Should I Apply to a New Medical School?

New!  Opening in a state near you!  A brand new medical school!  Responding to a mandate to educate and train more physicians, particularly to serve in regions in need of more health care providers, new medical schools are opening every year.  For a medical school applicant, a new school can be perplexing.  It’s like seeing something different on the menu at a favorite restaurant.  It may be interesting, but…is anyone else having it?  Will it be any good?  Will I be sorry?  Can you call the waiter over here?  I don’t know what this is.  I think it’s deer hoof, but my French is really old.

Here are some frequently asked questions applicants have as they look over the menu of medical schools (wouldn’t MOMS be so much better than MSAR?):

Will it be easier to get into a new medical school?

Probably not, unless the school is a very good fit for you.  Along with all the other schools, they have plenty of highly qualified applicants to interview and accept.  Also, they have a very strong motivation to see their first graduates succeed and fulfill their mission.

What is this “Preliminary Accreditation” business?

Allopathic medical schools go through five steps to “Full Accreditation,” which are outlined on the Liaison Committee on Medical Education’s (LCME) website.  Osteopathic schools are accredited through the American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation.  Allopathic schools may not advertise for applicants or accept applications until they have achieved Step 3, Preliminary Accreditation, which involves a site visit and approval from the LCME.  Full Accreditation is not awarded until the inaugural class is in its third or fourth year.  The application fee to become an “Applicant School” at Step 1 is $25,000.  Biggest.  Application.  Fee.  Ever.  And no fee waiver.

Is it possible that the school might not receive Full Accreditation and/or go under?

Thus far, no school has lost accreditation, although some are put on probation while they resolve particular issues.  To receive accreditation at any step, the school must demonstrate that it has the resources to succeed over time.  This does not mean, however, that attending a new school is risk free.  Should a school lose accreditation and/or fail, the AMA and AAMC have a process in place to try and place students in other medical schools to complete their degree, but placement is not guaranteed.

If you are considering an application to a new medical school, your pre-health advisors will not discourage you and you would not be the first Penn alum to join a “pioneer” medical school class.  So far, none has joined a Donner Party, but like any traveler you want to plan ahead and check your map before you forge ahead. Consider the mission of the school carefully and ask lots of questions should you be invited to interview.  Many of the new schools are an excellent fit for some applicants’ geographic and professional interests and they all have been granted the opportunity to enroll new students through hard work, creativity and enthusiasm.


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