Why did you choose AUC as opposed to St. George’s?

Last semester, I received an email from a reader and prospective applicant to AUC. Here, I’d like to share the letter (which I’ve heavily edited for confidentiality reasons) and my responses.

Hi Benji! I did a google search on AUC and stumbled across this great blog! I’ll keep it short – I am a senior in college and started out on a bad foot, academically. Now that I am focused, my grades have continually improved, and am now looking at cool, exotic opportunities like Caribbean med schools as an option. I’d like to ask you:

Why did you choose AUC as opposed to St. George’s?

What is your uncensored view on life as a student at AUC and everyday life on the island?

Do you have any advice about how to apply and improve my changes of getting in?

Projected GPA at graduation: 3.5; Projected MCAT Score: 27-30; Have clinical experience.

Thanks!

Hi S,
Thanks for visiting my blog. I understand how it is to start off on a bad foot. I did too, and this is something AUC emphasized to us during orientation. One semester can kill you for a U.S. school but schools like AUC look past that to see that semester as an “exception” rather than the “rule.” But that’s awesome you’ve pulled your grades up. I got into AUC with a 3.5 GPA and 28 MCAT, and they gave me the AUC Merit scholarship as well with those stats, so if you do similar, you should have no problem getting in.

It’s hard to rank AUC, Ross, and SGU in terms of which one is “better.” I used to think SGU was the best Caribbean medical school, probably because it is the first one I heard of and they advertise everywhere, but after researching into all three, I’ve come to realize that it all boils down to personal preference. If you haven’t already, there’s a lot of discussion on this topic on www.valuemd.com.

Although I really like St. George’s University, I still chose AUC because of its smaller class size, much more intimate atmosphere (“everyone knows each other” type of environment), cheaper/closer distance from my family/girlfriend, and the convenient, well-developed island. It is much more affordable than SGU and will train me equally well to become a doctor, with the same level of accreditations: Both graduates are eligible to practice in all 50 states. Both are recognized by the US Department of Education as having equivalent accreditati0n standards as LCME-accredited US medical schools, and because of this, both schools have US Federal financial aid for their students. In addition, AUC also has the highest USMLE Step I pass rate among the Big 3 schools, at 94% (the same as US schools), whereas SGU’s pass rate is 91%. Other people may like SGU because it is larger, more well-known, or more clinical location choices (to accomodate their larger student body). In the end, it’s all about personal preference.

In terms of living on the island, there’s no doubt that St. Maarten is a much nicer island than Grenada. Any image search on google can confirm this, and I feel very lucky to spend my time studying and living here. There are some things I’m not used to on the island though. The most obvious one is that everything is so expensive here, probably because St. Maarten is a tourist destination and nothing is produced on the island, so everything is shipped in. Restaurants, of course, is expensive, but I usually cook to save money. Even then, groceries will be on average 1.5x more expensive than the states, and apartments average around $900-$1100/month. From what I read on valuemd, living in Grenada is expensive as well, but I’m not sure about the details. On valuemd, some students complain about the “rude locals” or the lack of customer service here on the island, but I personally haven’t encountered any real problems that is worth noting about the locals. From my experience, most have been nice, probably because I’m nice to them. Many are even fascinated about meeting students.

I’m pretty happy at AUC. The professors have been knowledgeable and approachable, and we get lots of resources from having tutors for every class and countless number of TAs in anatomy lab. I can tell that the professors are really there because they want to teach and help students, rather than just simply get a paycheck. For example, for the last two weeks, my Genetics professor decided to hold “problem-solving question-answer” sessions outside of normal class period for anyone who wants extra help. Our Anatomy professors also held two competitions for the class, one where a team competes to make the best presentation on the heart, as well as a dissection competition for the team who can reflect the layers of the abdominal wall the cleanest. The prize for both competitions were a lunch with the professors (off-campus, outside the professional setting). Many TAs and Tutors (who are students from upper semesters) spend time outside of their “tutoring sessions” to make useful resources for students and give extra help. Its things like these that make me love AUC. It’s small and intimate. Everyone knows each other and there’s so much interaction between the teachers and students, and between students of all semesters. Of course, there are always things that can be improved, like it’d be nice to have a larger library or a student lounge to relax in, but overall I think it’s a great learning environment and I’m pretty satisfied being here.

I hope this helps. I can only speak from my own experience. Whatever school you look into, there will always be some people who are overly positive, or some who complain about every little detail. I try my best to give pros and cons to everything. In the end, the school you choose really depends on which one fits you better as a person, and for me that school happened to be AUC. For you, it might be different.

Good luck finishing off the semester and best wishes in your application process,

Benji

38 comments to Why did you choose AUC as opposed to St. George’s?

  • James

    Hi Benji,
    If you have time, I have three questions…
    1.) do sgu and auc have the same percentage of students matching in residency and passing rates on the usmle exams?
    2.) do you know if sgu has as much extra help outside of class as auc?
    3.) why does auc have 5 semesters on campus while sgu has only 4? Is is because auc students are not as prepared for rotations?

    Thanks!!

    • Benji

      Hi James,

      1. The match rate and passing rate on the USMLE changes every year at these two schools. I’d check the school websites for that updated information. AUC provides this information on their website year to year. However, given their accreditation and history, I would imagine that both schools would have very similar matching and passing rates.

      2. I’ve never had first-hand experience with SGU, so I can’t say much about the student support SGU has on campus outside of the classroom.

      3. Both AUC and SGU complete Basic Sciences within 5 terms and within similar time periods. The two schools just distribute the semester lengths and breaks differently. AUC has a break between each of its five terms: about 3 weeks for the winter holidays, and about 2 weeks for the summer and fall breaks. However, SGU has a 3.5 week break for winter, a 1.5 month break during summer (if you start in September class), and no break between terms 3 and 4. It’s common in both schools for students to take a few months off to take the step, and start clinical rotations the semester after term 5. If you calculate the number of credit hours during Basic Sciences for the two schools, SGU students complete 84 credits within 5 terms while AUC students complete 89 credits within 5 terms. At AUC, students take Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM) from semesters 2-5, which prepares students well for rotations.

      I hope this helps. I apologize if I wasn’t able to answer all your questions. I just want to provide information that is accurate and reliable, and from my own experience, and not based on rumors I heard or conjectures I make.

      All the best,
      Benji

  • John

    Hi Benji,

    Not sure if you graduated already, but, my question is, how has the class size changed since the expansion of the school?

    • Benji

      Hi John,
      Yes, I have just graduated from AUC this past October. I’m not sure how class sizes have changed but I would imagine it has increased, as it does little by little each year. I would contact the school for this updated information.
      Benji

  • Sasank

    Hi Benji I like the amount of detail you’ve put on your site, it’s really helpful. I have some questions for you if it’s not too much trouble:

    1) What was the class size when you attended AUC?

    2) How many exams did they have per semester in each class?

    3) What did you have to do to get the AUC Merit scholarship, and how much did you get?

    4) Now that you’ve finished basic sciences, how easy or hard is it to get a primary care residency?

    5) Can you do most of your rotations at one hospital?

    Thanks!

  • Sasank

    Hi Benji
    Because of your blog I am considering AUC – still waiting to hear from them. I have more questions hope you can answer

    1. What do you think of doing M Ph along with med school? Doing it online. How hard will that be?

    2. Any students from AUC that transferred to American schools? Pros and cons and how to do it?

    3. Other schools are finishing basic sciences in 4 semesters, whereas AUC has 5 semesters, is it helpful doing the extra semester during summer?

    • Benji

      Hi Sasank,

      1. I personally don’t know anyone who has done this, especially since getting an MD is already a full-time commitment, and an expensive one as well. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through double the effort needed to study for two programs, as well as paying for the tuition of two programs. Knowing the rigors required for medical school, I wouldn’t recommend it, as I feel your time is better spent focusing on doing your best in medical school, especially since you’ll have to out-compete your counterparts from US med schools for residency spots in the future.

      2. It’s rare for students from any of the top Caribbean medical schools to transfer to US schools, but it’s not unheard of and I do know some from AUC who has done so. Only a few medical schools in the US would allow transfers from the Caribbean (like SUNY Downstate or Mercer University), and it usually happens after you finish Basic Sciences and have taken the Step. The profile of someone who has done so is someone who is among TOP of their class, honoring all their classes, and score really high on their Step 1. It’s not guaranteed and I know several “top” students who also tried to transfer but were not able to do so.

      3. AUC, SGU, Ross, Saba actually all finish Basic Sciences in 5 semesters, and roughly within the same length of time as well. The difference is they split up their semesters and breaks differently, and the different schools have different lengths of semesters and breaks. The length of time for Basic Sciences at the Big 4 are also similar to the length of time at US medical schools. Many US schools that say they have 4 semesters probably have longer semesters and don’t count their spring break as being a break between 2 separate semesters but a break within 1 semester.

  • Andre

    Hi Benji,

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog and found it to be a great resource during my research into med schools. I’ve been accepted to SGU and AUC and am now debating between the two of them. My main concern is maximizing my chances to get the best residency possible at a good hospital. Some people have told me that SGU is a better choice because it has a much broader network of students and graduates and will be more well known to the people making decisions when it comes to getting residencies. They might be more likely to have encountered SGU students and had positive experiences with them, whereas AUC might be a little more of an unknown. So, in a way, the larger class size seems to be an advantage for SGU. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    • Benji

      Congratulations on your acceptance to med school Andre and thanks for reading my blog! Seeing the places and types of residencies that my classmates have landed, I don’t think there is much of a difference, if any, in terms of which of the two schools would maximize your chance of getting the best residency. Both will allow you to practice in all 50 states, and both are reviewed and recognized by the NCFMEA of the US Department of Education to be on par with US acccreditation standards. Even though AUC is a smaller school than SGU or Ross and has a smaller network of alumni, it isn’t exactly small either. It still has a larger and wider network of alumni than the average US medical school. I’ve met students from AUC, SGU, and Ross on the interview trail and if three students from the three schools have the same Step 1 and 2 scores, same GPA, same class rank, same comments on their evaluations, same letters of recommendation, and same personal statement, I don’t believe being either from SGU, Ross, or AUC would be a particular extra boost to their application. I think it’s safe to say that the degrees you get from these three schools will be perceived to be equivalent. If we’re looking at students from these three schools, I feel that the biggest factor to maximize your chance of getting the best residency isn’t necessarily your school but your application (grades, evaluations, test scores, LORs, essay) and interview. Best of luck in med school Andre!

  • Tsuna

    Hi Benji!

    It is wonderful to come across your site. You provide so much information from a student’s perspective and its so useful. I’m currently a UWI student (3rd year) and I’m really contemplating transferring to a different school. I came across ‘the big three’ medical schools in the caribbean and I just wanted to ask, do you know how AUC handles transfers? For a Jamaican national… would it be better to stay at UWI or to transfer to an offshore medical school like AUC (if possible) if practising in the US is the main goal?

    And also congratulations on all your achievements!

  • Dee

    Hi Benji,

    I was wondering what type of academic support AUC offers? Are professors pretty open for students to drop in during their office hours? Are there enough TAs in the anatomy lab to help students identify structures? Are there extra tutoring available?

  • Molly

    Hi Benji! Your blog is wonderful and I’ve been able to gain a lot of insight about the Caribbean medical schools in general from it. While you didn’t attend either of these schools, I wanted to get your opinion between MUA and St. Georges. Of course, St. Georges has the better name and has a higher reputation but I have heard that MUA has a comparable education and their students Step 1 scores are comparable to St. Georges. So, is St. Georges extremely high tuition worth the little edge I may have with residencies in the long run? Or is it better to attend MUA which potentially has the same level of education and stats for Step 1 without having the large financial burden in the end.

    • Benji

      Hi Molly,
      SGU is indeed very expensive compared to MUA. While I’m not able to comment on the quality of education at these institutions, I do know that if you graduate from SGU, you will have more doors open to you. You will be able to get licensed in all fifty states, whereas you cannot if you graduated from MUA. This is something you have to decide if its important to you. In my opinion, being able to practice in all fifty states is important. First, you can apply to more residency programs, and second, after residency, you can apply to more fellowships or find jobs in these states. Also, if you have family or significant others who want to live in certain states, you won’t have to worry about whether or not you can practice in that state. Overall, you’ll have more options if you are able to practice in all fifty states, which you will be able to if you are an SGU graduate. However, since SGU is so expensive, I would also look into the other three schools that are approved in all fifty states that are a little less expensive: AUC, Ross, and Saba. AUA will be approved by all fifty states by the time you graduate, but like MUA, you would have to take out a private loan, which can be a hassle, especially if the bank decides not to approve you for some reason. I’ve heard of people not being able to graduate not because of their academic performance but because they weren’t able to take out a private loan anymore.
      Benji

  • Mame

    Hi Benji,
    Thank you so much for you blog.
    I have a question, I was set into going to SGU, I have been accepted for this January however I wanted to moved it for their August start date that way I will know the outcome of my application to the US medical schools. But now they want me to start this January and they defer my acceptance.
    I am afraid to loose my seat there and not get in here but at the same time I want to wait to hear from the US schools first. Now that I read your blog, I was thinking of applying to AUC for August plus I really like the smaller class size.
    Do you think that’s a good idea?
    Was it hard to get the rotations you wanted? did you get your first choices?
    Thank you so much

    • Benji

      Hi Mame, if you start in January, you will match into residency at the same time as those who start in August. Because of this, I would recommend deferring your January acceptance. I would wait to hear back from the US schools, and at the same time, I would defer your acceptance to SGU to August (or apply for the May semester if you are going to AUC). If you don’t get accepted to any US school by late March or so, then I would start med school at AUC in May or SGU in August. In the long run, starting med school in January and starting in May or August would not help you jumpstart your career. You will still start residency in the same year.

      At AUC, the school sets up core rotations for you at affiliated hospitals. For elective rotations, the school will set it up for you if it is at a major affiliated hospital. If it is at a non-affiliated hospital, you may have to set it up yourself.

      Best of luck.
      Benji

  • Saeed

    Hi Benji,

    What do you think about American University of Antigua? How is this school education wise? What is the failing rate at this school? Thanks for your time.

    • Benji

      I have a good impression of AUA. They seem to have made a lot of progress in just the few years that they have been around, and their campus facilities seem nice too. They are one of the few schools approved by Cafornia. They have a decent match list, and I work with several colleagues from AUA as well, who are excellent. The only downside is the need to take out a private loan to pay for the tuition.

      I don’t know what the fail rate is but if you are serious about your work and take pride in building up your education, then you should be able to do well.

  • Damon

    Hi,

    What is your opinion of Ross? Do you think AUC is on a nicer island?

  • Jordan

    I am tired of having to correct the authors of these blogs. NONE of the universities you listed in this blog is the top university in the Caribbean. These are offshore universities for American- and some Caribbean students- who are not academically competitive for US universities in terms of admission. You should, therefore, say “top offshore medical universities”. Neither Ross nor AUC is in the same class as UWI medical schools; so how then are Ross and AUC the top medical schools in the Caribbean? Are we forgetting about the University of the West Indies, which is not only the top university in the Caribbean, but also having the top medical school in the Caribbean and perhaps Latin and Central America.

    UWI medical graduates are treated as having graduated from a reputable medical school in the UK. Secondly, UWI medical students, as early as in their third of five years, are passing the USMLE even though the medical school’s curriculum is more Oxford, Cambridge, London University, etc. than American.

    The program at UWI is also more academically rigorous and the admissions requirements are even far more selective than the offshore universities.

    Please, when you are talking about medical schools in the Caribbean, differentiate between UWI and the offshore medical schools. You run the risk of giving the impression that schools such as AUC and Ross are ranked above UWI.

    • Benji

      If you take the effort to read the rest of my blog, it is clear that I do differentiate between regional medical schools and off-shore medical schools. This blog is about off-shore medical schools only. If you are looking for info about regional Caribbean universities, then this is not the blog you should be reading. Thanks for the clarification though. Have a nice day.

  • Anthony Marshall

    Good morning Dr.Benji!
    I hope you are doing well. I’m going to be a freshman starting college this upcoming Monday and I’m considering between pursing a career in nursing as a nurse anaesthesist or considering going for a m.d. This whole summer I had the opportunity to shadow 2 physicians in their practice and I was able to meet students from auc who were doing their rotations there aswell. Not only that, I was also able to get the patients history prior to the doctor seeing them, I also run several labs tests and participate in lectures that the doctor gives to the med students here for their exams. In school I will be joining the stem committee and do internships with professors doing research. I really enjoy the study of medicine, it is fascinating. So in your opinion, should I really consider going for an m.d. I have this gut feeling and I feel like this is the path for me after my current experiences and the privileges that I have had. The physicians I shadow believe that it’s something I should go for. I don’t mind about time, I have a good understanding of how long it will be.
    Thank you

    • Benji

      Hi Anthony, gut feelings are often true feelings, and I’d say you could always try out premed at college and see how you do. Becoming a doctor is a long and tough journey that requires a lot of motivation and discipline and doing well on your premed classes is a part of that. A lot of students go into medicine not knowing what it really is about. However seems like you’re a step ahead having shadowed and worked with doctors and med students. Best of luck!
      Benji

  • Sara

    Hello! I was a little late in the game for taking the MCAT. I just now registered to take it in the spring and I’ll be graduating in May. I’m debating whether to have a gap year and try for schools in the U.S or just go ahead and start at AUC/ SGU this Fall. What’re your thoughts? I really hate having to skip out on a year of school, but I’m not sure as I’ll have many open doors and opportunities if I finish schooling in the Caribbean. I’m definitely not looking to specialize in any type of surgery field. I think I’m more interested in OB/ GYN or psychiatry. I currently have a 3.6 GPA, and I’m aiming for at least a 505 on the MCAT.

    Also, how did you study for the MCAT? How long did you prepare for it?

    Thanks!

    • Benji

      Hey Sara, whether or not to wait a year depends on how you do on the MCAT and how much time you are willing to wait and how much risk you are willing to take. You should also have a plan as top what you are going to do during your year off because a year is a long time and med schools would want to see you are doing something productive during that time. It’s been a while since I took the MCAT and it is a different test now too. I took the Kaplan course. Practice questions is the best way to go.

  • aspiringMD

    Hey Benji!

    So I’ve been reading alot about how it is getting more difficult for Caribeean graduates to match with residencies since US medical schools are putting out more graduates. I am thinking of going to AUC but would like to know if things are getting tougher in that sense. Thanks for your great work!

    • Benji Ho

      Hi AspiringMD – It’s hard to tell at this time. It is true that US schools are expanding, but residencies are also expanding, and new residency programs are popping up at different places.

  • Irene

    Hey Benji,
    There is no way you are not God sent. Your blog is AMAZING!!!. I didn’t write the MCAT so SGU was the only school I could apply to and I got in. The cost of going to school there is crazy and I definitely want to go to a tier 1 school. Until I saw your post on how you ranked schools, I didn’t know SABA was among the top tier schools. Even when people mention AUC, Ross and SGU you never hear about SABA. Any idea why it’s not a favorite because I am strongly considering it. Thanks

    • Benji Ho

      Hi Irene,
      Thanks for reading. I’m not sure why the people you’ve talked to don’t know about Saba, and I wouldn’t call Saba “not a favorite” just because some people you know haven’t mentioned it. The school has been around for awhile and has a track record of producing successful graduates. I know a few graduates myself. The school probably does not advertise as much as SGU or Ross, but it does advertise and that is how I first heard of it. Like AUC, SGU, and Ross, it will give you an opportunity to become a doctor in all fifty states if you work hard and do what you are there to do.
      Benji

  • Michael S

    Hey Benji,

    Thank you for this blog!

    As your post was written a while ago, I am wondering an updated opinion on choosing from the Big 4. I am accepted at all of them. I have done a lot of research, been to info sessions, the works and heres what I’ve come up with. They are all very similar, but its a big decision to make, so I want to put everything I can into it. I hope this can help other students as well; remember this is only my opinion based on what I’ve gathered, I am sure many people will disagree with what I am saying.

    All statistics at these 4 are very similar. Keep in mind a lot of stats are skewed on their websites, f.e. first time USMLE pass rates includes the fact that they had to take a comp exam (supposed to mimmic step 1) and pass before they can take the real exam. Some have to take an extra year to do this before they take step the first time and then are added to the “see he/she passed the first time” stats of each school. Also keep in mind they drop a lot of people that they don’t want representing their school (mostly in the first semester). The only main difference I have found in stats is Saba has a much worse attrition rate.

    So far, I am ruling out Saba because I don’t like THAT small of class sizes and opportunities, the island life is also extremely limited, and I simply think they don’t have as good of a reputation, curriculum, professors, etc. as at least one the other three schools. Plus, as I noted above, Saba’s attrition rate is significantly higher than the other 3. Price is obviously way cheaper but I think that doesn’t make up for the negatives.

    I think I am ruling out Ross as well. The positive is its a bit more well known than AUC and Saba (not SGU tho). One difference with Ross is that it seems to be similar class size to AUC (maybe a bit bigger) and its smaller than SGU. Negatives: I believe the quality of education is worse than SGU and possibly AUC as well, and island life seem to be worse than both AUC and SGU, so I think I would prefer one of those to Ross. Many people put AUC below Ross, but I think thats changed.

    So now the big question: AUC or SGU.

    SGU is much bigger which has two sides for me: big class sizes which I don’t like, but more people in the school to know and work with, which I do like.

    At AUC I like the smaller class sizes and there are more opportunities getting to know and accommodations/getting help from professors and the administration. More connections at SGU but easier to make deeper connections at AUC- not everyone knows each other at SGU, where everyone does at AUC.

    SGU is much more well known and has a huge alumni network (good for connections in rotations, letters of rec, residencies, interviews with docs who have only heard of SGU in the Caribbean etc.) and has many more affiliated hospitals (and a bit better hospitals imo).

    Island life at SGU is decent, but much more remote and underdeveloped than AUC’s St. Maarten. Island life in St. Marteen blows every other Caribbean schools’ out of the water. It is more touristy which some might not like, but in exchange it has many more luxuries, conveniences, opportunities on the Island, much easier to get to/from etc. which I think will provide a better learning environment for me (I think I’ll feel less isolated), but of course this is medical school and I don’t plan on being “out and about” often.

    Kind of funny to note, but AUC has the word Caribbean in it which makes it an obvious Caribbean, whereas SGU may skim by, plus there is a SGU of Medicine in England.

    So far I think this is the tradeoff: AUC is great for smaller classes, better Island living, more attention from faculty, and closer relationships. SGU is more well known, has more affiliated hospitals, and has a much larger alumni network.

    Thoughts?
    Thank you,
    Michael

    • Benji Ho

      Hi Michael,
      Those are all valid points. I don’t think you’ll go wrong with either choice. They both will provide the education and prepare you well for the match. I know AUC has changed a lot since I graduated in 2013. The campus has expanded, classes sizes are bigger, and facilities have been updated. There are now more affiliated hospitals to do clinical rotations to choose from as well. I haven’t been keeping up with the changes going on at the other schools, so it’s hard to form an updated opinion.
      Benji

  • sydoc

    Hi Benji,

    I have been reading a lot about why you should never ever go to Caribbean schools unless it is a last choice. I kept thinking well if I study very well and people keep emphasizing self-study can overcome the stigma and the low-placement rates, I should be fine. Yet, the blog posts are scaring me off. I was wondering whether I should do a post bac (I have low gpa maybe 2.3 by the time I graduate and average MCAT 502) and try to apply to MD, DO or PA school and if I still don’t get then go to AUC. I got into St. James but I am not sure if I should go there.

    Thanks

    • Benji Ho

      Hi Sydoc,
      Yes, you should try to stay in the US before you consider the Caribbean. And if you are considering the Caribbean, you should probably consider AUC, SGU, Ross, Saba, or AUA before you consider a second-tier Caribbean school like SJSM. If you don’t mind waiting, then post-bacc is an idea. However, it does not guarantee you a spot in a US school. PA school is a completely different animal, and can be even tougher to get into than med school. Being a doctor is very different from being a PA. As a PA, you will always be working under a doctor. Some people describe the work as like being a “resident for life.” You may or may not like this.

  • David

    Hi Benji,

    I am currently finishing my last semester as a graduate student. I have been reading a WHOLE lot about SGU, Ross, AUC, Saba, etc… With the info that you have now, if you had do it over again, would you still choose AUC over say SGU or Ross?

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