There are many questions to ask when applying for medical school. One of such questions is “does medical school prestige matter?” On the surface, several surveys are implying that medical school ranking is irrelevant, as long as students are willing to absorb the material and give their best in exam situations. However, it goes more than that. There are so many reasons why your choice of medical school may matter. For instance, you want to look at the learning environment cultivated by a medical school and the effort it puts into preparing you for a career in medical school before you choose them. To help you make the right choice, this article focuses on talking about medical school choice and its impact from different angles.
How are Medical Schools Ranked?
We often hear aspiring doctors telling about how they dream of getting a spot in a highly ranked medical school. You don’t have to be ashamed you are one of such students because there’s nothing wrong with your dreams to attend a highly-raked, well-established school. However, it’s important to know how these rankings are generated and what they actually mean before dreaming. This part of our article focuses on providing insight into the often controversial ranking strategies for medical school.
Several rankings are released every year as far as medical schools are concerned, but only two among these rankings are valid across different schools and areas: The ranking based on primary care focus and ranking based on research ability. As a medical student, your interest in either list should depend on the career path you prefer. By career path here, we mean choosing between becoming a practicing physician and using your medical degree to pursue a career in medical research.
Of course, the panels responsible for these rankings consider several factors when calculating and finalizing the rankings list. They typically rate schools using different student-driven data. Some of such data include:
- The number of graduates that enter into primary care residencies or medical research after completing medical school.
- Average undergraduate GPA
- Average MCAT scores required for admission
- The acceptance rate of applicants.
Interestingly, the ranking list for primary care-focused medical institutions yields a different set of big names from the ranking list of research-oriented medical schools for obvious reasons. The use of different criteria means that you’ll find different arrangements across both platforms.
Another important ranking criterion is specializations within each medical school. Some schools are popular for their exploits in the surgical field, while others are known for bringing their A-game to pediatric training. Before picking a medical school from any ranking list, make sure you research the ranking criteria to be sure it fits into your overall career goals.
How Important is Medical School Ranking?
One question prospective medical students always ask is the importance of medical school ranking. Of course, there are several reasons why people opt for highly ranked medical institutions. One of such reasons is the perception that medical school ranking is one of the indicators of an institution’s quality. However, the importance of medical school ranking is a bit complicated, and understanding it would not be as clear-cut as other institutions.
For instance, institutions like business schools and law schools have readily available data showing employment rate and initial salary to be affected by school rank. This pushed students to pursue higher-ranked institutions.
Contrary to the above, medical students earn about the same amount of money when they choose to go into a residency training program. The income differential only comes in after the residency training and is entirely dependent on the area of specialization. Let’s mention at this point that some medical schools increase your chance of specializing in certain areas. The medical research rankings would also be important for students that aspire to find on with M.D./Ph.D. But the future opportunities that will come your way will be more influenced by your medical school performance than your school name.
So, how much influence should ranking have on your school selection?
Unfortunately, most people would not make it to Harvard Medical School. But there are hundreds of other medical schools around the world that you can consider.
Yes, the ranking will still influence your choice of study, but the extent of this influence should depend on your objectives. For instance, an aspiring physician-scientist would do better in a well-ranked research school with sufficient resources, grant-writing expertise, and aggressive publishing expectations. On the other hand, aspiring clinicians should factor in demographic, geographic, average GPA scores of an institution before thinking about its ranking.
However, your main focus should be on doing well in college to put you in a better place of gaining acceptance. We generally advise students to their state-residency schools, as well as schools with similar median GPA and MCAT scores as theirs. When researching for a school to apply to, you’ll do better using the available rankings to learn more about the different schools.
While it’s easy for students to jump on catchy name brands, we recommend opting for a high-quality state-owned medical school that would reduce the cost of tuition and other expenses. Remember that in the end, people barely know where their pediatricians, specialist physicians, and family physicians schooled. A physician’s success is tied to their competency and ability to offer proper care to patients and not their institutions.
Which is More Important? Medical School or Residency?
Over time, we’ve heard aspiring doctors repeatedly ask about which is better between medical school and residency. Simply put, both medical school and residency are important in building a competent health professional and none should be overlooked for the other. However, there are some differences between the two, and understanding these differences is vital for knowing how to pursue each. Here, let’s review the differences under different factors.
When talking about structure, we can’t overlook the fact that medical school usually takes a school setting. This means that you are paying tuition to earn your MD. On the other hand, residency involves learning while working on the job. Of course, you are now a doctor, although you’ll need to earn your license and board certification before practicing without supervision.
Residency makes you a doctor with real responsibility. At this point, you can take ownership of patients, with their care being your sole responsibility.
Another important difference between the two is the timeframe it takes to complete. Medical school generally lasts for 4 years. However, you can choose to stay back for an additional year to conduct research.
However, the timeframe for residency varies with high dependence on your specialty. Generally, surgical specialties take a longer time than non-surgical specialties.
Cost and Finances
It’s easy to tell that medical schools are far more expensive than residency. Recent figures show that you’ll need to spend nearly $200,000 to become a doctor. Students enrolled for residency do not face this challenge. In fact, the good news is that residency allows you to make money and start paying off the loan you’ve accrued in medical school. However, most students are not impressed with the fact that they would likely minimum payments during this time.
Knowledge and Skill Testing
Medical schools are typically characterized by frequent tests and assessments. But evaluations are mostly informal in residency. For instance, an intern may get verbal corrections when they make a mistake while administering minor treatments. Alternatively, interns often learn things like post-operative instructions, medication choice, etc., from attendings during the procedure. The goal is to help with the improvement of the skills and clinical judgment of the resident.
In the end, the major difference is that residency offers you your first opportunity to take care of patients. Indeed, it comes with a lot of stress and frustration, but we are not denying the fact that it is also very rewarding. It offers you an opportunity to finally practicalize everything you’ve been learning through the years.
Does Medical School Matter for Residency?
The short answer to this question is yes! Many factors combine to influence where you’ll do your residency and medical school ranking is one of them. However, the influence that this factor has is pretty small. In the medical field, it is believed that all schools provide students with equal educational opportunities. Therefore, hospitals and training centers do not outrightly reject you based on medical school ranking.
It’s almost the same instance when a new physician shows up requesting privileges at a hospital. People do not ask of his school. Instead, the question is always: “where did he/she train?” That is: where did the person do their residency or fellowship. Of course, it’ll come down to how you perform during your residency program. Rarely does anyone care about where you had your medical degree from?
However, if you are pursuing a top residency program in a specialty area, then your quest would most likely be affected by the rank of your medical school. Everybody gets residency, irrespective of medical school, but graduates of top-tier medical schools are considered first for top residency programs in certain specialty fields for obvious reasons.
Graduating from a top medical school may have its advantages, but the most important credential is what you’ve learned and your ability to take care of patients with little supervision.
Important Factors to Consider When Choosing a Medical School
One of the first critical decisions you’ll make as you embark on the long journey of medical school application is the choice of medical school. Thanks to the popularity of the medical career, there are now more medical schools for potential applicants to choose from. However, despite the available number, you’ll still need to pay careful attention to choosing the right one.
Of course, you want a school that makes the course interesting, but you’ll also need to be strategic about your application to maximize your chances of getting in. All these can make the process quite complicated, but a knowledge of the right factors to consider will help you make the right choice. Here are some factors to consider.
The first important decision to make is your preferred location. Think about where you want to live. Do you prefer to live in a small town or a big city? Beyond the location of the medical school, you should also consider how you feel about the school itself when visiting. Go to an open day. Leverage the opportunity to look at different parts of the school from lecture venues to the library, and training hospital. Ask yourself whether you’ll be happy learning under the condition for years.
Medical schools are pretty expensive, making it quite difficult to graduate without students’ debt. However, some schools are more expensive than others; hence, the need to consider the cost of attending and graduating from each school before applying. You’ll indeed have access to student loans and grants, but you don’t want to spend your entire life on repayment. Thankfully, medical school ranking does not matter so much when you start practicing. Therefore, you can choose one that’s close enough to your budget and work hard towards being better in the practice.
If you are trying to train in a competitive specialty, then prestige is something to consider. As pointed out earlier, prestigious medical schools give people a slight advantage during residency matching and this is why average students coming from a top of class medical school may find the residency match stage easier than outstanding students coming from average medical schools. The prestige discussion continues into the fellowship application stage, and even while applying for second degrees. You don’t want to choose a school that will leave you regretting in the later stages of your education. However, you must also learn to balance school prestige with tuition costs.
Class Size and Makeup
Although rarely talked about, class size and makeup is an important issue as far as medical school is concerned. Your medical school classmates would be the closest to you throughout medical school and they’ll there to vouch for you in the long run. Classmates also become medical directors and heads of departments. Expanding your network starts in medical school. This is why we always advise prospective medical students to choose larger schools when applying, all other things being equal.
Wrapping Things Up: Does it Matter Where You Go to Medical School
There you have it, a detailed review of all the angles necessary to answer the question: “do school rankings matter?” Choosing the right medical school involves a lot. You want a medical school that allows you to learn everything necessary to make you a better doctor. Beyond ranking, there are so many things to consider. Throughout this article, we’ve talked about different aspects of this topic to help you make the right choice as far as medical school is concerned.