle.

If I don’t get accepted this year, I’ll consider widening the search, but I’d rather not move my family across the country (and away from established relationships and support networks) if I don’t have to.

It’s a journey, not a race.

Apply to your state schools this year, or take a year off and spend it with your father. It’s hard to tell if he’s going though the sort of things that would make application season a serious conflict, and I feel family trumps everything, every time.

Should you apply this year and not get in, you still have the entire year to work on other things to improve yourself “on paper” and then apply more widely the next year.

I have trouble remembering exactly, but my GPA was pretty low, something like a 3.1 once I put it into DO system (doesn’t count math courses, for MD it was a bit higher). However, my MCAT was a 29 (great for DO, meh for MD) and I didn’t want to stay in my home state. I applied to something close to 25 schools (17 DO, rest MD, I think) - got 3 interviews and 1 acceptance.

In hindsight, looking at a debt that accrues interest at $20 per day (not a typo, that is per day) I would have applied in-state and stayed closer to our families. Out of state tuition is terrible and will more than double my total debt, and both my husband and I miss our families much more than we expected. But, such is life.

I tend to think quality over quantity. I applied only to my state schools (lucky we have 8 I think), plus Oklahoma and Baylor (in Houston, so a private school with low tuition).

I would say the following:

  1. Do not apply to schools you are not willing to go.

  2. Consider the cost (for me that was a major one)

  3. If you feel you need or must stay in your own state, then it is best to take a bit more time to prepare for the MCAT and biff up the resume with the ECs. Applying narrowly warrants a better application.

    The process is very costly altogether, and I think handpicking schools is better than applying broadly for the sake of securing an acceptance. Now I know that statistically, your chances are better if you apply to more schools. But I think that due diligence and careful selection will make up for it. In other words, I still believe that your chances are better when you select the schools more likely to accept you rather than applying broadly. In my own case, I did everything to be fit to my top choice, followed all pieces of advice given to me by the admission folks that I kept bugging for 3 years!

    Now this is easier said than done. I applied to 10 schools total (a decent number, but far from the 20 to 30 schools you usually hear). I knew that 2 wouldn’t even interview me (that includes the only DO school in Texas and Oklahoma). I received 4 invitations, declined one (Baylor because I was already accepted to my top choice), and was accepted to all 3 others. My selection was based on money primarily (stay in Texas) and proximity (stay in Dallas).

    With 4 schools in OH, assuming you get a decent to great MCAT score, your chances to be invited for interview are quite good. Just remember to get in touch with admission and seek some information. Also remember that they will not do advising, so try to seek out the info rather than advising (essentially it is the same, but you see my point). Finally remember to get in touch during the low of the season which is right now, before the next cycle starts.

    Good luck.

I frankly don’t understand the strategy of compromising your chances in the med school admission process from the starting gate. Why limit your potential options? Why apply to only a handful of schools and wait to see if you get rejected, then plan to reapply more widely in the subsequent year? If you do that, you’ve wasted an entire year along with the money (and time and effort it takes) to reapply. My advice is to apply widely in the first (and only, hopefully!) round. I would never advise someone to plan on going through the med school application process twice.

I understand your wish to focus on schools which are close, and you can do that. But also apply widely to maximize your chances and to save a year you may not have to use to reapply. It’s better to have options–and CHOOSE to turn them down–than to have none!



There are some “nearby” but not “close” options…don’t count out LECOM…

I was in a situation where I couldn’t leave Tennessee. My family is not moving with me… they are staying in Nashville. That being said, I wasn’t about to get more than 3-4 hours away from my children–especially given that we had another baby this year. My husband is a pilot, so I am looking at a 45 minute commute via plane or a 4 hour drive… doable…I will see my family every 4 to 5 days. Not ideal, but doable.

So–I applied to 4 schools. Withdrew from 1 right away, because it just wasn’t for me. Out of 3, I got interview invites and subsequent acceptances to 2.

I was nervous about it. I knew the stats about how many schools people apply to. But given our personal situation, it was all I could do if I wanted to go to school. So I focused on having the best application possible, and I tried my best to kill my interviews. 2 out of 3…and all I needed was 1!

Is is recommended? Probably not. But is it possible? Absolutely.

Good luck!

Thank you all for your opinions and feedback! I must admit that this topic brings me sincere anxiety. I don’t really want to limit myself, but I find myself with no other choice. We also own a home, so we’d have to sell on top of my husband finding a new job somewhere else. I’m already in 35k in student loan debt from my first degree.

I think after reading suggestions and thinking a lot I am going to spend the next 3 years taking all the preqes and recommended classes (there are a lot—I come from an art background) and REALLY taking my time to get strong grades and build out my ECs. Then when I take the MCAT and it comes down to application time I can reassess the situation. I would just hate to start down a path that is not physically possible. I’m still so insecure about getting the grades and doing well on the MCAT. Growing up I really was a nervous test taker. But, in all honesty I barely studied and never knew the material. I’m not that careless person anymore.

I really would love to go to Case but the very expensive tuition deter me. I really don’t know much about NEOCOM and worry about the quality of education. But maybe I am being naive?

  • lizat Said:
I understand your wish to focus on schools which are close, and you can do that. But also apply widely to maximize your chances and to save a year you may not have to use to reapply. It's better to have options--and CHOOSE to turn them down--than to have none!

Liza... while I agree with you to a point, not everyone is in a position that makes moving across the country - or even out of state - acceptable. And if the OP is accepted to a med school out-of-state, and chooses to turn it down, the OP will have a mess of trouble re-applying the following year.

"Losing" a year and the cost of applying only in-state doesn't seem like a losing choice, as its only true costs are time and the price of applying to the few schools on your list. If I could go back in time, I would do that and stay in my home state. In the current economic climate, in-state tuition easily trumps every reason for going out of state.