For International Students
Each year American universities welcome thousands of international students to their campuses. These students enrich the academic and social environment with their diversity of perspective and experience and with their richness of linguistic and cultural heritage. The students, in turn, are usually excited about the academic opportunities that drew them to American campuses and may have been led to believe that their offers of admission mean that the full panoply of American educational opportunity is available to them. Many are dismayed, consequently, when they discover that while that is largely true, there is one major exception, and that is in the area of medical education. American medical schools (and this includes dental, osteopathic, veterinary and most graduate schools in the health professions), for the most part, will not accept applications from anyone other than American citizens or permanent residents ("green cards").
Why is this?
The first reason is that medical education is very expensive. The tuition is expensive, but the tuition is actually only a fraction of what it costs to educate a doctor. There is a tremendous shortage of medical doctors in the United States right now, and a corresponding emphasis on training students who can practice within this country. If you are planning to stay in the US after your medical training, you can work on applying for citizenship first, in order to indicate your intentions. Secondly, as part of your medical education, you will need to work in hospitals. An F-1 visa specifically prohibits employment.
Also, unlike for undergraduate education, private scholarships are virtually nonexistent for medical school. American students finance their medical education largely through government-sponsored loans, which are only available to citizens and permanent residents. International students are often required to place in escrow a sum equivalent to two to four years’ tuition and fees, which currently can run to over US$300,000.
But I heard that some schools accept international students.
Some do. In this year’s issue of the MSAR, 58 medical schools are listed as accepting international applicants (the University of Washington is not one of them). However, of those 58, twelve will only accept applications from citizens of Canada. Of the remaining 46, fourteen did not take any international applicants during the last application cycle. Typically international students are admitted at one-quarter the rate of American students, and that "international" figure includes Canadian students, international students who are in the last stages of getting their citizenship, and students who are applying for MD/PhD programs (which are more open to international students, but much more competitive).
I’m really interested in medicine. What can I do?
Our office will support your efforts if you decide to apply for medical school. But we encourage you to think about creating a backup plan. We recommend investigating the following:
- Graduate programs in medical sciences. Consider pursuing a PhD in medically-related sciences, such as epidemiology, immunology, bioengineering, genome sciences, or one of many other fields.
- Consider exploring medical education options in your home country.
- Graduate programs in Public Health.
- MD/PhD programs
- And here’s an encyclopedic website on health careers in general.
- Finally, there are a few schools outside the US that accept students of all nationalities:
DukeNUS Graduate Medical School, Singapore
Poznan University of Medical Sciences, Poland
Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara School of Medicine