Choosing the Right Medical School

By Jacqueline DeMarco · March 10, 2022 · 6 minute read

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Choosing the Right Medical School

Medical school is a big commitment. Not only will students spend four years of their life working towards a medical degree, but they’ll pay a big chunk of change for it (financing medical school is a major undertaking and can lead to debt). Which is why choosing the right medical school is so important. Keep reading for insight into how to pick the right medical school and how to finance it.

What Is Medical School?

Medical school is a necessary step towards becoming a doctor and generally, it takes four years to complete in order to receive an M.D., N.D., or D.O. degree. After medical school, graduates will need to pursue a medical residency in their specialty before they can become practicing doctors.

Recommended: How to Pay for Medical School

Different Types of Medical Courses

One of the first steps potential medical students can take to find the right medical school for them, is to better understand the different types of medical courses there are. Once they know what type of medical courses they want to take, they can narrow their search to just medical schools that offer those courses.

Traditional Courses

Some medical students may be attracted to more traditional courses that have students finish two years of pre-clinical work before they move on to the three years of clinical work they need to complete to get their degree. Typically, pre-clinical work occurs in a classroom setting. This is where medical students can learn the key principles of medical science. Once they move on to the clinical work portion of their studies, they will need to work in hospitals or clinics with direct supervision, while attending lectures.

This combination educates students on medical practices while making sure they get the hands-on experience they need to use their pre-clinical knowledge in real life situations.

Integrated Courses

Integrated courses are becoming more and more popular at medical schools, as this style, of course, combines pre-clinical and clinical education. In an integrated course, medical students can expect to learn practical clinical skills and work through problem-based learning.

Often in integrated courses, a lot of the students’ work is self-directed and early patient contact is encouraged.

Intercalated Courses

Intercalated courses are unique, as they allow students to take a year out of medical school to earn a BSc or MSc in a related subject. It’s not a guarantee that every medical school will allow students to do this, but in some schools students have the option or are mandated to do intercalated courses.

Recommended: Making Sense of the Rising Cost of Medical School

How to Choose Your Medical School

Every medical student had to ask themself at one point, which medical school is right for me? Here’s a few factors medical students can take into consideration to make answering that very important question easier.

1. Cost

Med school tuition is pricey and it’s not uncommon for students to take on debt for medical school. On top of tuition, students will also need to pay additional costs such as service fees and textbooks.

While medical schools do offer financial aid such as grants and medical school scholarships to their students, it’s important to prepare for the cost of medical school as not everyone receives financial assistance.

Attending an in-state school could help medical students find a lower tuition cost than at out-of-state or private options. For example, at the University of Utah, tuition for medical school if the student lives in-state is about $40,000 a year, whereas out-of-state students can expect to pay closer to $77,000 a year on tuition at the same school.

Each school charges different tuition rates, but generally, staying in-state can save medical students a lot of money.

Recommended: Average Cost of Medical School

2. Programs Offered

Apart from their general MD program, medical schools typically have multiple programs to choose from that lead to different careers paths. Before applying to medical school, students can take into consideration how many different programs are offered, how many students are accepted to each program, how long their ideal program takes to finish, and how that program aligns with their career goals.

3. Admissions Criteria

One of the easiest ways to start a search for the right medical school is by looking for schools where the applicant meets the admissions criteria. Students can do some research on the admissions criteria for each school to make sure their qualifications lineup, as well as what they need to do to apply to each specific school.

4. Location

Location matters. The location of a medical school can affect how much it costs a student to attend, what their housing situation looks like, and what their lifestyles outside of school is like. By choosing a local school, students may be able to save money on tuition or be able to cut costs by living with a family member. Not to mention, some locations simply have a higher cost of living than others. Students can crunch the numbers on what it would cost them to live at each medical school they want to apply to, so they can get a better idea of what attending medical school will cost them as a whole.

5. Career Path Opportunities

There are a wide variety of career opportunities that can arise after medical school and not all of them involve working as a practicing doctor. Medical school graduates can pursue teaching, research, and business opportunities amongst other exciting career paths. Students can check what career path opportunities a school’s curriculum and counseling center support before they apply to get a feel for if that medical school can help them meet their unique career goals.

SoFi’s Private Student Loans For Medical School

Students that need to take out medical school student loans, may find that SoFi’s private student loans can meet their needs. It only takes minutes to apply online and borrowers can apply with a cosigner. Keep in mind that because private student loans don’t have to offer the same benefits or protections as federal student loans (like the opportunity to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness), they are generally considered by students only after they have thoroughly reviewed all other financing options.

Borrowers can repay their SoFi student loans in a way that works for them by choosing a monthly student loan payment and rate that fits their budget. Borrowers never have to worry about fees and can enjoy a six-month grace period after graduation so that they have time to get settled in their post-grad life before they need to start making monthly loan payments.

Recommended: Smart Medical School Loan Repayment Strategies

The Takeaway

Choosing medical schools to apply to is a lot of work, but that research is a key step students need to take to find the best medical school for them.

For help covering the costs of medical school, learn more about SoFi private student loans.


Is 30 too old for med school?

No, 30 is not too old to attend medical school. Applicants that apply for medical school will be in their mid-thirties four years later whether or not they pursue a degree. It’s up to them if those four years make a difference in the scheme of things.

What makes a good med school?

A good medical school is one that meets the needs of the student, when it comes to location, finances, and program opportunities.

How do you compare med schools?

Potential medical students can take factors like cost, location, and areas of study into account to compare and contrast their different medical school options.

Photo credit: iStock/Courtney Hale

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