ultimate guide to caribbean medical universities
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Ultimate Guide To Caribbean Medical Universities

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For most of the pre-meds out there, I think you can all agree that pursuing a career in medicine is a dream that must be achieved no matter what. That’s why you go head and neck with other applicants to get into the best med schools within the US. But the reality is – not everyone gets in. That’s where Caribbean medical universities step in.

In this post, we’ll be talking about Caribbean medical universities to help you wrap your head around the concept of whether you should apply for these med schools or not if you plan to pursue residencies within the US.

FYI: Check out my interview with my good friend Tommy who explains his experience in Carribean medical school in this video below!

Are Caribbean Medical Universities A Good Idea?

are caribbean medical universities a good idea

Source: SGU

Caribbean medical universities have been branded as a last resort for the below-average pre-med student to keep pursuing their dream of becoming a doctor. It’s a place for those who want to pursue medicine in the US, but are unable to get accepted to US accredited med schools.

This stigma against Caribbean medical universities normally stems from the lower GPAs and MCAT scores of matriculants. That’s why it attracts pre-med students who usually had lower scores than their peers during college due to having the need to work or simply because they just weren’t motivated enough.

I do believe that if you have even the slightest bit chance of acceptance to a US accredited medical school, please go for it. Actually, no. Please EXHAUST for it.

Getting into schools like these may be harder and stricter as compared to Caribbean medical universities, but historically speaking, you may have a better chance of matching into residencies in the US once you have graduated.

However, if you have exhausted most of your options and can’t get accepted into a US accredited MD or DO med school even after sending in 20 applications – Caribbean medical universities are most likely your last ray of hope.

For those who are specifically looking to Caribbean medical universities, this is still not the most horrible option in the world for you. Believe it or not, some of the most successful physicians now are graduates of Caribbean medical universities. If asked if they had any regrets – they simply answer no.

You still have the chance to match into the specialty you desire – provided that you are at the top percentile of your class, have phenomenal GPAs and MCAT scores, and if you have proved to be as competent as your US-educated counterparts. Otherwise, residency program directors won’t even bother taking a look at your application.

How Hard Is It To Get Into Caribbean Medical Universities?

how hard is it to get into caribbean medical universities

Source: AUA

Getting into whatever medical school, prestigious or not, is not an easy process in itself. One simply can’t just wake up from a nap and realize that they want to get into medical school before the sun sets.

If we take a look at average GPAs and MCAT scores of Caribbean medical universities and compare these to the average of top-ranking medical schools, the difference is painfully evident. Thus, one can only assume that it’s easier to get into Caribbean medical universities.

While this is not completely false, there are still some considerations to take into account when applying for Caribbean medical universities.

Do Caribbean Medical Universities Require MCAT?

Only a handful of Caribbean medical universities require matriculants to have taken the MCAT. Most of this handful is the top-ranking med schools in the Caribbean such as Ross University School of Medicine, American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, and St. George’s University School of Medicine.

A high MCAT score could actually cover up for your low GPA and have the potential to save your application to these best Caribbean medical universities.

Caribbean Medical Universities That Don’t Require MCAT

Some Caribbean medical universities don’t consider the MCAT scores of applicants when choosing who will get accepted. While it’s not much of a big deal compared to top-ranking medical schools in the US, it’s still a requirement for matriculation.

They don’t care if you have a low or high MCAT score, what matters is you have taken it.

So, you may be asking and scratching your head right now – what’s the point of taking the MCAT, then? It’s simple really. Caribbean medical universities that produce graduates who are eligible to apply for residencies in the US only require your MCAT scores for matriculation just to comply with US government regulations.

Caribbean medical universities that don’t consider MCAT scores for admissions but require it for matriculation include the American University of Antigua and Saba University School of Medicine.

If you want to practice medicine within all 50 states of the US, bottom line – you’re going to have to take the MCAT.

Caribbean Medical Universities GPA 

Caribbean medical universities have a reputation for accepting applicants with a lower GPA. This is evident if we compare the average GPA of matriculants to a US medical school and a Caribbean med school – between 3.6 and 3.7, and from 3.2 to 3.3, respectively.

Med schools in the Caribbean like the American University of Antigua believe that there are certain factors why the GPA of some students is unsatisfactory in their early pre-med years.

What matters in their application is if they have shown and proved that their GPA has improved all throughout their years in college. This gives the impression that you are capable of changing and improving – a trait that admissions committees absolutely love and adore.

Also, pay more attention to your basic science courses such as biology, chemistry, and physics as the medical school curriculum is heavily based on the basic understanding of these courses.

Selecting Which Caribbean Medical Universities To Apply To

selecting which caribbean medical universities to apply to

It’s important for you to do extensive research on Caribbean medical universities and filter out those who are unable to educate you and train you to be a resident that lives up to US standards.

One of the most accurate things to look at is the percentage of graduates obtaining residencies and matching into the specialties they desire in the US and the licensing exam passage rates of these med schools.

Heavily Consider Attrition Rates

Another key factor to heavily consider is the attrition rate of the med school. A med school in the Caribbean with a high attrition rate is definitely something to avoid.

There’s just one problem – there are no Caribbean medical universities that publish their attrition rates. It’s a good thing that Med School Tips has provided us with an estimate of the attrition rates of the best ranking Caribbean medical universities.

Estimated attrition rate (%)
St. George’s University School of Medicine 26.3
American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine 20.4
Saba University School of Medicine 35.0
Ross University School of Medicine 41.7

Table 1. Estimated Attrition Rates of the Big 4 Caribbean Medical Universities

Based on the statistics shown in table 1, it’s safe for me to advise that if everything permits, risk most of your chances at American University of the Caribbean and St. George’s University.

Saba’s and Ross’ estimated attrition rates are just too high, meaning that students at these schools drop out halfway due to the schools’ inability to provide these students the medical education they need.

Some of the least impressive Caribbean medical universities are reported to have been deliberately cutting down the class size by giving the students more difficult test banks. This strategy is also a way for the university to cut down costs to keep within their budget.

To think that the attrition rates are this high considering that both of these are part of the Big 4 Caribbean medical universities say a lot about the quality of education and approach towards the students of the lower-tier Caribbean medical schools.

Still, the attrition rates of Saba and Ross shouldn’t stop you from applying to these universities. It’s just that as long as the situation permits, it’s better for you to place your bets on St. George’s and AUC.

Just watch out for schools with attrition rates of 50% and above. These are indeed landmines that you shouldn’t step on.

Also, the correlation between the attrition rates and residency placement rates can NOT be overlooked. A Caribbean med school could have published high residency placement rates but also have high attrition rates. Another red flag.

If a medical school flunks out students who they think are not capable of passing licensures and being accepted to residency programs, this just shows how incapable they are of preparing students for the actual clinical setting.

Stay Away From Unaccredited Caribbean Medical Universities

Perhaps the most important aspect to look for in a Caribbean med school above everything else is whether if it’s accredited or not. See, many Caribbean medical universities are not really accredited – making you unable to do clinical rotations and obtain residencies within the US.

Look for med schools in the Caribbean that are eligible for Title IV funding. In other words, make sure that you can receive federal financial aids. This is one of the best indicators of accreditation.

Another thing, go deeper into your research to see that accredited Caribbean medical universities are accredited particularly by the World Federation for Medical Education.

Being granted recognition from this body only means that the school works to an internationally accepted high standard.

Stay away from a med school in the Caribbean that isn’t accredited by the WFME. Med schools like these are only handicapping their students from practicing medicine within the US and are most likely just making money out of you.

How To Apply To Caribbean Medical Universities

how to apply to caribbean medical universities

Once you have decided which med school in the Caribbean you should apply for, let me walk you through the process.

Caribbean medical universities operate on rolling admissions meaning that admissions happen for 2 to 3 times a year – most likely circulating around January/February, May, and August/September. This is distinct from US medical schools as they typically only hold admissions during the fall.

The most decent Caribbean medical universities also have dedicated staff members to assist applicants throughout the process. American University of Antigua is an example of this and have their very own Applicant Services department which prospective students can easily reach through email and phone.

Filling out applications isn’t drastically different for Caribbean medical universities but their requirements are without a doubt less strict than US medical schools. Your GPA doesn’t have to be as strong as your US counterparts, and MCAT scores are mostly optional and only required for matriculation.

Some med schools in the Caribbean would also squeeze out recommendation letters from you. Applicants with a lower GPA are advised to obtain strong recommendation letters as a form of compensation for the weak GPA.

Also, take note that you should have at least 90 credit hours of accredited undergraduate studies and have taken courses in the basic sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics since these are pre-requisites to the subjects you’ll be taking in med school.

As for interviews, it is important to note that Caribbean medical universities take a more holistic approach towards their applicants compared to US medical schools that give more importance to GPA and MCAT scores.

Thus, admission committees would try to absorb every bit of substance from your answers and attitude during the interview. Don’t be complacent and make sure to prepare for your interview.

While it’s also important for you to prepare so that you can answer the questions effectively, it’s also wise for you to know the questions you should be asking the interviewer to help you learn more about the med school you’re applying for.

Submitting applications at US medical schools typically require you to wait for longer periods of time to inform you about your acceptance, but you can hear back from Caribbean medical universities within the course of 2 weeks after the interview.

Being accepted at a med school in the Caribbean when you thought that all hope was lost after being constantly turned down by US medical schools may seem like a dream for some – but congratulate yourself! You deserve it for not giving up.

We at The MD Journey, admire your passion and drive for medicine. We need more people like you. Please keep it up!

How Hard Is It To Get A Residency From Caribbean Medical Universities?

how hard is it to get a residency as a caribbean med school graduate

Medical school graduates in the US and graduates from Caribbean medical universities neither have residency applications the easy way.

Both graduates are required to secure their MSPE, obtain strong letters of recommendation, and write high-quality personal statements.  Both are also mandatory to take the USMLE Steps 1 and 2 CK plus CS.

Residency program applicants who are graduates from US medical schools would have to go through the fiery competition, as well.

However, I would be lying to say that Caribbean medical school graduates don’t have it harder than US medical school graduates. It’s been historically and statistically proven that graduates from US med schools are usually accepted over their Caribbean graduate counterparts.

If you are planning to match into incredibly competitive specialties like Orthopedic Surgery, Dermatology, Plastic Surgery, Cardiology, and Otolaryngology – a Caribbean med school as your alma mater could be a potential scarlet letter. Most Caribbean medical school graduates match into primary care specialties.

Even the match rate of the best Caribbean med schools, 70% in this case, stand little to none chances against the 94% match rate of graduates from US allopathic medical schools. It’s a bit on par with the match rate of graduates from osteopathic medical schools which is 79%.

Still, it’s different for everyone.

You would hear stories every now and then of a successful and well-respected physician or specialist who is a graduate of top-ranking Caribbean medical universities. But some slips through the cracks and tell their story of how they didn’t manage to match into Orthopedic Surgery, a very bloody and competitive specialty by the way, even though they could have proved that they’re as competent as the US counterparts.

It’s just naturally going to be mentally and emotionally harder for you to go head and neck against US graduates if you’re trying to match into the most competitive specialties.

Staying at the top of your class, raising and maintaining your GPA, doing extracurricular activities, scoring 250+ on your Step 1, and passing the Step 2 are some of the things you’re going to work extremely hard if you want to try matching.

However, even if you desire to match into less competitive specialties, these are still going to be the same efforts you would have to go through to gear you up in competing against your US graduate counterparts.

What Are The Best Med Schools In The Caribbean?

what are the best med schools in the caribbean

Source: AUC

If you’re planning to apply for Caribbean medical universities, it would do you best to only consider the top-tier med schools.

These med schools are eligible for Title IV funding, meaning that students can receive federal loans. They boast of a comprehensive medical curriculum, accreditations from bodies such as World Federation For Medical Education (WFME), certification from the Educational Commission For Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), and strong affiliations with hospitals.

Here are the top-tier med schools in the Caribbean, also most commonly known as the Big 4, to heavily consider.

American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine

With its medical science campus located in Cupecoy, St. Maarten, AUC boasts to have 92% first-time residency match rates in 2019, a 93.6% USMLE 1st time Step 1 pass rates in 2019, and 355 graduates that matched in 2019.

This med school in the Caribbean is accredited by the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM), the accreditor of the country of St. Maarten. Via the National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA), the Department of Education of the US reviews the standards of the accreditors in a particular country.

It seems that the NCFMEA reviewed the standards of ACCM and has determined that its standards are comparable to the body that accredits medical schools within the US which is the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME).

Plus, ACCM is recognized and accredited by the WFME, which is the main consideration for graduates of Caribbean medical universities to secure rotations and apply for residency programs in the US. This makes you eligible to practice medicine in the US as a Caribbean med school graduate.

It offers a US-based curriculum that offers opportunities to pre-bachelor degrees and doctorate degrees in various areas of a medical study. The curriculum involves courses such as Anatomy, Histology and Molecular/Cell Biology, Molecular/Cell Biology, Physiology, Pathology, and Behavioral Sciences.

Admissions committees evaluate prospective students through their performance as an undergraduate, MCAT scores (they don’t consider scores that are over 5 years), GPA, judgment abilities, and overall qualities of the applicant.

Tuition for basic sciences per semester cost $19,550 whereas the clinical rotations per semester tuition fee cost $21,875. AUC also offers scholarships for its students.

Saba University School of Medicine

Saba University is located just 28 miles from St. Maarten, the island nation of Saba. When it comes to licensure and accreditation, Saba University is approved by the Medical Board of California, and Kansas State Board of Healing Arts (KSBHA). Also, it is approved by the State Board of Education of New York.

The Department of Education of the US has also granted the university of Title IV funding or federal loans for its students.

Prospective students of Saba University School of Medicine are urged to take the MCAT before applying since it’s a requirement for matriculation, though they don’t really take it as a consideration in your admissions.

While most US medical schools and Caribbean medical universities encourage students to complete basic science courses such as biology, chemistry, and even English, Saba University School of Medicine also urges students to possess a broad knowledge of the social sciences and humanities.

Application forms are ought to be submitted 6 months prior to your entry into the school. Take note that applications are accepted all year round and classes start either in January, May, and September.

Financial aids are also available for prospective American and Canadian med students. The tuition fee for the basic science courses per semester cost about $16,975 whereas clinical rotations cost about $19,600.

Lastly, Saba University provides students with on and off-campus dormitories and apartments. It’s just that first-year med students are advised to stay on-campus for them to adapt to the new environment.

St. George’s University School of Medicine

St. George’s boasts of creating 21,000 graduates that are now physicians, veterinarians, scientists, and public health professionals over the world. It has been dubbed as the Premier Choice in Caribbean Medical Schools.

Located in Grenada, it offers degrees for veterinary medicine, graduate studies, and arts and sciences alongside medicine. The university has also expanded its campus in the United Kingdom, providing easier access for UK-based med students.

St. George’s University has been historically known as one of the best Caribbean med school out of the lot as they constantly produce high rates of residency matches and first-time pass rates on the USMLE Step 1.

The university has a first-time pass rate on Step 1 of 97% in 2012. This was the 4th time that Saba University’s first-time pass rates had exceeded 90%. Canadian med students even have an impressive passing rate of 100%.

As for the tuition fees, basic sciences would cost around $30,000 to $34,000 per term – which breaks down to almost $15,000 tuition fee per semester. For the clinical rotations, all of the terms cost $31,560 each.

The tuition fees already cover the costs for books and transportation. Also, students are eligible to avail of US student loans.

Ross University School of Medicine

Ross University’s School of Medicine takes pride in its first-time pass rates in USMLE Step 1 of 96% in 2018 and first-time residency match rates of 94% in 2019-2020.

Impressive, don’t you agree? However, my problem with these statistics is its correlation with the estimated attrition rates of Ross University. Out of the 4 big Caribbean medical universities, Ross has the highest attrition rate of 41.7%.

This only means that Ross University deliberately drives out students who they judge are not competent enough to pass licensures and secure residencies. If this is not the case, then students are dropping out by themselves due to the school’s inability to provide high-quality medical education to its students.

I feel like there is no use to continue the conversation here but for consistency purposes, let’s proceed.

Ross University also encourages its students to take the MCAT as it is a main admission requirement. Personal statements and strong letters of recommendation are also requirements that need to be processed.

Tuition fees for the basic sciences by the semester would cost you $19,675 whereas clinical rotations per semester cost $21,710.

You would see all the statistics regarding these Caribbean medical universities in the table below.

Average GPA Average MCAT Residency match rate USMLE 1st-time Step 1 pass rate in 2019 Estimated attrition rates (%) Basic sciences tuition fee Clinical rotations fee
St. George’s University School of Medicine 3.3 498 93% 96% 26.3 $30,000 to $34,000 per term $31,560 per term
American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine 3.27 496 92% 93.6% 20.4 $19,550 per semester $21,875 per  semester
Saba University School of Medicine N/A N/A N/A 99% between 2015 and 2019 35.00 $16,975 per semester $19,600 per semester
Ross University School of Medicine 3.2 496 88% 96% 41.7 $19,675 per semester $21,710 per semester

Table 2. Summary Statistics of the Top Ranking Caribbean Medical Universities

Cheap Caribbean Medical Universities

cheap med schools in the caribbean

Source: St. James School of Medicine

Here are some of the cheapest Caribbean medical universities according to US College International.

Tuition fees
All Saints University School of Medicine, Dominica From $4000 per semester
New York Medical University From $4000 per semester
Windsor University School of Medicine From $5000 per semester
International American Medical University From $6000 per semester
Saint James School of Medicine From $8500 per semester

Table 3. Cheapest Medical Universities and Their Tuition Fees

FAQs About Caribbean Medical Universities

Are Caribbean Medical Universities Accredited?

There are a lot of Caribbean medical universities out there that are not accredited and have no plans of enabling you to pass your USMLE Step 1 and sending you back to the US prepared for residency. Be aware and always be on the watch.

Fortunately, there are Caribbean medical universities that are accredited by legitimate bodies. I advise you to look for med schools in the Caribbean that are accredited by the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM) and the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and Other Health Professions (CAAM-HP).

These are the two largest accreditors of med schools in the Caribbean and are both recognized by the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME).

You could safely assume that Caribbean medical universities accredited by these two accreditors offer high-quality education whereas those who are not must be avoided at all costs.

Here are Caribbean medical universities that are highly accredited.

  • American University of Antigua (AUA)
  • American University of the Caribbean (AUC)
  • Medical University of the Americas (MUA)
  • Ross University
  • George’s University (SGU)
  • Matthews University (SMU)
  • Trinity School of Medicine (TSOM)
  • University of Medicine and Health Sciences (UMHS)
  • Xavier University

How Many Medical Schools Are In The Caribbean?

There are over 80 med schools in the Caribbean. However, only a small percentage of these Caribbean medical universities produce graduates that are eligible to secure clinical rotations, match into residencies, and practice medicine within the US.

You can see here a list of Caribbean medical universities that provide its graduates with eligibility to practice medicine in the US, and those that don’t.

Is Medical School Cheaper In The Caribbean?

Definitely.

A US medical school tuition fee on average in the year 2020 ranges from $37,556 for public in-state medical students to $62,194 for public out-of-state students. As for private med schools, the average tuition fee ranges from $60,665 for in-state students to $62,111 for out-of-state students.

Most med schools in the Caribbean have tuition fees per semester that do not go over the $25,000 mark. The cheapest basic sciences tuition fees can even go for as low as $4,000.

Some could say that this is definitely a good price for those who can’t afford the tuition fees of a typical US med school. This is not false in a sense, but please, as long as the situation permits please exhaust all your efforts in applying to a US medical school. You could also apply for scholarships and financial aids as long as you’re committed to obtaining that MD degree.

Otherwise, a Caribbean med school as your alma mater wouldn’t become much of a scarlet letter as long as you enroll in one of the top-tier Caribbean medical universities, try to rank to the top of your class, score high on your Step 1 and work on your GPA like crazy.

___________________________________________________________________

We give credit to US News, Shemmassian Academic Consulting, Dr. Najeeb Lectures, Prospective Doctor, and US College International as they served as sources for this blog post.

I hope this blog post was insightful enough to help you decide whether you should enroll in a Caribbean med school. We wish you all the best in your MD Journey!

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