9 things to consider when weighing multiple medical school offers

24 August 2020

Congratulations, you got into medical school! Now comes the time for a BIG decision. Levi and I know what it’s like to lie awake at night stressing over theoretical plans. After getting that long-awaited offer of acceptance, all of our “what ifs” and “if that happens, then whats” were no longer theoretical. We realized that the decisions being made were actually going to dictate our lives in Australia… this is real! Hurray!

But then another offer of acceptance popped into our inbox.. and then another! Hurray? Our simple plan of “going to whatever school accepts the two of us” suddenly became much more complicated. Here’s a list of things we considered before ultimately deciding to go to Griffith University Medical School.

Learn more about Griffith University Medical School
Choosing a medical school? Trust your instincts!

1. Tuition cost
International education is a heavy financial burden no matter which school you choose to attend. Although Levi and I feel tuition costs should not be the reason you choose your program, it is a realistic priority to have. Since most students need to take out a loan in order to finance their studies, it is essential to consider the feasibility of affording the program. Although rare, don’t forget to consider scholarship opportunities that different schools have to offer!

2. Lifestyle: entertainment, community, transport
Close your eyes and imagine your life in Australia. Are you studying at a quiet coffee shop? Learning how to surf and loving the beach? Do you like the hustle and bustle of city life? Again, this is totally up to you. We realize it is hard to imagine the lifestyle for each campus’ city. The best you can do is research the city online and ask your friends at OzTREKK or any of the OzTREKK ambassadors about it! OzTREKK often sends parts of their team to help students get settled in every city around the schools and have firsthand experience of what life is like there. Once you know more about the city, such as entertainment options, transport, and the community, it is easier to imagine your life in Australia, and that’s when the fun begins!

3. Cost of living
On top of the hefty tuition fees, the location of the university greatly affects the cost of living. For example, rental fees on the Gold Coast are significantly more affordable than in the larger cities like Melbourne or Sydney. Check out the average rental prices in the suburbs around the campus before you start budgeting! (There are really helpful facts about this in the OzTREKK Boarding Pass, which you’ll have access to after you apply.)

4. Class size
This is more of a personal preference. Do you feel giddy walking into a full and grandiose lecture hall, or does that make you feel sick with anxiety? Would you rather be able to have your professor know your name, or would you rather have a bigger pool of potential pals? Levi and I graduated from a small private university and we like to have relationships with our professors so having a smaller class size was our preference.

5. School values – mission statement and program emphasis (e.g., Griffith and Doctor and Patient Communication)
This is an important consideration that we feel is often overlooked. When you are so far from home and from your usual support system, it is nice to belong to an organization that shares your beliefs and values. Check out the school’s mission statement! Do your priorities align with theirs? Are there aspects of your program that you are most passionate about? As future physicians, Levi and I decided that we wanted to attend a program that emphasized the importance of the doctor-patient relationship. We found this at Griffith University!

6. Age of the program
Would you rather have an established program that has figured out all of the kinks, but is maybe resistant to student feedback? Or would you like a new program that may still have some wrinkles to iron out, but is more open to your opinions about how to change the curriculum for the better? The age of the university and/or program contributes to many important things to consider, such as: ranking, facilities, and opportunities and connections established by the university with other institutions.

7. Student support
Moving across the world requires a lot of adaptation. The support networks you have at home—be it family, friends, or mentors—may not be able to assist you the same way over Skype that they did in person. Therefore, being aware of what the school is able to offer you, whether it be opportunities to meet new friends or mentors, or international advisors to help with finances, accommodations, or community activities, helps a lot! Another thing you might want to consider is the composition of your international peers! As an international student, you automatically belong to a group of friendly people, all equally as nervous and fresh off the plane as you. Do you want to make friends from different cultures and countries, or do you want to have the comfort of having mostly Canadian friends who share your nostalgia for blustery winters or a Tim Hortons maple-glazed donut?

8. Facilities
A new med school might be nice and shiny, but not have had the opportunity to build the relationships within the community or even the proper buildings for an anatomy lab. Or an older school might have a library that was great ten years ago, but doesn’t hold up so well now. Being aware of what the school itself has invested in in order to help you learn is important for knowing what you’re getting yourself into.

9. School ranking
We’d know you were lying if you were to tell us you didn’t care about school ranking. But here’s the deal: it doesn’t matter. No one is going to care what international school you got your degree from! What matters is how competent you are in what you are passionate about doing. End of story. You may think we are crazy for putting this on the bottom of our list, but we have found that as the days go by, the more grateful we are about this decision! No ranking system knows your values and concerns like you do.

We’ve provided this list in the order of our priorities. We know that everyone is different, and the order may change for you! Write out your own list before looking into your school options. This may help you find a school that fits your values first, rather than compromising your own experience to fit the program. This is your adventure to create! We believe a priority list like this, personal to you, is the most powerful tool you can have when setting yourself up for success in this next chapter in life.

We hope this list helps during a time of big decisions. We hope you trust your instincts and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime process.

Griffith Medical School students Jacqueline and Levi Atamanchuk

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