Transferring from the Caribbean: The Application Calendar

Generally speaking, US medical schools begin accepting applications from Feb/March until mid-May or April and do not interview transfer applicants until mid-June to mid-July when they know who has failed or withdrawn from their own ranks. Whether schools offer spots in both or either year varies, so there is homework to be done. I began laying the foundation for my application one year before I hoped to be accepted and 9 months before I was applying. As a January student from St. George’s University, I had some flexibility with my schedule. Here is what I did in preparation for applying.

  • June: Visit with professors in Grenada to discuss your intention to transfer and ask if they would write you a letter of recommendation.
    • Schools vary on their requirements. A Dean’s Letter of good standing is mandatory in addition to 2-3 letters of recommendation from previous teachers.
    • Some schools also require the recommendation from your Undergraduate PreMed advisory comittee. I think that is a little silly.
  • September: Fly from St. Vincent to Grenada to speak again with professors, tell them what you’ve been up to, ask for advice on strengthening your application and help in contacting any students that have successfully transferred for more guidance. Visit the Dean of Student’s Office to inquire about transferring procedure and acquiring a Dean’s Letter.
    • Previously successful students can not only give you advice on mistakes they made, but can also give you advice on which professors’ recommendations were helpful in their own admission. The school may already trust the recommendation of Professor X, so if you are also able to get a recommendation from X, it may help your case.
  • December: After finishing exams and flying home, contact previously successful transfer students for advice and create list of schools that have accepted transfers from SGU.
  • February: Begin comprehensive search of all US medical schools to determine where you can/will apply. Download as many application forms as possible. Contact both Undergraduate and Medical Professors that have agreed to write recommendations with the tentative date of submission.
    • As I said before, every school is different. They vary in their essay questions, recommendation requirements, schedules, fees, etc. I suggest opening up an Excel file and creating a master table to give you a better idea of your deadlines.
  • March: Have final list of schools that will definitely or possibly entertain your application and make sure that your USMLE score is released to them. Mail pre-addressed and pre-stamped envelopes to each professor for submitting recommendations. Have all available applications filled out and proofed by two other people with your photographs attached (regardless of whether or not it is required). Confirm with each Undergraduate/Graduate/Medical school that transcripts have been paid for and sent. Mail each application.
  • April: While backpacking through Southeast Asia, enjoying your time off from school, call each medical school to confirm receipt of application and all materials. Continue calling each school every two weeks until this is confirmed. If not confirmed by end of April, contact appropriate schools and have things resubmitted. Receive USMLE Step 1 score via email from back home (your parents are nosy). Celebrate.
  • May: Arrive in US. Pack up life, drive to New York. While spending a few nights on a host’s couch, look for apartment. Whenever approaching a landlord, make it clear to them that while you will sign the 1-2 year lease, you may have to break the lease in three months. You will probably still have to pay the fine for breaking the contract, but it’s better to have an amicable landlord than a blind-sided one. Should it come to this, expect to lose a few thousand dollars (depending on rent). Alternatively, you can find several sublets for your area on Craigslist. Begin rotations.
  • June/July: Wait for a phone call or email. If you’re lucky, you’ll be invited to interview. On days where you have scheduled an interview, you will have to be excused from your rotation. You may have to schedule these interviews on Fridays and fly out on a Thursday night. This will cost money, so have some saved.
  • July/August: Life-altering phone call? Your acceptance (lucky bastard) may come less than two weeks before you are scheduled to begin. You will have little time to rearrange your finances, withdraw from SGU (they typically pro-rate your tuition), break your lease, say your goodbye’s, and move your things. I imagine this period in your life will be incredibly stressful but worth it in the long run if you’re going for a more competitive residency or have interests in academic medicine.
  • September: After giving yourself a few weeks to adjust, send thank-you notes to every single person that was involved in your application process. Let every professor know that you will make yourself available to help future students with their questions.

10 Responses to Transferring from the Caribbean: The Application Calendar

  1. Mitt says:

    As a former SGU student and current 4th year at Drexel, I would be happy to answer any questions & clarify any misconceptions about transferring to a U.S. school.

    Couple of words of advice:
    1) There are so few school that accept transfer students from non-LCME schools that I can count them on one hand;
    2) If you don’t plan on repeating any courses or clinical time, only students who finish Vinny’s in December will be eligible (caveat: if you’re willing to repeat a year, this is a different story & one must take into account many considerations – specialty, cost, time, etc.)
    3) I know that I am one of the VERY fortunate, but it is more difficult to get in with advanced standing than applying the first time around, and I would go about my normal SGU calendar b/c although many years there are opening, some years there are none.
    4) As a former SGU student, I know the feeling that we feel that we are the only ones who got “left out” of the U.S. school system, but there are MANY qualified candidates from other schools (besides SGU) who are also applying.

    Let me know if you have any questions.

  2. R K says:

    How do I go about transferring from Ross? It does not seem the faculty or anyone here is very supportive of the decision to transfer to an American Medical School? How did you convince your professors to help you?

    How do you find out the schools which allow for transfers and do you have to take the steps before you transfer? Is Drexel one of the only ones that allow transfers or are there more that allow transfers from non-LCME schools like Ross? Sorry about not stating my name. Dont really want it to be on the message board for others to find. Its written on my email.

    Thanks for all the help.

  3. Mitt says:

    I called every school in the country with their requirements. Most public universities either don’t take transfers or don’t take out-of-state residents. The list changes every year, and the requirements are different based on which year you are trying to enter, but the short of it was:
    1) Schools that permit transfers with advanced standing without loss of time were Drexel, Northeast Ohio, Mt. Sinai, NY Med(?)
    2) Schools that require some repeated time are: Colorado, George Washington, Vermont
    In the past Georgetown, Miami, SUNY-Upstate, & Albany took transfers, but they weren’t recently.
    Also, I know people who repeatedly called their home state institutions until an opening occurred. I was told by one of my state’s institutions that they haven’t had an opening for 17 years!
    I don’t know the specifics of other non-US school curricula are, but the bottom line is if you’re attempting to transfer, it is getting harder & harder.
    Good luck!

  4. Mitt says:

    Forgot to add Tulane (but that was pre-Katrina)

  5. T G says:

    What kinds of criteria does Drexel look for in a transfer applicant from St George’s? I mean, do you need close to a 4.0 gpa at st georges to be considered favorably by drexel? How does Drexel weigh mcat? If you took it multiple times with scores fluctuating up and down?

  6. Lydia says:

    Hi Topher,
    I think your First Aid correction web pages alone should get you in as a transfer applicant because of their usefulness (and I know of no-one else doing this!). I really hope it works out for you – and congrats on your step one score!!!!

  7. Farah says:

    Hi Topher,
    The information you provided about transferring is great..thank you! I didn’t find anything about the MCAT scores though? I’ll be starting SGU in Jan 2009 and want to try my best to transfer back to a US school. Since I have time now to study for the mcats…do you think its worth it to retake it in a few months to improve my application for transfer if everything else works out fine? I took it twice before..had 28R both times ( 10BS, 9PS, 9 VS). Do they really look at it again? Any input or suggestions will be highly appreciated. Thank you and gluck with everything!

  8. Study Smart says:

    Perfect GPA…

    Transferring from the Caribbean: The Application Calendar « the rumors were true…

  9. Amy Andrews says:

    I will be attending a caribbean medical school in September. How would I know if I could transfer to a US med school?

  10. Jack Simmons says:

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