Selecting Schools

Strategies for Selecting Health Professions Schools

On your standardized application, you will indicate the schools to which you want to apply. There is no quick way to arrive at the list of schools that is appropriate for you. It takes time and research.

All students should purchase a copy of their health profession’s guide to schools or you can stop by the BCDC to view one of ours.

Premed: Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) for allopathic (MD) schools ($25, online)

Osteopathic College Information Book (CIB) for osteopathic (DO) schools (free online)

Predental: ADEA Official Guide to Dental School
Vet: Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements

How many schools? Nationally, most medical school applicants apply to about fourteen schools. The number of schools that you apply to is up to you, but bear in mind that it can get very costly. Application fees and interviewing costs add up quickly. Filling out a secondary application can take upwards of eight hours (you will often need to do research on the schools, and depending on the number of essays may spend quite a bit of time polishing your answers). Additionally, numerous interviews can take valuable time away from your studies if you’re applying while you’re still a student.

Here are some criteria you may take into consideration:

  • Public vs. Private and Residency Preference: About 84 of the 138 US allopathic medical schools and 30 dental schools are affiliated with state university’s (if you look in the publications mentioned above, public or private designation is stated for each school). Most state schools give some preference to state residents, or residents of states with whom they have contracted.
  • Coursework Prerequisites: Different schools require different prerequisite courses, especially when it comes to dental and veterinary schools.
  • Your Surroundings: Think about what kind of place you would be most comfortable living in. Is it a big city? A smaller town? Is it important for you to be close to family? If you have an interest in working with certain populations (e.g., rural, underserved), look for schools in areas where members of these populations are more likely to live.
  • Family Ties: Students who have physicians, dentists or vets in their families should consider applying to a relative’s alma mater. As a legacy applicant, you may have an increased chance of admission and you should have a better sense of whether the school is a good fit for you.
  • Cost/Aid: Tuition, fees, and cost of living vary widely among schools, as do their financial aid packages. Although a professional education is still considered a sound financial investment, you should give serious thought to the amount of debt you are willing to take on. The admission guides mentioned above provide statistics on the average aid package and debt load for current students.
  • Mission: Some schools focus more heavily on certain aspects of health care than on others. Some schools will have a strong emphasis on research while others – particularly state schools (and osteopathic medical schools) hope to train physicians to work in primary care within the state. You can easily find mission or values statements on the schools’ websites, and they are also included in the MSAR and other publications.
  • Curriculum and Pedagogy: Schools vary in their curriculum. Here are some considerations that may affect your decision on “best fit” for your learning style academic preferences. Keep track of academic aspects of different schools; ask students (alums) what they think of them if invited to interview.
    • Teaching style
    • Time in the classroom
    • Curricular design
    • Grading policy
    • Choice of classroom electives
    • Opportunity for clinical electives
  • Residency Placement and Board Exam Pass Rate
  • Support Services
  • Culture of Student Body
  • Popularity with Bates Alums: Statistics regarding acceptance rates and admissions data for individual schools can be discussed with a pre health advisor. If Bates students have been accepted (and even better, if they have matriculated) in recent years, it may be a good indication that that school is a good fit for Bates applicants.