How to find the medical school of your dreams | Top Universities

How to find the medical school of your dreams

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Aisha Khan

Updated Jul 06, 2023




You’ve made up your mind that you want to study medicine, but now comes the next big decision – which schools should you apply to?  

With a variety of medical programmes offered at institutions around the world, here are some factors you may want to consider before sending out your applications.  

An institution’s reputation  

Although this shouldn’t dictate your overall decision, an understanding of which institutions are leaders in the medical field can help you work out which schools you’d like to apply to. 

Consider using the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023 to find out which medical schools are ranked highly for the countries that you’d like to study in. You can also use rankings indicators such as ‘employer reputation’ and ‘academic reputation’ to narrow down which schools perform well for each respective area.  

As a snapshot, here are the best universities for medicine in 2023 according to the QS ranking: 

Top 10 universities for medicine in 2023 




Harvard University 

Cambridge, United States 

University of Oxford 

Oxford, United Kingdom  

Stanford University 

Stanford, United States 

John Hopkins University 

Baltimore, United States  

University of Cambridge 

Cambridge, United Kingdom 


London, United Kingdom 

Karolinska Institutet 

Stockholm, Sweden 

Imperial College London  

London, United Kingdom 

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)  

Los Angeles, United States 


University of California, San Francisco 

San Francisco, United States 

Remember that rankings are only one part of the picture and going to a more prestigious university won’t necessarily make you a better doctor than attending a lower-ranked institution.

Entry requirements 

If you want to apply for schools in more than one country, consider the different entrance exams you’ll need to sit. Applicants to UK schools will either take the UCAT, BMAT or GMSAT (for graduate entry programmes) to assess whether they have the behavioural attributes for a career in medicine.   

If you’re interested in the UK specifically, remember that you can only apply for a maximum of four schools.  

Similarly, applying to US, Canadian and Australian medical schools will require an MCAT score of less than three years old.  

Many medical programmes are over-subscribed and attract high-calibre students so it’s important to check whether you meet the minimum academic requirements and preferred qualifications. UK institutions will typically require top A level or International Baccalaureate grades in chemistry and biology. 

In comparison, US medical schools require international students to already hold a four-year bachelor’s degree in a related subject and completion of prerequisite classes. These will normally be in biology and chemistry, but some schools may also include arts and humanities to ensure applicants possess a wider skill-set.  

Learning style 

Thinking about your preferred learning style and how much clinical experience you want to gain can also be a useful guide when deciding which schools are suited to you.  

According to the British Medical Association, there are several types of teaching styles at UK medical schools, although some of these will naturally apply to schools in other countries: 

  • Traditional pre-clinical and clinical course: Students undertake two years of pre-clinical work, meaning academic study of the basic sciences. This is followed by three years of clinical work where students work in hospital wards under supervision. You’ll also be continuing your studies alongside your clinical work. The University of Oxford and Cambridge use this type of learning.  

  • Integrated/systems-based course: Under this teaching method, students will gain scientific understanding at the same time they undertake clinical work. Instead of learning through one discipline at a time, students will learn all anatomy and physiology relevant to a particular topic. If you like the idea of early clinical exposure this type of approach may work well for you. Widely implemented by many universities, some examples of schools include UCL and King’s College London.  

  • Problem-based learning: A patient-oriented approach where students work in groups to resolve medical cases in addition to clinical experience and academic study. Although a pure problem-based learning approach isn’t common, some schools such as Queen Mary, University of London use this method to encourage independent thinking.  

  • Enquiry-based learning: Bearing similarities to problem-based learning, this approach poses questions or scenarios rather than presenting facts first. If you like being in charge of your own learning this could work for you. The University of Birmingham uses this approach to supplement group work on the course.  

  • Extended medical degrees: Some schools include a foundation or pre-clinical course before the start of the programme, resulting in a six-year degree. If you have limited experience or haven’t previously studied chemistry, these courses help with the transition to a medicine degree.  

Financial aid available

Most medical programmes last for five or six years so it’s worth thinking about which schools or countries offer financial aid to help with cost of living and tuition fees.  

For example, if you’ve previously lived in the UK and are studying medicine at a UK institution, you could be eligible for an NHS bursary to help with study costs.  

Some schools will have dedicated scholarships for medical students, so researching which institutions provide financial support can help provide clarity.  


Possibly one of the most important considerations is where you can see yourself living over the duration of your degree.  

Studying in a city brings its own benefits if you prefer a thriving, social scene, a range of amenities as well as opportunities to work in teaching hospitals. Campus universities may suit those of you who prefer having a community of students around you and the convenience of all amenities in one place.  

To learn more about the differences between studying at a campus or city-based university, read our guide here

The best way to determine whether a university’s location is suitable for you is to visit on open days and get a feel for yourself.  

Apply with QS to find your dream medical school 

You canapply to study abroad with a QS counsellor in one simple application.  

Get support to choose and apply to top-ranked medical schools. Our QS counsellors will help you understand the various application processes in different countries, provide guidance on visas and scholarships, and sometimes they can even apply on your behalf. It’s free to apply with us. Apply now.