Becoming a doctor or another professional in the medical industry is an incredibly rewarding job, both in terms of job satisfaction and financial reward. However, to get to that point, it can be a long road, starting with medical school.
Here, we explore some of the things that you need to think about when you are thinking about choosing a medical school. After all, it lays the foundation for your whole career, so getting it right is pretty important!
Location: One of the most important things to consider is the location. It will have an influence on so many other aspects – academics, and your personal life. Medical school is a massive change for most people and where you begin your medical education and career will have an impact. All medical schools are carefully monitored, so it does not matter if you intend to study at Caribbean medical schools before moving on to get your residency in the US or Canada, you can do what works best for you – you will still graduate as a doctor.
Relationships: Obviously, if keeping in touch with family and good friends is a high priority, you may want to attend a medical school close to home. Conversely, if you have lived at home your whole life and you are ready to see the world, this may be the perfect opportunity to experience a change of scenery. Choosing a medical school is not only a personal choice, but it is a choice that has an impact on the people around you. It is always worth examining your relationships, and seeing how moving away to study or staying at home will affect them. After all, if you have a happy personal life, you are more likely to succeed at medical school.
Research and Training Opportunities: The majority of schools will classify themselves as an academic research center or a primary care school. If you have an inclination for research, you should consider looking for a school that can allow you to easily pursue this further by providing research mentors, lab space, and funding. As well as that, if a medical school is strong in particular areas of medicine you are interested in for example surgery, you will get a richer learning experience and possible increased networking chances in the field. Try to think a few years ahead and where you want to be in the future, and cater your current choices to fit your future dreams.
Flexibility: It is also vital to pick a school that has a curriculum that works for you as much as possible. Of course, you can’t rearrange a semester around your particular needs, but some medical schools do offer more flexibility than others. For example, while the curriculum will be intense due to the very nature of the course, it is important that you do have some downtime and time to pursue other interests and hobbies outside of the classroom. Check out whether the course is mainly classroom-based learning, or whether the curriculum allows for lots of self-study time, with access to resources and materials online.
Scholarships and financial aid: Your personal financial circumstances will have a significant impact on the medical schooly you apply to, as the tuition fees and financial assistance offered to students can be astronomically different. Graduating debt-free is something that should not be passed without much thought. When you are working at near minimum wage as a resident, suddenly your perspective on money changes drastically!
This also links back to the location aspect we discussed earlier on – depending on where your medical school of choice is located will also have a significant impact on your finances, as some are going to be in more expensive areas than others. You have to take into consideration day to day living costs, such as accommodation, bills, food, transport, and insurance.
Class size: This can have a massive bearing on how comfortable and well supported you feel while you are studying. Are you a person that enjoys small groups and getting to know everyone in your class, or would you prefer some privacy and a core group of friends to get by four years of medical school with? Do you feel like you need to have a more personal relationship with your tutor rather than being a face in a crowd? Find out what sort of class size your medical school options work with.
Facilities: How old or new are the buildings? What services are available to students? Is the gym nearby, is there a student lounge and how about study space and lecture theaters? Could you see yourself eating, studying, breathing, and potentially living in these buildings for the next four years? What social activities are there for you to participate in? You do spend an awful lot of time in medical school so you might as well enjoy it!
Your Gut Instinct: If you are still unable to decide which medical school to attend, take note of what your gut is saying. Most of the time, it knows what you want, even before you know it. Did you feel a certain way about the school during your interview? It is crucial to record your impressions of each school you have an interview at as it will help you make your choices.
Each person will have a different set of values, wants, and needs, and it is important to realize what may be the right decision for someone else may not necessarily be the best for you. It is best to first set your own criteria and boundaries you want before going into the specific details. Once you have your priorities, start weighing the pros and cons. of each school. Make a list and see what is good and bad about each one of them before making a choice. Good luck!