Why (or why not) attend medical school in the Caribbean?
Maybe you really like sunshine and sand, but that’s not why people migrate south for medical school. Here’s the reason: Caribbean schools, and in fact most foreign medical schools, are relatively easy to get into. Applicants with extremely low MCAT scores (17 is the lowest I’ve heard of), low cumulative and science GPAs (I’ve heard of 2.0), poor extra-curricular involvement, and/or low English language proficiency may not stand a chance getting accepted at MD or DO programs in the U.S., but they definitely do at Caribbean and other foreign schools. Since they’re “for-profit” institutions, these schools are willing to admit students who have little likelihood of passing certification exams and/or getting accepted for U.S. residencies. The schools are in it for your tuition, not necessarily your success. That said, you can still graduate from a Caribbean school with the same MD status as your peers in the States, as long as you pass the board exams. If you want to practice medicine in the U.S., you’ll have a tougher time matching into a residency, since residencies you try matching to will know where you went to school, and the reason you probably decided to go there in the first place.
How do I know if a Caribbean/foreign medical school is a good one?
On the whole, medical school is going to be tough wherever you go. You’ll have professors who know their stuff and know how to teach. Even at schools in Mexico and the Caribbean. Probably the best determinant to consider is the school’s match statistics, which show how many fourth year students get categorical matches for residencies each year. Some foreign schools also have programs for students to complete “away electives” at U.S. hospitals where they can make contacts with and potentially receive letters of reference from faculty advisers on the mainland.
Can I qualify for federal aid if I attend a foreign medical school?
Yes, you can. But for whatever reason, students at foreign medical schools tend to graduate with an average of $235,000 in debt, compared to $158,000 for graduates of U.S. medical schools. You’ve been forewarned…