8 Common Questions About Caribbean Medical Universities
If you’re considering attending a Caribbean medical school, it’s normal to have some questions. This can be a viable option for many students, but it’s important to know that not all med schools and universities in the Caribbean are created equal. It takes some research in order to evaluate your options.
8 Commonly asked questions about Caribbean medical universities
“There are a lot of swirling rumors,” says Joseph Franza, associate director of admissions for St. George’s University (SGU). We enlisted his help in answering some of the most common questions on the topic. Read on to learn about the best Caribbean medical schools and whether one could be the right fit for you.
1. Which programs are located at accredited Caribbean medical schools?
There are dozens of Caribbean medical schools, but only a small number of them hold the accreditation status required to seek residency and medical licensure in the US. If you graduate from a Caribbean program, you must be certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) to participate in the National Resident Matching Program, the most common path to residency in the U.S.
Certification requirements include passing certain exams and obtaining your medical degree from a program that meets all the ECFMG’s requirements, which you can verify throughThe World Directory of Medical Schools.
2. Are there specific Caribbean medical school requirements?
Applying to international medical schools is inevitably different than applying to ones in the US. “A lot of people ask about the timeline of the application process,” Franza says. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, so be sure to look into individual programs. SGU, for example, offers rolling med school admissions and admits new classes in the fall, winter, and spring each year.
As far as academic requirements, Franza mentions students like to know what’s expected of them. Prospective students often ask him, “Where do your average applicants rank in regard to GPA, science GPA, and MCAT scores?” It’s a smart question to ask individual programs because the answer can vary significantly. It’s justifiable to have some concerns about schools with unusually low GPA standards.
3. How can I ensure I’m looking at the best Caribbean medical schools?
Asking programs about average applicants is a good start toward making sure you’re evaluating quality medical schools. But don’t end your investigation there. Also inquire about residency match rates and the number of students typically passing the USMLE exams.
“I always encourage people to ask schools about those percentages moving forward to make sure they’re well versed in whatever schools they’re considering,” Franza explains.
Start by perusing the school’s website. Some of them list residency appointments and exam performance prominently, but you might also have to contact the admissions department for the exact information you’re seeking.
4. How much does going to a Caribbean medical school cost?
The cost question will inevitably come up as you determine which schools are worth considering. Tuition can vary, but there’s no way to get around the fact that a good medical education—no matter where you go—is going to be a substantial investment.
“I like to say it’s a steep cost, but I think our graduates will tell you it’s worth it in the end,” Franza says. He also suggests you compare the cost of programs in the Caribbean to the cost of out-of-state medical school tuition in the US. You may realize they’re more similar than you’d expect.
5. Do Caribbean medical universities accept US federal loans?
The options for financing your education can be even more important than the tuition cost. After all, why choose a less expensive school if there’s no feasible way to pay for it? “It’s important that you have federal funding,” Franza says. “A lot of people ask about the federal loans.”
Federal Student Aid lists the international schools that are recognized by US federal student loan programs. This lineup will give you a general idea, but you should still check with the school’s medical program. In some cases, a university’s medical school may not be eligible. Be sure to also look into available scholarships and grants.
6. Is the campus safe?
“Safety is usually a Caribbean medical school question,” Franza says. Part of this concern has to do with rumors people hear about crime in Caribbean countries. Some areas see more incidents than others, but you can easily find specifics using the information provided by the US Department of State.
As with any other city you might spend time in, you should exercise normal precautions when spending time in any Caribbean country. You can avoid most risk by taking basic personal security measures such as locking your doors, avoiding isolated areas, or being aware of your surroundings in general.
Weather makes up the other half of the safety question, as hurricanes have caused considerable damage in some Caribbean countries. Look into the specific geographic location of each school. Franza feels lucky that he’s able to tell students SGU is located below the hurricane belt, the area in the Atlantic Ocean most likely to see these storms, which go on to affect many southern US states as well.
You should also peruse school websites to see whether they’re prepared for emergency situations. “Even though we’re not in the line of fire, we have tremendous facilities that are built for Category-5 hurricanes just in case,” Franza adds.
7. Will I be able to practice medicine in my home state?
Taking a closer look at a program’s residency match information can be helpful in answering this question. You’ll want to analyze not only the number of placements and the different specialties students have matched into, but also the states where students go for their training. You’ll soon have a good idea of which locations are feasible for you to pursue come time for residency matching.
8. Will I be treated differently during a US residency if I went to a Caribbean medical university?
If you had initial concerns about attending a Caribbean medical university, it’s natural to think your residency director might have similar worries. “That’s something that comes up quite often, and our graduates always jump right on that and say everyone’s handled the same way,” Franza explains.
As long as you do your research and choose a program that will fully prepare you for the rigors of medical practice, you should feel confident you’ll be afforded the same opportunities as your fellow residents.
Take a closer look
When evaluating Caribbean medical universities, there’s more than meets the eye. Take the time to look critically at the schools that provide encouraging answers to the questions outlined above.
After analyzing your options, you’ll find that some Caribbean medical universities are just as reputable as the US schools you’ve assessed. In fact, many students find additional benefits in taking their studies overseas. Learn more in our article “6 Little Known Perks of Attending an International Medical School.”
This article has been updated in 2021