Choosing the medical schools you apply to is an important part of being a successful candidate. The school selection process is part of the Application Curriculum and you are expected to attend the School Selection Workshop and/or review the materials prior to your RMA appointment.

Consider these factors:

School Type

Private schools have no preference for state residency. They accept applicants from all states and as a result, have many applications. State schools are often funded by their state legislature to increase the number of physicians in the state and therefore they mostly accept applicants who are residents of that state. There are usually fewer applicants. You will be more competitive at state schools where you hold residency and less competitive at state schools where you are not a resident. Some states have no medical schools, but have an agreement with schools in neighboring states where you will have an advantage in applying.

Mission Statement

You may be surprised that the mission statements of medical schools often vary considerably. Find schools where their mission statement values align with your personal and professional values.

Metrics (GPA & MCAT)

Use the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) website to find schools where your GPAs and MCAT scores fall within their accepted ranges.

Your reach schools will be schools where the average GPAs and MCAT scores are higher than your scores. Target schools will have GPAs and MCATs in your range. While there is no such thing as a “safety” school in the medical school applications process, you should include several schools in the mix that have GPAs and MCAT score lower than yours.

Size, Demographics, Location

The size and demographics of the medical school in terms of its student body as well as its faculty may be an important factor in your decision. Student life can be different with a class of 50 versus 200, or with a more homogenous vs. a more diverse student body. Look at the school's geographic location and how that impacts your social support. Is the medical school connected to a major university and a college campus? Is it in a large city, or more rural area? 


Look at their educational program. When would you begin to see patients? What is the grading system? Is there a focus or a time that you can be engaged in research? Do they offer dual degrees (e.g., JD/MPH/MBA)? Would you do your clinical rotations in a single hospital or would you rotate among hospitals? Where does the patient population come from?


Consider the tuition, the cost of living (housing, food, transportation), and availability of financial aid by that school.

Personal Factors

Is there a reason to apply to a specific school, e.g. your relationship with an organization, a hobby or volunteer activity, or your family? If there is something you view as a selection criteria that will be a vital contributing factor to your success in medical school then be sure to include it.

Number of Schools to Apply To

Many factors need to be considered when deciding how many schools you want to apply to. Too few can be risky; too many can be excessively expensive and not wise. As a starting point, the national average is 17 schools; for Duke students, 20 to 25 schools is average. This is something you can work on through the School Selection workshop and discuss with your advisor when you schedule a Review My Application appointment.

Resources for Selecting Schools

Read individual school websites. Look at the information on the MSAR. Connect with current medical students if possible. Duke Med Map is a great first step for connecting with Duke alumni who are currently in medical school.

Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) $28 for a year subscription; $36 for a two year subscription

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