What are the top med schools in the country, and are medical school rankings really that important?
Premeds discuss medical school rankings frequently, but there is a lot of misinformation shared about the true value of a ranking. Rankings are pursued primarily to determine what medical schools are the most selective and the most prestigious to help you figure out where to apply.
From my experience, there are several different forms of useful rankings to look at. The first one, the most well known ranking, is called the Top Medical Schools Ranking, and is reported by US News & World Report. The US News & World Report has a lot of data in its education section around medical schools, and specifically around ranking medical schools.
As the medical school ranking system at US News has become more robust, US News has taken on the responsibility to more discriminantly rank medical schools by various categories. The two biggest ranking categories are 1) research-oriented medical schools and 2) primary care (clinically oriented) medical schools.
So in terms of identifying the best medical school, there is no such thing as the one top ranked medical school in the country because it depends on what you are looking for.
US News is also ranks med schools by specialty, so if you’re interested in certain aspects of medicine and you want to focus on those areas, (for example, drug and alcohol abuse, family medicine, geriatrics, internal medicine, pediatrics, rural medicine, women’s issues, things like that), then there are other medical schools to consider that have been ranked well by US News.
So there really are three different types of rankings to consider. There is the research-oriented medical school rankings, the clinically-oriented medical school rankings and the specialty-oriented medical school ranking.
(An aside: Dr. Jack Gourman also produced a less well-known set of rankings in his book called A Rating of Graduate and Professional Programs in American and International Universities. However, the most current edition of that appears to be the 10th edition, which was written back in 1997. There does not appear to be a more up-to-date version than that. Meh.)
So there is no such thing as a pure ranking anymore, and this is excellent because when you think about ranking and think about choosing a medical school based upon rankings, it becomes important for you to identify what you want a medical school to be ranked for and how it’s going to help you in your pursuit of your career in medicine.
How to Choose a Medical School
But there is also a fourth ranking, which is the list of medical schools for which you are the most qualified. And from my experiences, this way of ranking schools is the most valuable of all the different kinds of rankings.
Looking at medical schools purely based upon an objective ranking system (like those done by US News) may cause you problems because your those guides can narrow your focus onto schools that might not be a great fit for you. Good ranking does NOT equal good fit.
A school that fits you well (in terms of where you would like to live, curriculum orientation, likelihood of your acceptance) might not always be on an official Top 10 guide, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be an excellent fit for you.
So as you look at medical school admissions rankings, you want to consider not just what the best medical schools are in the country, but more importantly what are the best medical schools for you.
Princeton Review has a book called The Best 168 Medical Schools, and although this is not a book that ranks medical schools, there are a lot of different lists, including evaluations done by med students themselves, to identify different ways in which a particular medical school may stand out.
Again, not a ranking guide, but a another very important book is The Medical School Admissions Requirements Manual, known as the MSAR. This is a great book to identify the requirements of an individual medical school, and is very, very useful to have in your library to help you identify the different medical schools, what their requirements are, and how they may rank for you personally, based upon what your experiences have been, what your qualifications are and what you prefer.