It can be challenging to pick which medical school is best for you. After spending four years of undergrad jumping through hoops, you now find yourself holding not one, but multiple acceptance letters. Congratulations!
Your next decision could vary well shape the rest of your career as well as your future financial success.
There are multiple factors to consider in making this decision. It is my opinion some of these factors should be highly considered whereas others should not play into your decision-making at all.
1) Fit - Most students and advisers will emphasize the "fit" of the program. Fit is often poorly defined. This typically refers to everything from your experience with students on the interview day to your general subconscious feelings about the school. It will be even further emphasized when it comes time to pick a place to train for residency. Fit is that innate gut feeling you get when you think about a school, and is something that should be taking seriously.
2) Location - You're going to spend four years living in this location. Make sure you pick a town that is conducive to your hobbies and lifestyle. Consider this an opportunity to experience a different part of the country for four years. If you have a spouse or other family considerations then this is perhaps one of the most important factors in making your decision. You can always plan a trip and re-visit the school and town to get a better feel for what its like to live there. Also don't forget all 4 seasons! Winter in the North or Midwest can be quite a shock to someone from the southwest.
3) Cost - Your medical student education will likely be one of the biggest expenses you ever incur in your life. Compound interest is an amazing thing, and a couple of thousand dollars a year difference can add up to 100's of thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. This is not something to be taken lightly. Medical schools range from essentially free to over $400,000 of student debt upon graduation. When asked my personal opinion I always advise students to go to the cheapest school possible. All licensed US medical schools offer a fantastic education and will help you be the physician that you want to be. Read for more info.
1) Grading - Make sure you understand how the grading system implemented at each medical school works. This will range from the traditional A/B/C/D grades to more nebulous fail/pass/high pass/honors. Some schools will offer a pass fail grading only for the first two years with a pass/fail/honors system for the clinical years. Almost every school is different. Most residency program directors are familiar with the current school's grading system when it comes to applying to your next level of training. It is my experience that schools who have a pass/fail grading system for the first two pre-clinical years exhibit a greater degree of camaraderie and less competition among medical students. This can make your life much easier.
2) Prestige - Though this is an important consideration for some students, in medicine you are only as good as your last level of training. If you went to Harvard for medical school but did residency at a place no one has ever heard of, not many will care that you "trained at Harvard". If you want to go into an extremely competitive, highly academic field then this may bear some importance. However if you want to be a general community physician, where you went to med school will have very little impact on your choice of specialty or your future pay. In my opinion it is better to be at the very top of your class at a less prestigious medical school that in the bottom third of a prestigious university.
Factors to Ignore Completely
1) Pre-clinical curriculum - I know at each admissions talk every school emphasizes their own early transition to clinical years program. This typically includes some sort of "doctoring" class during your first day/week at school. Though these sound fun ,these are completely insignificant in the scope of your training. Although the school may have a new fresh anatomy lab I assure you this will not make any lasting difference on your education, specialty choice or skill as a physician. Almost everything you learn in med school that will be relevant to your career as a physician will occur during the third and fourth years. I find these clinical years are frequently poorly understood by applicants and can come as quite a shock. Make sure you understand your schools clinical rotations before matriculating!
2) USMLE Scores - Students often attempt to gather and compare average USMLE scores for each school they are considering attending. I have found that there is very little correlation between the average USMLE score and the quality of education at that school. The USMLE is a standardized test just like the MCAT. Some people will destroy these tests, others will struggle. The information available to study for this test is identical at each school. While some schools emphasize "teaching to the test" more than others, I do not believe that any one medical school provides any sort of significant advantage in this area. If you're a good test taker and a highly motivated student you will do well on the USMLE. I have a hard time believing that changing schools will affect your score significantly
Best of luck with your decision! Just know that no matter where you choose, in 4 years you will still be a doctor.