Thursday, August 28, 2014

How to Apply to Medical Schools in the U.S.

By James Zhou
MD Candidate at New York University School of Medicine

Successful matriculation at a U.S. medical school can be difficult for international applicants who hold neither a U.S. citizenship nor permanent residency status. But nothing is impossible if you set your mind on it. Below are some tips and guidelines to help you through the medical school application process. 

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Public vs. Private Medical Schools

Most state-funded or public universities do not consider international applicants for admission and of those that do, some institute yearly quotas and regard international applicants as a lower priority for consideration than domestic applicants. Many private medical schools, however, will consider international applicants on an unbiased basis.

Financing Your Medical Education

Beyond the initial admissions process, international students also face financial challenges when attempting to secure funding for their medical education. Non-U.S. citizens and permanent residents are ineligible for U.S. government loans and financial aid scholarships of the individual schools. However, a very few select schools do extend merit-based scholarships to international candidates.

Those who receive offers of acceptance should immediately pursue options for funding their medical education. At a minimum, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will require students to provide documentation of liquid assets sufficient to cover the first year of study, which includes tuition and living expenses. Individual schools will also have their own financial requirements, and may require the student to put in escrow the entire four years of tuition and living expenses prior to matriculation.

Applying to Medical Schools

Prior to applying, it is important to identify which medical schools will accept or consider your application. Cross-referencing the information on the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) guide with the information on an individual school’s website is the most accurate way to begin compiling a list of school choices.

Even though some schools may consider international applications, these applicants may not always have a realistic chance of being accepted, as a school’s preference for U.S. applicants may fully subscribe their class prior to the assessment of international applicants. Therefore, it is prudent to reach out to the admissions office of individual schools and inquire as to the success of international applicants in recent years. 

The application cycle is a yearlong process that consists of several distinct phases: primary and secondary submissions, interviews, and if applicable, waitlist decisions.

Writing the numerous application essays is perhaps the most time-consuming component. Upon receiving an initial, generalized, primary application, individual schools will invite applicants to complete their school-specific secondary applications. The secondary applications vary in length and although most schools do not have a rigid deadline, it is in the applicant’s best interest to complete them as soon as possible.

Successful applicants will then be invited to attend on-site interviews at the medical school. As an international applicant, it is necessary to gain an understanding of the U.S. healthcare system prior to the interview and be able to contrast it with the system of your home country. Above all, you should be able to clearly delineate your reasons for wanting to attend medical school in the United States.

Unfortunately, most medical schools do not offer reimbursements for travel, lodging, and food expenses incurred during the interview process. Many schools, however, do provide student hosts based on availability, which can help offset some of the costs. Attending interviews can be expensive and you should plan ahead of time to live in a region where air travel to the United States is reasonably priced.

Studying medicine in the United States can be an exciting and rewarding career path. Numerous roadblocks present difficulties for international applicant to matriculate successfully. However, with research and preparation, many international applicants can be competitive candidates for entry into medical school in the United States.


James Zhou is a Student Ambassador with WES and is currently a medical student at New York University School of Medicine. He completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University, graduating with a B.A. in Biology and Society.

1 comment:

  1. This will be of use to anyone preparing for exams or clinical preparation (e.g. Foundation Year doctors starting a psychiatry rotation). Billing and Coding Salary


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