Pros and Cons of International Medical Schools

Higher Acceptance Rates, Challenging Application Process

Medical students with microscopes
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When it is time to choose a medical school, the process and the options can be overwhelming. Getting into medical school is so time-consuming, many people never complete the process at all.

Some people don’t want to wait for spots in domestic schools to open, so they turn to international schools such as Ross University in the Dominican and other schools in the Caribbean, and Mexico.

Going to a medical school abroad may sound very appealing, but there are issues any candidate must consider.

 Should you go abroad or stay in the States for medical school? Here are some pros and cons of each scenario.

Pros of International Medical Schools

There are some definite advantages to applying to foreign medical schools, particularly in the Caribbean.

1. Acceptance rates are higher than average. Many medical schools in the Caribbean accept a much higher percentage of applicants than schools in the U.S. in part due to less restrictive entrance requirements. For schools outside the Caribbean, acceptance rates vary.

2. GPAs and MCAT scores are lower than average. Less restrictive entrance requirements include lower acceptable ranges in GPA and test scores. International schools can be a realistic option to consider for applicants with lower scores.

3. They tend to be less expensive than domestic counterparts. Tuition for international schools is usually a lot less than medical schools in America, which can lessen the burden of student loans and financial stress that many medical students face.

4. There are clinical rotation opportunities in the U.S. In many of the Caribbean schools, the first two years of basic science is done on their campuses overseas, while clinical rotations are done in U.S. hospitals. Though your home school is still overseas, you have the advantage of the same clinical exposure and opportunities as the hospitals' home medical students.

Many past students cite this as an advantage in applying to U.S. residencies. Other overseas medical schools allow students U.S. clinical rotation opportunities, though usually on a more case-by-case basis.

Cons of International Medical Schools

But even the best opportunities come with some disadvantages, and international medical schools are no exception:

1. Grading systems can vary. While many U.S. medical schools use an Honors/Pass/Fail grading system, many medical schools overseas, including in the Caribbean, use a traditional A-F system. Some students may feel that such precise grading systems can sometimes add additional stress to an already competitive atmosphere and post-graduate job market and industry.

2. Living in a different country can provide challenges. This can be either a pro or a con, depending on your perspective. Politics and weather differ, too.

3. Applying and matching to a U.S. residency can be more challenging. Though many international medical graduates successfully match into residency programs across the U.S., they do so at significantly lower rates than their U.S. graduate counterparts. Many schools in the Caribbean, however, state that a significant percentage of their graduates find positions outside the match.

4. There is additional post-graduation red tape. After graduating from an international medical school, you will be required to take an additional exam, the ECFMG, that is not required for domestic graduates. Additionally, each time you apply for a state license or any certification, the process may be slower, since the documentation is being obtained from overseas.

5. Perception of international medical schools can be less favorable. Patients and employers typically have a less favorable opinion of international medical schools. Many employers prefer to hire doctors who have graduated from an American medical school, and that is the bottom line.

Even though doctors are in extremely high demand, some hospitals will pass over foreign-trained physician candidates for those who attended school in the U.S.

The Bottom Line

Your choice of medial school can impact your future career prospects, so if you are considering applying to an international medical school, these pros and cons could help make your decision a little easier.

Whatever you decide, it is important to research your options carefully so your transition back to the U.S. is as smooth as possible.

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