Why the American University of the Caribbean (AUC)?

After doing much research, I feel that the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) prepares students well to become physicians. It has one of the top medical programs in the Caribbean, and with more than 30 years of history (established 1978), it has a proven track record. Most graduates obtain very decent residencies and some even very prestigious ones like the Mayo Clinic or Baylor. If these students can make it, there is hope for me too.

As an AUC student, I will spend my first two years learning Basic Sciences on the island of St. Maarten. Then if I pass the USMLE Step I, I will spend the last two years learning Clinical Sciences in affiliated teaching hospitals in the States or the United Kingdom.

I had a wonderful experience with AUC’s personal relations. Immediately after submitting my application, I was assigned an admissions adviser who has given me so much help and support. The staff is really nice, accessible, and they contact me often. My admissions adviser even wrote me a personalized letter. This is probably standard for them, but it still makes me feel that I am cared for and not just another applicant out of many from the pool.

AUC students take USMLE-style exams for all of their classes, with the same style of questions, and even a eight-hour simulated USMLE comprehensive exam at the end of fifth semester. As a result, the students are well prepared and the USMLE Step I first time pass rate is high, over 94%, with a third of students scoring over a two-digit score of 99 (which is the highest you can get). Compare this with US MD schools (94%), US DO schools (81%), SGU (91%), and non-US schools overall (73%).

The class size at AUC is not too big, and not too small. The September class has around 200 seats while the January and May classes have even less… around 100 seats. Small class sizes are definitely a plus, as there is more opportunity for student-teacher interaction and community bonding. Ross and St. George’s, on the other hand, have class sizes of 400-700 each semester.

The presence of 20 different student organizations in a school as small as AUC shows a highly active student body, which is facilitated by the school’s intimate environment. The students help each other out, as evidenced by the tutoring program taught by students for students, student-run workshops, and the anatomy TA program. The administration encourages students to participate in the decisions of the school, such as hiring new faculty, as students take surveys and evaluate candidate deans and professors. The multiple “Townhall Meetings” each semester are also a way for students to openly voice their opinions, questions, and ideas to the administration. The school also recognizes and gives many awards to students, and the students award their favorite professors and faculty members. With this kind of intimate relationship among the students, the faculty and administration, AUC truly is a community with a camaraderie and environment of encouragement that is not often seen in larger schools of the same academic caliber. AUC’s intimate size makes this possible.

AUC has a wonderful alumni connection, which is essential in maintaining the spirit of the alma mater, and not to mention, networking. AUC sent me their alumni magazine, called AUC Connections, and it was awesome reading about the exciting things are happening with AUC alums today: some get honors, some publish significant findings of their research, and some are very successful cardiologists, and still others go on to very cool non-traditional medical careers, like Dr. B who works as an official ringside physician to professional boxing matches in Las Vegas and Reno. With a good alumni association, both students and alumni will feel they are part of a greater family, and the networking will be handy when finding jobs in the future.

The standard of living on St. Maarten is relatively high. Plus, with direct flights, it is very accessible to the states.

During clinical years, AUC students do rotations at teaching hospitals in the states and the UK, the same hospitals that US med students and UK med students rotate at. Some hospitals, like Providence Hospital, are recognized as among the top teaching hospitals in the nation. The NHS teaching hospitals in the UK are well-known around the world for clinical training and some schools in the US send only their top students to the UK. This used to be the case for AUC as well, with only the top ten students being chosen for the opportunity, but today, the clinical opportunities to train in the UK are open to any student.

In regards to the academics and learning environment, I have only heard positive reviews about this school. The only concern I’ve heard is that it is a foreign medical school, and that I might face stigma from some people after coming back to the states. But my father is a foreign medical graduate, the doctor that delivered me is a foreign medical graduate, and one of the best doctors I’ve seen in my shadowing was a foreign medical graduate… If I pass all the same licensing boards and obtain the same accredited education, being an international medical graduate should not even be an issue. But with the proven track record, helpful advisors, organized alumni networking, beautiful beaches, and a chance to pursue my dreams… I am looking forward to my time at AUC.

22 comments to Why the American University of the Caribbean (AUC)?

  • Amer

    How are the rotations compare to sgu and does rotations have significant effect on getting residencies?

    • Benji

      Hi Amer,
      Thanks for the question. As AUC rotates at many of the same hospitals as SGU, Ross, Saba, and other Caribbean and US medical schools, the rotations between these schools do not differ that much.

      It’s definitely important to do well on both your core and elective rotations, strive to do well on the shelf exams, and receive good comments from your preceptors. This is definitely an important component that residencies look at. However, for letters of recommendations, it’s usually better to get recommendations from your elective rotations than with your core rotations.

      Electives rotations is where you impress your preceptors. By the time you make it to electives, you’ve already had a lot of experience from your core rotations, making it easier for you to make an impression. You also do elective rotations that are more related to the field you go into, another reason why electives are more important than cores in helping you get the recommendations and impressions you need to match. You can schedule your own elective rotations at any hospital, as long as the hospital is Greenbook. The only limit is that you can only do up to 8 weeks of rotations at each non-affiliated hospital (not affiliated with your med school).

      Hope this helps!
      Benji

  • Dale

    Benji: I can’t tell you how much I and my son appreciate all the work you have done with this blog, the information that you have provided on all aspects of medical school in the Caribbean and AUC in particular. My son is also a UGA student who did well as an honors Chemistry major, has long dreamed of and planned to go to medical school, had decent grades (3.4 gpa)and extra-curriculars, but didn’t do as well as hoped on the MCAT (25). Although he has applied to medical schools in GA, realistically, the competition level will probably keep him either out or on the edge until the last minute hoping for a chance at a waiting list spot. Rather than play longshots, I started looking into other options for him last summer and came to the conclusion that there were excellent and acceptable options in the Caribbean. After considerable research and without finding your blog, I had already come to the conclusion that AUC was probably an excellent fit for my son and suggested it to him. Last week his final information/rec letters, etc. were received by AUC and we hope to have a positive response within their predicted 4-6 weeks from application submission to acceptance. Although I already had very positive vibes from everything that I have read about AUC, your blog has both confirmed my conclusion and expanded tremendously the information basis for reaching that conclusion. Hopefully my son will be accepted and begin Fall, 2012. I wish you the very best in your future and look forward to following my son’s progress along the fantastic journey that you and he have chosen for your lives. Dale

  • Benji

    Thanks Dale! I wish your son the best in his applications! And it’s great to hear from another Georgia Bulldog!
    Benji

  • ayman

    What about non-Americans? I am a Jordanian national, and in case I want to do rotation in affiliated hospital in the US, how will this be arranged?

    • Benji

      Hi Ayman,
      I would contact the school for more information. While majority of students at AUC are US citizens or permanent residents, there are certainly also many Canadians and students of other nationalities as well. From what I understand, you will need to get a student VISA that would allow you to stay in St. Maarten to study as well as one that would allow you to stay in the US for rotations at AUC’s affiliated hospitals.
      Best of luck,
      Benji

  • Krishna

    Hi Benji,

    So I have a GPA right on the edge at 2.98 and my MCAT is average (25) on top of that my science GPA is even lower since I got Cs in a lot of those classes. Do you think I’ll still have a shot at AUC or Ross?

    • Benji

      Hi Krishna, I think you may have a chance, since your MCAT is about average. However, your GPA is a little low, so they may question you about that, but be sure to have other things to back up your application, like work/shadowing/volunteer experience, research, leadership, etc. It doesn’t hurt to apply and see what they say. Best of luck!
      Benji

  • Huma

    Hi Benji,
    I have applied to medical schools this past cycle and am currently wait-listed at two U.S. schools, however I am not sure of my chances and am considering applying to Caribbean schools as well.

    Your blog has been very helpful, and has alleviated many of my fears. But I did have one specific question: in addition to becoming a physician, I would like to teach (either at the university or medical school level). What opportunities are there at AUC (or any of the other Caribbean medical schools) to get involved with that? Any feedback you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    -Huma

    • Benji

      Hi Huma,
      If you are interested in teaching, AUC does have a research fellow opportunity for those who are new graduates of AUC and are waiting for the match. If you are hired as a research fellow, you do some research in St. Maarten as well as teach Intro to Clinical Medicine (ICM) to Basic Science students. This would give you some experience in the teaching aspect of medicine. During your time in Basic Sciences, you can also become an anatomy TA or a tutor. It’s a great experience and definitely something to add to your CV as well.
      Benji

  • Sam

    Hi Ben:

    I have friends at AUC and they love it but I am worried about the potential issue of not matching to a residency, as this is a major problem many people bring up with me with regards going to a Caribbean school. Do you know any people who didn’t get a match and was it because of any issues arising from the school?

    • Benji

      Hi Sam, every match year there are certainly people who don’t match. I don’t know the percentage, although most people I know did match. Reasons for not matching could be due to applying to too little places, not applying broadly (not having back-ups), failing exams, or having low test scores or clinical grades. Being a non-US citizen an not having a VISA may also hinder your chances. The reasons are many.

  • Tasha

    Hi Benji,

    Love your website. Just wondering how you went about applying for your medical rotations in the UK? I’m currently studying for Step 1 exams and attend Xavier in Aruba.

    • Benji

      Hi Tasha, the hospitals I rotated in England are affiliated with my school, so I just directly scheduled the rotations through my school advisor. I did not need to separately apply. I’d contact your school to see what their policies are. Best of luck on the step!
      Benji

  • Carter

    Hi Benji,
    Thanks so much for your site.
    I’ve been through the MD app process this year after working very hard in undergrad. The prospect of waiting another year is discouraging since I am currently in a gap year. But your page on Caribbean schools’ accreditation (The Big 4) was super helpful and gave me encouragement!

    I wanted to ask what you knew of Saba. I was seriously considering Saba due to their smaller class sizes, less site distractions, recent prestigious residency placements, and cheaper tuition. From the valuemd blogs, I’ve gotten a bad vibe from a lot of the recent students 2011-2013, who say the school environment has become more cut-throat due to over-crowding of the class for the number of rotations available. They also have said that ownership of the school has changed.

    I have excellent grades from Wake Forest University, and I scored very well on the MCAT2015. I expect to work hard in medical school. But I don’t want my getting through years 1 and 2 to be a gamble. That’s the vibe I’ve gotten from Saba. Please tell me if this is utterly wrong!

    (My initial concerns about AUC were that it could be in a potentially distracting environment and that its tuition is higher. But I know these are not all factors I should consider. Tell me, please, what I’m missing!)

    Thanks! 🙂

    • Benji

      Hi Carter,
      Thanks for reading. Indeed it is very difficult to decide what school to go to especially if you have never visited the campus or talk to the students who have gone through the program. Saba does have all the accreditation that will get you a legitimate MD if you do what you need to do. I have heard of the competitive environment on Saba as well, and also certain practices like making passing score a 75, etc. You will have to decide how much this matters to you, and which environment will fit you better, make you focus more without making you depressed or burn out easily.
      Benji

  • Matthew

    Hi, Benji

    I’m really appreciate for everything you post here. They are truly invaluable information to me! And I congrats that you secured residency spot in U.S.!

    I’m fourth year college student and major in Physics. My overall GPA is 3.7 and science GPA is 3.8. I took 2015 MCAT and scored 500. Since I working 20/hrs every week to pay my tuition and living cost, I only have 2 volunteer experiences. I applied medical school for 2015 cycle in October last year, but haven’t recived any invitations. I believe the big disadvantage of me is lacing clinic activties. So I started to do more volunteers, shadowings from last year November. Now I’m thinking to reapply to U.S med school for 2016 cycle and apply to Cribeean Med schools for 2017 January entry at the same time. I really want to know some true facts about these school from person like you who studied over there.

    1. How do you ranking these Cribeean schools base on their residency placement? ( I have called St.George admission and talk with their advisor. He said their residency rate for 2014 is 91%. I don’t know it is true or not. How is the residency rate for AUC?)
    2. Do you think the smaller size class setting will have more beneficial to students?
    3. For this year, I will apply to US med schools in June. Since the early acceptance will be in October. If I still can’t get in this year, I would like to attend to Cribeean med schools in January. Do you think it’s a good idea? Or I should wait until the 2016 cycle finished?

    • Benji

      Hi Matthew,
      Thanks for reading. I feel that your weakness is not the lack of clinical experiences but your MCAT score. With a score of 500, which is low, it will be a challenge to get into a med school. Instead of trying to find volunteer experiences, I would try to study hard to strengthen your basic science foundation and then prove it by pulling up that MCAT score and then consider US med schools. You could try Caribbean schools with that score as well. You may be accepted, but having a weak science foundation may make med school even harder for you than it already is. 91% seems pretty high for a Caribbean school… this is the rate for many US schools. AUC in 2015 published its match rate as 84.3%. You can read the report here. Match rates keep changing every year. Best of luck.
      Benji

  • Karuna

    Hi Benji,
    Your blog is really informative and inspirational for aspiring med students. Do you have any information / opinion regarding Xavier University School of Medicine in Aruba. Looking at joining for direct premed and med program. Any suggestions… would appreciate any input.

    Thanks,
    Karuna.

    • Benji

      Hi Karuna,
      Thanks for reading. I have met students from Xavier university on the residency interview trail but do not know much about the school besides the hard facts like it is in Aruba, it is not California-approved, it has no federal student loans, etc. Try checking out what people have to say on ValueMD, although take whatever you read for a grain of salt. Best of luck.
      Benji

  • Lovepreet

    Hey Benji,

    I recently switched over to pre med (Chemical Engineering so nearly all pre med classes overlapped) and have been keeping in touch with the director of AUC of my district. She has assured my despite my low GPA (2.8), I have a high chance due to research and volunteer activities. I will be taking my MCAT in January and then applying for the Summer semester. My only worry is that after looking more into to the school , all students are required to take a pre Step 1 exam before they are allowed to take the USMLE 1. After searching pre Step 1 exam at AUC, I had read that only 60% students passed. Would you be able to provide more information regarding this. You blog has been very helpful to me and appreciate all you do to help potential students.

    Thanks,
    Lovepreet

    • Benji Ho

      The pre-Step 1 exam you speak of is called the NBME comprehensive exam, and is actually taken by US medical students as well. At AUC, students are given multiple chances to pass the comp (3x during the semester, when I was there, with an opportunity to come back the beginning of the following semester for a fourth attempt). Maybe about 50-60% of people pass on the first try, but pretty much everyone I know passes by the third try. I only know a handful of people who had to come back the following semester for a fourth attempt at the exam, and those that did that I know, passed and went on to take Step 1 and start clinicals. Hope this helps.

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