Choosing Medical Schools


John A. Burns School of Medicine

Part of preparing your medical school application is considering which schools you would like to apply to! While submitting your information to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), you will be asked to provide a list of schools that you wish to distribute your application to. With 141 accredited US medical programs, deciding which medical school to apply to is a very personal decision based on your preferences, goals, and interests, but there are resources that can help you narrow down your options.

Remember to ASK QUESTIONS during your interview and even after the interview.  When picking a medical school, you may have a few choices to make.  Read this article on “35 Questions I Wish I Asked” to see what current medical students had wished they asked while interviewing at different medical schools. Berkeley also has an FAQ section on selecting schools.

General Questions

Schools (general info)

How many schools should I apply to? How do I decide where to apply? How much will it cost?

How Many Schools: 

In 2013, prospective students applied to an average of 14 medical schools. The number of schools you apply to is a personal choice and there is no limit on the number of schools you can send your application to via AMCAS, but are some things you may consider when building your list:

  • Cost of primary applications. The initial AMCAS processing fee is $160, which includes delivery of your application to one medical school. Sending your application to additional school will cost $36 each.

    Example: You apply for 12 schools. $160 (initial AMCAS processing fee, includes one school) + $396 (11 schools * $36 per school) = $556

  • Cost of secondary applications. The cost of secondary applications is dependent on the number of schools you apply to. After distributing your AMCAS application to schools, individual schools that would like to further review your application will invite you to submit a secondary application, which consists of additional essays and an additional fee. The fee is dependent on the school, although it ranges from $25 to $150.

    Example: From the previous example, assume that all the schools you applied to invited you to submit a secondary application with a fee of $100. $556 (cost of primary applications) + $1200 (12 schools * $100 per school) = $1756

  • Geography. Do you want to stay in Hawaii for medical school? Or do you hope to pursue your education in the mainland? Along with this, consider how this may change cost of tuition and living expenses.
  • Professional and personal goal. Do you hope to attend a school with a strong primary care program? Or perhaps you’re seeking a more culturally-diverse environment? Looking for a school that has the same commitment to serving the underserved as you do? It is important to ensure that a school’s mission matches with your professional and personal values.
  • GPA/MCAT. As you may know, while all medical schools are competitive in their own ways, each school has their own standards for GPA/MCAT that they will consider. These values may also impact the way you prioritize which schools you plan to apply for.
  • School curriculum. Are you looking for a school that is on a P/F system? Do you prefer a school that has its own teaching hospital? Would you thrive in a lecture-based or PBL-based curriculum? Depending on your learning style, these factors may impact your educational experience.

Where to Apply: 

Once you have prioritized these preferences, the next step is to browse the list of medical schools with these considerations in mind. All of this information (and more) is summarized in AAMC’s Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) for US and Canadian Medical Schools.

Also consider reviewing these resources:

You should also take the following into consideration:

I can’t afford the application fees for that many schools! What should I do?

The AAMC believes that the costs of applying to medical school should not be a barrier to individuals that have are interested in becoming physicians. If you are eligible for the AAMC Fee Assistance Program, part of their benefits include a waiver for all AMCAS fees for up to 15 medical schools. Additional fees will be charged for sending your application to each school beyond the initial set of 15.

In addition, most AMCAS-participating medical schools waive their supplemental application fees for applicants who have been granted fee assistance by the AAMC.

Also check out the AAMC Official Financial Assistance Website.  

I know what I am looking for in a medical school, but I still need to make a list of schools to apply to. What resources should I use?

One of your main resources should be the Medical School Admission Requirement (MSAR) for US and Canadian Medical Schools. It is an online database that includes information on medical schools, including:

  • Application procedures and deadlines
  • Required/recommended pre-medical coursework
  • Statistics of accepted students: average MCAT, average GPA, applicant volunteer and research experiences
  • Medical school class profile (e.g. class size, early decision program acceptances)
  • School mission statement as well as available clinical, extracurricular, and research opportunities
  • Tuition and financial aid

While information in MSAR is report to AMCAS directly from the admissions department of each school, it is still your responsibility to contact the individual schools if you have any questions or notice any discrepancies.

A one-year subscription of access to MSAR is $25. Alternatively, the UH Pre-Medical Advising Center (PAC) purchases MSAR access each year and is free to use for students during their normal operating hours. Finally, if you are eligible for the Fee Assistance Program, MSAR access is provided to you at no cost.

Without MSAR access, here are some other good resources:


Other Considerations

Schools (special groups)

I self-identify as being a medical minority applicant, military applicant, or international graduate.