It is difficult for anyone to get into medical school, regardless of the school from which an under-graduate degree is conferred. But if you are a student who has received a foreign degree, your chances of acceptance into a US medical school drop dramatically. If you’re looking to transfer in a foreign degree, be prepared to do a lot of research and to take many extra steps to set yourself up as well as possible for admissions success. Asking questions and doing research on the topic is always your first and most important step. This article will answer many of your questions, but will pose many more as you navigate the process of entering medical school. Nothing can replace calling the schools which interest you and having conversations with their representatives to get the details. And be prepared emotionally, and financially, to make application to as many as 25 different schools. Even applications from U.S. university graduates will apply to 10 or 15.
Part I – Initial Steps
What type of non-U.S. bachelor degree do you need?
Although there are many possible degree programs in the United States and abroad, when applying to US medical schools most admissions committees are looking for programs heavy in the sciences that pertain to medicine and the psychological and social nature of humans. This means that your undergraduate degree will have a complement of knowledge across biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics. Incorporated into these broad categories are computer literacy and statistics. Without these types of courses in your undergraduate degree program, your application to medical school is not likely to be accepted.
In addition to the science and math portions required in your curriculum, it must also demonstrate you have an adequate knowledge base in social sciences, including cultural and behavioral facets of people.
Softer skills such as analytical and critical thinking, problem-solving skills, effective learning capabilities and strong verbal and written communication skills must also be threaded throughout your program.
The program and major you select in your undergraduate degree will have to demonstrate high rigor. Most students matriculating into medical school majored in a discipline dealing with biological, physical or social sciences. Organic chemistry, molecular biology, biochemistry, and microbiology are some examples. It’s not unusual for schools to offer a course of study called pre-medical.
However, if you’re undecided about which area of science to enter, take a look at the following type of curriculum components. Most US medical schools reviewing your academic credential are looking for programs that largely reflect the following type of courses:
|Specifics within Courses
Course should include elements of the following types of content: genetics and cell biology, molecular biology, cellular metabolic function, energy transfer, etc. The emphasis should be on human biology and the system principles of biology.
|At least one year, including some lab experiences.
Cellular and molecular components must be present.
Note: Advanced placement credits are generally not permitted.
|Chemistry or Biochemistry
Courses should include elements of the following types of content: general chemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and biochemistry.
|Two years. This usually means four courses.
Lab experience is required.
Note: In some schools advanced placement credits may replace one course, but generally no more than that.
Courses should include elements of the following types of content: biologically relevant areas of electricity and magnetism, optics, quantum theory, kinetics, mechanics, etc.
|At least year is required.
Lab experience preferred.
Note: In some schools advanced placement credits may replace one course, but generally no more than that.
Courses should include elements of content that familiarize students for quantitative reasoning and analytical perspectives. Statistics is necessary so students in any medical program can understand the literature of science and medicine. Development of skills relating specifically to biology should be a main focus.
|At least one year, including calculus and statistics.
Biostatistics is preferred.
Note: In some schools advanced placement credits may replace one calculus course, but only with a specific score.
Expository writing should be a focus. This experience can be obtained through most courses in the social sciences or humanities where substantial essay writing is required.
|At least one year.
Writing intensive courses are preferred.
Note: Advanced placement credits are not permitted.
If all of these elements are contained in your program, and can be documented in your official transcript(s), then you have taken an initial step toward the potential transfer into a U.S. medical school with a foreign degree. But keep in mind this is just the first step in many more.
Are there advantages of transferring into a U.S. medical school?
- The most important advantage of transferring into a U.S. medical school may be improved residency opportunities. Although students with a foreign degree in medicine can fit the criteria outlined in U.S. residency programs, there is a much higher percentage of matches by U.S. medical program graduates. A U.S. medical degree improves your chances of residency placement dramatically.
- Licensing is easier for student from US medical schools. Non-U.S. medical graduates have to take some additional steps before applying. The first of these is becoming certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). These students may also have to complete additional U.S. practical rotations to be eligible for licensure, and their applications often take much longer to process. Delays in processing these applications result in foreign medical graduates being asked to leave training programs after their second or third years.
Are there challenges to consider?
- For students with a foreign degree, there exists a low likelihood of acceptance into medical school. Transferring between schools is difficult even for U.S.-degreed students. Medical licensure pass rates and other evaluation measures are normally tied to the school offering the program, so they are strict with the knowledge base students have acquired. US medical schools lose a certain of confidence in the material an undergraduate student may know, or not know, coming into a medical school program. This can make the program difficult for the school, and for the student. This playing field can sometimes be balanced by mandating international transfer applications possess higher grade point averages than their counterparts from a U.S. premed or medical program.
- Training time for international students may be extended. Even if the transfer of a degree is permitted, education or training time when transferring from an international to an American medical school may be lengthened. Again, this has to do with a school’s confidence in the curriculum being transferred in. Even between U.S. schools, curriculum differs. These differences are wider when considering international curriculum. Repeating certain classes, or practical training experiences is often the result of any kind of transfer . This is very time-consuming for students, and it can become very expensive, especially for non-U.S. citizens who are not eligible for Federal financial assistance.
Are there U.S. medical schools that will accept an international undergraduate science degree?
There may be a few you’d like to consider investigating. But first it’s important to note that the medical school system in the United States is fairly rigid and it has to do with accreditation. Reputable colleges are always accredited by an outside organization. In addition to institutional accreditation, there are also agencies that accredit programs within those institutions.
Medical education in the United States is accredited by an organization called The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME©) and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of the LCME is narrow. They provide quality assurance and accreditation for medical education that leads to one thing – a medical degree in the United States. Their scope is also very precise since they only do this for schools geographically located in the United States and Canada. Almost all medical schools in America require that your undergraduate degree be from schools with medical education programs accredited by the LCME. Unfortunately, they do not accredit any international schools.
If your hope is to avoid taking any U.S.-based prerequisite courses and go straight into a U.S. medical school with your foreign degree (assuming it’s one based in the sciences), then your very best option is to take a look at the Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree offered by the University of Queensland School of Medicine. They have a cooperative relationship with Louisiana’s Ochsner Health System and operate the Oshsner Clinical School in New Orleans. Your first two years of schooling are spent in pre-clinical work at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. The second two years, which are clinical, are spent at the Ochsner Clinical School stateside. One of the chief benefits is you’ll get is clinical experience in both countries.
If you’d like to attend a pre-medical program in Canada, as of the date of this article, you can take a look at the following schools, all of which are accredited by the LCME.
|University of Alberta, Alberta
|University of Ottawa, Ontario
|Cumming School of Medicine, Alberta
|University of Toronto, Ontario
|University of British Columbia, British Columbia
|University of Western Ontario, Ontario
|Max Rady College of Medicine, Manitoba
|Laval University, Quebec
|Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland
|McGill University, Quebec
|Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia
|University of Montreal, Quebec
|McMaster University, Ontario
|University of Sherbrooke, Quebec
|Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Ontario
|University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan
|Queen’s University, Ontario
If you find yourself in the unhappy position of not being accepted into a U.S. medical school with your foreign science degree, the following Canadian universities may consider your medical school application:
|Laval University, Quebec
|University of Montreal, Quebec
|McGill University, Quebec
|University of Sherbrooke, Quebec
|McMaster University, Ontario
|University of Toronto, Ontario
|Queen’s University, Ontario
Even though Puerto Rico is closely connected to the United States, the LCME does not accredit any of their medical programs.
The bottom line is, there is no shortcut to taking all the steps required if your degree comes from outside the United States.
What if your science degree is from a country other than the U.S. or Canada?
If you’ve decided you’d like to attempt the process, there is an existing database of U.S. medical schools that may consider applicants with foreign degrees. It’s kept by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). This database provides the school’s location, their Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) score requirements, ranking, and even the percentage of students with non-U.S. undergraduate degrees who applied and were accepted. As an added bonus, this database also provides each school’s current transfer of credit policies. This is a terrific place for you to start, but as always, it’s best to confirm with the individual school for the most current information.
Although these US medical schools will consider a foreign science degree, they may have additional criteria you must meet. Nevertheless, this is a list to start with.
|Albert Einstein, New York
|Boston University, Massachusetts
|Case Western Reserve University, Ohio
|Central Michigan University, Michigan
|Chicago Franklin University, Illinois
|Columbus University College of P&S, New York
|David Geffen UCLA, California
|Duke University, North Carolina
|Emory University, Georgia
|George Washington University, District of Columbia
|Howard University, District of Columbia
|Icahn Mt. Sinai, New York
|Johns Hopkins University, Maryland
|Keck USC, California
|Loma Linda University, California
|Louisiana State University, Louisiana
|Michigan State University, Michigan
|New York University, New York
|Northwestern University Feinberg, Illinois
|Penn State Hershey, Pennsylvania
|Oakland University W. Beaumont, Michigan
|Rutgers New Jersey, New Jersey
|Perelman UPenn, Pennsylvania
|St. Louis University, Missouri
|Rutgers Robert W. Johnson, New Jersey
|Stony Brook University, New York
|T. Jefferson University S. Kimmel, Pennsylvania
|SUNY Upstate, New York
|Tulane University, Louisiana
|Tufts University, Massachusetts
|University of Hawaii John A. Burns, Hawaii
|University of Chicago Pritzker, Illinois
|University of Louisville, Kentucky
|University of Kentucky, Kentucky
|University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
|University of Maryland, Maryland
|University of Utah, Utah
|University of Texas Houston, Texas
|University of California Davis, California
|University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, North Carolina
|University of California San Francisco, California
|Vanderbilt University, Tennessee
|University of Virginia, Virginia
|Warren Alpert Brown University, Rhode Island
|Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia
|Wayne State University, Michigan
|Washington University St. Louis, Missouri
|West Virginia University, West Virginia
|Weill Cornell, New York
Source: MSAR 2014/2015, 2015 U.S.News Best Medical Schools Rankings, and websites of respective universities
Bridgework – additional course requirements for students with a non-U.S. science degree
It’s common for medical schools to have different course requirements for those who have not attended a U.S. college. These requirements may be in addition to the degree you already have
If you are transferring into a US medical school, you may have to meet at least one of the following requirements if you do not have a U.S. bachelor’s degree. Bear in mind that no other type of academic bridge will get you where you want to go.
- Possess an advanced degree in the U.S., such as a master’s or PhD.; or
- Possess 30, 60, or 90 semester hours in the U.S., (or one or two years of post-secondary education). Depending upon the school, these can be all undergraduate courses. It’s possible they may also accept higher level courses; or
- Take prerequisite courses in the U.S. Individual schools have different requirements, so call for specifics; and
- Be a U.S. citizen or have an appropriate visa.
To be sure you accurately and appropriately meet one or more of these basic requirements, or even additional ones, spend time talking to individuals in your school of choice. Since criteria is always changing, make sure the information you have on hand is very current.
Although it is rare, some non-U.S. degrees or credits are acceptable. Each school is different, so your best option is to call all the U.S. schools that interest you. There may be some commonality among guidelines, but there will also be some unique criteria.
Even if you have a U.S. degree, some medical schools won’t transfer in some credits. Age of the degree/credits, types of courses, and even grades received can block a transfer. Since it is always up to the receiving institution about what transfers in, or not, checking with the receiving medical school is always the first step before attempting any transfer process.
The good news is that with some effort, if you completed enough coursework in the U.S., you may be able to transfer into a US medical school with your non-U.S. undergraduate degree. But it’s preferable if you have an advanced degree in the United States.
Part II – Next Steps
Once you have established your non-U.S. science degree may be acceptable, and/or you’ve met other bridging eligibility requirements, there is more work to do. What follows is a general information guide on how to go about it.
Where to apply
The next strategic initiative is making a list of the schools you’d like to attend. Research their requirements to narrow it down to the ones where you meet the eligibility requirements. You can prioritize this list in one of several ways.
- List the ones with a higher percentage of accepting your foreign degree.
- List the ones you’d most like to attend to the ones you’d least like to attend.
- List the least expensive to the most expensive.
- List the ones where the programs take less time (if you’d like to be expedient and get into practice quickly).
- List the ones that have a higher percentage of residency placement.
After making your initial list, consider other factors that can make a difference in your final decision. What you’re looking for is the best fit in a medical school for you. Factors you can include are:
- Overall quality of the medical school – The best information you can get is from students who have gone to these schools. This is readily available in student forums.
- Rankings – Among all the other factors you can include the ranking of the school in comparison to others. As a caution, do not consider ranking alone. This one factor is insufficient upon which to make a decision.
- Academic match – What is your desired medical specialty, or area of study? Some schools are better at pediatrics while others are well-known for cardiovascular surgery. Find the ones that will cover the area(s) you’re most interested in studying.
- Academic faculty – Are there faculty members or medical experts associated with some schools, but not others (or even associated with some hospitals, but not others)? This may be important to you. If so, take a second look at those schools.
- Test scores – Tests scores (MCAT) vary from person to person. So do test scores medical schools require. Do your test scores fit within the ranges your desired school accepts? If not, unfortunately those medical schools should be eliminated from your list.
- Geographic Location – Maybe you like year-round sun. Maybe cold weather is something you enjoy. Do you want to remain in the same area where you attend medical school? On a long-term basis, location may become very important to you.
- Financial assistance – Medical school is expensive. It’s not unusual for a medical student to be unable to pay the full cost of tuition and other education expenses. The burden for foreign students is heavier since Federal assistance is an unlikely option. Private loans are costly, and applying for one is a complicated process all by itself. With detailed research, you can learn if any school you’re considering offers financial support for international students.
Characteristics of successful medical school applicants
Just like U.S. applicants, an applicant with a foreign science degree needs to demonstrate a certain amount of well-roundedness. This helps admissions committees determine your readiness to enter medical school.
There are three major categories they consider.
- Academic record – This includes your grades as well as your grade trends. They also take into account your MCAT scores, your leadership experiences, honors courses, independent studies and even your involvement in research.
- Personal growth and development – This category encompasses your level of maturity, leadership abilities, interpersonal skills (which are also demonstrated in any admissions interview you may be invited to), community involvement, cultural diversity, tolerance for differences, sensitivity, critical thinking and communication. Take a look at your co-curricular transcript to see if you have any kind of sports, volunteer, cultural or community activities. Are you a member of any clubs at your school or hold an office in any of them? Have you received any honors or awards? Include any presentations you’ve given at conferences, even if they are poster presentations. They all count.
- Professional development – This one is critically important for a student wishing to enter a U.S. medical school with a non-U.S. degree. Medical schools want to see that you have experience in healthcare settings. This provides them with confidence that you understand contemporary issues of healthcare and many of the scientific and ethical dilemmas facing the medical community. It also gives them some idea of how you’ll perform under the pressures (internal and external) of medical school and a medical career, including your coping skills. Since past performance indicates future behavior, committees take a serious look at this.
As a student with a foreign degree seeking admission into a United States medical school, familiarity with the U.S. healthcare system is something you want to prove. You can obtain clinical/practical training exposure in the U.S. Even if you have done some work overseas, adding volunteer clerkships or shadowing in a U.S. healthcare setting enhances your professional development attributes. If you can do this, your chances of being accepted may improve.
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT©)
As with most medical training programs, including medical school, you will have to take a standardized admissions test administered by a third party. The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is the one almost all medical schools require. When taking it, you will have to meet a minimum score to be considered a viable applicant. This applies to everyone.
The eligibility requirements to take the MCAT are relatively few. They are:
- You plan on applying to a health professions school (includes allopathic, osteopathic, pediatric and veterinary medicine).
- Through a personal, written statement, you verify your intention to apply to a health professions school.
Students with foreign degrees are eligible to sit for the MCAT as long as they meet these two requirements. You do not need any additional coursework to sit for MCAT. If you have followed the undergraduate curriculum recommended by medical schools, you will find much of the content on the MCAT to be similar.
Other things to keep in mind when registering for your MCAT:
- Take the MCAT a full year prior to when you plan entering medical school. For example, if you apply in 2018 for entrance to medical school in 2019, take the MCAT in 2018.
- Although your undergraduate curriculum goes a long way toward helping you pass the MCAT, there are review courses and books that can help you even more. Many even cover how questions are asked and how to approach them. Test taking strategies can go a long way keeping your relaxed throughout the exam.
- If you are uncertain if you’ll pass the MCAT in your first attempt, plan to take it early in the year so you’ll still have another opportunity to retake it and still meet your intended timeline.
- Scoring of the MCAT takes anywhere from 30-45 days. You’ll need to allow for this time when pulling together all the documents you need for medical school application.
There are many fees associated with the process of making application to medical school. They are largely the same for graduates with U.S. degrees or foreign degrees.
Fees to prepare for are:
- Primary application fee – Since most schools use the American Medical College Application Service for the common application, prepare to set aside money for this. The 2018 AMCAS fee is $160 for the first school you want to them to send it to. For each additional school, the cost is $39. Since not every school accepts this common application, double check the requirements for each school you’re applying to.
- Secondary application fee – If your primary application moves forward to the next step, you may need to make a secondary application. There is a fee for this and it ranges anywhere from $0 to $150 each.
- College service fees – Occasionally there will be a fee for your undergraduate institution to send official transcripts to the medical schools you’re interested in. And, if you’re requesting a letter of recommendation, there may be a small charge for them to send it. But the largest college fee you’ll encounter is the one to take your MCAT test. The basic registration charge of $310 covers the cost of the exam and distribution of scores. Other fees could come into play, including testing at international sites.
- Additional expenses – If you are fortunate enough to be invited for an in-person medical school interview, there will be travel and hotel costs. You may also want to purchase MCAT preparation materials.
All of these are out-of-pocket expenses, so if your long-term plan is to transfer from a school abroad to one in the United States, it’s best to set money aside in the early planning stages of your strategy.
American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS®)
Since you’ll be applying to more than one medical school, you’ll be glad to learn that for the most part, you’ll only have to fill out one common application. The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) supplies that for you. Once you fill it out according to their guidelines, they will send it to the medical schools you indicate on the application. The AMCAS is run by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
It’s possible foreign coursework will not be verified by the AMCAS. You will have to call the medical schools you’re interested in to confirm if the AMCAS common application is what they accept. Since it may required, what follows are tips to filling out this application that may make it easier for you to complete the paperwork.
Things to Watch for When Using the AMCAS
Like many applications, it’s tempting to just glance at the fields you have to fill out. As a result you may find yourself rushing which results in making mistakes. Every mistake can cause delays in the verification process. Since verification is your objective, take your time. But here are some tips designed to help you avoid errors and make your verification run a little smoother.
Take detailed care filling out the coursework section
It’s not unusual for applicants to enter as many as 62 or more different courses in this section. They can all come from one school, or from two or three different ones. Use your official transcript(s) as a reference. Using it to accurately fill out all your courses, as they are named, will help you avoid common errors. Remember, omissions or coursework data entered incorrectly will delay the verification process.
Other things to keep in mind while working this section:
- Include all coursework taken from all post-secondary institutions – Even if you didn’t receive credit, took it as a Pass/No Pass option, or even withdrew, it must be included. Be sure to remember any college-level courses you took in high school.
- Repeated courses – Many colleges have what is known as a “repeat methodology.” This means if you unsuccessfully completed a course, you have the opportunity to retake it. If this applies to you, enter all your attempts, and their corresponding grades. It doesn’t matter if the lower grades are forgiven. They still need to be on there.
- Transcript order – Transcripts follow a very logical sequence. Post the data in the application in the exact order it appears on your official transcript(s). Then double check to make sure it’s all there. Taking the time to do this will help you avoid unintentional errors and omissions.
- Show coursework once – Coursework does not need to be shown more than once. If any coursework was transferred into another school during your undergraduate tenure, do not list the transferred credits. List the coursework under the school where you first attempted and earned the credits.
- Combining lecture and lab hours – It’s acceptable to combine lecture and lab hours if you received the same grade for both. However, if your lab grade is Pass and it also is assigned zero credit hours, simply list the lecture and its corresponding grade.
- AMCAS corrections – Be prepared for the AMCAS to make corrections on your application if they feel it’s necessary. If your application contains 10 or more omissions, which can include missing grades and/or credit hours, AMCAS is required to kick the application back to you. Needless delays ensue and could very well cause you to miss other deadlines further along in your medical school application process.
- Joint Service Transcript – For U.S. citizens seeking to transfer a non-U.S. bachelor degree into a United States medical school, a Joint Service Transcript (JST) needs to be submitted along with any other official transcripts. This is only If you took courses while serving in the military.
- Current/Future section – You will note an option entitled, “Current/Future.” List only those courses you’re currently enrolled in or plan on taking.
- English – Bare in mind all coursework must be entered in English. If your non-U.S. Institution(s) can prepare your official transcript(s) in English, have them do so.
- Transcript legend – Your official transcript(s) will contain a legend that explains what each alpha or numerical grade means. It will also define each symbol that may appear on your transcript. Just like with your coursework, enter this legend exactly as it appears on your transcript(s). Such diligence to detail will allow the AMCAS verification staff to more easily review the information and convert it accordingly.
Understanding the transcript request process
Availability of official transcripts only helps you. Lack of them will cause delays in processing and verification. You are required to send transcripts from every post-secondary institution at which you were enrolled.
When making transcript requests, pay attention to the following guidelines:
- Instruction manual – The AMCAS provides an instruction manual so you know to obtain transcripts. It also supplies an official AMCAS transcript request form, guidance on which schools you will need to provide transcripts from, and what measures to take if a school no longer has your transcript available.
- e-transcripts – AMCAS does accept certain e-transcripts if a school provides them. Call your school’s record office or check their website. An e-transcript can simplify the transcript request process, but only if you follow the criteria set by AMCAS.
- Transcript identification – As you are probably aware, transcripts contain specific ID codes, numbers or some other unique identifying feature that connects a transcript to you. Make sure you have the right identifier when making a transcript request. Mix-ups in names, or even transposing of numbers can create delays in the process.
- Submitting transcript(s) – Before sending any transcripts to AMCAS, initiate your application process.
Submitting the AMCAS application
When you have completed all the sections of the AMCAS application, and you are sure there are no errors in it, you can submit it. Part of the submission process is agreeing to the certification statements within the application and paying all the necessary fees.
Your application is not considered as “submitted” until all of this is done.
- Submission Deadlines – The AMCAS application is due no later than 11:59 p.m. ET United States on the date of the specified deadline for that cycle. The verification process comes after submission; so don’t worry if you have not been verified by that date.
- Submission Extensions – Although individual schools may grant deadline extensions, AMCAS does not. They don’t make any exceptions to this rule. If the school in question will grant you an extension, they will notify AMCAS. It’s in your best interests, however, to view every single deadline in this process as non-negotiable.
- Handling Post-Submission Errors – Once you personally certify that the information you entered on your application is correct and hit the submit button, your opportunity to make corrections is severely curtailed. If you notice an error on your application after you submit it, check the AMCAS Certifying and Submitting your Application section in the instruction manual for allowable changes.
From time to time you may discover discrepancies on your verified application. In that instance, you can submit an Academic Change Request (ACR). See the AMCAS instruction manual for more information.
Reapplication (current applicants who applied and submitted an AMCAS application in a previous cycle)
Much of the information you entered in the previous cycle’s application will roll over. After making any necessary updates to your reapplication, once again check everything for accuracy before submitting. If your previous application was verified, please retain all changes the AMCAS verification team made to any part of your application.
Other notable transcript information
Even if the AMCAS verifies your non-U.S. institution’s coursework, your grade point average in the AMCAS will be calculated from only your U.S. coursework.
If you need to submit transcripts from non-U.S. colleges, you’ll have to have them officially evaluated. The reason for this special evaluation is to determine how comparable that program is to a U.S. degree program. There are many well-respected evaluation firms that can do this for you. If you go with a firm that is not acceptable to your receiving institution, they will not accept the evaluation. So, as with nearly every step in this process, double check.
Typical steps in a third-party source evaluation are:
- Follow the specific steps required by the country to have your transcript delivered to your chosen evaluation firm.
- The organization evaluates your academic records and prepares an official credential evaluation report.
- This report is then delivered to any academic institution now, or in the future, that you desire.
If you are asked by a US medical school to have your degree evaluated, be prepared to pay for this yourself. Transcript evaluations are quite expensive and fees are required up front. It may take as little as seven days for a full evaluation, or it could take as long as six weeks. You’ll have to know this time frame in order to meet other medical school application deadlines.
Research and mentorship – your guides on the side
When establishing your strategy, do all your research first. This makes planning much easier for you and will help you avoid needless frustration and delays. While this primer is a good start, it does not give you individual details about your specific schools. Plus, things are fluid in the medical school application process, so you want to ensure you have the most current information.
In this phase, it is also necessary to be in touch with a pre-medical advisor at your undergraduate institution. This resource is indispensable and in many respects a necessary one. You can also gain more specific information about different schools or pose individual questions on various forums that are out there by and for other people like you.
Two popular forums are:
- org – a rich information database site for both undergraduate and graduate education in the U.S. Although it’s general, it does contain very specific topics for pre-meds as well
- StudentDoctor – a forum focused on medical education
Caution: Note the dates of any threaded discussions in these forums. You don’t want to follow information that is outdated and wind up disappointed later.
Plan your work and work your plan precisely
You want your medical school application strategy to give you the best chance of success. The path you take is the one that works best for you. It must include what you may already have accomplished, the remaining time you have available to hit your planned enrollment date, and the financial resources at your disposal.
Remember, for students seeking to transfer into a United States medical school with a foreign country’s degree, there are many steps in the application process. Creating a timeline of what needs to be done by when is the best place to start once you have decided on your top schools.
Start with with the application deadline of your medical schools and work backwards. Since you’ll be applying to more than one, you may have subsections within your timeline that apply to each school’s individual deadlines. Regardless, a timeline that you have visible to you on a daily basis tells you where you are at any given time. It also ensures you won’t miss any deadline you’ve established. Start working by knowing exactly how much time you need to get through the process. Keep in mind things may not go exactly according to plan, so include buffer times.
Below is a sample of a what a typical timeline looks like if you are attempting to transfer in from a non-U.S. medical education school. The entire process takes over a year without any additional steps you may have to take due to your international undergraduate degree. If you have to take any U.S.-based courses, add at least a year to the beginning of your timeline.
The following general timeline ends with a medical school enrollment date of Fall 2020. Deadlines may vary slightly, but this represents a fairly typical task/deadline table. Adjust the dates according to your own personal schedule.
|Medical School, Eligibility Criteria Research
|August-September 30, 2017
|Complete any required U.S.-based coursework
|October 2017-September 2018
|Start studying for MCAT – allow for 3-4 months
|October 2018-June 2019 (allows for multiple test dates; see their website)
|Prepare list of co-curricular activities
|End of November 2018
|Complete draft of application essay
|End of December 2018
|January 1-September 30, 2019
|Finalize list of medical schools to apply to
|End of March 2019
|AMCAS resources released (check their website)
|April 1, 2019
|Request letters of recommendation
|End of April 2019
|Send letters of recommendation
|June 1, 2019
|AMCAS application opens (see their website)
|May 1, 2019
|Open AMCAS account
|End of May 1, 2019
|AMCAS application submission opens
|June 4, 2019
|Submit primary AMCAS application
Note: Don’t be too eager. Avoid sending it on the first day simply to avoid connection problems due to so many submissions at the same time
|June 10, 2019
Application includes list of schools you’re interested in, list of extracurricular activities, grades, transcript request and your essay.
|Start sending secondary applications
|Secondary application “open” period
This is when medical schools will begin opening any requests they have for submission. Check individual websites to see if any of your schools have done so. (Check websites for specific processes.)
|June 1-July 31, 2019
Note: Do not take more than 2 weeks to submit yours. Remember, you’re showing your interest.
|Primary applications deadlines for medical schools
|September 1-December 20, 2019
|Early decision deadline
Note: Not everyone will want an early decision, but those that do will have to meet this deadline.
|August 1, 2019
|Schools send out invitations for interviews
|August 1, 2019-January 31, 2020
|AMCAS regular decision deadlines
Note: Dates are specific by school.
|September 1-December 20, 2019
|Admissions decisions are released
|Beginning March 1, 2020
Note: If you are waitlisted, that’s a step in the right direction. You may be admitted later, even as late the very beginning of the school year.
One of the most difficult and lengthy admissions processes that exist in higher education is the transferring into an American medical institute with a non-U.S. undergraduate degree. Because of this, study the academic criteria of the medical schools you are most interested in. Then do an honest assessment of your academic record and future objectives. Being candid with yourself is important. Due to the rigor of the application process of medical schools, your academic credentials may fall within the top percentages of candidates. But they may not.
If your ultimate objective is to attend medical school in the United States, you may want to reconsider obtaining an undergraduate degree from abroad. It’s best to know your risks and likelihood of success beforehand. You don’t want to be halfway through a process that ends up providing no acceptable outcomes.
As you consider this criteria, also consider if there are alternatives to medical school that may better fit your needs, talents and interests. Talk with a higher education professional about your grades and other factors that can impact your future. It could be that something else is equally compelling for you, but is a better match for who you are.