If you’re an international student aspiring to attend medical school in the United States, you’ve made a smart choice. The U.S. is home to many prestigious medical schools and related programs in healthcare, pharma, and biotech disciplines.
The application process for U.S. medical schools can be competitive. Not all programs in the U.S. accept international students, and requirements can vary from school to school. So, it’s important to do thorough research into prospective programs to ensure you have the full picture of what is needed for your school(s) of choice.
It’s also vital to note that international students are often required to meet additional criteria, such as demonstrating successful completion of courses at an American-accredited university, obtaining a bachelor’s degree from a school in the U.S., and showing proficiency in English.
In addition to stringent entrance requirements, international students are limited to a smaller number of schools to which they can apply. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, there are only 45 medical schools in the U.S. that accept international students (as of 2022). As previously mentioned, schools use different criteria to determine the eligibility of international students, but you should generally be prepared to meet two common, yet essential, requirements:
- Take at least one year of coursework at an accredited U.S. college or university
- Demonstrate fluency in English
Some medical schools go beyond these requirements and add their own, such as having a bachelor’s degree or all prerequisite coursework must have been completed at an American university. Others only accept international students with an undergraduate degree from their own school.
Some general requirements
In the U.S., medical degrees are considered graduate-level degrees, meaning you cannot enroll directly in the program without a bachelor’s degree and satisfying prerequisite requirements. Typically, applicants earn a bachelor's (undergraduate) degree in a related science subject (such as biology or chemistry) before applying to medical school.
These are some general U.S. medical school requirements:
- Undergraduate degree in a scientific field
- Letters of recommendation
- Extracurricular activities
- Minimum MCAT exam result (set by each university individually)
Another key part of the application process is completing an English proficiency exam. While you have options for which test to take, the TOEFL iBT® test is the gold standard of English proficiency exams for a reason — and its focus on 100% academic English will help you stand out to admissions officers and highlight your ability to succeed at a U.S. medical school.
Financial aid and scholarships
Getting into medical school is an incredible accomplishment — but it’s also expensive. While international students can get financial aid, they are typically not eligible for federal loans. However, there are options. Students can secure private loans or pursue an institutional loan if offered by the school. Something else to keep in mind: some schools may ask you to prove that you can pay for the entirety of medical school or have the full amount placed in an escrow account.
U.S. medical schools use the American Medical School Application Service (AMCAS®) to facilitate the application process. As an international student, you’ll utilize AMCAS to apply to schools, but the service does not accept foreign transcripts (or translated/evaluated transcripts). It also does not verify coursework completed overseas, unless accepted by an accredited U.S. or U.S. territorial institution. Even if your coursework is not verified, you may still be asked to submit your transcript by the schools you apply to.
What are the programs of study at U.S. medical schools?
Throughout your medical studies, you’ll advance your medical knowledge as well as develop important skills such as communication, research, bedside manner, and more.
During their final year, medical students choose a specialization and apply to residency programs. In residency, medical graduates train in hospitals with other healthcare practitioners. After completing this stage, residents can pursue a fellowship, which lasts 1–3 years, and focuses on a sub-specialization.
To practice medicine, physicians must be licensed by the state in which they want to work. The criteria for certification are established by 24 specialty boards, which require regular recertification due to the rapid changes that occur in the fields of medicine and healthcare.
Start on the path to medical school by taking the gold standard of English proficiency exams. Learn more about the TOEFL iBT® test.
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