Medical School for Undocumented Students
Enrollment to medical school programs has been restricted to undocumented students for a variety of reasons; however, there have been a handful of undocumented students who have been able to gain admission into medical school programs throughout the US and who have successfully completed or are currently pursuing their medical educations.
Since the implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), undocumented college graduates have greater opportunities to employ their education and talents. Unfortunately, DACA eligibility does not directly assist students in furthering their educational endeavors.
This guide aims to address related concerns and provide a basic framework for tackling the medical school application process.
- Medical School Admissions General Information
- Associated Fees
- AMCAS Application
- Medical School Admissions Eligibility
- International Students
- DACA Eligible Students
- Financial Aid
- Employment Eligibility
- Successful Completion of Clinical Years
- Undocumented Students in Medical Schools
- Should I apply?
List of Medical Schools that Accept International Applicants
I. Medical School Admissions General Information
The road to becoming a physician is a long one for any student. If you are considering this career path, please speak with a career counselor to learn more about the course requirements, the MCAT, and the general application process. The rest of this guide will focus on the special hardships that are faced by undocumented students seeking medical school admission. For the purpose of this guide, the terms “undocumented student”, “DACA eligible student”, “non citizen student” are used synonymously unless otherwise noted. The information in this guide will likely be most helpful for students who have already completed all of the requirements to apply to medical school.
- Undocumented students are not eligible for fee waivers administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) via their Financial Aid Assistance Program (FAP). This includes the fee waiver for the MCAT, and the filing fee for the AMCAS application.
- Undocumented students may request individual fee waivers for their secondary applications from the schools to which they apply. In the past, students have experienced mixed success in obtaining these fee waivers.
- All applicants are responsible for the costs associated with interviews, including transportation and lodging.
- The primary AMCAS application requests information regarding citizenship and a social security number. If you do not have a social security number, contact AMCAS to obtain an identification number for the purpose of the application process.
II. Medical School Admissions Eligibility
At the present time, any student that is not a US citizen or permanent resident is usually considered a foreign/international applicant for medical school admissions. There are a select number of schools that accept applications from international applicants. To find more up-to-date information on schools accepting international applicants, please see the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) book published by the AAMC. A rough list is included at the end of this guide.
The application for medical school requires inputting information regarding citizenship. Misleading information on this application may lead to significant consequences for the applicant. It is highly advised that you do not misrepresent or falsify any information regarding your status.
DACA Eligible Students
Currently there are no schools that differentiate between undocumented/DACA eligible/Temporary Protected Status/non-citizen and non-permanent resident students from international applicants with the exception of the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, which specifically states on their website that “applicants must be US citizens or hold a permanent resident visa, or be eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services at the time of application”.
Unfortunately, many medical schools have been unwilling to take a stance or to adjust their official policies as laws evolve. Particularly, with the advent of DACA, schools remain uninformed on how new policy changes affect prospective students. Policies vary from school to school and some may not have any policy at all; a school’s stance may also change from year to year.
III. Financial Aid
Any student that is not a US citizen or permanent resident does not qualify for federal financial aid. Unfortunately, federal aid comprises the majority of financial aid available for completing medical school programs.
For many medical school programs, international admits must prove that they are able to afford their education prior to enrollment. This policy varies from school to school, with some schools requiring that the full cost of the medical education program be placed in an escrow account prior to matriculation.
Highly competitive, private schools may have more financial resources available for their international students, including merit-based scholarships, need-based scholarships, and private loans.
In California, undocumented students may be eligible for in-state tuition via AB540 after meeting certain criteria. Additionally, AB540 students are now eligible for SB130 and SB131, which allow them to qualify for institutional, private, and state funds. While these funds are minimal and vary from program to program, these laws are helpful in diminishing the financial burden. These types of policies vary from state to state.
Some private scholarships are available for students pursuing health-related careers. MALDEF and other organizations maintain lists of scholarships that are available for students regardless of citizenship (www.maldef.org).
IV. Employment Eligibility
As you apply to medical schools, interviewers may express their concern about your future employment eligibility. In the most recent Match cycle, DACA eligible students participated and were successful in the Match process to obtain a residency spot; however, willingness to match a DACA recipient varies by residency program due to the uncertainty of work authorization renewal.
V. Successful Completion of Clinical Years
Usually, the third and fourth year of medical school consist of clinical rotations at hospitals throughout your city. To participate in these rotations, students may be required to undergo background checks. DACA eligible students should be able to successfully complete their background checks; however, school officials may request that you do not rotate in federally affiliated hospitals, such as those of the VA system. More research should be done to determine if this policy is necessary.
Additionally, some medical schools are located in areas that require driving to distant sites. As a responsible medical student, you should have a valid driver’s license or another reliable form of transportation. DACA eligible students are able to obtain driver’s licenses in some states. The following website provides more information regarding driving eligibility in different states: http://www.nilc.org/dacadriverslicenses.html
VI. Undocumented Students in Medical Schools
In past years, there have been a handful of undocumented students who have gained admission into medical schools throughout the country. These students have generally endured a wide variety of obstacles because few administrators and students have a good understanding of the implications of immigration status on educational goals. While the implementation of DACA now alleviates some of the difficulties previously experienced by undocumented students, students must understand that the financial constraints of pursuing a medical degree persist. Additionally, depending on the state, the benefits of DACA may vary.
Any undocumented/DACA applicant should consider that medical schools might be most concerned by:
- The student’s ability to finance their education.
- The student’s employment eligibility after graduation.
- The student’s ability to successfully complete the medical school curriculum while managing the hardships of unlawful presence.
DACA/undocumented students entering a medical program may be the first to do so at many schools. This may add responsibility to the individual student for the sake of alleviating administrative concerns.
Much work remains in order to fully integrate changes in immigration law into progressive educational systems of higher learning.
VII. Should I apply?
Before you apply, please be sure that you begin to formulate a financial plan. This may include personal savings, financial help from family members, or if possible, private loans. Life as a medical student is busy, and worrying about finances will only detract from your studies.
Although the process may seem daunting, if you are convinced that medicine is the career for you, do not let any hurdles deter you from pursuing this path. Please understand that there will be many difficult times ahead, but hard work and some luck will allow you to persevere. A strong base of support from family and friends has also proven to be helpful to previous applicants.
Remember that other students have pursued this path successfully!
List of Medical Schools that Accept International Applicants as per the 2011 MSAR.
Please note that this list may change from year to year. Although a school may accept international applicants, their financial aid policies vary and acceptance of international applicants may not always translate to willingness to accept undocumented students. Policies vary by school.
- Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California
- Loma Linda University School of Medicine
- Stanford University School of Medicine
- Yale University School of Medicine
- George Washington School of Medicine
- Georgetown University School of Medicine
- Howard University College of Medicine
- Emory University School of Medicine
- Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science Chicago Medical School
- Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
- University of Chicago Division of the Sciences, Pritzker School of Medicine
- Tulane University School of Medicine
- Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
- Boston University School of Medicine
- Harvard Medical School
- Tufts University School of Medicine
- Mayo Clinic College of Medicine
- Saint Louis University School of Medicine
- Washington University School of Medicine
- Creighton University School of Medicine
- Dartmouth Medical School
- Albany Medical College
- Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University
- Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
- Weill Cornell Medical College
- Mount Sinai School of Medicine of New York University
- New York Medical College
- New York University School of Medicine (only Canadian)
- Duke University School of Medicine
- Wake Forest University School of Medicine (only Canadian)
- Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
- The Commonwealth Medical College (only Canadian)
- Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University
- University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
- Ponce School of Medicine
- San Juan Bautista School of Medicine
- Universidad Central del Caribe School of Medicine
- The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
- Meharry Medical College School of Medicine (only Canadian)
- Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
- Baylor College of Medicine
- Medical College of Wisconsin
- University of South Alabama College of Medicine
- UC Davis
- Denver School of Medicine
- University of Connecticut School of Medicine
- Florida International University College of Medicine
- Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine (only Canadian)
- University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine
- Indiana University School of Medicine
- University of Kentucky College of Medicine
- University of Louisville School of Medicine
- University of Maryland School of Medicine (only Canadian)
- Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (only Canadian)
- Wayne State University School of Medicine (only Canadian)
- University of Minnesota Medical School
- State University of New York Upstate Medical University College of Medicine
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine (only Canadian)
- Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine
- Sanford School of Medicine of the University of South Dakota (only from South Dakota residents)
- East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine (only Canadian)
- Texas A&M University of System Health Science Center College of Medicine
- University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
- University of Texas Medical School at Houston
- University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio (only Canadian)
- University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas Southwestern Medical School
- University of Utah School of Medicine
- Eastern Virginia Medical School
- University of Virginia School of Medicine
- Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine (only Canadian)
About Act on a Dream
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Did You Know?
- "Undocumented Immigrants: Facts and Figures," The Urban Institute, 2004.