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Choosing a School

On average, applicants apply to between 12-15 schools. While you may apply to more or fewer than this, you should only apply to schools where you’d be happy to attend if accepted.

A good approach to choosing professional schools is to make a list of factors prioritized by what is most important to you. Consider where you’ll be competitive, but also your values, goals, and personal needs.

Below are some factors to consider when choosing where you want to apply and ultimately where you will attend. Scroll to the bottom of this page for resources to help in your research. As you collect information, use this worksheet to keep track of how well each school aligns with your priorities.


Mission
Each school has its own unique mission and focus. Some schools emphasize primary care, while others prioritize research or working in underserved communities. You are a more attractive candidate to schools whose area of emphasis aligns with your own goals and interests.

Curriculum
There is likely a correlation between a school’s mission and curriculum. Gauge whether a school’s curricular objectives align with your interests by looking at course requirements and elective options.

Education Style
Each school has its own academic structure and teaching methods. Programs can vary in their grading systems (pass/fail, letter grades, or a combination), whether lectures are mandatory or recorded, and how soon students begin interacting with patients. Some have a traditional, lecture-based style, while others promote small group discussions and problem-based learning exercises.

GPA & Admissions Exam Scores
Compare potential schools’ acceptance data around GPA and exam scores with your own scores and transcript. While admissions officers take a holistic approach to evaluating applicants, assessing not only academic metrics, but experiences and personal attributes, it is still important to ensure you are being realistic.

State Residency
Your best chance of acceptance lies within the state in which you hold residency. In-state residents are commonly given preference for admission at public schools, as often their mission is to train health professionals who will stay and practice in their state. When considering out-of-state schools, pay close attention to the percentage of students accepted from within the state.

Location
Your professional school’s location will become your home, so make sure it is somewhere you’ll be comfortable living. Consider the proximity to your support system of family or friends and whether you want to live in a big city or a rural area. You may also want to consider the climate, availability of public transportation, and housing options.

Cost & Financial Aid
The most cost-effective option is a public school in the state where you live. State residents pay lower tuition than non-residents. For out-of-state schools, there is not much cost difference between public and private schools. However, don’t automatically assume a private school will always be more expensive. Some private institutions have large endowments which allow them to offer significant scholarship aid. If you are offered admission to more than one school, weigh your options in financial aid, including whether you are being offered scholarships or grants and how much you would need to take out in loans.  

Student Body
Consider schools with a class size and demographics where you will feel comfortable. Not only will you be taking courses with these students, but they will become your colleagues and professional connections in the future.

Extracurricular Activities
If you like to be involved in activities outside of class, investigate which schools offer the types of experiences you enjoy. Are there research opportunities in your area of interest? Is the school situated in a community where you’d like to volunteer? Do they have active student organizations?

Support Services
Find out what types of academic assistance and personal support are available. Some schools may have mentoring or support programs set up to make sure students find the resources they need.

 


Resources for Exploration

Online Databases
Some professions have databases which include information about schools across the country all in one website. These resources are free unless otherwise noted. 

  1. Allopathic Medicine
  2.  Osteopathic Medicine
  3. Dental
  4. Optometry
  5. Pharmacy
  6. Podiatry

School Websites
Although the specific content on each school’s website varies, every professional program provides information for prospective students. It is a good idea to visit school websites for more specific information after using the databases above. You will also find contact information for admissions representatives here and can reach out to them if you have questions that aren’t answered on the website.

Events & Student Organizations
Attend open houses or informational sessions provided by the schools in which you have an interest. MSU student organizations also often host presentations by admissions representatives from professional schools or panels of current students. 

Social Media
By following professional schools on social media, you can find out about events being offered for prospective students. Their posts may also provide insight into the school’s values and activities that are offered.

Interviews & School Visits
An interview is a great time to ask questions! If you visit the school, be sure to notice and ask questions about the facilities during a tour. If an opportunity to connect with current students is offered, take advantage of this time to hear their perspective.