Do medical school rankings really determine your chances of getting a residency interview? How much do they truly matter to your overall career?
Let’s discuss how “they” come up with rankings for medical schools and how much they really matter.
This is important…
Who doesn’t want to attend the best school available to them? You took numerous pre-med courses in college. Your med school application is impeccable. Now, you want to go to a high-ranking school of medicine.
But are medical school rankings really important? And if they are, exactly how important?
Who Produces Medical School Rankings and How?
Here in America, we rank everything from restaurants to shopping centers, from cars to neighborhoods… and of course, med schools.
So, who is in charge of publishing these rankings?
US News provides the most widely used medical school ranking system in the country. They even have different lists for specialties and research.
How are they compiled?
The following is the US News Medical School Rankings Methodology used to create the lists:
- Research activity: 40%
- Quality assessment: 30%
- Student selectivity: 20%
- Peer assessment score: 15%
- Total NIH research activity: 15%
- Residency director assessment score: 15%
- Average NIH research activity per faculty member: 15%
- Median MCAT total score: 13%
- Faculty resources: 10%
- Median undergraduate GPA: 6%
- Total nonfederal research activity: 2.5%
- Total non-NIH federal research activity: 2.5%
- Average nonfederal research activity per faculty member: 2.5%
- Average non-NIH federal research activity per faculty member: 2.5%
- Acceptance rate: 1%
How Much Do Medical School Rankings Affect Your Residency?
You’re probably shocked after reading the methodology list above. Yes, research activity is worth a whopping 40%. And faculty resources do count.
So, how does all of this impact your chances of getting into a desirable residency?
Although the US News Medical School Rankings lists are quite popular, not everyone cares what a media source has to say about such institutions. What most students find important is how much a particular school will impact their residencies… and ultimately their careers.
All accredited US med schools provide good educations. And almost all graduates get accepted into residencies.
The big questions are:
- Where – Which city, hospital, community, etc…
- What Kind – Type of residency, specialties, salary, etc…
National Resident Matching Program Interview Influences
Your residency is very important to your future career as a physician. Residency training is where you receive the bulk of your medical knowledge. You learn how to provide quality care and begin building your own reputation in the medical field.
The National Resident Matching Program released results from a survey it conducted with program directors. These are the top 10 influences that help determine which medical school applicants get invited to residency interviews, along with the percentage of programs that cited each one:
- USMLE/COMLEX Step 1 score: 82%
- Letters of recommendation in the specialty: 81%
- Personal statement: 77%
- Grades in required clerkships: 71%
- USMLE/COMLEX Step 2 score: 70%
- Grades in clerkship in desired specialty: 69%
- Graduate of U.S. allopathic medical school: 69%
- Medical student performance evaluation (MSPE/Dean’s letter): 68%
- Class ranking/quartile: 67%
- Gaps in medical education: 63%
Coming in at #7 on the list is attending an MD program. However, attending a specific school didn’t make this top 10 list because “Graduate of highly regarded U.S. medical school” comes in at #23. And only 53% cited it as a residency interview invitation factor.
So… What Are Your Chances with That 53%?
Take a look at that top 10 list again. It actually suggests that your performance at any medical school is more important than the name of the school itself.
Let’s say you attend a medical school with a ranking of #50. However, you’re in the top 10% of your class.
That information, along with a very high USMLE Step 1 score, makes you a prime candidate for many residency programs.
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I cringe when I hear premeds refer to “low-tier,” “mid-tier,” or “top-tier” medical schools. As a physician, as an advisor to successful students, and as someone who’s spoken with deans of admissions, trust me: There’s no such thing as “low-tier” or “top-tier.” It’s a made-up premed thing. Are there some residency programs out there that will discriminate based on which #medicalschool you attended? Sure. But the idea that whole specialties will be off-limits because you attended a “low-tier” school isn’t true. If you have great grades, high board scores, and excellent letters of rec, you will have just as much of a shot at matching for competitive residencies, even if you attend a “low-tier” med school. On a related note—when it comes to the US News & World Reports top #medschool rankings, most of the data used is subjective, and the rest of the data has nothing to do with the quality of the school. Getting into medical school is hard. Don’t make it harder by limiting the schools you’re applying to based on a “tier” system made up by #premeds. For a full discussion on how to put together a school list, check out episode 304 of The Premed Years. I talk about which criteria to actually prioritize to choose med schools you would love and do well at. Link in my bio right now! — #premed #premedmemes #medschoolmemes #medmemes #medicinememes #doctormemes #medicalhumor #medschoolhumor #medicalstudents #medschoollife #futuredoctors #doctorsofinstagram #premedlife #futureMD #premedstudent #doctortobe #usmlestep1 #medschoolproblems #futuredoc #studentdoctor #roadtoMD #medicalstudentlife #premedical #futurephysician #premedprobs #medschool #futuredoctor
So, Do Med School Rankings Matter or Not?
The quick answer is: Yes and No
Your medical school’s ranking does matter when it’s time to get matched to a residency. HOWEVER, that’s the least of what matters.
They are just one of many factors that determine whether or not you get an interview for a competitive residency. So, develop a list of schools based on several factors:
- Specialties offered
- Program offerings
- Tuition costs
- Relocation costs
- Acceptance likelihood
- USMLE Step 1 pass rates
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