Attending medical school in the Caribbean is becoming a popular option for students, as the cost of U.S. medical school tuition increases and spaces for new students become more limited. It is important, however, for prospective medical students to learn both the benefits and drawbacks of attending medical school in the Caribbean as they go through the application process. Attending medical school in the Caribbean is often a less expensive option and schools are usually easier to get into, but degrees from these schools are not always accepted in other countries. When applying for residency, some programs may look less favorably on students who attended medical school in the Caribbean.
Most students say that one of the main benefits of attending a Caribbean medical school is the price tag. Caribbean medical schools are often a bargain when compared with medical schools in other countries, such as the U.S. Even with the hidden costs of studying abroad, such as purchasing frequent plane tickets and buying travel health insurance, students will usually end up paying less for their medical education if they choose to attend a school in the Caribbean.
Another major reason for considering medical school in the Caribbean is that the schools there are easier to get into. Caribbean medical schools have three application periods each year, compared with one application period for U.S. medical schools. Their standards for things like student grade point averages (GPAs) and Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) scores are often less rigorous as well.
What this means, however, is that not all Caribbean schools are accredited, and the degrees that these schools issue may not be accepted outside of the Caribbean. In fact, four states in the U.S. — California, New York, New Jersey, and Florida — do not accredit most Caribbean schools. It is also a good idea for prospective students to figure out whether the state or area of the world in which they plan to practice medicine recognizes the Caribbean medical school they are considering.
In addition, the stigma that comes with attending a medical school in the Caribbean can put students at a disadvantage when they are applying for residency. It is possible, however, to make up for the negative image by doing well on licensing exams, such as the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®), as many residency programs will give strong consideration to good scores. It is also important to remember that not all medical schools in the Caribbean are considered equal. Some schools there are well-regarded in the U.S. and around the world, so their reputations need not necessarily be a drawback.