Did you know that nearly 55,000 students take the MCAT every year hoping to get into medical school, yet less than half will actually be accepted? If you are concerned about your prospects for getting enrolled this year, one option that many people consider is Caribbean medical schools. While attending a Caribbean medical school can be a valid route to achieving your dream of becoming a doctor, there definitely are drawbacks that you need to be fully aware of.
Moreover, if you are not careful in researching and selecting the right school, you could inadvertently set your goal of becoming a doctor back. Here is what you need to know about Caribbean medical schools before you consider applying.
One of the best reasons to consider Caribbean medical schools is that the requirements for acceptance, such as MCAT and GPA, are typically lower than medical schools in the United States. If your Pre-Med advisors or the medical school admission consulting services you’re using suggest that your chances of being accepted into an American medical school are borderline, widening your search to Caribbean medical schools may be one of your best chances to remaining on the path to becoming a doctor. Additionally, if you have already applied to medical school here and been rejected, attending medical school in the Caribbean may offer a great second chance as well.
Unlike the United States, where medical school applicants must apply through the AMCAS system on a stringent time frame, many Caribbean medical schools are quite flexible when it comes to applying to them. The rolling admissions practices at many of these schools means that you can often begin attending classes immediately after being accepted. People who choose Caribbean medical schools after being rejected by American schools can therefore start their medical school education much faster than those who choose to wait for the next AMCAS cycle to reapply.
93.9% of US seniors from allopathic (MD) programs matched into a first year residency spot in 2019 while 84.6% of US seniors from osteopathic (DO) programs did so. The rate for US citizens attending international medical schools was much lower: 59.0%. What this means is you need to carefully do your research if Caribbean schools are the right option for you. We often strongly recommend retaking the MCAT or enrolling in a postbacc or SMP program before abandoning all hope of attending a MD or DO program in the United States. If you’ve carefully considered all of your options, Carribean programs can provide a route to a career as a physician. Just be aware, Caribbean medical students need to do very well in their classes, achieve high USMLE Step 1 scores (the MCAT equivalent for residency), secure competitive and prestigious clinical rotations, do well in those rotations, and receive strong letters of recommendation. It definitely can be an uphill battle.
Now, while there are many options to attend school in the Caribbean, there are only a handful of accredited Caribbean medical schools that will enable you to both seek residency as well as obtain licensure and practice medicine in the United States. So, when considering medical schools in the Caribbean, you will need to ensure that attending one is actually a viable path to becoming a doctor. As you ponder different options, you can determine if the Caribbean medical school is accredited by reviewing its status in the World Federation of Medical Education database.
In addition to ensuring that the Caribbean medical schools you are considering are accredited, you should also verify the quality of the medical education they provide. Many of the schools in the Caribbean focus primarily on profit, often at the expect of quality education and support to students. You should definitely check out the schools’ websites and look for information such as the types of residency appointments they list. You should also contact the admissions office of any Caribbean medical schools you are considering and see if they can provide you key information about matters such as class sizes, quality of life, and student exam performance as well.
While the numbers vary from year to year, below is a comparison of the average GPA and MCAT for MD, DO, and Carribean programs. The Carribean statistics are derived from Ross, Trinity, and St. Georges.
When considering Caribbean medical schools, you should also verify if they are a good fit for your financial situation as well. While admission standards for these schools are generally lower, many are quite expensive. If you are counting on some sort of assistance with your tuition, you should determine whether or not the schools you are considering are eligible for Federal student loans, or if there are any scholarships or grants you are eligible for. The admissions offices of the schools you are considering may be able to provide you this information, so make sure you give them a call.
Another cost you will need to factor in when considering Caribbean medical schools is travel. In most cases, any visit back home to family and friends will require air travel, which can be cost-prohibitive for students enrolled in medical school. Additionally, the tropical locale that is a major selling point for these schools can be a double-edged sword. Many areas of the Caribbean are subject to severe weather such as hurricanes and tropical storms, which can lead to mandatory evacuations, additional travel costs, damage and loss of property, and other financial headaches that medical students in the U.S. just don’t have to worry about at all.
If your career as a Pre-Med Student has been challenging and you are concerned about your prospects for acceptance into a school in the United States, Caribbean medical schools may offer you a viable path to becoming a doctor. However, before applying to any Caribbean medical school ensure you do your research, so you can make the best possible decision.
Ensure that you only consider accredited Caribbean medical schools, that you can line up the student loans, scholarships or grants you need to attend, and that the school has the programs, student support and quality life that you expect to experience. A good medical school consulting service can help you navigate these challenges. Then, once you’ve done all of your research and have considered all of your options, you will be ready to decide if Caribbean schools are a good fit for you.