Does Medical School Ranking Matter?

September 8, 2022


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 9/8/22

Does medical school ranking matter? We’ll unpack this question and everything you need to know about rankings below! 

Choosing a medical school is tough, and there are many factors to consider. Every school has unique benefits, such as smaller classes or state-of-the-art facilities. Students are often conflicted about their med school decision and search for answers.

Many online sources rank medical schools, and you may be curious to know if you should consider those rankings. How much does medical school ranking matter? And does it matter which medical school you go to? We’ll answer all your questions surrounding medical school rankings. Let’s get started!

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Does Medical School Ranking Matter? 

The short and complicated answer is yes and no. Whether or not med school rankings matter depends on what criteria they’re being ranked on. Medical school rankings can help you determine what resources the school offers, its prestige, and other factors. 

Dr. Phillips, who directs the Center for Professionalism and Value in Health Care at the American Board of Family Medicine Foundation, suggests that:

“Students should be careful in using medical school rankings to inform their choices as many rankings are opinion-driven.” 

However, he also said that more data-driven rankings (such as those released by U.S. News) are better resources for medical school hopefuls exploring their options. It’s always best to check the methodology behind rankings to see what school placement is based on: rankings aren’t everything, but they can help you build a varied school list. 

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’re focused on.

Both U.S. News and QS are trustworthy sources for medical school rankings. Although they use some of the same criteria, their methodology is not identical, even if their rankings are sometimes similar; for example, they both rank Harvard as the best medical school. 

picture of Harvard Medical School building
Source: Harvard Medical School

Here we’ll outline how each news source comes up with rankings.

U.S. News

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

  • Quality Assessment
  • Peer assessment score
  • Assessment score by residency directors
  • Student Selectivity
  • Median MCAT and undergraduate GPA
  • Acceptance rate
  • Faculty resources
  • Research Activity (total federal and average per faculty member)
  • Primary Care Production (graduates practicing in primary care specialties and residencies)

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

QS World University Rankings

Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) uses a shorter list of broader criteria to rank top schools. Its four key components are combined and weighted to determine results for each discipline. The four components are:

  • Academic Reputation
  • Employer Reputation
  • Research citations per paper
  • The H-index

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

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 unavailable. 

Med 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 research and create your own rank list. 

Although medical school rankings do matter in some contexts, every student has unique things they seek in schools, 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:


A school’s reputation can impact 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 determine if your school has a poor reputation. For example, if a school’s students consistently achieve low USMLE scores, it may indicate that it won’t adequately prepare you for the future. School scandals can also impact a prospective employer’s judgment. 


The school’s location is an essential factor to consider. There are many factors to consider: 

  • Housing costs
  • Living costs
  • Campus accessibility
  • Climate
  • Neighborhood
  • Distance relative to friends and family

You’ll spend a lot of time at school, so it’s vital to ensure you’re comfortable there.

Median MCAT, GPA, and USMLE

The 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.

The school’s median MCAT scores will indicate what’s expected of applicants. The median GPA allows you to understand the school’s competitiveness. Finally, the school’s median USMLE scores indicate how well students are prepared by the end of their degree. 

Residency Placement Rates

The 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 the proper steps to produce knowledgeable students. 

Specialty-Specific Assets

It’s 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. 

An overall ranking is not always the most critical factor. Personalizing your list according to your specialty and specific interests helps you find the perfect school.

Personal Connection

Sometimes, a personal link to a school can mean more than statistics. Perhaps you’ve wanted to attend this school since you were a child, or your family has a tie to it; these are 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 can be a factor 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’re low. However, it’s common for medical schools to have low acceptance rates!

Financial Aid

Which med school you go to does matter if you need financial aid. Research the financial aid and scholarships offered through schools. Some schools may provide you with scholarships that others won’t, which may sway your decision. 

Even if you’ve secured loans, choosing a more affordable school can help lessen your debt later.


Attending prestigious schools such as the Ivies can open the door to competitive positions and offer plentiful medical connections. Although these schools are highly competitive, 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 aren’t household names. 

Once you’ve applied the above considerations to your list, you may better understand what your top schools are. 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 to. No online list will identify which schools are the best for you, but with some research and planning, you may be surprised how many schools fit the bill.

Med School Ranking FAQs

If you have more questions about U.S. med school rankings and what they mean, read on for more information. 

1. What Is the Best Medical School in the U.S.?

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

2. Where Can I Find Reliable Medical School Rankings?

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

3. How Should I Decide What Medical School to Attend?

Deciding which medical school to attend can be challenging. You should consider the school’s reputation, instruction quality, financial aid opportunities, specialty programs, and more. 

4. Does Medical School Prestige Matter?

Medical school prestige doesn’t necessarily predict your instruction/curriculum’s quality, but it can show that the school has ample resources, world-class faculty, and name recognition. However, you should never base your decision solely on a school’s prestige. 

5. Does It Matter Which Med School You Go to?

The answer is complicated: it can matter. Attending a school with low residency rates and USMLE score rates can indicate that the school isn’t adequately preparing future medical professionals. However, most medical schools will prepare you for the road ahead. 

6. What Does an Unranked Medical School Mean? 

If you search a medical school and find it’s unranked, it usually means the school did not provide enough statistics or data to the organization making the ranking list. 

Finding The Best Medical School for You

Different criteria form every rank list, but your personal list matters most. The best way to find the perfect medical school is by researching, identifying what factors are most important to you, and compiling a list.

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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