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Advice for Foreign Medical Students Wanting to Study in the US

If you’ve already done any research, chances are that you’ve come across the dismal statistics reflecting the difficulty of getting in to medical schools regardless of where you have received previous education. According to Hope College, in the year 2010, 42,742 students applied to medical school. 1,300 of those students were not US residents or citizens. 44 percent (18,665 of the original 42,742 applicants) of the total number of applicants who applied were accepted into a medical program but only 171 of these nearly 19 thousand students were not domestic students. This means only .4 percent of the students who were admitted and enrolled into medical school were international students.

This information was not supposed to scare you, and in no means discourage you from applying to a medical school within the United States. It is important to know how small the odds are though, and to make realistic alternatives if your primary plan doesn’t pan out. Below are some tips for those students who are not US residents or citizens who want to go to medical school in the US.

TIP #1: Plan how you are going to cover the cost of medical school way in advance.

Most domestic student pay for medical school through federal or state funding or loans. As a student who is not a resident or citizen, you are not eligible for this type of funding alone, but you may be eligible with a cosigner (who is a US resident or citizen) and an asset of equal value. Scholarships for medical school are rare, but there are definitely some available. Looking for scholarships that are offered for international students is even more difficult, but if you give yourself time to research you can apply to more of them before the deadlines. A lot of medical schools do evaluate your financial standing before acceptance and some even require a very substantial deposit to prove you can pay the steep tuition costs.

TIP #2: Consider where you completed your undergraduate education and where that leaves viable options for medical school.

In the majority of cases, formal medical training starts earlier in Africa, Europe, or Asia than in the United States. This means that if you completed your undergraduate education in the states, you could be significantly behind in other places. Make sure to research the medical schools you are applying to in order to ensure that you aren’t behind schedule. Attending a US college or university for undergraduate will also typically boost your chances of getting into a domestic medical school. If you went to undergraduate outside the states and are set on coming to the US for medical school, consider taking math and science courses at an American institution in order to prove your level of understanding in cornerstone subjects.

Tip #3: Do well in school and outside of the classroom and keep your options as open as possible.

Doing well in school and on the MCAT are both absolute and obvious essentials to beating the odds to get into a medical school in the US. Make sure you are working as hard as you can without sacrificing the priorities to make your application look well rounded and experienced. Squeeze in as much time showing your dedication towards an outside activity that could easily translate to your success in medical school. For example, dedication and success in trivia bowl with reflect a good memory and attention to detail. Get as many hours as you can into volunteering or working in your field of choice, spend time in a hospital to show you know you belong there and you’re absolutely sure about your decision to attend medical school in the US. Also remember that everyone wants to go to the top medical schools in the country, both domestic and international students apply heavily to the top schools. Keep your options open and apply to way more safety schools than you think you will need to.

Ultimately, making the commitment to apply to med school is difficult for everyone and getting admitted is even more difficult. Don’t give up but make sure you keep your options open and a level head.

Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012
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