Deciding where to attend medical school at can be a stressful decision for many premeds. While simply getting in anywhere at all is obviously a huge accomplishment, choosing where to live for the next four years of your life can seem intimidating to even the most enthusiastic scholar. While there is no “right” or “wrong” answer to the question of where to attend medical school, there are definitely some factors to consider when making your decision.
First and foremost, the fact that you will indeed be living wherever you choose for at least four years means that you ideally should like the region of the country you’re at. Does the weather in the area appeal to you? Remember that unlike in undergraduate school, you will only have one true summer in medical school (between your first and second year); year-round weather is a factor to consider when thinking about medical school locations. On the same topic of liking the area where you will be living, consider the cost and availability of recreation in the area. Are you a city boy who thrives in a place that offers an exciting range of dining experiences? Or are you a country girl who finds solace in the sight of fields going on and on for miles? Even though you’ll be inside studying for most of your first two years in medical school, it’s still important to get out of the library and away from your books to refresh yourself. Dedication to studying is admirable, but studying always and only will make you exhausted and depressed by the time you reach your clinical years. Living in an area that appeals to your personal interests will help keep your medical school experience enjoyable.
Medical school is expensive, and the price difference between private and state schools is huge—huge enough to be a very important factor when considering what school to attend. State schools will easily put you into half of the debt that many private institutions will force you to accumulate during your four years. Keep in mind also that there are currently no government sponsored subsidized loans for graduate school; this means that your loans will accrue interest while you are still attending school. In addition to the tuition cost of a school, the cost of living in an area should also be considered. Living for four years in southern California will be substantially more expensive than living for four years in the Midwest (unless you have free room and board). The cost of airplane tickets to and from a region should also be taken into consideration; a medical school located near a “hub” for flights will often mean that you’ll be paying less than other medical students across the nation when it is time to pay for residency interview flights during your fourth year.
Finally, consider whether or not a region offers opportunities for summer research or summer medical preceptorships for which you can earn a moderate income. Many rental agreements are cheapest if signed for a period of 12 months; having a source of income during the summer between your first and second year can help you be able to afford paying for these months of summer rent while also helping you save up money to help with living expenses for the upcoming school year.