Answers to Caribbean Medical Schools FAQs
Students interested in going to a Caribbean medical school probably have a lot of questions—and those questions need to be answered before a decision is made to apply. Students should know how Caribbean medical schools compare to schools in the United States and Canada. They should also know how Caribbean medical schools compare against each other.
Students need to know what the requirements are to get into certain Caribbean schools, and what expectations they may have to graduate. Students should know how Caribbean medical schools are accredited, and they should make sure their hard work can lead to opportunities back in the United States or Canada. Most importantly, students should make sure that going to a Caribbean medical school can help them achieve the dream of becoming a physician.
ARE CARIBBEAN MEDICAL SCHOOLS ACCREDITED?
The first thing prospective students should learn is if a Caribbean medical school is accredited—meaning the school meets the functional and structural standards for medical education in their particular region. They should also make sure that the accreditation meets the standards of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the accreditation authority for medical schools in the United States and Canada that provide Doctor of Medicine (MD) degrees.
Students of accredited top Caribbean medical schools—such as the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC)*—enjoy the same privileges as students of medical schools in the United States and Canada. They may qualify for federal student loans through the U.S. Department of Education. They may register with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates® (ECFMG®) to begin the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) process. They may also move on to medical residencies accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the residency authority in the United States and Canada.
AUC, located in St. Maarten, the Dutch side of the island of St. Maarten, is accredited by the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM)—an authority recognized by the U.S. National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA) as meeting LCME standards. The ACCM is also recognized by the international authority on medical school standards, the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME). The ACCM accredits eight Caribbean medical schools and one in the Middle Eastern nation of Jordan. It has accredited AUC since 1995.
The ACCM is not the only accreditation authority in the Caribbean Islands. Schools among the member states of the Caribbean Community are accredited by the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professionals (CAAM-HP). (To see if a particular Caribbean medical school’s accreditation authority meets U.S. and international standards, check the NCFMEA and WFME approval lists.)
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR ADMISSION?
All medical schools have basic requirements for students who want to gain admission. These requirements include a series of undergraduate premed classes and an undergraduate degree as well as a high grade point average (GPA) and a good score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), a standardized, multiple-choice exam administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
The test is required for students wanting to enter four-year medical schools—AUC included. (AUC has temporarily waived the MCAT requirement because of COVID-19-related limitations on test availability.) Students also need some medical and other work experience, letters of recommendation and personal statements, and they should speak English and be able to communicate well. Students must also pay application fees and meet deadlines. The average GPA and average MCAT score of matriculants best illustrate differences in United States medical school requirements and Caribbean medical school requirements.
In the United States in 2020, AAMC data show that students accepted to medical schools had a mean GPA of 3.73 (out of 4.0) and scored 511.5 on the MCAT. These are excellent marks, but such high standards exclude numerous exceptional students. Matriculant (accepted student) averages are slightly lower among Caribbean schools, which tend to take a more holistic approach to admissions. This process considers an applicant as a whole person rather than a mere set of grades and scores.
WHAT ARE THE APPLICATION DEADLINES?
In the United States, students usually begin the medical school application process about a year before they hope to enter medical school. A primary application may be sent in late summer, followed by a secondary application, an interview, and—if everything goes right—acceptance. Accepted students must commit to a medical school by the end of April for classes that will begin in the autumn. If a student is not accepted to a medical school, or if the student misses the commitment deadline, the year-long application process must usually be repeated.
Caribbean medical school application deadlines differ slightly. AUC, for example, has rolling admissions that allow for applications and matriculations year-round—but there are still deadlines. At AUC, class terms begin three times per year: in January, May, and September. Students must apply and be accepted a minimum of six weeks before the start of the semester in which they wish to enroll. The flexibility of three starting times, however, means students need not wait very long if they miss a particular deadline.
WHAT IS THE ACCEPTANCE RATE?
Many students choose Caribbean medical schools because they offer opportunities to study medicine to a larger percentage of applicants. But this does not mean AUC and other Caribbean schools are “easy” to get into.
The reason why Caribbean medical schools seem easier to get into is because their higher acceptance rate is produced by smaller application pools for larger numbers of seats, as well as more holistic approaches to admissions. Holistic admission considers an applicant as a whole person rather than a mere set of grades and scores.
HOW DO CARIBBEAN STUDENTS FARE ON THE USMLE STEP 1?
At the end of the first two years of medical school, students take the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) Step 1, also known as “The Boards”—the first official test of the medical licensure process. A medical school may measure its success by the success of its students on this first USMLE exam (there are two later tests before licensure), and AUC students do exceptionally well.
In 2018, 94 percent of AUC students passed the initial step of the USMLE on the first attempt.. The AUC rate was close to the success rate of students enrolled in U.S. and Canadian medical schools (96 percent).
WHAT IS THE RESIDENCY PLACEMENT PERCENTAGE—OR MATCH RATE?
In the fourth and final year of Caribbean, U.S., and Canadian medical schools, students apply to residencies and go to residency interviews. Students then create a “rank-order list” of preferred residency programs which is matched against a similar list created by the programs. In late March—on “match day”—students learn if they have been matched with an ACGME-accredited residency program to fill post-graduate training positions.
The percentage of fourth-year medical students who are accepted to a residency program is known as the “match rate”. U.S. and Caribbean medical school match rates are an important statistic to be aware of when searching for an MD program.
AUC has a strong history of placing graduating students in internal medicine or specialty residencies. In 2020, 92 percent of AUC graduates earned residencies throughout the United States and Canada.
SO WHICH CARIBBEAN MEDICAL SCHOOL IS BEST?
The quality of an accredited Caribbean medical school is shown by the success of its students, as well as its performance similarities to U.S. medical schools. AUC students do very well on the USMLE Step 1, nearly equaling the pass rate of U.S. students, and they are matched to residencies at a similar rate as U.S. medical students.
The American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine trains tomorrow’s physicians, whose service to their communities and their patients is enhanced by international learning experiences, a diverse learning community, and an emphasis on social accountability and engagement. Take the next step toward becoming a physician: apply for admission to AUC.
- AUC School of Medicine Accreditation
- AUC School of Medicine Statistics
- AUC MCAT Test
- About AUC
- Why Go to Med School in the Caribbean?
**AUC is accredited through 2021 by the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM), which is the accreditor used by the country of St. Maarten.
The United States Department of Education, via the National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA), reviews the standards that countries use to accredit medical schools. The NCFMEA has determined that the ACCM’s accreditation standards are comparable to those set by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), which accredits medical education programs in the United States.