Should I go to a Caribbean medical school? I get asked this question multiple times every application cycle because getting into a US medical school is so difficult. It is hard to answer this question because each application is unique and should be considered on a case by case basis. However, there are some general principles you should follow prior to deciding on a Caribbean medical school.
1. Mainly consider the big 4 Caribbean schools
There are many Caribbean and international schools that offer a “US medical education” but only a handful of them are actually equipped to send you to a US residency. If you want to practice medicine in the US, you should mainly consider the best medical schools in the Caribbean which include St. George’s, Ross, American University, and Saba.
2. Is your limiting factor your grades/MCAT or extracurricular activities?
GPA and MCAT can be difficult to raise, especially your GPA. If your numbers are holding you back, then it may be worth considering Caribbean schools. It can take a lot of time and effort to raise your numbers; you might be able to save that time by going to a Caribbean school. If your extracurricular activities are lacking, it would be wiser to take some time and improve your resume rather than jump into a Caribbean school. Remember, where you go to medical school affects where you go to residency which essentially affects the rest of your medical career.
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2. How many times have you applied to US schools?
This is a huge factor for many people. Often times, people have unsuccessfully applied 2 or 3 times will start to consider Caribbean schools. If you are on your third or fourth application, it is probably time to at least apply to Caribbean schools to have them as a back-up option.
3. Have you applied to DO schools?
DO schools are often recommended over Caribbean schools. Read this article to find out why. You should either apply to DO schools first or at least apply to them simultaneously.
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5. Do you have any desire to be in a competitive specialty?
The most competitive specialties to obtain residency spots are surgical subspecialties (head and neck surgery, neurosurgery, urology, dermatology, etc), radiology, and interventional radiology. If you have any desire to do a competitive specialty, you should really think twice before going to a Caribbean school because it is almost impossible to get a residency spot as a foreign graduate.
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6. Will you be able to survive in a sink or swim environment?
Although Caribbean schools care about their reputation and want their students to do well to a certain extent, at the end of the day, they do not have the same supportive environment that US schools do. You often have to coordinate your own clinical rotations. Mentorship and career guidance is lacking. You are directly competing with your classmates because residency spots are limited. Going to a Caribbean school is much more academically, socially, logistically, and emotionally challenging than going to a US MD or DO school. You should be prepared to work at least 1.5x as hard as a US medical student.