"If they have a linkage program and only one student went to it, well that's not helpful," he says.
[Consider an alternative route to medical school.]
On top of all of the hard numbers – the number of students accepted, science classes offered and available advisers, to name a few – students should make sure the program's culture appeals to them, experts say.
The age of its students can make a difference, says Tullius. "Some of these places, the average age is 28. If you're 22 and it's not a good fit, then it might not be for you," he says.
At UCSF students often have to work as a team, which can be a change for students used to learning by themselves. "We really stress a cooperative group of students," Martinez says, noting that this kind of classroom environment can help students motivate each other.
While every program is different, experts agree that they all require students to work hard.
"It's a brutal year of studying," Tullius says. "It's the first step in a lot of sacrifices."
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