Can International Students Attend Medical School in the USA?

Thank you for your interest in Hope College and our pre-medicine program. What follows is information about the difficulty international students have gaining admission to medical school in the US.

We offer it because we care about you and your career aspirations and don't want you to be mislead as you consider where to attend for your undergraduate studies.  We do not share it to be discouraging, but to be as helpful as possible as you consider your future.  And, please be sure to read the bottom section titled "What Other Options Are There?".

Can International Students Attend Medical School in the USA?  The Harsh Realities:

The national data is fairly grim for international students wishing to attend a US medical school even if they have graduated from a US college or university.  In 2010, there were 42,742 applicants to US medical schools. Only 1300 (3%) were not US residents or citizens (foreign students). Of the 42,742 applicants,18,665 (44%) were accepted and matriculated.  However, only 171 of these 18,665 were non-residents or non-citizens. Thus, less than one half of one percent (.004) of the international students who applied to medical school were accepted and enrolled.

Even when an international student is accepted they face the daunting task of financing the cost of medical school. Non-US residents/citizens are not eligible for federal or state loan programs, which are used by most US medical students to finance medical school. To be able to get a loan from a US bank or other non-government program, the international student generally must have a co-signer who is a US resident and has assets sufficient to cover the loans if the student should default on the loan. Before most US medical schools will accept an international student, they will try to ensure that the student has the ability to pay for all four years of medical school. This often means that the student will need to have the  funds for all four years of medical school placed in an escrow account in the US. Full scholarships for international students at most US medical schools are extremely rare. 

International students who come to the US for their undergraduate education are also at a disadvantage if they want to attend medical school in most European, African or Asian countries. Formal medical training generally starts earlier in these countries than it does in the US.  Most of these countries follow the European model for medical school training where students start in a medical curriculum as an undergraduate (freshman) and spend a total of six years in combined undergraduate and medical education. 

We believe it is unfair and dishonest to suggest that attending a US college or university will provide international students with a strong chance of gaining admission to medical school. For international students, there is a a better chance of gaining admission to certain other health professional graduate schools including pharmacy, public health, physician assistant, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

Hope College will admit students regardless of their academic interest, but at the same time will be forthright about any international student's chances to gain admission to a US medical school. Hope's strong reputation in the sciences provides excellent preparation for US students entering medical school and also provides excellent preparation for our International students who have an interest the health professions other than medical school.

"What Other Options Are There?"

Deciding on a career path is difficult at an early age.  This is true for US students as well as international students.  The vast majority of US students who start in a pre-medicine curriculum do not stay on that path.  The reasons are many, but mostly they are related to the challenge of the curriculum or the discovery of another subject not previously thought about.  Even though becoming a medical doctor through the US system is almost impossible for international students, there are many, many related careers for which Hope College is an excellent choice.  For example, Hope's strong undergraduate research program enables students to pursue graduate studies (in the US) in fields such as bio-medical and neuroscience research, pharmacology, and osteopathic medicine as well as many other areas in the physical sciences.

Ways to Practice Medicine in the US

If your goal is to practice medicine in the US, please see these links to information about options for students who obtain a medical degree outside the US but want to practice in the US.