Questions About State Residency

How Much Does State Residency Affect Chances of Medical School Acceptance?
Keeping Your In-State Residency Status
Should I become a California resident?
Which state should I choose for residency?


 How much does state residency affect chances of medical school acceptance?


Question: I’m putting together my list of medical schools to apply to in June, and I’ve heard that it’s harder to get into public medical schools when you’re out of state. It’s still OK to apply to them, though, isn’t it? How much harder is it exactly?

Answer: That really depends on which public medical schools you’re talking about. U.S. allopathic and osteopathic medical schools are either private or public. In most cases, private schools do not prefer applicants from certain states. Public schools, however, are mandated by the state to allocate a certain percentage of seats to in-state residents (in exchange for state financial support). Many public schools also have missions specific to serving the residents of their state, and so prefer students with a commitment to the state. Many public medical schools – with class sizes between 100 and 200 – have fewer than 10 entering students who are out-of-state. If you are out-of-state, these schools would be a waste of your time, energy, and money. For instance, the public medical schools in California prefer Californians to such an extent that we usually do not recommend that non-Californians apply. The public medical schools in Texas are much the same. Michigan and Virginia are exceptions, letting in more non-residents than most state medical schools. Generally speaking, you should apply only to the public medical schools in your home state plus private schools nationwide. If you’re curious about a public medical school and you’re not from that state, consult the MSAR (Medical School Admissions Requirements) available in the HPA library—in particular, the chart called “Acceptance & Matriculation Data” which you can find in each school’s entry. You may also come by HPA and ask an adviser about a particular school if you’re still concerned.  


I've heard that it’s harder to get into medical school if you’re from California. Is this true?

Public medical schools are supported by state funding that also supports bringing residents of the state into these medical schools. Different schools have different requirements in terms of how many state residents they must accept. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports on how many students apply and are accepted within state in their FACTS data reports: Table A-1 shows the in-state/out-of-state resident ratios for each MD school. Table A-5 shows how many applicants come from each state, and what ratio matriculate into medical school.
If you’re from a state with a higher ratio of seats to applicants, it does increase your chances of admissions given supply and demand. In 2019, 17% of the 6,200 California residents who applied were able to matriculate to an in-state medical school; by contrast, 49% of the 613 Kentucky applicants matriculated in state.

But, there are plenty of private schools with no state residency preference, so there are still opportunities for all applicants even if your state school seats are scarce or you don’t have a state school at all. 

Keeping Your In-State Residency Status

Question:  Hi!  I'm a senior applying to matriculate with one glide year. I am currently a California resident, and would like to apply to some CA public medical schools in June.  In my year off, I hope to work in New York City for a year or even a little less.  Will I still be considered an in-state resident for CA schools during the application process?  Thank you! 

Answer:  You will not lose your CA residency status as long as, in the most recent tax year, a parent claimed you as a dependent on their tax return, and they reside in CA at your "home" address. Also maintain your California driver's license and voter registration; these are "markers" that the schools will use to identify you as in-state. If you change some of these markers to another state, things are more likely to become complicated. Other states often to have similar guidelines for maintaining in-state status.  If you're ever in doubt about how a change of locale might affect your in-state status with the public medical school in a particular state, call the Admissions office and they will direct you to someone who can help.  If you're not sure whether a certain medical school is public or private (private schools do not give preference to in-state applicants, but public ones do), then consult the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) available in the HPA office. 

Should I become a California resident?

Question:  I have a question regarding medical schools' state residency policies. I'm a senior and am currently a Pennsylvania resident. I am interested in going to med school in California but realize that my chances of getting in to a California state med school aren't very good as an out-of-state applicant. I'm hoping to move to California shortly after graduation and work there. I understand that I can get my California state residency after one year of living and supporting myself there. This means that I could be a California resident by the time I began med school (I'm taking one year off). However, I'll still be a Pennsylvania resident at the point that I apply. Do you know how the California state med schools consider such situations? Would I still be considered as an out-of-state applicant? Thank you so much.

Answer:  California is one of the tougher states in which to gain residency. You would not be considered a California resident until after you had worked (not attended school) in California for a year. You would have to get a California driver’s license and register to vote at the very beginning of that first year, too. Thus, you could not call yourself a California resident while applying even if you were living and working in the state. Your odds of acceptance at a state medical school would improve if you spent a year working and establishing residency and then applied as a California resident. While the California schools are an attractive option because of the price, there are more Californians applying to medical school than residents of any other state. The competition would be very tough even if you became a “real” resident. This is a long way of saying that it might be wiser to retain your residency in Pennsylvania, which you could still do even if you were working a year or two in California unless, of course, love or money intervenes (as they often do). 

 Which state should I choose for residency?

Question:  I am applying direct entry to medical school, hoping to begin the fall after graduation. I have an option of switching my residence from State A to State B.  Do you know whether this would be beneficial for the medical school application process in that I would then be considered an in-state resident for the University of B instead of the University of A?  Also, from a timing perspective, if I make the change now, will my application be treated as in-state by A, or B, or both, or neither?

Answer:  The first thing is, in terms of residency rules, states differ.  In fact, the residency rules for public medical schools sometimes vary within the same state!  Your first step when considering a change in residency is to contact a residency official at the institutions in question.  Sometimes these officers are found in the Registrar's office, sometimes in Admissions, sometimes in a "residency" office all by themselves; usually the medical schools Admissions office can direct you.

Other things to remember:

  • You may only list one state of residence on your AMCAS application.
  • If you are a dependent on either parent's tax return, then you are a resident of their state. If you are considering switching states and you're still enrolled as a college student, then most likely it is because one or both parents are moving.  If this is the case, make sure you change your driver's license and voter registration to match your parents' address.
  • For those who have graduated at the time they apply to medical school—and are claiming residency in a new state, separate from their parents’—they should have a permanent address, driver's license, and voter registration card in the new state.
  • The Medical School Admissions Requirements, or "MSAR," published by the AAMC, is available at HPA.  Each school's listing in this book includes the numbers of "resident" and "non-resident" applicants, interviewees, and matriculants.  You'd be wise to look at this data for your schools in States A and B before making your decision. Also, remember that State Y has three public medical schools while State X has only one. Sometimes you may increase your chances of admission to a medical school when you're lucky enough to have more than one public university in your state.