Graduates’ Dilemma: Medical School or Medical University

For all high school students who want to devote their lives to medicine, making the right choice for studying becomes a big deal. If you have decided that a doctor’s profession is your destiny, you should understand the difference between medical school and medical university.
For today, everyone who applies and matriculates at a US medical school should have an undergraduate degree from a 4-year university. You can achieve that in a two different ways.
The first way is quite a common practice, to apply for admission to an undergraduate program and medical school separately. To do this, you would first attend a university, then apply for medical school with the intent of matriculating after you have completed a bachelor’s degree. At the earliest, you could apply in the summer/fall of your final year. You also have the option of taking one or more years off between college and medical school, which would mean that you would apply at a later date. This isn’t an easy route, given the MCAT (the pre-requisite classes), and the extreme selectivity of medical schools today, but it’s most often your best bet. The advantages here are:

  • If you aren’t sure that you want to practice medicine, you have the chance to explore your options without making a commitment.
  • If you’re aiming for a more selective medical school, many of the ‘elite’ schools don’t have BS/MD linkage programs. Often, the students who make it into direct-admit programs are those who are likely to be competitive MD applicants later on, anyway.
  • If you want to take one or more years off between college and medical school, this may be a better option because you have the flexibility to pursue other studies or career opportunities in between.

The second option would be to apply to a BA/BS-MD program. These programs guarantee a candidate admission to an undergraduate program and its corresponding medical school at the same time. These programs are exceptionally selective, but probably the “easiest” route to medical school once you’re actually accepted. The advantages here are:

  • You’re in, and the weight is off. Every year, only about 40–45% of the applicants to US M.D. medical schools are accepted. The ‘average’ medical school applicant doesn’t get into medical school. If you have an acceptance, you can direct your attention away from making straight A’s and preparing for the MCAT. It can be very liberating, if you use the time productively.
  • Many of these accelerated programs abbreviate the pre-medical years to three, or even two, years. If saving time (and tuition) is a priority, then this could be advantageous for you.

There’s a third option that we would not advocate as strongly, and that is to do your medical education abroad in a foreign program where students enter medical school directly out of high school. These programs might seem tempting for many reasons. They’re faster, often cheaper, and less selective than the BS/MD linkage programs. However, if you go through these, you will be in the category of foreign medical graduates, which puts you at a disadvantage relative to residency applicants from US schools. This may seem like the easier approach at first, but it is much more difficult down the road.