Studying medicine in the USA generally begins AFTER completion of four years of undergraduate study which includes meeting the pre-medical school course requirements along with obtaining a bachelor’s (B.A.) degree in any subject. Medical school itself usually lasts four years and is followed by 3-7 years of graduate medical education (internship/residency). A few medical schools provide limited programs beginning after high school that combine undergraduate college study with medical education. Students are admitted provisionally to these programs based upon their high school credentials and, if their performance is satisfactory, are permitted to progress to the M.D. degree. This program generally takes six or seven years and admission to it is extremely competitive for foreign students.
There are very few opportunities for foreign students to obtain the Doctor of Medicine degree in the United States. American medical schools receive twice as many applications from qualified U.S. citizens as can be accommodated and many of the publicly-supported medical schools are required by law to admit only state residents.
Most institutions require foreign students to have completed at least the last two years of their undergraduate study in a U.S. college or university. An increasing number of medical schools require a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. school. Even with a U.S. bachelor’s degree, medical schools admit few foreign students since space is so limited. In 2001, of the 34,859 submitted applications, there were 17,456 accepted of which 230 were foreign students
The admission procedure
All applicants to medical schools are also required to take the Medical College Admission Test. The MCAT examines understanding of the basic concepts in Biology, Chemistry and Physics as well as verbal reasoning skills and it includes two writing samples.
The test should be taken 18 months prior to the intended date of enrollment. The deadlines for registration at overseas centers are two months in advance. Application materials for the MCAT are available directly from :
MCAT Program Office,
2255 North Dubuque Road,
Iowa City, IA 52243
The medical school’s admissions committee will consider the following factors when deciding whether or not to admit a student to their medical program:
- undergraduate academic record,
- scores on the MCAT,
- letters of recommendation,
- extracurricular activities,
- personal qualities and
- commitment to medicine.
The majority of American students who intend to apply to medical schools take their bachelor’s degree in Biology, Chemistry or another science-related subject, although this is not mandatory (or even encouraged). The nature of the American liberal arts degree allows students to obtain a strong foundation in the natural sciences and humanities. All medical schools advocate the importance of such an education.
A “pre-medical curriculum” is a particular sequence of subjects including Calculus, Psychology, Biology, Organic/Inorganic Chemistry, Physics and English. Note that a “pre-med” degree does not guarantee entry into a medical school and may not be the best curriculum for all students, depending upon your individual interests. It is also possible to take this sequence of subjects while majoring in an unrelated subject.
Tuition fees and total annual cost
Annual tuition and fees at public medical schools in 2005-2006 averaged $19,961 for state residents and $38,865 for non-residents. At private schools, tuition and fees averaged $36,271 for residents and $37,872 for nonresidents. These figures do not include housing or living expenses.
How to apply
Applications is made either to individual schools directly or, where required, through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). AMCAS is a centralized, nonprofit application processing service and does not make admissions decisions nor does it advise students where to submit applications. It provides a single application form which is sent by AMCAS to as many medical schools as the student specifies, each for a fee, and this may considerably reduce the time and expense necessary for multiple direct applications. At present 96 medical schools participate in AMCAS. The AMCAS form is obtainable from:
Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)
2450 N Street NW
Washington DC 20037-1123
And must be returned to AMCAS no earlier than June 15 in the year prior to the year of intended admission (for example, June 15, 2004 for entry in September, 2005). Medical school application deadlines generally fall between October and December for admission the following September. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) publishes the Medical School Admission Requirements , which gives general information about medical education in the U.S.A., as well as the requirements of each medical school. This publication can be obtained from:
Association of American Medical Colleges
2450 N Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037-1126
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