If you are one of those noble characters who has known from the cradle that you have a vocation for mending broken bodies or diagnosing ingrown toenails, then you may regard the American medical school approach as a serious waste of time.
There are hardly any courses for undergraduates seeking a medical degree in the United States (with the exception of a couple, such as the combined courses at Northwestern).
Instead, would-be doctors must go through their college career as pre-meds, combining the courses that will set them on track to med school with those that give them a liberal arts education.
Though frustrating for many, this approach does guarantee a wider base of knowledge and means you are not exposed to the gore and pressure of the medical system at the tender age of eighteen.
But being a pre-med is no easy task. The requirements are fairly painful and, if you plan to carry on in the US system, you will have to take your MCATs while studying for your undergrad degree. This dreaded nine-hour exam is a multiple choice stamina test that is mandatory for entry into the many excellent American medical schools.
The advantage of this system is that if you are presently considering medicine as a career option, but are by no means set on it, you get an extra three years of broad education while you make up your mind. The disadvantage is that pre-meds work harder than most other students and still have to jump through the extra hoop of med school applications at the end of the four years.
Even then, you are chancing your arm if you intend to stay on in the US for your postgraduate medical studies. Fewer than one half of 1% of students in US medical colleges are international students. This is because medical schools are typically mandated to serve the healthcare needs of the state where they are based, so they are unwilling to divert funds to educate foreigners.
Fewer than half of US medical schools even entertain international applications. Therefore, even if you hold an appropriate undergraduate degree, the likelihood of acceptance at a US medical school is virtually nil.
Worse, if you are accepted, there is almost no financial aid for international medical students and many of the medical
schools that do accept international students require that those students place in escrow the equivalent of one to four years’ tuition and fees (US$50,000-US$250,000).
Those still set on a US medical education should be aware that once you have completed your medical studies in the UK, it is quite possible to enter the US for your residency/clinical practice stage. Contact Fulbright or the relevant universities/med schools for additional information.
Would-be lawyers in America find themselves in a similar situation. There is no actual undergraduate law degree. Instead, the students designate themselves as (you guessed it) pre-laws and round off their college career with the LSAT exam to apply to postgraduate law school.
Those set on a legal career do not have the same college-imposed requirements as their medical peers, but they do have to suffer the slings and arrows of important grad school applications and tests in the midst of what should be the fun final fling of their collegiate years.
For students wanting to study law, the prospects of graduate study in the US after earning an LLB in the UK, are bright. If it is your goal to practise law in the US, following your LLB you can apply to do a one-year LLM (Master’s in Law) in the US and may be able to take the qualifying bar exam in several states. As each state sets its own requirements, and they change frequently, make sure to check thoroughly with the relevant institutions.