Caribbean medical schools have a bit of a reputation for being easier options to get into. Saba, which makes up one of the region’s “big four”, stirs up a lot of interest. And not just for those with a less competitive MCAT or GPA!
Still, you probably want to know…
How hard is it to get into Saba medical school?
Compared to most U.S. or Canadian medical schools, Saba is easier to get into. Although it doesn’t state its minimum MCAT score, they are known, thanks to reports from existing students, to be lower. You also don’t need a bachelor’s degree (but rather 3 years of undergraduate studies).
At a superficial glance, Saba definitely doesn’t seem too hard to get into. The fact it has rolling admissions (accepting new students every September, January, and May), is also something that separates from the once-a-year policy of most U.S. and Canadian schools. But it does only accept around 95 students per year!
We’ll dive into other aspects of Saba’s admissions process in this article.
You’ll also learn:
- Saba’s “easy” admissions requirements
- Their acceptance rate
- How you can improve your chances of making it into Saba
- If it’s actually worth it
As an off-shore med student myself, I understand it’s important to look at schools as objectively as possible. But I also still believe that you can become a top doctor without attending a top-tier school!
Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.
Saba University School of Medicine Admission Requirements
Compared to most U.S. medical schools, Saba’s requirements aren’t as difficult to match.
Here’s what you need to have to get in:
- Minimum of three years of undergraduate studies (or 90 semester hours/135 quarter hours including pre-medical requirements from an accredited college or university).
- MCAT (mandatory for U.S. citizens, nationals or permanent residents – all other students “strongly encouraged”).
- Biology: one-year general biology or zoology with a lab component.
- Chemistry: one-year or inorganic and one year of organic chemistry with a lab component.
- English: at least one uear of college-level English literature or composition.
- Other: a broad background in humanities, social sciences or physical sciences.
- A minimum 50 hours of direct patient care (volunteering, shadowing, working as an EMT, etc.)
Please note that these admissions criteria are subject to change and made at the school’s own discretion. Check their website for additional details.
Why this is “easy”
Not having to complete an undergraduate degree to apply, certainly makes Saba open to more applicants. Couple that with fewer subject requirements (most U.S. schools also ask for physics and calculus) and an “unspecified” MCAT score (and not even a mandatory MCAT in the case of international students), and it’s safe to say it’s definitely not that hard to get into.
And although you’ll still need to match those admissions criteria (by no means “easy”), it’s probably a lot easier to do so than it would be matching any other medical school state-side.
One of the attractive things about Saba’s admissions criteria is that there is no defined GPA requirement. Despite what sources say, it doesn’t actually publish the average GPA or MCAT scores of its admitted students.
Studentdoctor.net puts the school’s average around 2.7. Other sources (like InGeniusPrep.com) tell us that the average GPA for Caribbean schools fluctuates between 3.2 and 3.3.
A safe bet is to estimate that Saba’s average GPA probably comes in somewhere around 2.5-3.5.
This is definitely on the low end compared to the average U.S. med school GPA of 3.71 (Source).
Saba medical school acceptance rate
The fact that Saba takes so few students (around 90 per year), may point to a fairly low acceptance rate.
But compared to data surrounding similar Caribbean schools like St. George’s Medical School in Grenada (at 41%), this might be an incorrect assumption.
Saba’s acceptance rate is probably something similar to St. George’s, likely putting it well above the individual U.S. med school average acceptance rate of around 3-4%.
Saba residency match rate
Something that makes Saba one of the more attractive options out of all the Caribbean med schools is it’s high residency match rate at 94%.
Compared to rival schools in the region like the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (92%), that’s a more attractive score.
Saba’s Step 1 Pass Rate (95%) is also something potential applicants could find reassuring.
How you can improve your chance of making it into Saba medical school
Besides meeting the admissions criteria, it’s as good idea as any to make sure you follow the process as smoothly as you can.
- Submitting an application form at least 6 months in advance to your desired start date
- Completing the application as honestly and as detailed as you can
And as far as extracurriculars go, you’ll need to get that minimum 50 hours experience.
The best way to get that would be to look for hospital volunteering opportunities near to you or any shadowing programs in your area.
Don’t be afraid to cold call and explain your interests.
Is it worth applying?
Saba, like all Caribbean med schools, probably won’t make you as competitive as a student who graduates from U.S. or Canadian medical schools. Its accreditation is with NVAO, the accreditation organization of Netherlands and Flanders. Although it’s not that much of a big deal, it could look odd on some residency applications.
One thing that could make Saba worth applying to however is its residency track record.
That, coupled with the fact it is much easier to get in and you get to do a large proportion of core rotations (clinical rotations) on the wards of teaching hospitals in the U.S. and Canada (see this page for a list of affiliations), still make it an attractive option for people struggling to make into other schools.
At $26,000 tuition per semester and the chance of financial aid for both U.S. and Canadian students, also means you shouldn’t rule it out.
In terms of professionalism and educational quality, it doesn’t seem all that different from any other med school either.
Check out this “day in the life” of a Saba student as evidence for that…
Personally, I think Saba has a lot to offer that perhaps many students first overlook.
Sure, it’s a Caribbean medical school but it’s also one that can set you up for clinical rotations in top U.S. and Canadian teaching hospitals provided you pass through all your pre-clinical training within 20 months.
For students who are really struggling to get into medical schools at home, due to super competitive requirements, it could be a solid option.
It’s easier to get in, has a great residency match and USMLE pass rate and is still a fair bit cheaper than your average U.S. school.
Is Saba University a good medical school?
Saba’s estimated attrition rate is 35%. Compared to most U.S. med schools that’s a fairly high rate (meaning more students leave without a degree), but for Caribbean schools, it’s fairly strong (Ross University is 41.7%).
In terms of being a good school that means it’s one of the best in the region. 75% of Saba’s students go on to graduate, attain a medical degree and then find residency (usually in internal or family medicine).
Saba is also one of the most estabilished and long running schools in the Caribbean, founded in 1993.
Compared to U.S. or Canadian schools, however, especially those with strong rankings thanks to research, etc., it’s definitely not as good. Fewer students from Caribbean med schools go on to the more competitive residencies, Saba included.
Saba medical school reviews
Digging around for genuine reviews on Saba is pretty difficult.
A 2017 thread on the valuemed.com website showed some particularly negative criticism of the school, specifically in terms of its quality of education…
The quality of education is horrendous!! The admin only cares about money and their curriculum is set up for student hardship and even failure. Everything is poorly taught by profs with very thick foreign accents and there is no time to properly review the material. We all end up cramming everything even when we keep up with our studies.
The validity of reviews like this are questionable however, especially as posters (in the same thread) commented that these criticisms were true of most med schools (top-tier ones included!)…
I finished at MUA and did my rotations with plenty of Saba students. Most have matched into residency and are staff now. Every school cares about money, but they have a good track record from my first-hand observation.
Still, this thread is an interesting read if you’re looking for more insight into exactly what’s going on at Saba (and what it might be like)…
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.