As a “non-traditional” applicant with several years of work under my belt, I considered applying to US MD, US DO, non-US Caribbean MD and non-US International MD schools.
In retrospect, I would simply say this: the freedom to choose my field of medical practice, without additional stigma or obstacles, has been worth every ounce of struggle. It would have been almost impossible for me to become a neurosurgeon if I attended any of the alternatives. So, too, with almost any highly competitive field (see part II for more on this).
Yes, it may take additional time, effort, and even money – one of my dear friends applied three times (rejected twice), obtained a pre-medical school masters degree and retook the MCATs twice before being accepted to our school. He was elected to junior AOA above many other “traditional” students with Ivy League backgrounds and matched at one of his top two choices in the most competitive field (by the numbers) in our year’s match. His reward is a lifetime of medical practice doing precisely what he wants.
If you’re reading this blog and considering neurosurgery as a career, that line of reasoning probably resonates strongly with you. Whether you end up deciding on neurosurgery or not – having that choice is worth all the time in the world. Some roads are harder, some are easier, but my friend’s story illustrates that even great obstacles can be overcome.
Lastly, this: investing extra time and years to improve your application to medical school is not “time off” or “time wasted” if approached correctly. If you can gain new skills, strengthen your knowledge, build connections and (maybe even) enjoy your years, you will be grateful for the opportunity. Your experience will make you a better physician, a better scientist, and a better person compared to those who went “straight though”.
To pre-medical students considering non-US MD programs because of difficulty gaining admission to US-MD programs, I would strongly encourage you to invest time and energy in your future before closing off opportunities that you do not fully comprehend. If you have applied to medical school and been rejected, determine the cause(s), invest time in shoring up your weaknesses*, and then reapply once your application has materially improved**. If that fails, then reassess again, improve your application and try again. As long as you have the will to continue, try again.
* and **: The most common reason for failure in re-applicants, among the students who I have spoken with, is a failure to materially change the application. Examples: applying again three months after being rejected, applying before results of research years have been published, applying before new MCAT score released (or applying with the same low MCAT score), applying before GPA has changed significantly, applying before new letters can be written.