Caribbean vs. US Medical School: Which One Is Right for You?


If you are considering applying to medical school, chances are you're starting to explore your options. Should you apply to only medical schools in the United States? Or should you broaden your search to include Caribbean medical schools?

Here are 6 factors to consider when choosing between a Caribbean and US medical school.

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Factor #1. Evaluation of Medical School Application

Medical schools in both the Caribbean and the United States require the same pre-requisite classes, and all candidates must fill out an application. Largely due to the high number of applicants, medical schools in the US typically rely heavily on GPA and MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) scores. In contrast, most Caribbean medical schools take a more comprehensive approach, taking a student’s entire background into account during the application and acceptance process.

In addition to academic achievements and scores, Caribbean medical schools also look at things like volunteer and job experience, extracurricular activities, life experiences, and exposure to the medical profession. This is invaluable, as some research has shown that relying too heavily on the numbers could result in discounting students who would be great physicians.

Factor #2. Admission Dates

Most Caribbean medical schools have rolling admissions, meaning that they accept students two to three times a year, usually in August and January. In contrast, medical schools in the United States only allow entry in the fall. If your application to a US medical school is not accepted the first time, you will have to wait an entire year before reapplying. However, you have a second opportunity for medical school admissions when applying to a Caribbean medical school if you are not accepted the first time around. Some schools give you the option to start right away...or, if you get off a waitlist from a US school, the school will refund your money.

Factor #3. The In-Person Interview

It’s exciting to hear back from a medical school that they have reviewed your application and are inviting you for an interview! If it’s a medical school in the US, being able to get to an in-person interview is likely easier than traveling to an interview in the Caribbean. The best Caribbean medical schools offer virtual tours, and accepted students can attend social events in the U.S. and join specific Facebook groups. Some will even reimburse you for your airfare and a three-night hotel stay if you matriculate into the program. Keep in mind, however, that due to safety procedures and restrictions from Covid-19, many interviews may be virtual now regardless of location.

Factor #4. Getting Accepted

A student could have strong potential as a future physician but not meet the requirements for a medical school in the US or in the Caribbean. US med school admissions do not have a safety net for catching these students and helping them capitalize on their potential. But some Caribbean med schools will admit students with a few academic blemishes or those who may have been out of school for a while. They then provide them the support through special programs geared toward helping them assimilate to medical school and its unique rigors.

Factor #5. Residency and Practice Location

You're doing your clinical rotation in the US- only the basic sciences are in Caribbean.

Regardless of where you want to secure a residency, the most important factors in matching for a residency are your United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) Step 1 scores, letters of recommendation, and performance evaluations.

You may be concerned that attending a Caribbean med school might prevent you from matching for a residency or even being able to practice in the United States. While Caribbean medical school graduates practice all over the world, the vast majority are practicing in the United States. In fact, the American Medical Association (AMA) reports that international graduates account for more than 25 percent of US physicians.

Beginning in 2023, the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates will only offer the necessary certification to practice in the US to students graduating from a World Federation for Medical Education-approved medical school. If you’re applying to Caribbean medical schools, you’ll want to make sure they have the proper accreditation.

Factor #6. Cultural Experience

Attending medical school is definitely an experience in and of itself. While a US med school can often afford the opportunity to live in a different part of the country, attending a Caribbean med school offers a unique foreign cultural opportunity. This is something you can never get if you do your training in the United States and then practice in the US as well. If a culturally enriching experience is important to you, it will be well worth your while to consider a medical school in the Caribbean.

Want to learn more? Read the 8 questions most commonly asked about a Caribbean medical schooland explore the requirements around admission to a Caribbean medical school.

SGU is the largest provider of US first-year residencies, and its graduates have practiced in the top 20 healthcare institutions nationwide. Find out all the reasons why students love SGU.

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