Despite what you hear, Caribbean medical schools are not an easy way to earn an MD. Many Caribbean medical schools function like U.S. medical schools, which mean they have a rigorous medical curriculum to prepare their students to become successful physicians. The application process for American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine and many other prominent Caribbean medical schools (like Ross and St. George’s) thoroughly examines candidates’ backgrounds to see if they are qualified to attend medical school. These are some of the qualities that Caribbean medical schools expect of its applicants.
Caribbean medical schools are more forgiving of an applicant’s overall GPA than U.S. medical schools. Numerous factors could have lowered their average: a death in the family, serious financial problems, or other major life events could have gotten in the way of their education. Though students that enter Caribbean medical schools have a lower undergraduate GPA than those entering U.S. medical schools, applicants should show that they have either improved their GPA over time and have done well in relevant courses.
A low GPA early in college could be the result of adjusting to college life or just a couple of bad classes. As long as your GPA improves consistently through college, it shows admissions committees that you are willing to learn from your mistakes and become a better student.
The GPA average that matters most is your science and/or pre-med GPA. Admissions committees pay particular attention to science courses such as biology, chemistry, and physics. Since much of the work in medical school is built on a basic understanding of these concepts, these committees want to ensure that any accepted student can handle the coursework when they begin medical school.
Relevant Extracurricular Activities
Have you participated in the Pre-Med Society at your college? Worked in a physician’s office? These are great to mention in your application to show you have a passion for medicine. However, admissions committees are most interested to see if you have the skills necessary, such as compassion, leadership, and teamwork.
There are many ways you can show off these skills on your application. Volunteer experience gives admissions committees the impression that you want to do more for your community. Leadership positions in clubs and other activities show that your peers have acknowledged you as someone they trust and respect to make difficult decisions. Even showing that you were on a sports team can prove that you can thrive on a team.
Few Caribbean medical schools require the MCAT. AUA doesn’t consider your MCAT score for admissions but it does require it for matriculation. This is to comply with U.S. government regulations and so applicants know that MCAT scores are not factored into their decisions.
Other Caribbean medical schools that require the MCAT for admissions (such as Ross and St. George’s) only use it if the score is high enough. For example, if your GPA is low but your MCAT score is relatively high, it may help you get into those schools. However, you must complete your MCAT before you apply to these schools.
Personal and Professional Characteristics Matter
Applying to a Caribbean medical school doesn’t mean you automatically get in. After the admissions committee evaluates your application, you are typically brought into their offices for an interview with an admissions counselor. This is to evaluate firsthand if you have the personal and professional characteristics necessary to become a physician. Treat these interviews as if you are interviewing for a prestigious job. The interview can make or break your chances of getting into medical school.
Although some Caribbean medical schools have looser standards for acceptance, it is best to avoid them. They will only give you false hope that you will succeed in a rigorous medical curriculum you are not entirely prepared for. If you were rejected, take the time to build up your application. Take classes to show you can succeed academically. Shadow a physician to see what a career in medicine is really like. As opposed to U.S. medical schools, Caribbean medical schools believe in second chances. If you prove you can flourish in a rigorous medical education, then you will be on your way to earning an MD.