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Choosing a med school: What do you value most?

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deeproots

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Hi guys,

I've been fortunate enough to have a few interviews this cycle, and I'm surprised to say that I've loved all the schools I've seen so far but for somewhat different reasons. For example, I loved School X's curriculum, but the city of School Y is amazing, and School Z has so many opportunities for shadowing, preceptorships, etc.

This got me thinking: What are the most important aspects to consider when choosing a medical school? Curriculum? Location? Places to live? The people? The atmosphere? Opportunities/connections? Class size? Step 1 scores? Residencies? Early clinical exposure?

I'm applying in Texas, so I'll have to rank the schools I've applied to in my order of preference... This is intimidating because I love all of the Texas schools but for different reasons!

Anybody have advice to offer those of us who may have to make some difficult decisions in the near future?
 

grivacobae

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Countdown City! (210)...

Also really inexpensive school
 

Cyberdyne 101

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I value location (Texas sounds great!), curriculum (I like schools that have research requirements), dual degree options (ie MD/MPH), and it would also be nice to have access to a strong ortho department.
In terms of cost, I'd prefer to not take on exorbitant debt. Although, I would pay more for a specific school if it's a better fit.
 
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Afford

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Location, happiness, and price.
 
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deeproots

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I value location (Texas sounds great!), curriculum (I like schools that have research requirements), dual degree options (ie MD/MPH), and it would also be nice to have access to a strong ortho department.
In terms of cost, I'd prefer to not take on exorbitant debt. Although, I would pay more for a specific school if it's a better fit.

Location, happiness, and price.

When y'all say that location is important, do you most value location for personal reasons (e.g., commute to school, lots of things to do, scenery, weather, close to family/friends, etc.) or educational reasons (e.g., located in populous city --> more patients, located in medically-underserved area, etc.)?

I'm absolutely in love with one school in particular (everything about the curriculum is amazing, and the class size and collaborative environment are great), except for the location. I really don't like the location, but I don't know if that should be a super-important factor in my decision.
 

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The most important thing for me is overall cost, taking into account cost of tuition and cost of living in that particular location. I'm looking for a school in a city small enough that I can afford an apartment and large enough that my partner can still find a job.
 
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Afford

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When y'all say that location is important, do you most value location for personal reasons (e.g., commute to school, lots of things to do, scenery, weather, close to family/friends, etc.) or educational reasons (e.g., located in populous city --> more patients, located in medically-underserved area, etc.)?

I'm absolutely in love with one school in particular (everything about the curriculum is amazing, and the class size and collaborative environment are great), except for the location. I really don't like the location, but I don't know if that should be a super-important factor in my decision.

I chose location for personal reasons because I'd rather stay close to friends and family and my hometown has a really good medical school, so it's a win-win if I get in. I'm applying to all of the Texas schools, too, and I can understand that some locations are less desirable than others. I would try asking some current students on their opinions of the location. Although, if you have any questions about Houston, I'd be happy to answer them.
 
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Cyberdyne 101

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When y'all say that location is important, do you most value location for personal reasons (e.g., commute to school, lots of things to do, scenery, weather, close to family/friends, etc.) or educational reasons (e.g., located in populous city --> more patients, located in medically-underserved area, etc.)?

I'm absolutely in love with one school in particular (everything about the curriculum is amazing, and the class size and collaborative environment are great), except for the location. I really don't like the location, but I don't know if that should be a super-important factor in my decision.
Some schools can offer a location that satisfies both personal and professional interests. What concerns you about this specific location? Are you a suburban person that would have to make an adjustment to an urban environment (or vice-versa)? And/or is the school in a sketchy area?
 
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JPA178

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Classes that are completely pass/fail the first 2 years. Location, price, teaching hospital reputation, residency placements.
 
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karayaa

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P/F, patient population, mission, price, diverse rotations, dual degree options, gap year option, small size, global health options, curriculum, cost of living, public transportation.
 
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deeproots

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Some schools can offer a location that satisfies both personal and professional interests. What concerns you about this specific location? Are you a suburban person that would have to make an adjustment to an urban environment (or vice-versa)? And/or is the school in a sketchy area?

I'm really not a big-city type of girl, but I can adjust to that. (Although I'd definitely prefer a suburban location). My biggest concern is that my husband and I have 4 large dogs that are basically our children, so I'd want to live in a decent-sized house with a decent-sized backyard. It seems that housing accommodations like this are hard to find in cities unless I want to drive 30+ minutes everyday to get to and from campus :/
 
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Cyberdyne 101

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I'm really not a big-city type of girl, but I can adjust to that. (Although I'd definitely prefer a suburban location). My biggest concern is that my husband and I have 4 large dogs that are basically our children, so I'd want to live in a decent-sized house with a decent-sized backyard. It seems that housing accommodations like this are hard to find in cities unless I want to drive 30+ minutes everyday to get to and from campus :/
I just PMed you.
 
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DermViser

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I love these threads.
 
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MrLogan13

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What I value most probably isn't what you value most. This is a question that only you can answer.
 
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G_Marker

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1. They accept me.
2. Curriculum (early clinical, systems-based teaching style, P/F, etc)
3. Research/EC opportunities
4. Location
 
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Ace Khalifa

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1. They accept me.
2. Curriculum (early clinical, systems-based teaching style, P/F, etc)
3. Research/EC opportunities
4. Location
5. Total cost of attendance - will pick state school over prestigious school every time.
 
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RTC19

Whoever will take me!

If I did have a choice, I think it would come down to cost of attendance and proximity to family.
 

Osteoth

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1. Curriculum (Grading scheme, availability of combined programs, special schoo-specific programs)
2. Location
3. Price
 

SouthernSurgeon

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Hi guys,

I've been fortunate enough to have a few interviews this cycle, and I'm surprised to say that I've loved all the schools I've seen so far but for somewhat different reasons. For example, I loved School X's curriculum, but the city of School Y is amazing, and School Z has so many opportunities for shadowing, preceptorships, etc.

This got me thinking: What are the most important aspects to consider when choosing a medical school? Curriculum? Location? Places to live? The people? The atmosphere? Opportunities/connections? Class size? Step 1 scores? Residencies? Early clinical exposure?

I'm applying in Texas, so I'll have to rank the schools I've applied to in my order of preference... This is intimidating because I love all of the Texas schools but for different reasons!

Anybody have advice to offer those of us who may have to make some difficult decisions in the near future?

Among the factors you listed I would largely ignore early clinical exposure.

Most overblown and meaningless part of the admissions propaganda game.

I think factors worth considering include
-Academic opportunities (research and clinical - i.e. attached to a large academic medical center with "home" departments in the majority of specialties)
-Clinical rotation sites - quality of clerkships and teaching, degree of responsibility, not having to set up rotations for your self
-Curriculum (and related aspects such as availability of lecture recordings, mandatory attendance policies, etc)
-Quality of life (geographic location, size of town, adequacy of housing options, etc)
 
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NickNaylor

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Among the factors you listed I would largely ignore early clinical exposure.

Most overblown and meaningless part of the admissions propaganda game.

I think factors worth considering include
-Academic opportunities (research and clinical - i.e. attached to a large academic medical center with "home" departments in the majority of specialties)
-Clinical rotation sites - quality of clerkships and teaching, degree of responsibility, not having to set up rotations for your self
-Curriculum (and related aspects such as availability of lecture recordings, mandatory attendance policies, etc)
-Quality of life (geographic location, size of town, adequacy of housing options, etc)

Nah man, erbody knows that getting into the clinics/in front of standardized patients in the first week of med school are the most educational experiences you'll have.
 

G_Marker

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Among the factors you listed I would largely ignore early clinical exposure.

Most overblown and meaningless part of the admissions propaganda game.

I think factors worth considering include
-Academic opportunities (research and clinical - i.e. attached to a large academic medical center with "home" departments in the majority of specialties)
-Clinical rotation sites - quality of clerkships and teaching, degree of responsibility, not having to set up rotations for your self
-Curriculum (and related aspects such as availability of lecture recordings, mandatory attendance policies, etc)
-Quality of life (geographic location, size of town, adequacy of housing options, etc)


I'm working in a clinical setting now, and I love seeing patients everyday and learning on the job. I'd like to be able to continue those interactions in my first year at medical school. It might serve as a nice reminder about why I'm studying so hard, while helping to put what I'm learning in context.

Why is it overblown/meaningless? Do they not let 1st year med students do anything?
 
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SouthernSurgeon

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I'm working in a clinical setting now, and I love seeing patients everyday and learning on the job. I'd like to be able to continue those interactions in my first year at medical school. It might serve as a nice reminder about why I'm studying so hard, while helping to put what I'm learning in context.

Why is it overblown/meaningless? Do they not let 1st year med students do anything?

Because it adds nothing of substance to students' education. "Early clinical experiences" are awkwardly shoe-horned into the curriculum in such a way as to try and make them relevant, and in reality all they end up doing is being a time-sink for students who are stressed out studying for their next exam. So the human aspect of it which they should be appreciating ends up being an early introduction to the deprioritization/dehumanization of medicine.

Oh and it's also meaninglesss because every school has these opportunities, yet a select few brag about theirs as if it is a revolutionary concept that has totally changed their school for the better.

You'll spend your whole life working with patients. You'll get plenty of "real patient experience" in the clinical years, assuming they are done well.

...

In other words....a lot of pre-meds think something exactly along these lines:
It might serve as a nice reminder about why I'm studying so hard, while helping to put what I'm learning in context.

Schools know this and prey on that line of thinking, even though anyone who has actually gone through the experience can tell you how trivial that ends up being.
 
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deeproots

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Among the factors you listed I would largely ignore early clinical exposure.

Most overblown and meaningless part of the admissions propaganda game.

I think factors worth considering include
-Academic opportunities (research and clinical - i.e. attached to a large academic medical center with "home" departments in the majority of specialties)
-Clinical rotation sites - quality of clerkships and teaching, degree of responsibility, not having to set up rotations for your self
-Curriculum (and related aspects such as availability of lecture recordings, mandatory attendance policies, etc)
-Quality of life (geographic location, size of town, adequacy of housing options, etc)

This is very, very helpful! Question, if you don't mind: How would one go about evaluating the quality of clinical rotations?
 

SouthernSurgeon

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This is very, very helpful! Question, if you don't mind: How would one go about evaluating the quality of clinical rotations?

This is a post I made a while back on the subject:

How to tell strength of clinical years?

You have a great question. It is really hard to evaluate, often under-emphasized on the interview day, yet in my mind having gone through medical school it was the clinical years that truly made my education.

Pre-meds unfortunately spend most of their time asking questions like "how many students per cadaver?" - a factor that will have so so so little impact on their education. The med schools encourage this though too, as most of their presentations and tours focus on the pre-clinical experience (it doesn't help that most tour guides are M1s and M2s).

As to your ideas of questions...the first one I'd toss out the window. Every school is building some fancy multimillion dollar simulation center, but at the end of the day, simulation is not, nor should be, the focus of the clinical years. You can learn a lot of the fundamentals of interviewing patients and physical exam technique from SPs, but real learning comes from pathology and interacting with patients and a team in the hospital.

Your second question is closer.

Here are a few more off the top of my head I'd consider asking about (diplomatically):
1. How many sites do students rotate at? What is the breakdown of time spent at the "mothership" (home institution) versus satellite sites? (i.e. how good/comprehensive is the home institution?)
2. Do you have to travel out of town for any of your rotations? (i.e. am I going to have to uproot myself for 8 weeks third year because you want me to go to the middle of nowhere for my surgery rotation?)
3. How big is the hospital? Is it a level 1 trauma center and tertiary/quaternary referral center? ( i.e. are the sickest, craziest patients in the region coming here?)
4. How much advice do students get from their school and their peers about which rotations provide the best experience? (i.e. am I going to be coming on SDN in three years asking for advice about whether a rotation at west bumblef**k U is better than a rotation at east bumblef**k U?)
5. What is a typical day like on the wards on IM, peds, surgery? (i.e. am I going to get murdered hours wise?)
6. How are the clinical years graded? How many students typically get honors? ( i.e. gunners gotta gun...)
7. Do you have any other professional students rotate with you like PA or NP? ( i.e. am I going to have some freaking NP student stealing cases/procedures/patients/attention from me?)
8. How happy have you been with the clinical experience? Is there anything you feel like you've missed out on?
9. Does the school have any limits on how many 4th year rotations/away rotations you can do in any one field? (i.e. if I decide I want to do derm, plastics, etc, am I gonna be able to do enough audition rotations to match?)
 
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NickNaylor

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I'm working in a clinical setting now, and I love seeing patients everyday and learning on the job. I'd like to be able to continue those interactions in my first year at medical school. It might serve as a nice reminder about why I'm studying so hard, while helping to put what I'm learning in context.

Why is it overblown/meaningless? Do they not let 1st year med students do anything?

It's not that they don't let you do anything, it's that you don't know enough to do anything. Even if a patient with a basic bread and butter medicine problem were plopped down in front of you, you likely wouldn't be able to conduct an effective history much less a physical much less offer any sort of insight into management. And that's not your fault - it's just that you're a little sapling and yet you have the expectation that you'll be doing the work of the 100 year old tree. That's not how it works.

And I second what @southernIM mentioned with respect to this not being all that unique. Many schools play it up as if they're somehow innovative in his regard. They aren't. Don't buy into the marketing.
 
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