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Applying to Medical School as an International Student

Applying to medical school is an arduous process and applying as an international applicant is even more difficult. Before setting your goal to attend a U.S. medical school please read the following information as there are complicating factors that international students can face when applying to medical school in the U.S.

What are the barriers for international students applying to U.S. medical schools?

  1. here is a limited number of medical schools in the U.S. that accept or even interview international students. Please see our list of schools (below), both allopathic (M.D) and Osteopathic (D.O.) that have indicated they will accept international students. Be sure to check each individual school as each school has its own admission policies and requirements and they may change their acceptance of international students from year to year. For example, Rosalind Franklin University and Albert Einstein College stopped accepting international students starting in the class of 2020. Some schools indicate that they will accept international students but actually have zero interviews over the past years. Refer to MSAR for further information.

  2. Many medical schools are public schools that receive funding from the state they are in. That means the medical schools want to train physicians who will stay in their state and practice medicine there. Many of the state medical schools, including the medical schools in the University of California system, will take very few out-of-state students, and even fewer international students, with the notable exception of UCLA. With that in mind, applying to a private medical school might provide a better chance of admission, as they often do not have quotas for state residents.

  3. International students are unable to receive Federal Loans to pay for an expensive medical school education. Federal Loans are only available to permanent residents or citizens of the U.S. For purposes of admissions and financial aid, U.S. permanent residents are managed similar to U.S. citizens. As an international student, you will need to show medical schools that you have the funds to pay for it. They may require one year or all four years of tuition paid or bank accounts showing funds available to pay. However, some private schools still offer merit-based scholarships for exceptional international applicants.

  4. Medical schools are concerned that an international student who completes a medical education in the U.S. will not stay in the U.S. to practice medicine but return to their home country to practice medicine. Of course, many international students want to stay in the U.S. to practice medicine, but this is a consideration of medical schools when they are reviewing medical school applications.

  5. Medical schools want to know that their students are going to be accepted to residency slots and eventually be physicians who are able to practice. International students need to be able to get work visas to be able to stay in the U.S. after they have graduated from medical school and are ready to attend a residency program. Generally, the residency program they match will sponsor their visa. However, if an international student has an issue getting a residency due to a visa issue it can reflect poorly on the medical school. Although other professions can go out and get a job after their graduate degrees (law, dentistry) physicians cannot practice medicine until they have completed their minimum of 3 years of residency (postgraduate) training. With the current administration’s immigration policies with H1B visas especially, there have been more issues with students who have returned to their home country and cannot get back into the U.S. to complete the residency they matched with due to visa issues.

What can you do to be a stronger applicant to U.S. medical schools?

  1. As a U.C.Berkeley student, taking your science pre-requisites and getting a baccalaureate degree from a university in the U.S., you are eliminating one barrier to U.S. medical schools as courses at Berkeley are considered academically rigorous by most institutions. U.S. medical schools typically require the prereqs to be completed from a U.S. college/university. Although you are completing your coursework in the U.S., you are not considered a U.S. student. The “international” status is based on your residency status, not where you received your degree from.  

  2. Your academic record and MCAT score need to be as stellar as possible to make sure you are competitive. You have to be above the typical academic metrics for medical school applicants and have strong medically related experiences, leadership, and research.

  3. Applying to both allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) medical schools that indicate and show they have previously accepted international students can help achieve your goal. Refer to the MSAR and/or AACOMAS for a list of osteopathic schools that accept international students.

  4. Ideally, you need to be on a path to citizenship, if possible, or at least have a strong desire to stay in the U.S expressed either in your personal statement or secondary applications.

  5. Applying to Medical School as an International Student (AAMC)

What are other options?

  1. MD/Ph.D. programs are typically easier for international students to get accepted to. It is not recommended to apply to MD/Ph.D. programs just for the ability to attend medical school. You need to be very interested in the MD/Ph.D. path when it comes to applying and interviewing. These programs are highly competitive and are only an option for international students who have completed a significant amount of research and who are academically very strong applicants. Some questions for a student to ask themselves if considering this route are:  

    1. Do you really want the MD/Ph.D. in order to pursue your career goals, or is the dual degree primarily being used as a source of entrance to and funding to attend medical school?  

    2. Are you prepared for the type of educational experience that an MD/Ph.D. program demands?  

    3. Do you know the typical career path for which an MD/Ph.D. program generally prepares you? 

You can check with the AAMC MD-PhD Programs Policy resource for a chart of the MD/Ph.D. programs that accept international applicants. One of the reasons MD/Ph.D. programs may not accept international students is due to where the supporting funds are coming from. If the MD/Ph.D. program is supported by the NIH Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), trainees on those grants must be citizens or noncitizen nationals of the U.S. or have achieved permanent residency status. MD/Ph.D. programs with other funding sources might be more willing to consider international students.

  1. It is important to note that Canadian students do not always face the same challenges as other international applicants. First, the educational system in Canada is very similar to that of the United States, and admissions officers are therefore more familiar with their educational system. Second, there is also a long history of Canadians receiving both their undergraduate and medical education in the United States. U.S. medical schools may vary on how they view Canadian applicants versus other international applicants. Canadians are more likely to be able to receive financial help from their government to finance their U.S. or Canadian medical school education. There are a couple of U.S. medical schools that favor Canadian applicants and you should refer to MSAR for further information.

  2. Consider other health fields. Pharmacy, dentistry, and nursing are all easier health professional schools for international students to attend.

U.S. Medical Schools that actually take International students

*Take very few = matriculate two or less each year, likely inside candidates

*Claim that they accept = zero to one matriculation in recent years, with public schools mostly zero, likely inside candidates


Boston University

Brown University (Take very few)

Case Western Reserve University

Columbia University

Dartmouth College

David Geffen at UCLA

Duke University (Take very few)

Emory University

Georgetown University

George Washington University (Special International Student Program for Practice in Home Country)

Harvard Medical School

Howard University (African American focused)

Icahn Mount Sinai

Johns Hopkins University

Loma Linda University (Religious)

Medical College of Wisconsin

New York Medical College (Prefers Canadians)

Morehouse School of Medicine (African American focused)

Northwestern University (Take very few)

Penn State (Take very few)

Rochester (Claims that they accept)

Rutgers New Jersey (Claims that they accept)

Saint Louis University

Sidney Kimmel/Jefferson Medical College

Stanford University 

Stony Brook University(Take very few)

SUNY Upstate

Tufts University (Take very few)

Tulane University

University of Colorado (Claims that they accept)

University of Connecticut (Claims that they accept)

University of Chicago (Take very few)

University of Hawaii (Ties to the state)

University of Illinois (Claims that they accept)

University of Kentucky (Claims that they accept)

University of Louisville (Prefers Canadians)

University of North Carolina (Claims that they accept)

UC Davis (Claims that they accept)

UC San Diego (Claims that they accept)

University of Pennsylvania

University of Pittsburgh

University of Utah (Claims that they accept)

University of Virginia

Vanderbilt University

Washington University in St. Louis

Weill Cornell Medical College

Yale University


A student perspective

Applying to medical schools is very difficult, especially as an international applicant. However, it is entirely possible once you have decided that this is the route that you want to be on. Do not let anyone discourage you from pursuing your dream. In recent years, the acceptance rate for international students hovers around 10%, which shows that medical schools are indeed more discretionary when it comes to accepting international students. But, it’s still possible!


Choose a major that you are indeed interested in and enjoy studying and talking about. If you come from a country with a very different education system, take advantage of the vast range of courses offered at Cal and discover your academic niche. Invest yourself in the activities that you are genuinely interested in and stay committed. As an international student, you brought a very different perspective to Cal, and I am pretty sure you will bring a rarely found perspective to medical schools you are applying to as well. Keep these little things that make you shine in mind. Take pride in how far you have come, and have faith in how far you can go!


From an international student that was accepted to a U.S. medical school!



Resources for International Students

1. is a good source to connect with other international students who have successfully matriculated to U.S. med schools for advice and mentorship.

2. Scholarships for Non-US Citizens