February 1, 2021

Step by Step Guide on Where to Apply to Medical School

The Savvy Premed

By: Savvy Pre-Med Staff

In this day and age, almost all of life’s questions can be answered by Google searching them. Don’t know how to bake cookies? Google it. Don’t know what the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean is? Google it. Don’t know how many total accredited medical schools there are in the U.S.? Google it.

However, to save you time, I can tell you that there are 155 accredited U.S. allopathic medical schools (including those in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands). Adding in accredited Canadian and osteopathic medical schools, for which there are 17 and 38 respectively, yields a whopping total of 210 medical schools.

Applying to all these schools would cost an exorbitant amount of money (not to mention time and energy).

So, how do you go about carefully picking what medical schools to apply to?

Introducing the Savvy Pre-Med Medical School Search Tool

Before using this tool, dear reader, take time to understand how competitive medical school admissions can be.

Meeting or exceeding the average MCAT and GPA for a school can only get you so far, and selecting schools is more (or should be more) than just looking at metrics. Using this search tool, we will walk you through crafting an informed medical school list that takes both academic and non-academic factors into account.

1. Begin by adding all the medical schools in your home state and other states where you may have ties to your list.

Many allopathic and osteopathic medical schools tend to prefer applicants who reside in the same state as them, or applicants who have connections to the area. 

For instance, this table posted by the AAMC in October 2020 shows that California public schools like UC Davis and UC Irvine have a strong preference for in-state applicants. Are you from California, but you grew up in Arkansas? Schools like the University of Arkansas explicitly state that non-residents with ties to Arkansas are given preference over non-residents without.

With that being said, use what geographic ties you have to your advantage!

2. Filter out medical schools by MCAT and GPA ranges.

Use the preselected ranges to filter out medical schools by MCAT and GPA, but take this with a grain of salt. It’s all right to select more than one range, especially if your scores are at the cusp of two.

Matriculants at school X have an average MCAT of 508 and you have a 506? Apply, it’s fine. Matriculants at school Y have an average GPA of 3.8 and you have a 3.7? That’s fine too. What may not be fine, however, is an applicant with a 503 MCAT score and a GPA of 3.2 who wishes to apply exclusively to top medical schools.

3. Consider the difference in tuition costs of medical schools.

The elephant in the room is the cost of attending medical school. Savvy Pre-Med Med School Search Tool allows you to filter out schools from “cheap ($)” to “obscenely expensive ($$$$$).”

We recommend not focusing on the most expensive schools when initially making your list. Rather, focus on schools whose tuition lies in the middle or lower ranges.

4. Think about what weather conditions you prefer.

Even if you won’t be outside all that much (as you’ll more than likely be studying most of the time), weather conditions are still an important factor.

Did you grow up in a sunny city like Phoenix, AZ and prefer clear skies? If so, then you probably would not enjoy attending medical school in an area that is normally cloudy. Similarly, if you’re not fond of cold winters and snow, then you may not be fond of schools located in the Northeastern United States.

5. Filter out schools by their emphasis on research.

Some medical schools place a stronger emphasis on research than others. Research powerhouses like Stanford and Harvard offer MD-PhD programs that ask applicants to elaborate extensively on their research experiences and interests.

In contrast, schools like Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences place a lesser emphasis on research and instead focus on catering to rural and medically underserved communities.

6. Select schools by the difficulty and subject of their secondary prompt(s).

Secondary prompts for medical schools can range from easy to brutal. Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) and its sister campuses (Seton Hill, Elmira, and Bradenton) do not require essays as part of their secondary application. Instead, applicants are simply asked to pay a fee.

Additionally, many schools have secondary prompts that are similar to one another such as “describe your greatest failure or challenge”. This means that one essay could essentially be used (or “recycled”) for multiple secondary applications. On the other hand, schools like Duke University have historically asked brutal prompts that require more effort. More often than not, these essay prompts are so unique that they cannot be recycled to answer other schools' secondary questions without making major adjustments. Bummer.

It’s also worth noting that a school’s secondary prompts can tell you a lot about what the school values or devalues. Compare the secondary essays a school asks you to your own interests to help you determine fit. For example, if a school has essay questions asking about rural healthcare experiences, then they’re probably looking for students interested in such. If you’re uninterested in rural healthcare, then that medical school may not be the best fit for you.

7. Consider the distinction between MD and DO schools.

We recommend you keep your eyes open to applying to both MD and DO programs, especially if you have less-than-superb metrics and your goal is to “just get in somewhere.”

We also recommend applicants educate themselves on the philosophy of osteopathic medical schools to further help them in determining fit.

(Note: “INTL” refers to international medical schools such as those in the Caribbean Islands and “CA” refers to Canada).

8. Filter schools by whether or not they require CASPer or VITA.

Instead of having to individually look up schools’ websites, you can find out which schools require CASPer or VITA by using the Savvy Pre-Med Med School Search Tool!

You’ve just finished going through all the filters our search tool offers, and you should now have a preliminary list of medical schools to apply to!

9. Review your results and favorite schools you're interested in.

The Savvy Rank provides a rough estimate of where a school ranks in the grand scheme of 200+ schools. Calculation of the Savvy Rank is not a perfect science, but it gives you an idea of where a school lies in comparison to others.

After you have finished “favoriting” schools, you can review schools individually and learn more about each of them.

Hyperlinks to school websites, admissions requirements, letter of recommendation requirements, and many other resources are provided for your convenience. Additional information on secondary essays (including prompts from years ago) and interviews are also given. This is one neat search tool if we say so ourselves!

Congratulations! You have constructed an informed list of medical schools to apply to. Feel free to go back to earlier steps and modify your preferences as needed. We wish you the best of luck in applying to medical schools!

Have any suggestions to help make the Savvy Pre-Med Med School Search Tool even better? Let us know in the comments below!

Learn to be Savvy! Get creative pre-med strategies delivered right to your inbox.
FREE Medical School Application Timeline when you subscribe.

We follow the email Golden Rule: we will never send you anything without your permission.