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Does Medical School Ranking Matter?

January 12, 2022
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Part 1: IntroductionPart 2: How Medical Schools Are RankedPart 3: Unranked Medical SchoolsPart 4: School Rank: Things to ConsiderPart 5: Med School Ranking FAQsPart 6: Conclusion

Introduction

Choosing a medical school is a tough decision, and there are many factors to consider. Every school has unique benefits, from smaller class sizes to state-of-the-art equipment. Students are often conflicted about their medical school decision and look beyond their research to find answers.

Many online sources rank medical schools, and you may be curious to know if you should use those rankings to aid your decision. How much does medical school ranking matter? Here we’ll answer all of your questions surrounding medical school rankings. Let’s get started!

How Medical Schools Are Ranked

First, it’s important to note that every ranking system uses different criteria. It may cause confusion when one top ten list is entirely different from another. Rank lists also vary depending on what specialty they are focused on.

Both U.S. News and Q.S. are trustworthy sources for medical school ranking lists. Although they use some of the same criteria, their methodology is not identical. Here we’ll go over how each news source comes up with its rankings.

U.S. News

U.S. News provides a detailed description of the factors they use to determine top medical schools on their website. The elements are as follows:

U.S. News regularly updates its criteria and the percentage of each category valued. They also rank medical schools according to specialty for a more specific search. 

Q.S. World University Rankings

Q.S. world university rankings use a shorter list of broader criteria to decide their top schools. Its four key components are combined and weighted to determine results for each discipline. The four components are:

QS has detailed descriptions of each component and how they are weighted on their website.

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Unranked Medical Schools

If a medical school is unranked, it simply means it hasn’t provided enough information to be included in the research process. The above lists require specific statistics from each school to make accurate decisions about placements.

An unranked medical school could also indicate a low approval rating, although it’s not likely in longer lists. The most likely scenario for not seeing a school on a rank list is that the information was not available to the public.

School Rank: Things to Consider

While you can reference the top 10 lists of different websites to find out which school has the best overall statistics, it’s essential to do your research and create your own rank list. 

Every student has unique things they look for in a school, which are more relevant than any online list. Your school should rank number one according to your criteria. Here we’ll list some of the things you should consider when making your list:

Reputation

A school’s reputation will affect the types of jobs you’ll be offered in the future. Schools with higher rankings typically have a glowing international reputation. If an employer sees a well-known school on your CV, they may be more inclined to trust your medical knowledge and abilities.

It’s also critical to find out if your school has a bad reputation. For example, if a school has consistently low USMLE scores, it may indicate that it won’t adequately prepare you for your future career. School scandals can also impact a prospective employer’s judgment. 

Location

Your school’s location is an essential factor to consider on a personal level. Think about housing costs, living costs, campus accessibility, climate, neighborhood, and distance relative to friends and family. You’ll spend a lot of time at school, so it’s vital to make sure you are comfortable there.

Median MCAT, GPA, and USMLE

A school’s median test scores say a lot about it. Any good medical school should adequately prepare its students for tests and, later on, residency.

Your school’s median MCAT scores will indicate what is expected of its applicants. The median GPA will allow you to get an idea of how students are currently performing at your school. Finally, your school’s median USMLE scores indicate how well students are prepared by the end of their degree. 

Residency Placement Rates

Your school’s residency placement rates indicate how likely you are to get a placement after your degree. A school with a low residency placement rate may fail to prepare its students or have a bad reputation. In contrast, schools with high placement rates take all the proper steps to produce knowledgeable, hirable students. 

Specialty-specific assets: It is crucial to do your school research by specialty, as each program performs differently. For example, school A may have better overall numbers than school B. Still, school B may have a superior anesthesiology program that would rank them higher on an anesthesiology-focused list. 

The overall ranking is not always the most critical factor. Personalizing your list according to your specialty and specific interests will help you find the perfect school for you.

Personal Connection

Sometimes, a personal link to a school can mean more than their statistics. Perhaps you’ve wanted to go to this school since you were a child, or your family has a tie to it; these are all valid reasons to be drawn to a school. So long as it doesn’t have a bad reputation, your connection to a school should factor into your final decision.

Acceptance Rates

Acceptance rates are an essential statistic when deciding how many schools to apply to. While a low acceptance rate shouldn’t deter you from applying to a good school, you should consider your odds of acceptance and apply to more schools if they are low. 

Financial Aid

Financials can also be a significant consideration when making your list. Do some research about the financial aid and scholarships offered through your school. Some schools may provide you with scholarships that others won’t, which can sway your decision. Even if you’ve secured loans, choosing a more affordable school can be highly beneficial in repayment.

Prestige

Attending an ivy league school can open up high-paying job opportunities and offer good connections in the medical field. Although these schools are highly competitive and cost more, the pros typically outweigh the cons. Your decision can factor in prestige but shouldn’t be based solely on it. There are many excellent schools and programs that are not a part of the ivy league group.

Once you’ve applied the above considerations to your list, you may better understand what the top schools are for you. Is your top school affordable? Do its top programs coordinate with your specialty? Is the location ideal? 

Whichever schools tick most of your boxes should be the ones you apply for. No online list will identify which schools are the best for you, but with a bit of research and planning, you may be surprised how many schools fit the bill.

Med School Ranking FAQs

1. What is the best-ranked medical school in the U.S.?

Harvard University is the top-ranked university in the U.S. and worldwide. 

2. What is the best-ranked medical school in the U.K.?

Oxford is the top-ranked medical school in the U.K. and second worldwide.

3. Where can I find reliable medical school rank lists?

U.S. News and Q.S. World Rankings both have reliable medical school rank lists. 

4. How should I decide what medical school to attend?

Deciding which medical school to attend can be a difficult decision. Your choice should factor in your school’s reputation, test scores, financial aid, specialty programs, and more. 

5. What school is best for general surgery?

Johns Hopkins University has the top-ranked general surgery program in the U.S.

6. What school is best for internal medicine? 

The University of California in San Francisco has the top-ranked internal medicine program in the U.S.

Conclusion

Different criteria form every rank list, but the only list that should matter is yours. The best way to find the perfect medical school for you is by researching a few specific areas and compiling a list.

Consider both statistician and personal factors when making your decision. If you’re still having trouble deciding, listen to your gut. The only person who can determine your future is you. 

Good luck!

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