Eight medical schools in Illinois means that you will have a wide variety of choices available to you. But if you are looking to apply to the Prairie State, how are you going to stand out? What’s the best way to approach your application? What kind of doctor can you even become while studying at an Illinois school? Well, there are a multitude of answers thanks to the large number of possibilities available to a medical school hopeful looking at Illinois for their future degree.
How to prepare for medical school application necessarily includes figuring out your ideal institutions. This can be tricky, but with adequate medical school application help, and enough information, you should find the process goes smoother than you might fear. Fortunately, in this article, we have broken down all the information you will need, including helpful tips and expert advice, for all eight schools.
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List of Illinois Medical Schools
Here is a list of all eight schools. In parentheses are short-hand terms that we will use most of the time throughout the article; some of the schools have rather long monikers.
All tuition and fees in the table are given in US dollars.
Interested in a step-by-step guide for how to make a medical school list? Watch this video:
How to Analyze These Data
Just by quickly considering these admission rates, we can see which schools carry the best overall chance of admission, as well as which schools are better for in-state and out-of-state applications. Be careful when reading the data. It can be easy to get lost in a sea of numbers, so let’s break some things down:
First, if you are an international student, the most spaces given out were at UOI, making it an obvious choice. In-state, UOI is also a top choice, with an acceptance rate in the double-digits.
However, if you are only applying to one Illinois school and you are an out-of-state student, based on acceptance rates, you might want to try Carle, which has a higher percentage of US out-of-state students.
With that said, application is never a single-variable problem. You shouldn’t apply to a school based on the “chance” of getting in. Why? Because it isn’t actually entirely chance. Your application makes a difference. For instance, if the school you are applying to values physician shadowing and you have no shadowing on your application, your “chance” of acceptance isn’t going to be the same as other applicants’ because you aren’t fulfilling the same criteria.
It’s better to start with your dream schools and then consider the odds of acceptance to know what you’re up against, rather than playing a numbers game like you’re rolling dice at a craps table in a casino. Note that SUISOM has nevertheless made the list of the easiest medical schools to get into, so that’s something to consider.
Wondering how to make your medical school application stand out? Have a look at this infographic:
Note that all test score data for median MCAT and GPA are taken from a recent year for students who matriculated, not simply students who applied. We are giving you data that is relevant to your success. Schools often have MCAT and GPA thresholds for consideration. These are not terribly useful because they are often lower than the scores of accepted students, so they don’t give you a good idea of what will actually affect your outcomes.
Feinberg and Pritzker immediately stand out as schools that have a high MCAT threshold, and their matriculating students have high MCAT scores, which means that if you want to attend one of those two institutions, you will need a high MCAT score to remain competitive. The median GPA for Feinberg and Pritzker is also higher than those of other schools.
It’s important to note that GPA doesn’t necessarily predict physician quality. Therefore, you shouldn’t feel like you won’t be a good physician if you happen to have a low GPA. You can figure out how to get into medical school with a low GPA, after all.
Likewise, schools that have high median MCAT scores and GPA should not be thought of as superior schools. Just because a school’s students scored higher on these tests doesn’t make the school better.
These data aren’t intended to help you pick a school; they are meant to help you consider how to get into the schools you have picked.
So, what if you want to get into Feinberg, but your GPA is low? Well, you could count on the rest of your application to buoy you up, but you need to consider some factors. First off, how low is your MCAT score? If it’s 518, you’re fine. It’s unlikely that a couple of points will make a difference. However, if your MCAT score is 498, it’s too low and you should retest. The other thing is that MCAT scores, even on retakes, don’t tend to improve that much. It’s extremely rare to see a student move up by more than five points. So, if you get a 515, you might want to retake, but only if you’re confident you can get those extra points.
Retaking the MCAT is a bit of a risk because fewer attempts are looked on more favorably by institutions. Furthermore, depending on the school, they might consider all MCAT attempts within a certain period – meaning your retake might not help you all that much. Weigh all factors before putting yourself through the incredibly time-consuming MCAT.
The most important considerations for whether you should retake the MCAT are as follows:
Tuition and Fees
You’ll notice that Illinois is, for the most part, a “fair” state for in-state and out-of-state tuition rates. Only in three cases – Carle, SIUSOM, and UOI – is tuition different for out-of-state applicants.
This is one reason to conduct a multi-factored analysis when applying to medical schools in Illinois. You can’t look at any one statistic and know where you want to go. Out-of-state applicants have a high chance of acceptance at UOI, but it is far-and-away the most expensive school for an out-of-state applicant. If you applied to UOI and Carle based on their rates of acceptance alone, you might wind up paying much more for school than if you had focused on a school with a lower acceptance rate, but also a lower price tag.
Rosalind Franklin, Feinberg, Rush, and SIUSOM all require community service during medical school. If you are community-oriented, they will appreciate your application. Make sure to highlight volunteer hours in your submission and in your AMCAS most meaningful experiences.
Carle, Feinberg, and Pritzker all require research or theses during your years of medical school. Do you already have some significant research or thesis writing under your belt? You might want to put that up while applying to these schools to show that you are already in alignment with their values and programs.
This is what it means to pick your dream school based on how well you will do there. If you are a community-minded person with scholarly aptitudes, Feinberg leaps out as a school that you will probably mesh with: community service projects and maybe a master’s thesis or some research done at the university level will make your application stand out among those without such Feinberg-friendly aspects.
So, take your time picking your school, and plan your applications based on which schools will give you the best learning opportunities and which will see your application immediately for the asset it is – something that will gel with their ideals and goals.
What Kind of Student Are Medical Schools in Illinois Looking For?
A Diverse Student Body
Medical schools in Illinois are making an effort to improve diversity and inclusion on their campuses.
Carle has their summer Research and Education for the Advancement of Compassionate Healthcare (REACH) program for prospective students of underrepresented backgrounds.
Rosalind Franklin provides diversity and inclusion scholarships and programs, such as their DOCS (Doctors of Color) program, which pairs diverse students with diverse mentors in Chicago. They also have a Pre-matriculation Program, which extends beyond racial considerations to include students of various underrepresented backgrounds. The PMP allows students of educational, social, or economically underprivileged backgrounds to take medical school courses in a non-degree track for free. This helps prepare students and will give them an edge in applications and in tests like the MCAT.
It’s worth noting that UOI and Stritch have a strong showing of women in their student body. UOI has a ratio of 178 women to 137 men, while Stritch has more than double the number of women, with a 120 to 50 breakdown in a recent year. Don’t assume that these schools are weighting results in favor of women because correlation does not equal causation. However, we believe it is one more factor that you would like to consider.
Feinberg notes that they embrace “a broad definition of diversity that includes not only students from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in medicine, but also other religious, gender and sexual identities, persons with disabilities and socioeconomic diversity.” Feinberg’s programs seem to emphasize LGBTQ+ persons, as they encourage students to be “out” on their applications, citing that their admissions committees have special training in how to respectfully approach such applications.
Loyola specifies in their Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion that they are working to increase representation in the student body, but also in the faculty and staff. They also welcome DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students.
SIUSOM offers MEDPREP, which is geared toward providing assistance for students of “educationally and socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Most schools provide an opportunity for applicants to discuss their diverse backgrounds in the context of a secondary essay. You should take advantage of this to talk about your experiences with diversity. Don’t think that just because you aren’t a person of color you don’t qualify as “diverse.” As several medical schools in Illinois note, diversity extends to race, nationality, gender, sex, religion, and socioeconomics – just to name a few factors.
Even if you still don’t qualify, you probably have experience or a connection with diversity. You might talk about your activism, how you have volunteered at women’s shelters, or what you have done to raise money or provide assistance for underrepresented groups.
Most schools have required or recommended courses to give their students a knowledge base to draw on as they study the medical sciences and health care. It is important to note which schools require and which merely recommend.
Also note that these requirements might vary from year to year, so be sure to double-check with your institution which, if any, courses are required of you.
Some Advice on How to Navigate These Requirements
The most important factor to consider is what kind of doctor you want to become. Select courses that will prepare you for your career path. If you want to be an MD-PhD student, for instance, even recommended science courses become far more important. Psychology and social sciences will be good choices for pediatricians, and so forth.
Now, you might be feeling cynical and assume that “recommended” really means “required.” That just isn’t the case. What these schools want is to know that you’ll be able to handle studying medical science. This requires a certain knowledge base in subjects like chemistry and biology. Perhaps you understand these subjects from non-academic places. If a school is only recommending a course and you didn’t take it, it might be a good idea to highlight in your application why you don’t have a deficit of knowledge. In the special skills section, for instance, or perhaps in one of your essays or personal statements, you might point out why you are skilled in chemistry, despite not having a formal, academic background in the subject. You might have a job in a laboratory, for instance.
Whether to take a course pass/fail is up to you. If you are given the option, again, you can count on being able to take it. If you think an ultimate grade will harm your GPA, go pass/fail and sidestep that landmine.
Finally, when certain courses are recommended in addition to existing requirements, you could either show that you specialize – by taking several biology courses, for instance – or that you diversify and have a broad knowledge base. Neither strategy is wrong; just do what is best for you and your GPA. Take courses that excite and inspire you and you’ll achieve better results.
This applies to the program you take, or your majors, as well. Don’t feel like you need to take a science major. It isn’t necessary. Instead, take something that you connect with. You’ll be happier, less stressed, and perform better, and that will result in better stats and numbers on your transcript. Not to mention, if you aren’t as stressed, it will give you the space to take on more volunteer opportunities.
Preferred Premed Experiences and Extracurriculars
In addition to academic requirements, each school has a student profile that shows the experiences matriculating students had when accepted. While these might not be flat-out requirements, they hint at the values of the school. If you want to get into a school and 100% of applicants have shadowed physicians, that’s a strong implication that the school values shadowing.
Take these extracurriculars into consideration when planning your application:
What Kind of Doctor Can You Become?
With the exception of Rush, all the medical schools in Illinois offer combined degrees. Most offer MD-PhD programs, with the exception of Rush, SIUSOM, and UOI.
These programs offer flexibility in your future. You can find combination degrees across a variety of fields to best suit your needs.
Focuses on combining medical science with engineering. Carle states that their active learning curriculum “... at the nexus of engineering, biology, and medicine is systems-based and patient-centered, incorporating early clinical exposure with an innovation and research focus.” The idea is to forward medicine and technology to make medical advancements and provide more affordable care. Carle has a personal focus for their students, who work in small teams and are introduced to primary care in week two of the curriculum.
Curriculum is presented in three phases. Phase one takes place in M1/M2 years and creates foundational knowledge as well as foundational skills, behaviors, and attitudes. Phase two, in the M3 year, gives students 48 weeks of supervised patient care. This care covers eight areas: seven “core” and one “elective.” In the M4 year comes phase three, which prepares students for their residencies with specialist training.
The straightforward approach of Loyola’s curriculum starts with scientific principles and the basic function, structure, and regulation of the human body. First year students also study the human side of medicine, receiving training to boost their interpersonal and community medical skills. These subjects are human behavioral science, communication and medical interviewing skills, the doctor/patient relationship, health promotion/disease prevention, professionalism, medical ethics, and health care’s social and community context. Second year students focus on disease and pharmacology and are given experiences with physical examinations, history-taking, and clinical decision making. In third and fourth year, students receive “eight required clinical clerkships, two medicine sub-internship experiences, and up to 34 weeks of elective time chosen from a catalog of over 100 clinical electives.”
Feinberg stresses a student-centered curriculum and states that they use students’ questions as the starting point for inquiry and education. This Socratic approach fosters curiosity and puts the minds and ideas of the student front and center. Primary care begins in first year.
Throughout all four years, Feinberg uses a blend of four curricular elements and six threads:
Feinberg structures learning based on nine principles:
The first principle stated here is compassionate patient care. This is backed up by a curriculum which explores “often-overlooked content (e.g., obstetrics & gynecology, pediatrics, and geriatrics.” Subjects are taught, “in the context of patient cases,” and core clerkships are offered in medicine, surgery, ob-gyn, neurology, psychiatry, pediatrics, primary care, and emergency medicine. The EXPLORE Rush program gives M1 and M2 students clinical, research, and advocacy work to supplement and complement their classroom work.
For the first two years, SIUSOM’s curriculum is case-based and student-directed and uses real and simulated patients for authentic interactions – right from year one. SIUSOM emphasizes “caring while curing,” and so they have an additional focus on community care and the psychology of medicine to better serve patients. Third year is “multidisciplinary clinical rotations,” split between hospital and ambulatory practices. Fourth year is composed of electives to prepare for residency. The grading system is honors/pass/fail.
The philosophy of Pritzker’s curriculum is shown through what they highlight: “an emphasis on active learning, robust clinical skills education, integration among disciplines, a focus on health equity and advocacy, and a requirement for a scholarly project for all medical students.” While citing that they provide students with a foundation in basic sciences, Pritzker’s approach is multi-layered. They operate on a pass/fail system. Their primary care is focused on the vulnerable communities of southside Chicago.
Preference and availability determine which campus students will be assigned to while studying at UOI – Chicago, Peoria, or Rockford. Also considered is whether the student is in a rural medicine or dual-degree program. Their five major themes are:
There are three phases. Phase one includes the study of organ systems, disease states, and social determinants of population health, plus six weeks of preparation for step one of USMLE. Phase two features core and elective clerkships and allows for research pursuits. Phase three is all about career plans and residency prep.
Carle boasts a 100% match rate, including preferred specialties. Their top state matched in was California, so if you are going to California but want to study in Illinois, you may find your match here.
Rosalind Franklin has a 95% match rate.
Loyola had a low match rate: only around 40% in recent years.
Feinberg states they have a 66% rate at top-25 US news-ranked residency programs.
Pritzker matched mid-west and northwest almost evenly – between 36 and 38% of their total matches.
UOI matched very closely not only with Illinois, but specifically with Chicago. If you want to do your residency in Chicago, take this into consideration.
If you are looking for a match in Illinois, Feinberg and Loyola matched more in Illinois than in other states.
Variety is the spice of life in Illinois. Eight medical schools gives each student at least one school that will appeal to them.
Now armed with a solid overview of those schools, not to mention hints, tips, expert advice, and recommendations, you will enjoy a competitive edge in your application.
1. How many medical schools should I apply to?
We recommend you apply to between 8–10 medical schools; you can fill your whole dance card with medical schools from Illinois, if you so choose.
2. Can I take a deferred entry?
Most of the medical schools in Illinois will allow deferred entry, but only on a case-by-case basis. Two schools, Pritzke and UOI, do not specify that the deferrals are case-by-case.
3. If my MCAT is lower than average, should I bother applying?
It depends how much lower. Anything beyond 3–5 points will be seen as significantly lower. Some schools might also have an actual MCAT cut-off threshold. That might not feel fair, but that’s how they do it.
4. If I get invited for an interview, will it be online?
Interviews can take different forms, but yes, many schools, such as Rush and Pritzker, are currently using or allowing virtual interviews. For example, Carle doesn’t do in-person interviews but invites the most competitive applicants to a virtual event that does not involve an evaluation.
If invited for an interview, you will usually be informed of the format and requirements by email or through the application portal. When you engage in medical school interview prep, advisors can help you prepare for any type of interview and common medical school interview questions.
5. Can I apply late to medical school?
Late medical school application is not recommended. Although it doesn’t mean “no chance,” it often means “low chance,” and with admission rates being so competitive already, it’s far better to just apply on time.
6. Is my application weighed differently if I’m out-of-state or an international student?
Most schools set aside a certain number of spaces for in-state or local applicants, so it’s more like you’ll be in a different “pool,” rather than considered differently.
7. Are there fees associated with application?
Yes. It will cost a small fee to sit for tests like the MCAT, and secondary applications usually have a small fee as well. This is one reason to keep your medical school applications to 10 or less – it keeps your expenses down.
8. Can I take a gap year before enrollment?
Yes, but be prepared to explain the gap. A gap year before medical school should be filled with more learning, gaining experience in the field, or working to build up tuition money. Be expected to provide the reasoning behind travel as well and to explain how it will contribute to making you a better future physician. If you just took time off, it can reflect poorly on you.
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