How I’m Going to Get Into Medical School as an International Student

by Promise Okeke - Posts (5). Posted Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 at 9:50 am

The road to medical school is muddy, and one often stops to clean off the threatening mud.

In my last post, I highlighted the difficulty in getting into med school as an international student, and how hard I know I will have to work to make it happen. I have spent the last year meeting medical school deans, chief medical directors and chief of departments, volunteering at the hospital and shadowing a physician.

[Read more about getting into medical school as an international student]

In all my meetings with these people, there has been one thing each of them emphasized: hard work. They said I will have to work twice as hard as an American applicant to get into medical school. I don’t doubt that. Already it has been predictably rough to follow this dream.

I try not to stress myself too much over that, but I also know that stress is an intrinsic part of the process that no one can avoid, including U.S. citizens. Even doctors are stressed so there is no need looking for the easy way out. In the long run, one can only hope the hard work pays off.

The right scores

Something everyone emphasizes to me as vital for getting into medical school is high academic performance. Most med schools accept students with an average GPA of somewhere around 3.7. For an international student, a 3.9 would be helpful. Medical schools often say that test scores won’t make or break your application, but everyone I’ve asked has advised me to get a 30 or more on my MCAT.

Honestly, the bar is high. Even a champion high jumper would have trouble clearing it. Okay, forget the joke, but the standards admissions officers expect from foreign students are overwhelming. I shudder whenever I speak to medical school admission officers.

However discouraging the path may be, though, I will advise anyone passionate about medicine to keep taking those steps one at a time. If you are thinking of medical school, shadowing a doctor should be on your to-do list. It speaks a ton of you on “D-Day,” a.k.a. decision day. It shows you have at least some clinical experience and know first-hand what medicine is about.

Beyond good grades

The other day I was speaking to a dean at a medical school in the Midwest, and she told me that shadowing a physician is a vital qualification for a pre-med student applying to her school. Yes, it matters that much. And you never know if the physician you shadowed will agree to write a recommendation for you.

Volunteering at a hospital, or at any other place that involves patient contact, can also be helpful. Maybe you’ve only visited a hospital before when you were sick, but believe me, you want to rebuild your relationship with the hospital for a different reason now. And you may want to volunteer for a good amount of time. If that does not show anything else, it shows the extent of your devotion to this career path.

You might also think about gaining research experience if you want something that will set you apart. Medicine today is becoming research-oriented. If you are lucky and your paper becomes published in a respectable journal, you may as well be as competitive as anyone else in the medical school applicant pool.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. You can do everything to increase your medical school chances, but it all comes down to whether you and the medical school are a fit. That’s why I am going to keep working hard to get the scores I need, talking to people who can give me good advice along the way, and gaining as much experience as I can working with real doctors and real hospitals.

If you want to follow my journey, I am starting a new personal blog about my pursuit of medical school admissions at http://thef-1medicalcase.blogspot.com/.

27 Responses to “How I’m Going to Get Into Medical School as an International Student”

  1. Anon says:

    This is hopefully enough to get you the interview. You should consider a blog post about what you will do to improve your interview skills including: the elevator pitch, story-telling, and your public speaking skills overall. This is a long process that should start freshman year. Best of luck to you!

    • @Anon, thanks. I will eventually consider that in the near future. You can check out my personal blog too on http://thef-1medicalcase.blogspot.com. I have links to other medical blogs you may like.

      • Wow!
        Hi, Promise! I am from Ecuador. I have been reading your posts, and I want to congratulate you for all the efforts you are nowadays doing. I have applied to biology undergraduate programs in some American universities and I have been planning to study pre-med as well (if I get admitted to a university). I know the path to med school is extremely hard for international students, but I am still willing to take on this challenge, and now I am even much eager after reading all of your posts and comments!

        Yes, we can! I hope to keep updated with your inspirational story!
        By the way, are you a junior, senior, or what?

          • Oscar Hernandez says:

            And how did you do during your freshman year?
            I am planning to attend Upenn this fall, and I’d love to know more about your experience as an international student

          • How did I do? In what sense, I think I did well. I mean, I got involved in things I loved and took the best of every opportunity I had.

          • Tori says:

            hi…i am from Belize… I have this tough decision of choosing between studying in Mexico or the US. One friend says to go to the US because getting a medical degree from there is better than one from Mexico…but Mexico seems easier to get into…. do you or anyone else have a clue on whether which country is better to go to???

  2. dasfdsfsd says:

    I completed high school in the Carribean and am always amused when people born there but raised here

    • @dasfdsfsd, It is not going to be easy, but you can. First you have to be sure medicine is what you will like to do. You can also talk to the medical school counselor at your college. You have to keep your grades high, have appealing extracurricular activities. And you can check the previous medical blogs on this site. It is going to help. You can also check out my personal blog at http://thef-1medicalcase.blogspot.com. I also have links to some interesting medical websites and blogs.

  3. Eastja says:

    Im an average student nw, should i give up on the ‘doctor dream’.?

  4. RAOAD NABIL says:

    Hello
    I am a student holds a high school of the United Arab Emirates
    I live in the United Arab Emirates
    I am looking for a university or college to complete my studies
    I can get you admission to the University
    What is required
    I NEED HELP

  5. yeşi says:

    hello,i’m writting from turkey.i’m studying at molecular biology and genetics at university
    when i finish my school,can i apply for medical school?and during studying my school,i have been as an observer student several places where researching institutes are interested in stem cell and biology of cancer.
    so can i help me?how do i follow studying for medicine.

  6. Ishmael tamba jalloh says:

    Hello i am from sierra leone and i have sat to the West Africa Senior school certificate and i want to study meducine in America i want to know if you can offer schorlarship

  7. Hi Ishmael, Unfortunately we do not offer scholarships to students. However, you may want to contact the Education Advising office in Sierra Leone.

  8. This was a great post. Thanks for all the wonderful info.

  9. Desmog says:

    I’m a nigerian, i completed my high school since 2009. I want to study medicine & surgery in the US. But i dnt links and connections. Please who can assist me

  10. ed mays says:

    Good luck to all who commented here. It`s going to be a tough long grind in your pursuit in medicine. When you finally have that MD in hand and people address you as Doctor then you really have climbed a mountain and well worth it. Remember to be compassionate with your patients and staff. There are too many official stern looking and acting superior physicians who show no warmth but thankfully all my five doctors are great…otherwise, I would have chucked them a long time ago.

  11. Anyone says:

    This is awesome; thank you for all the effort you have put into this. Please keep it up and try to help people with your information.

    I am a senior year pre-med student and I am from the Middle East, Believe me, it is not that hard to do well. Just concentrate on studying. Don’t do all the time wasting stuff other people do and at the end it pays off. Have fun, but keep it simple. When you become a doctor, you can do all that and still afford to live comfortably HELPING PEOPLE!! But if you’re in for the salary, don’t even try.. not many people succeed doing it and you will end up wasting your time.

    Best of luck to whomever that is trying to accomplish something for good.

  12. latika says:

    hey,
    as much as i appreciate your blogs and your work,
    i still have a few more questions
    i am an indian student,
    i did my 11th and 12th science and gave my CET, but due to some reasons i did not enroll in med school in india,
    i am currently studying BA, and planning to take up psychology as my last year subject

    however I would still like to get into a med school in USA
    could you please help me?
    i want to know what exactly i have to do after my graduation here to get into a med school in USA

    i wanna know the whole procedure including which subjects are required, which undergrad programs to choose, is there and entrance exam to get into an undergrad program, which med schools accept international students, how to get a permanent residency, etc

  13. Brenda says:

    when does one sit for MCAT?after premed or when?

  14. Alex says:

    Usually students take MCAT at their junior year

  15. hanan sherif says:

    Hi, I want to learn in this medical school how can i apply? please email me or call me back
    please

  16. Vanessa says:

    Hi I’m a high school graduate from Ghana and I want to find out how I can enter into the medical school in the us. Is there a possibility that I can go directly from high school.?

    • Jessica Stahl says:

      A medical degree is an advanced degree in the U.S., meaning that to enter medical school you first need to have earned a bachelor’s degree. However, a small number of schools offer a joint bachelor’s/medical program, allowing you to complete both degrees, often in a shorter amount of time than it would take to do them separately. Those programs are typically extremely selective, and not all of them admit international students.

  17. Nora says:

    Hi Promise,

    I like the great work you are doing. I am international student too. I did my undergraduate degree in Physical Therapy back in my country and I am pursuing my Master’s in Kinesiology (Motor Behavior). I want to get into Med school and I am aware of the difficulties that exist for an international student, however I still want to try and work hard.

    Do you have an idea if I can have an edge since I am going to graduate school in states already?

    Thanks,
    Nora

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