International Students Overview

International students are students who are not green card holders or permanent residents.  A permanent resident is generally considered the same as a US resident for application purposes.

International students not holding a green card face a challenge in medical school admissions.  Only a limited number of schools will accept non-resident international students. Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) indicates that of the 20,000 or so places in medical schools in the US, between 200-300 non-US-citizen/ non-permanent residents were accepted.  

If an international student is accepted, schools have policies that may require a student to show evidence of their capacity to pay tuition above and beyond the INS requirements for an I20. Some schools may expect the student to pre-pay tuition for the entire four years or create an escrow account for these funds. Some institutions will accept loans co-signed by a US citizen.

International students do not qualify for Federal Financial Aid, but a few institutions may provide merit scholarships.  Research-oriented international applicants should explore joint MD/Ph.D. programs in which a research mentor’s grant might support the student.

Research Schools and Plan Accordingly

Not all US medical schools accept international students. Each school is different, and it is imperative that you check individual admissions websites to view policies regarding international applicants, coursework requirements, financial requirements, etc. 

Create a Financial Plan for Medical School

Medical school is an expensive endeavor. The average cost of attending a 4 year program can range from $160,000 to $240,000.  International non-resident students do not qualify for Federal Financial Aid so consider alternate options. For instance, some institutions offer school-specific loan programs. Additionally, some major banks offer private student loans to international applicants, but you would need to have a co-signer who is a citizen of the US.

The key is to evaluate the available options and have a plan in place before starting school.

Consider MD/Ph.D. Programs

Some medical schools offer combined MD/Ph.D. programs. These are often fully funded. The consensus is that this is a great option for international students as it makes paying for school much more feasible. It should be noted that these programs are highly competitive and will certainly require the applicant to have significant research experience.

A list of institutions offering these programs can be accessed via the Medical Scientist Training Program website sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

Most Important, Make Yourself a Competitive Applicant

This really is the key to the whole process.

Achieve high grades in your premedical coursework. Study diligently for the MCAT and secure a competitive score.  You may need to score higher than the normal matriculant average, as the process is more competitive for international applicants.

Work at a hospital or clinic, and pursue other volunteer and extracurricular opportunities. Consider taking a year to work in a lab and perform additional research—especially if you plan to apply to MD/Ph.D. programs.

When you apply, it is imperative there are no gaps in your application. 

Helpful Websites and Resources: