Choosing to go to medical school is a huge life decision. It mean that you’ll be spending (at least) another four years of your life in school, at least another four years of your life spent studying and paying for an education instead of actually really earning money to help pay off your college loans. However, even though choosing to apply to (and getting accepted to) medical school is a huge decision to make, some premed students find that they actually haven’t chosen the best medical schools to apply to for their own needs. Because of this, their time in graduate school is often more stressful than it really has to be.Interestingly enough, much of the confusion about where to go to medical school is often due to a few common misconceptions held by premed students.

“I must go to ________ because of its research program.”

Often premed students are under the impression that in order to participate in research at the graduate school level, they must actually attend the institution that the research is primarily conducted at. However, this belief is far from accurate. A good number of cross institutional studies have options for student researchers, and many medical schools offer programs for students from other institutions to work through. Typically speaking, these programs are offered during the summer between the first and second years of school, but some programs offer spots for student researchers during the summer before their first year of medical school as well. Additionally, some programs offer year-long research years for students between their second and third years, for anyone who wants a stronger research experience than just what a simple summer can offer. Overall, just because a school doesn’t have the research programs you are interested in doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to participate in those programs if you don’t attend school there as a student. Going to one medical school but doing research at another is a very real possibility.

“I want to be in a ‘competitive’ residency, so I need to go to a top-ranked school.”

While attending a top-ranked school probably won’t ever hurt you as you interview at residencies during your fourth year, the truth remains that the most determining factor for what residencies will be interested in you is not the school you attended. Instead, performance on Step 1 and Step 2 exams is weighed significantly higher than where you went to school. Doing well on your step exams is something that can be accomplished by dedicated students at any institution, regardless of its official ranking.

“Price, location, and rank are the most important factors for me to consider in a medical school.”

Finally, this last misconception really overlooks the huge factor that teaching and testing styles can play into your medical education. Specifically speaking, premed students often don’t realize the huge variation in educational approaches taken by different medical schools. While some schools focus almost entirely on lecture-based teaching, other schools boast of utilizing a more peer-to-peer teaching approach. Knowing how you learn best makes researching the teaching style of a particular medical school an important factor to consider.