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International med school applicants face challenges

Only 75 U.S. medical schools accept international applicants, increasing competition

With admission notification dates on the horizon, international applicants to medical school likely have more to worry about than their domestic counterparts. Need-aware admission processes, high tuition costs and individual medical school policies toward accepting international students can restrict these students’ opportunities.

Few U.S. medical schools admit international applicants. Only 75 universities indicated they would accept international applicants in 2013, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Out of 1,777 international applicants to U.S. medical schools in 2013, 346 gained admission and 264 matriculated, according to the AAMC. For some, the limited financial aid packages accompanying their acceptance letters made matriculation an uncertain prospect.

Brown is not exempt from these national trends. The Alpert Medical School only considers applicants who have completed pre-medical classes in an institution in the United States or Canada, according to the University’s website. In addition, admission to the Med School, like the undergraduate program, is need-aware for international applicants, the University’s website states.

“It is important to be realistic and cast a wide net,” said Minoo Ramanathan ’11 GS, Med School student from Oman. Though she was originally discouraged from applying to medical school because of limited spaces for international students in U.S. universities, Ramanathan applied to about 25 different medical schools in the United States and the United Kingdom after obtaining an undergraduate degree from the University.

“If I didn’t go to undergrad in the (United States) and complete my pre-med requirements here, it would have been 10 times harder to get accepted,” she said.

Finances further complicated her road to matriculation.

Ramanathan took out private loans to demonstrate to universities that she would be able to pay tuition for the next four years. When she applied to the Med School, admission officers asked to see financial records before even scheduling an interview, she said. “If you can let the schools know that you are not looking for any aid, they are more willing to look at your application,” she added.

Undergraduates also expressed concern about the fraught process of applying to U.S. medical schools.

Calin Manea ’16, who hails from Canada, said applying back home is simpler because tuition is much less expensive and acceptance rates are higher for domestic applicants.

The average cost of a private U.S. medical school for the year 2013-2014 was $50,476, according to the AAMC — far more expensive than most Canadian medical schools, many of which charge less than $20,000 per year, according to Ivy Global.

But Canadians, in comparison to other international students, do experience some benefits in the United States, Manea said. The Canadian government gives out student loans to study abroad, and some American universities reserve spots specifically for Canadian students, he said.

For example, New York University Medical School and Michigan State College of Human Medicine do not accept international students except for Canadians, according to a pre-med advisor reference manual on Johns Hopkins University’s website.

“I did not want to take a risk,” said Fadwa Ahmed ’18, who resides in Kuwait but was born in the United States. Ahmed applied to Brown’s Program in Liberal Medical Education in the hopes of ensuring a spot in a U.S. medical school in advance.

“My American passport probably played an important factor in my admission,” she said, adding that she has not yet met any PLME students who are from abroad without citizenship or a green card.

A previous version of this article stated an incorrect acronym for the Association of American Medical Colleges. It is AAMC, not AAMA. The Herald regrets the error.


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