the Right School
Applying to International Medical Schools
Letters of Evaluation
In the event
Minority and Underrepresented Students
Medical schools, like individuals, are very different--
their philosophies, faculties, program of study and the type of students
they attract. Selecting the “best” medical school for you
can be challenging. Choosing a medical school requires research into a
number of factors. After these factors have been obtained, they must then
be prioritized to ensure that the school of your choice meets with your
Initially, consider whether or not the medical school is a private or
public institution. If a public institution, there is usually a state
residency requirement and in most cases, there is a limit as to the number
of out-of-state residents accepted for admission.
Additionally, the amount of tuition and fees may also be impacted. As
an in-state resident of the public institution to which you are accepted,
your cost is considerably lower. However, if you are a resident of Illinois
and you plan to attend the University of Maryland or Penn State University,
the tuition may be as high as that of a private school.
The geographic location of the school may also impact your decision.
Is it in a large city with every possible amenity or is it in a small
town where social and cultural activities are miles away and if so, how
important will that be to you while you are in school?
You may also obtain information by contacting the medical schools and
speaking directly with their admissions personnel (dean, director or counselor)
and with financial aid personnel. Future students should also speak with
practicing physicians who are alumni of these medical schools. This will
provide a historical point of view as well as an insight into the medical
Finally, you may elect to gather information on the Internet to obtain
more detailed information on the schools of your choice.
Applying to International Medical Schools
Of the hundreds of medical schools around the world, only those in Canada,
Mexico, the West Indies and several specially affiliated schools of some
foreign countries are accredited for the licensing procedures of U.S.
schools. Therefore, students planning to study at an international medical
school should be cautioned that they cannot be licensed to practice in
the U.S. except under special circumstances.
When studying at an international medical school, you should attempt
to complete your medical education in the U.S., thereby avoiding licensing
obstacles. By this we mean that, upon completion of one or two years of
international study, you should apply to a U.S. school for admission after
taking and passing the basic science examination, Part I, of the National
Board of Medical Examiners.
Be sure to check the following:
- Quality of education
- Number of graduates who pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam
- Chances of transferring to U.S. medical schools
- Language differences and cultural adjustments
- Problems of entering the U.S. to practice: licensing and residencies
Letters of Evaluation
We advise you to obtain five or six Letters of Evaluation for your application
file. Per your request, copies of these letters are forwarded along with
your advisor’s letter to all professional schools for which you
have completed applications. Of these letters, at least two should be
from science faculty and two from non-science faculty. Letters of Evaluation
may also be requested from academic advisors, research supervisors, volunteer
coordinators or personal acquaintances. Individual schools may have variations
from this, so be sure to examine all supplemental application materials
from each professional school for directions as to the number and type
of letters required.
Letters of Evaluation should be requested well in advance,
because this will grant those writing the letters adequate time to write
thoughtful and detailed letters. We recommend that you solicit these Letters
of Evaluation as soon as possible, and certainly no later than
March 1, in the year in which you apply.
The interview requested by the selections committee is probably the most
important step in admittance to a given professional school. The interview
is an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to the
given field. It is also an opportunity for you to see the school in person.
You have passed through the initial screening process, and the result
of your interview will determine whether or not you will be accepted.
Therefore, the interview should be taken very seriously.
Before the day of your interview, review both your standardized and the
secondary application for that school. Reexamine the material the school
has sent you and be prepared to discuss why you are specifically interested
in their program. If you are offered an interview, take the first available
appointment and make plans to keep this date. Canceling an interview or
not showing up causes great problems for a professional school and for
our future applicants to that school. In the event of an emergency, contact
the premed advisor immediately to discuss the issues and the appropriate
measures to take.
Usually after the interview, or even before it, you are taken on a brief
tour of the medical school and (if nearby) the hospital facilities. This
is your opportunity to give the committee an insight into your personal
and intellectual capabilities. Demonstrate positively your initiative,
your aptitude, your inquisitiveness by commenting upon and asking questions
about various facets of the school, hospital facilities, research projects,
faculty, methodology, teaching, etc.
Before arriving at the interview, you should have your closing planned
and memorized. This is a brief, two- to three-sentence summary that captures
the key characteristics, values and strengths that you would bring to
the program if accepted. The interviewer will ask you either for a closing
or if you have anything else to say at the end of the interview. This
is the time to give a strong closing statement. Interviewers won’t
remember everything a candidate says, but they will remember how they
felt when the student spoke. This is why a strong closing that includes
a plan, summary of points, a tie-in with the entire interview and a solid
delivery is recommended. With a strong closing, you finish by leaving
the interviewer with a solid idea of who you are.
After the interview, whether you have been interviewed by a single individual
or by a committee of two or more, be sure to remember their names and
titles (if you were so informed or if you can, pick up business cards
of those who interviewed you). It is a good idea to write a brief note
of thanks to each interviewer for having been given the opportunity to
Common Interview Questions
In practically every interview an applicant is asked certain basic questions,
so be prepared, not with “basic” answers, but with thoughtful
ones. When asked a question around a complex issue, do not simply answer
“yes” or “no” but give the interviewer insight
into how you have arrived at that decision. Never assume that there is
a “right” answer to every question; it may be that there are
several alternative answers that you could suggest. Furthermore, if you
do not know the answer, say so, because inventing answers can only indicate
your ignorance of the topic.
Some typical questions may be:
- Why do you want to be a physician?
- Why do you want to work with sick people?
- Why do you want to attend this school?
- What will you do if you are not admitted into professional school?
This last question is one of the most critical, and your answer must
demonstrate your determination to achieve your objective of becoming a
health professional against all odds.
Come to the interview well prepared. Know all of the facts about the
past, present and future objectives of the school. You will usually be
given an opportunity to ask questions about the school. Ask questions
on subjects that are important to you and your education. For example:
- Is the hospital a teaching hospital?
- What is the student attrition rate?
- Does the school interest itself in research physicians or practicing
- Is there special consideration or special support programs for women,
for minorities, for combined degree (MD/PHD) applicants?
- What additional information is available regarding the school and its
facilities and the faculty and their publications?
It would be helpful to be aware of the strong points of a school’s
program, and its compatibility with your interests. Such information may
be gleaned from The AAMC Curriculum Directory, the professional school
admissions requirements handbook, the school’s web page, and school
catalogs which are available in the Premedical Education office.
Most interviews are positive experiences and quite routine in nature.
Interviewers understand that you are in a stressful situation and usually
do not take advantage of your uneasiness.
In the event that you were not asked to appear
for an interview, you should…
Although medical schools normally contact you for an interview, there
is no law that prohibits you from requesting a personal interview. If
you feel that you have a strong case for admission, by all means request
an interview. Be prepared to present your best to the interviewer. If
the school is located near you, make an appointment to discuss this matter
personally with the administrative assistant of the admissions committee.
Be aware of the fact that the administrative assistant can have a tremendous
influence on the committees; their advice and recommendations can be important.
Do not wait passively to be asked to appear for an interview. Go after
it with vigor and enthusiasm. If you do not, that much-needed interview
may never come to pass.
Keep your records organized for all schools to which you have applied;
devise a file system for each professional school (keeping separate folders)
with a checklist for each of the items, which you are expected to supply
schools. Professional schools send you complete information regarding
supporting documents they require; these items should be marked off as
they are sent. Photocopy documents that are difficult to replace. Most
professional schools send written confirmations that the application file
is complete. If such notice is not received, you may contact the school’s
admissions office to inquire as to the status of your file.
It is your responsibility to ensure that your file is complete at each
professional school to which you applied. Supplementary materials differ
for each school, but in general include evaluations from faculty. It is
suggested that you supply the number of letters requested and do not inundate
the admission committees with too many.
Where is the money coming from? Scholarships, loans, grants – what
types and how many does the school offer?
Government sources: Keep in mind that the availability of government
supported financial aid and scholarship programs is frequently in a state
of flux. This is because of the frequent changes in federal and state
legislation that regulates these programs. Start scholarship searches
via the Internet (http:/www.studentservices.com) or (http:/www.college-scholarships.com).
Once your financial aid package is arranged and you know your level of
indebtedness, make sure you seek proper counseling so that you develop
a sound plan for repayment of any monies owed.
Don’t overlook the possibility of a military scholarship, which
pays tuition and provides a stipend while you are in medical school in
exchange for an equivalent number of years service in the military as
an officer and physician.
Minority and Underrepresented Students
The initial commitment of medical schools to seek the enrollment of minority/underrepresented
medical students is being continued; there is still a lack of minority
health professionals who are committed to serving their community.
A number of resources are accessible to assist you in
attaining your objective. The Medical Minority Applicant Registry (Med-MAR)
program allows a student to have basic biographical information circulated
at no cost to admissions offices of all U.S. medical schools. Students
may participate in Med-MAR by identifying themselves (on a questionnaire
completed after taking the MCAT) as coming from a low-income family or
from any group traditionally underrepresented in medicine. Upon receipt
of Med-MAR lists, medical schools will contact those students from whom
they desire more detailed information.