Friday afternoon I had the privilege of interacting with prospective Rice-Baylor program candidates and their parents. One of the topics that came up was the single most important consideration in picking a medical school. US News & World Report Rankings, match lists, and class statistics (GPA/MCAT scores) are commonly cited as assessments in determining how “good” a medical school is, but in my opinion, the average USMLE Step 1 score is far more important.
A lot of things play into a high average, namely the type of students and quality of curriculum… and because it’s an average, it reflects on the entire class more so than any individual. USMLE Step 1 is the most important test a student will take in med school. It’s an objective assessment which standardizes the playing field across the country.
I’m a firm believer that the ultimate purpose of medical school is to get us into a residency program where our real training will begin. Under this assumption, I’ve questioned many MS4 colleagues about the most important factor in landing a residency interview, and most of them have said the USMLE Step 1 above all else (more than research, away rotations, recommendation letters, personal statement, etc.) By speaking to residency directors, I learned some programs have minimum Step 1 score cutoffs for consideration too… you know… just to make things even more difficult. 🙂
Public rankings follow research dollars, and match lists cannot be taken at face value. In fact, more schools should publish the percentage of their graduating class matching to one of their top three ranked programs (after all… not everyone wants to go to Harvard, Hopkins, or Cali). So overall, I think the average Step 1 score should be the screening metric in picking a medical school.
What do you think is the most important factor to consider?