Before applying to medical school, every aspiring student should know the options. We’ve all been through years of school by now…it’s always best to do your homework, right? So what is the story on Caribbean Medical Schools? Should I consider them as an option? Should I apply?
The Current Reality of Applying to U.S. Medical SchoolsThe average matriculation rate for applicants to U.S. medical schools varies by year, but it is generally somewhere around 40%. What this actually means is that less than half of students who apply to medical school in the U.S. end up being accepted to one. Therefore, it is wise to consider all the options and know about alternatives to the traditional allopathic (MD) medical school approach. First, osteopathic (DO) schools are a great option for many students. A previous post has touched on this, and look out for more content in the future. But what about the student that may have a GPA and MCAT below the average for both MD and DO schools? One option to consider is attending medical school in the Caribbean.
Caribbean Medical School OptionsThere are several medical schools located in the Caribbean, but not all should be considered for a U.S. applicant. The reason is that these schools have varying accreditation status. There is a limited number of Caribbean schools (< 10) which are considered to meet U.S. standards, as determined by the United States Department of Education. At present, 4 Caribbean Medical Schools operate specifically as a path to U.S. medical residency:
- St. George’s University
- Trinity School of Medicine
- American University of Antigua
- Ross School of Medicine
Medical School Average GPA and MCAT Scores
|Top Caribbean schools (4 schools listed above)||3.2 – 3.4||24 – 27||2014|
- Easier acceptance – there is no denying that the average GPA and MCAT scores are lower for Caribbean medical schools compared to U.S. medical schools. So it logically follows that it is easier to gain acceptance in the Caribbean. For some students who are concerned about the strength of their application, Caribbean schools can be a great option as a backup or alternative to applications within the US.
- Rolling admissions throughout the year – some programs in the Caribbean have admissions that occur on a rolling basis regardless of time of year, allowing students to matriculate shortly after acceptance.
- High attrition rate – many Caribbean medical schools accept a high number of students in each class (sometimes up to 1,000, which is much higher than any U.S. medical school). However, a much lower number of students actually end up graduating. Sometimes as high as 30-40% of students fail or drop out, and some say this is due to systemic lack of support and rigorous/competitive passing standards breeding a toxic student culture.
- Variable clinical experience – the majority of Caribbean medical schools do not have clinical rotations in the U.S.. As you might imagine, this can lead to a variable, and potentially weak, clinical experience in years 3 and 4 of medical school (your clerkship years).
- Risk of being unable to match for residency in the U.S. – United States MD medical schools have average match rates above 90% and DO programs above 80%. On the contrary, Caribbean schools on average have match rates around 50%, with the best schools only around 70%.
- Limited options for future residency – by attending a Caribbean medical school, there is a much lower chance of matching into residency for some of the competitive specialties such as orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, dermatology, head and neck surgery, and neurosurgery. It is certainly harder to match no matter what specialty you chose, but matching into the most competitive specialties from a Caribbean school can be a Herculean feat.