School selection is a difficult topic for many medical school students. It’s easy enough to make preliminary choices based on factors like state residency, but it can be difficult to narrow your choices down from that point on. That’s especially frustrating for applicants who hear that they will increase their admissions chances if they explain why they are applying to a particular school.

The advice we give prospective medical students who are trying to decide which schools to apply to is that, quite simply, the medical education that you will get at most schools is more or less the same. There are some differences in teaching styles and philosophies – for example, one school might favor group discussions, seminars, and self-directed learning, whereas another might stick predominantly to the lecture format. But the content of courses and the education you’ll get are all about equal.

Don’t fall into the trap of choosing a medical school because it’s particularly known for a specialty that you’re interested in. You want to choose a residency, not a school, according to its strength of specialty.

For the top tier schools, what you are buying in large part is a network. If you are a graduate of Johns Hopkins, Duke, or UCSF, you will have access to that alumni network. That may lead to having opportunities down the road because of your medical school alma mater.

Unless you are clearly a superior applicant, who may be able to be selective in their application choices, our general advice is to select a range of schools. That will increase your chances of getting interviews.

In addition, applicants should think about how comfortable they will be living in a particular school community. Think about things like the geographic locations of schools – are they urban, suburban, or rural? You are going to be living there for four years. Although you’ll be busy, there will be some down time for entertainment. Would you be happier hiking and skiing or going to a fancy restaurant and out to the theater? The lifestyle in the area where your medical school exists is important, so give it some thought.

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