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5 Advantages to Starting Medical School in January

7 min read / Medical School

Once you’ve decided that becoming a doctor is the right path for you and you’ve completed the necessary med school prerequisites, it makes sense that you’re eager to begin as quickly as possible—after all, you’ve got years of education and training to get started on.

If you’ve been considering the School of Medicine at St. George’s University (SGU), you actually can get started a lot sooner. In addition to the traditional August start date, and our newest entry option in April, SGU also enrolls a class of students each January.

Beginning medical school in January might seem a bit unorthodox at first, but there are some unique advantages you may not have considered.

5 Reasons to start medical school in January

Take a look at some of the ways starting medical school in January could benefit you in the long run.

1. You can get on the road to residency sooner

The Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) residency timeline suggests that future physicians begin preparing for residency as early as their first year of medical school. Students can spend this time productively by fostering relationships with instructors who can act as mentors (and could also write future letters of recommendation). Many students will also seek out internships or volunteer opportunities to start building their resumes.

Residency is a crucial part of becoming a doctor, and by starting medical school in January, you’d have the opportunity to begin that process earlier than you may have expected.

And there’s even more great news for those looking to start their residency journey at SGU: We have a 93 percent US residency placement rate for graduates over the last three years.1 Altogether, SGU place over 960 graduates into US residencies.2

2. You’ll experience a favorable student-to-faculty ratio

Among things like student selectivity and an institution’s research activity, you’ll notice that medical school rankings often mention student-to-faculty ratios as a critical factor in obtaining a quality education. That’s because research actually suggests that learning in small group settings supports academic achievement.

SGU capitalizes on this by limiting their small group sessions to create a more intimate learning environment. There will also be larger lectures, but those who start medical school in January have an advantage. Because the winter class is traditionally smaller than the fall cohort, new students will benefit from smaller lectures as they begin their medical school journeys.

3. You can take advantage of the same financing opportunities with no extra risk

Medical school is a substantial investment that can be made more affordable through scholarships and grants. All students can seek financial assistance in a number of ways at SGU, regardless of start date.

The Humanitarian Scholarship, for example, is awarded to students who have demonstrated a commitment to supporting humanitarian efforts within their communities. SGU also offers financial awards to students who have established high academic achievement through the Legacy of Excellence Scholarship program.

There’s even a unique opportunity for financial relief offered to students from the US and Canada. SGU’s Why Wait policy ensures that students can make the decision to start the MD program at SGU with very little risk. If they are subsequently accepted to and enroll in a Canadian or US allopathic or osteopathic medical school the following fall, they will have their SGU tuition and administrative fees fully refunded. This offer exists to ensure you can get a jump on your career with as little risk as possible.

4. You’ll have more time to prepare for important exams

Most students take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 in the spring near the end of their second year of medical school. Doing well on this test is critical because most residency directors rank it as the most important evaluation criterion when selecting candidates to interview.

The USMLE Step 1 has a tendency of sneaking up on students, so preparing early is some of the best study advice you could receive. When it comes to the USMLE Step 1 performance of SGU students, 92 percent of first-time test takers over the past three years earned a passing score.3 While all students should be encouraged by this success, those who start medical school in January benefit from having even more time to prep.

As a result, you’ll also have added time to study for your Step 2s—particularly for the clinical knowledge (CK) exam which mirrors Step 1. For students in the January class, core rotations wrap up in May. This gives them upward of two months to study for the CKs, while August-entering students have limited study time due to a rotation schedule that finishes in the summertime.

The same applies to students who have their sights set on obtaining a residency in Canada. To do so, students must pass the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) Step 1, and a January start gives them ample time to prepare.

5. You can focus more on preparing for residency

As you venture through medical school, you’ll be building a solid foundation for your thriving medical career—and there’s clearly a lot that goes into that process. But the more you’re able to expand your medical repertoire, the better chances you’ll have of landing the type of residency you’ve set your sights on.

Students who start medical school in January have the opportunity to complete more fourth-year electives in their desired specialties prior to submitting a residency application. The additional knowledge and skills you could gain from extra elective opportunities—particularly in highly competitive fields—can increase your exposure to residency directors and other influential individuals who may offer their assistance with your all-important letters of recommendation. They may even see you as the kind of doctor they want to bring in as a resident.

Start your journey to medical school in January

Starting a class in January allows SGU to cater to the diverse needs of prospective medical students, and it’s clear that unique offerings like this yield a number of rewards for the medical students who enroll. If you’re eager to begin your studies, move on to residency, and launch your medical career, why wait until later in the year to apply and enroll?

Get started on your medical journey sooner with St. George’s University. Take the next step by visiting our visit our application page.

This article was originally published in 2018. It has since been updated to reflect information from 2022.

1Average of 2020, 2021, 2022 residency placement rate. Residency placement rate is defined as the total number of students who obtained a US residency divided by the total number of students who applied to a US residency program in a given year (as of May 2022).

2As the medical school graduating the largest number of students annually, SGU places the largest number of graduates into residency programs each year, based on internal SGU graduate and residency placement data (as of May 2022).

3Average of 2019, 2020, 2021 scores. First-time pass rate is defined as the number of students passing USMLE Step 1 on their first attempt divided by the total number of students taking USMLE Step 1 for the first time. In order to be certified to take USMLE Step 1, students are required to pass all basic sciences courses. (as of May 2022).


June 1, 2022