Medical Education Pathways – Part 3 – Your Future Begins Now


How can one find information about foreign medical schools? How does one apply to medical school in another country? Students can either do the research and homework on their own, or find a student advocate to assist them in the process.

For students who want to take matters into their own hands, the most important things to look for are universities that are recognized by the appropriate accrediting bodies in the student’s home country. For example, American students looking for international medical schools should refer to the FAIMER website and search the IMED directory from their website for eligible medical schools around the world. It is also important to talk to the admission office and the international student office to determine if they are capable of assisting in matters such as housing, residence permits and other day-to-day aspects of living in a foreign country. Don’t forget to ask for names and contact information for alumni and current students of the university. Perhaps the most important factor in determining the reliability of an international program is the length of time that it has been available. Programs that have been around for more than 10 years have enough experience with foreign students to understand their needs. Programs with less than 10 years are still ‘learning the ropes’ and the program administration is typically not as smooth or easy as compared to more experienced programs. I have experienced both types of programs from a student’s perspective and from an administrator’s perspective. Programs with less than 10 years of experience are very difficult for both students and administrators to handle.

Many international medical schools work with student advocates in other countries to assist students who are interested in their programs. Student advocates are typically official representatives of the medical schools they claim to work with, and charge a fee for their service. If there is no stated upfront fee, the advocate has an arrangement with the university to receive a part of the students’ tuition fee. There are pros and cons to each financial model. It is important to note that it is not ethical for advocates to receive money from universities on a per-student basis, as this constitutes a conflict of interest. In the United States, it is a completely unacceptable practice. As with any other part of life, be wary of anyone who claims to give you something for nothing.

Applicants can contact local student advocates, search the internet, contact the universities directly or even visit the universities in order to get a better idea of the program, curriculum, culture and life outside of the university. It is important to confirm that the advocate has a good relationship with the university. It is also very important to make sure the advocate has a good history in dealing with students and universities. The best way to verify this is to ask to speak with some of their current students, and visit their office to be sure they are a legitimate organization. It is important to have a good advocate, because the advocate provides an initial stability and ongoing sense of security. It has been shown that students with support systems in place have lower attrition rates and better grades than students without such a support system.

An experienced and conscientious advocate will almost always insist on meeting the students and maybe even the family for an interview. After all, it is the whole family that is affected when a student decides to study overseas. It is important to establish a good relationship between the advocate and the student. Without this connection, the student might hesitate to reach-out for assistance if they need help while at school. Advocates typically help students during the transition, and stay close to the students in the first few months of school. As time passes and the students adjust to their new setting, they typically contact advocates only for more serious issues or in case of emergencies. It is typical for students to adapt quickly to their new surroundings and this natural ‘maturation’ allows advocates to stay focused on newer students.

Services an advocate might provide:

-Application processing & visa/immigration facilitation
-Arrange interviews locally – this saves students and parents from having to fly to the university before knowing they are accepted
-Many student advocates set up housing, internet access, cell phones, bank accounts, health insurance, etc…
-Advocates typically have employees in or around the university to provide on-site assistance for their students
-More comprehensive programs offer USMLE and residency counseling, and the possibility of some clinical rotations in the US to students in the program.

Whatever the situation, nothing replaces thorough research on the part of the student.

There are many advantages to an international medical education. It is a great opportunity for students who may not otherwise have the chance. There are so many bright young people in this country who could be great doctors if given the opportunity.

Well, the opportunity is here. Your future begins now.

Good luck!