Anyone who has ever considered applying to medical school knows that it’s an extremely high stress experience. You have to choose the right schools, take all the right courses as an undergraduate, excel on the MCAT, and take out substantial loans. It’s an uphill battle, but one with a worthy end goal.
There are, however, alternatives to competing within the traditional med school process in the U.S. – going to medical school abroad. Though rules about future practice vary, if you go to an accredited medical school elsewhere, you may find yourself well-positioned for your future career.
One of the main reasons that students consider going abroad for medical school is because acceptance rates are higher and average MCAT scores and undergraduate GPAs are lower than at U.S.-based schools. This means that students who struggle with standardized tests or who had a rough spot in college can make up for those difficulties where it matters – in the med school classroom and in their residencies. That work matters much more in the long run, but sometimes the only way to get over the past is to escape it entirely.
Where To Go: The Caribbean And Cuba
When we say that MCAT scores and GPAs are lower outside of the U.S., we don’t necessarily mean at medical schools in Europe or Canada. Rather, most students who opt to go away for medical school end up going to schools in the Caribbean and in Cuba, whether they want to become surgeons or are studying to become physical therapists.
Schools in the Caribbean are a great option because many of them are actually very high performing and offer residencies at U.S. hospitals affiliated with the Island programs. This is possible because the schools have approval from the U.S. Department of Education. The Dept. of Education’s Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation determine which schools meet U.S. educational standards and can participate in such exchanges.
Programs in Cuba are less well-known, particularly because of the U.S.’s long standing embargo and travel restrictions with the country, but are actually quite challenging. Cuban medical programs may actually be more challenging as the isolated country is known for its medical excellence. Going to school in Cuba, then, can actually be as much a diplomatic choice as an educational one.
Those with outstanding educational records may also opt to head to the Caribbean or other territories to study, but for different reasons. Consider, for example, that student-professor ratios are typically lower in the Caribbean than they are in the U.S. and it’s typically easier for students to obtain research opportunities early on. Even if the school itself is not considered as elite as an American medical school, solid research experience can bolster your resume when it comes time to match with a U.S. residency.
All American doctors ultimately need to have the same skills – they need to pass the boards and be licensed to practice in the U.S. That means that no matter where you choose to study, you’ll have to apply yourself to the fullest to succeed in your career. Medicine isn’t an easy road, but it’s one of the most fulfilling career paths you could choose.