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Important Factors for deciding on a med school.

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by stansbury, Dec 8, 2005.

  1. stansbury

    stansbury Member
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    I was wondering what factors did you guys use to pick between schools, after being accepted?

    I am an undergrad and to be totally honest, I really dont know whats important to look for in a school, besides tuition + living costs and location of school.

    So any help would be very appreciated.

    thanks
    Stansbury
     
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  3. size_tens

    size_tens Senior Member
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    Different people find different characteristics of a medical school to be important. For most people the three most important factors are reputation (ie US News rank), location and cost. In general the availability and quality of research opportunities are directly correlated to reputation. Quality of residency match lists also are pretty closely related to school reputation. If you think you might want to pursue a competitive residency spot then don't let people tell you that rank doesn't matter.
     
  4. Simonster

    Simonster Member
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    cost, location, my gut feeling
     
  5. stansbury

    stansbury Member
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    thanks for the input so far. On the allo forum everyone seems to discuss board scores a lot, so are avg board scores and important factor?

    What about curriculum, one medical student was telling me that having a pharmacology class in the curriculum is very important (i thought all med schools would have this, but I guess some schools dont have this course).

    For competitive residencies is it more important to have a good board score or come from a school with a good "reputation".

    (on a side note: I understand that there's probably a huge gray when discussing these types of matters, but I am just looking for a more generalized answer)

    Are there any other factors that I should be looking for? If so please let me know.

    stansbury
     
  6. SkylineMD

    SkylineMD Senior Member
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    I can't think of any medical school that DOESN'T have pharmacology. Afterall, pharm is a big part of USMLE Step 1

    As for decisions, how about looking at the grading schemes and determining whether you want to go to a P/F system or Honors/HP/P/F or some variation of that.
     
  7. aparecida

    aparecida Senior Member
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    Location and cost are huge issues. Look at what state, city, and area of the city the school is in. Do the math on the four-year debt difference. As has already been said, if you want to do something highly competitive then you might consider rank, otherwise rank is pretty unimportant. You will get a good medical education anywhere. There's no such thing as a bad medical school in the US.

    Consider the class demographics. How diverse is the class? How many nontraditional students are there, and is that something you want? I love going to a school where many or most students have taken some time off and gained some life experience; I know others who are uncomfortable with that and prefer having all their classmates be straight out of undergrad.

    Ask about third and fourth year, which are very important but tend to be downplayed at admissions interviews. You want to know things like how many hospitals you can choose for third year rotations.

    Do NOT base any of your decision on the gross anatomy course: how many students per cadaver or how much time spent dissecting or how nice the lab is. It's one course for one semester. I was done with anatomy by the beginning of November of my first year and I still have three and a half years of school left.
     
  8. emack

    emack Senior Member
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    And when considering location, some important things might be:
    -distance from friends & family (i.e. Would you like to go 'home' on long weekends? at Christmas? never?)
    -cost of moving
    -weather
    -the school's position relative to the city's geography (Can you get a place close to school and hospitals? Will you need a car?)

    Things like a city's night life, its other attractions, etc., might seem important but probably won't be-- in my experience, 1) I have no time for going out and 2) what little social life I have revolves around school & classmates, anyway.
     
  9. Antigunner

    Antigunner This is a chill pill.
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    This doesn't help much for which schools to apply to, but if you go on interviews - talk to the students as much as possible. A school may look great on paper, but if the students are miserable, chances are you will be if you go there. Now obviously, they're not going to tell you they hate their school, you have to kind of observe them and try to get a feel for the atmosphere at the school. I'm kind of rambling now, but my point is this: the people at the school are just as (if not more) important as their average board scores or anything like that.
     
  10. boilerbeast

    boilerbeast suPURDUEper
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    Things I didn't realize were important, but was lucky enough to stumble into:
    Scribe service (for lectures)
    As little time in lecture as is humanely possible
    no attendance policies

    Things I should've taken into consideration:
    "blocks" vs. traditional semesters
    Free/discounted access to a gym/fitness facility
    Cafeterias with good, cheap food and COFFEE
    Library or study space with adequate hours
    Reasonable parking


    When you go on your interviews, keep in mind that you're going to be investing 4 years and $100,000+. Make them sell the school to you! :)
     
  11. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    Board scores are hugely important, but you won't be able to get useful info on that (no comprehensive list of how schools do out there), so take it out of your criteria. Go to the best school that's in your price range. If you get any sort of vibe at the interview, listen to it. All allo schools are good, and if you do well there, will serve you as a good launching pad. Everything else will work itself out.
     
  12. size_tens

    size_tens Senior Member
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    My experience has been quite different. It seems that other than third year it's definitely possible to maintain a pretty active social life and still do well in school. Of course there are some people who pretty much study all day every day. I think this population was the same group of students who studied 24/7 in undergrad.
     
  13. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    I think its partly that population, and partly the group of students who after the first med school test suddenly realized they were no longer at the top of the class, and are trying to remedy that situation. Med school is a wake up call for lots of people.
    While you may have "some" free time in med school, you don't usually have enough that you are going to take advantage of much in the way of a city's benefits or culture -- find a school in a place with one cool bar, a good pizza place, and a movie theater, and you will have everything you will need and have time for.
     
  14. emack

    emack Senior Member
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    Well put.

    I thought the workload in undergrad was a joke. I used to work part-time, read a lot (for fun!), tutor, slack off, go out (even on school nights!), waste too much money on movies, watch too much TV, cook (for fun!), sleep in, and have plenty of time to keep in touch with non-university friends.

    Now, it's not even that I spend that much more time studying. Except for right before exams, I guess in theory I do have enough time to go out pretty often-- I just don't want to. I'm more likely to want to hang out at a classmate's apartment with beers and take-out than to want to go out to a club full of strangers. I think for a lot of med students, social life has more to do with the people you know than the particular amenities of your city.
     
  15. deuist

    deuist Stealthfully Sarcastic
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    Look at the match list and the board scores. U.S. News is a pretty unreliable source for picking a medical school.
     
  16. DrThom

    DrThom Thundercat
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    AMEN to this!

    I, too, stumbled onto a school that is good in most of these categories without even really thinking about it. But looking back, this is really important (especially parking, coffee, and attendance policies)

    Also, for anatomy, think about it you are allowed 24 hr access to the lab. I can't tell you how many times I would be studying, not remember something I learned in lab and have to run up to see it. This way, I didn't forget to remember to check on whatever I forgot the next time I was in lab. I'm not sure if that last sentence makes sense.
     
  17. deuist

    deuist Stealthfully Sarcastic
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    Oh, and pick a school that tapes the lectures and lets you watch them from home! You, too, can become a home schooled medical student.
     
  18. tinkerbelle

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    Actually, I don't think my school used to have a formal pharm course. Instead pharmacology was integrated into all the other courses (so like when we're learning about the heart, they teach us a little about HTN drugs etc). However, I think they just added a 2 week pharm course to the curriculum.

    I think it's important to look at exam schedules and whether a school is pass/fail. Not having grades takes away some of the stress. Plus, some schools have really intense exam schedules (for example, some people have like 4 final exams all in the same week and others will have one 4 hour exam period).
     
  19. quideam

    quideam Too tired to complain
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    We don't have a pharm class either; it's vaguely integrated into the curriculum, but in reality, you end up teaching yourself the pharm that you need for the boards.
     
  20. SoCuteMD

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    Beware of pass/fail. Some schools are pass/fail on your transcript, but then rank you when they do your dean's letters for residency, so it doesn't really matter because they are still keeping track of your grades. Find out what kind of pass/fail AND how/if they rank their class.
     
  21. DrThom

    DrThom Thundercat
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    Most schools rank, don't they?

    I think its expected on the dean's letter as part of applying for residency.
     
  22. Forget board scores. They depend on the students. The question you are asking is not "which school will give me strong classmates?" but rather "which school is best for me?" Your board scores will depend more on you than on the med school. And you are the same person no matter which school you go to.

    Match lists are over-rated because they too depend on the students, though school reputation can sometimes make a slight difference.

    I think the most important factor is location, in so far as for many people location (as well as tuition/cost of living) greatly impacts happiness, and ultimately happy med students do well and unhappy med students do poorly. So if you want to be close to family, or want a certain size house or apartment, or like the beach, or like the mountains, or hate the snow, or love the rain..... etc., then let that influence your decision. You will have a limited quantity of free time, and you should live where your limited time will be best used to do things you enjoy -- because you need to have some kind of life besides medicine.
     
  23. size_tens

    size_tens Senior Member
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    For highly competitive residencies LOR's and research experience/pubs are both very important parts of your app. Although the content of a LOR is important, I think the reputation of the author carries equal weight. In general more prestigous medical schools will have more prestigous faculty members that will generate highly impressive LOR's. The trend is the same with research. Top research schools have more funding and more highly respected investigators than mediocore schools.
     
  24. Iwy Em Hotep

    Iwy Em Hotep The Welcomer
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    This is the best comment on this thread. Totally agree.
     
  25. Skichic56

    Skichic56 Phalaenopsis Orchid
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    So it boils down to this:

    1) curriculum
    2) location
    3) cost of attendance (possibly)
     
  26. fantasty

    Physician 10+ Year Member

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    I agree with your 1 & 2, although I would put peers in as 3 or 4 (as others mentioned, and you can't really assess this until the interview and even then is kind of artificial).

    But the main thing I wanted to say is that the AAMC has a nice site that shows you all of the med schools' curricula. When I was applying, I actually bought the curriculum guide and it helped me focus down my choices a lot.

    http://services.aamc.org/currdir/start.cfm
     
  27. KatieOConnor

    KatieOConnor Senior Member
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    I put location at the top of my list. I knew that if I wasn't in a place I was familiar with, I'd be unhappy. Next on my list was prestige. Sure, it sounds shallow, but I figured that I would be completely unable to predict where I'd be happy based on curriculum, etc, so I decided to base my decision on the two "knowns."

    And, things worked out. I'm at a school in an area that I like, and while I thought in passing that I would not like the traditional curriculum, it's working fine for me.
     
  28. DougFlutie

    DougFlutie Early Retirement
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    I want to pick one school that has everything that I want and apply early decision, should that school even exist. I could care less about prestige as long as it's in the country.

    I need:

    -As little mandatory attendance as humanly possible.
    -Taped Lectures
    -Scribe service
    -Pass/Fail grading


    I basically want to be a shadow. I learn best at my own pace. It's not that I don't enjoy being with classmates, but I'm the type that finds lecture not only a gigantic waste of time, but also physically painful to endure.

    Any suggestions?
     
  29. pillowhead

    pillowhead Senior Member
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    I can't believe there has been so little mention of the 3rd and 4th years of medical school. The bottom line is that the first couple years are largely self-taught no matter what school you go to or what type of curriculum that school has. The clinical years are what really matter. You need to find out what kind of hospitals you rotate through--I'd personally never attend a medical school that only has doing all your rotations at one hospital for example because you don't have enough to exposure to different patient populations and pathologies. At my school, we rotate through seven hospitals (univ. hospital, private univ-affiliated, large county hospital for indigent, VA, geriatric hospital, private univ-affiliated children's hospital, and county hospital for indigent children) all in the same city.

    Also, how much autonomy do you have on your rotations? Do the students graduate with a good number of procedures under their belts like lumbar punctures and thoracentesis or do they graduate not knowing how to even put in a Foley?

    What are the working conditions like? Do you routinely work 80+ hrs (remember there is no limit on what hours med students can work) or do you work a more reasonable 60 hours a week? Do you stay overnight a lot? Do you do scutwork all the time or are you encouraged to spend your time really learning?

    How easy is it do away rotations? Rotations outside the core requirements? Possible to do research in clinical years? etc, etc
     
  30. run4boston

    run4boston formerly Run
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    MCW has mandatory attendance for group discussions and physician mentorship. All recorded lectures are now available online except for review and Q&A lectures. There is a student run co-op scribe service. Grades are Honors/High Pass/P/F.
     
  31. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    Hi there,
    I had to choose between six schools. Here is how I made my decision:

    Location: I only applied to schools on the east coast and in-state with the exception of one (l loved the curriculum and location). I wanted to be able to find good, safe and inexpensive housing. I also wanted to be able to get to and from school without a car if necessary. I was not interested in attending school in any location where the temperature was lower than 20 degrees F for more than two weeks in the winter. (I just do not like weather that is too cold and I wanted four seasons).

    Curriculum: I generally liked an intergrated curriculum. I also wanted a school that had the traditional dissections in Gross Anatomy (no prosections for me). I wanted a school that offered plenty of opportunity for research both at the pre-clinical level and at the clinical level.

    Cost: Any school that offered me an generous scholarship was going to the top of my list. In the end, I ended up with a "full-ride" tuition scholarship and only had to borrow for living expenses. That narrowed my top three choices down to my top one choice.

    Board scores and residency matching are totally matters of the individual. If you are in a highly ranked school and do poorly, you are not going to match well. If your school has a 100% pass rate and you are the first to fail boards, you suffer the consequences. The previous history of the school has little to do with your performance there. You just need to be in a place where you have the opportunity to do well.

    In the end, I did extremely well on USMLE and matched into the residency of my choice. I had great opportunities to do research and had a paid fellowship ($3,000 for ten weeks) for the summer between my second and third year. I graduated from medical school with $40,000 of debt and will likely pay off a majority of my educational loan before I am done with residency and fellowship.

    At this point one year before the end of my surgical residency and looking forward to fellowship, I feel that I made a good decision using the above strategy. While it is not for everyone, it worked for me. I believe that my quality of life will be much higher NOT having a huge debt load up front as I start practice. Again, this works for me.

    njbmd :)
     
  32. silas2642

    silas2642 silas2642
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    Holy crap!! Go to Tufts! They have this awesome program called TUSK in which all the lectures are posted on the internet in mp3 format, people post their notes all the time, and it's honors/pass/fail. I have no intention of going to class beyond the first week because I never get anything out of lecture.
     
  33. tigress

    tigress queen of the jungle
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    Drexel
     
  34. DougFlutie

    DougFlutie Early Retirement
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    I've thought of Drexel already, and Tufts seems like a great choice. The problem is that they're two of the most expensive schools in the country. Drexel was over 50k, and I've heard Tufts is even higher than that. Seeing as I don't have a trust fund, how am I going to justify 200-240k of debt? Do these schools typically have good financial aid packages/grants?
     
  35. blkprl

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    i think that is an excellent reply!!!
     
  36. blkprl

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    how can you find out about such important matters?
     
  37. robotsonic

    robotsonic Senior Member
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    I'm almost finished with medical school, and although I really liked my time here, I'm not completely sure if I chose the right one for me. To decide where to apply, I used location, prestige, and curriculum. To decide where I wanted to go, I used gut feeling during the interview day. I think my algorithm for deciding where to apply was good, but the whole "gut feeling during the interview day"... I'm not really sure that was the best approach. I ended up at my first choice, meaning the place I got the best "feeling" from. Looking back, you really can't get a good idea of the program from your five hours there. Many of the people you meet on interview day are not the people you will spend the most time with during med school, and the people you meet certainly do not represent the school overall. I think "gut feeling" is overrated.

    Then again, I ended up fine. I do wish my school had a freaking pharmacology class, though.
     
  38. pillowhead

    pillowhead Senior Member
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    You should run into a 3rd or 4th year during your interview day (if you don't, ask yourself why that is. Is it because the upperclassmen are not actively involved in the admissions process or because the school's hospitals are in a completely different city...there are lots of possibilites). If you can get that info from them during the interview day, do so. At least get an email address or a phone number so you can talk to them later. Also, when your interviewer asks, "do you have any questions for me?", it's a great way to find out about 3rd and 4th year and it also makes it appear that you're more concerned with actual real world medical practice rather than figuring out how easy it is to skip class during the first two years. At the very least, ask them about the various hospitals you will rotate through. Finally, you can always ask the admissions office for contact info of the 3rd and 4th year class officers. If they seem real reluctant and it becomes that hard to find a 3rd or 4th yr to talk to, i'd re-think that particular school!
     

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