Applying as an International Student to US Medical Programs
Individuals who are not US Citizens or Permanent Residents, or citizens of Canada, are considered international students by schools of the health professions in the United States. International students often face diverse and significant barriers to entry to medical training programs in the US and Canada. Current data from the Association of American Medical College suggests that roughly 1% of the medical students in the United States are international students. We wish to highlight some of the challenges that members of our community may face as they consider, prepare for, and apply to these programs.
Student loans offered by the US government have citizenship-based restrictions. Most domestic students require this type of support to finance their medical education. Students who are ineligible for this form of financial assistance are in a position to find and coordinate alternative funding, which often falls to the individual or private organizations. Medical schools who accept non-citizens will often expect the applicant to demonstrate his or her ability to pay for 1-4 years of their training upfront.
Some MD and DO schools are also quite concerned with a student's ability to eventually place into the limited residency slots available in the US, while others are required by their funding state legislatures to prefer students from that state as part of their mission to train physicians for that state's population.
Applying to US Medical Programs as a Student with DACA Status
Medical schools take different approaches to admission for students with DACA status. AAMC has produced a summary document of MD admissions and financial policies that you may find helpful in researching schools. AAMC has also extended the Fee Assistance Program to be available to students with DACA status. A student-founded advocacy organization, Prehealth Dreamers, has a helpful FAQ document to help students navigate issues that may arise during the application process, such as how to register for the MCAT if you do not have a Social Security Number.
The DACA program and medical school policies are subject to change at short notice, so we encourage students to look for updates and policy statements from schools themselves as you make and revise your application plans.
What you can do to be Informed & Prepared
Research Different Professional Paths and the Training Required
Not all health professional schools weigh an applicant’s citizenship status in the same way that medical programs do. Health professions that do not require a residency -- such as dentistry, optometry, and physician assistant -- or those with a research focus -- such as MD/PhD -- are generally more accepting of international students. We encourage all students to spend time exploring and experiencing their health profession of choice to affirm that it’s the appropriate path for them, but we ask international students to take the extra step of researching admissions practices for their programs of interest early in their pre-professional career.
Consider Where you Hope to Practice
US-based medical schools strive to train graduates for licensure and practice in the United States. If you hope or plan to practice exclusively outside of the US, your research should begin with investigating the education and licensing standards of the country or countries where you seek to function as a professional.
Research the funding options available at schools as you assemble the list of schools you hope to apply to. Generally, private schools will have more funding options available to you than public institutions. Research opportunities to take out loans for health professions education from your home country and put together a plan for how you would be able to demonstrate an ability to pay for your graduate education. There are limited scholarships available. Investigate scholarships you may be eligible for and plan to apply, but also develop a plan for how to pay for your programs if you are not granted the scholarships.
Choose Your Professional Schools Wisely
The Medical School Admission Requirements resource sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges catalogs which allopathic (MD) programs in the United States accept international students. Similarly, the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book sponsored by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine catalogs which osteopathic (DO) programs in the United States accept international students. International students should be careful only to apply to programs who have policies or practices that would permit their entry.
Consult with OGS About Maximizing your Glide Year(s) via a STEM OPT Extension
International students on an F1 visa are eligible for post-completion optional practical training (OPT), which is a short-term work authorization in the United States. It may be possible to use OPT to work in an area related to your major during your glide year. If you majored in a STEM field you may be eligible for a 27 month STEM extension, permitting you to work for a longer period of time before matriculating into your prehealth program. We encourage you to work closely with OGS to determine your work eligibility as you plan your glide year(s).
Work to Your Fullest Potential
Health professions program slots are competitive for everyone, but they are particularly so for international students. We encourage you to make use of all the University resources at your disposal as you complete your courses: the University Learning Center, Writing Center, etc.
We encourage all applicants to mingle their volunteer, clinical, and research experiences in the semesters with their coursework. We recommend against delaying experiences to the glide year to focus on coursework, particularly for international students who need to consider work authorization and eligibility to be in the United States as they plan for what to do as an undergraduate and during a glide year.
As you learn to balance these areas, you will be demonstrating competencies health professions schools value, such as time management and flexibility. US-based health professions schools do not consider GPA and test scores alone in admissions decisions, but instead look for experiences and attributes as well, which may be different than the medical school admissions process in other countries.
Preparing for and applying to health professions school is stressful for most applicants, and we know that the additional concerns for international students add to the stress. We encourage you to seek out wellness services and practice self-care as you work to your fullest potential.
Consult with a Preprofessional Advisor
We are happy to meet with members of our NYU community from around the world and discuss your prehealth plans. We may look to you to become an expert and teach us about how medical education works in your home country if you are planning to apply outside of the US and Canada. We encourage you to explore health fields and be aware of all your options as you begin to apply to schools.