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Best Pre-Med Schools: The Top List for Pre-Med Students!

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There are many online lists out there that rank undergraduate schools based on their pre-med programs.

On them, you see many usual staples: Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Northwestern, Boston University, and many others.

They will also give you a basic overview of the program’s strengths and what makes it a top competitor.

  • What is striking about these lists is that they often do not take student experience into account.

Because of this, many college applicants become fixated on numbers.

They will want to only apply to the highest-ranked school and base their final decision on which one is “higher.”

We urge you to avoid doing this and shift your focus to consider your personal life and learning style.

These are two influential, often-overlooked factors in determining a successful and enjoyable college career.

They can profoundly shape a student’s experience in college.

  • It does not matter if you attend a top-ranked school if it does not fit your needs, because you will most likely end up not performing as well.

In this guide, we provide you with a holistic overview of eight top-ranked pre-med programs, so you can be both ambitious and well-informed in your application process!

What makes a great pre-med school?

Before we get started, these are some factors you should consider while reading through our guide and choosing a good fit undergraduate program:

School size

Would you prefer a small, liberal arts college or a medium to large university?

  • School size can affect everything from your sense of community to the student-to-teacher ratio in class.
  • In turn, this may determine the connections you make throughout your career and the accessibility to services available to you.
  • If you visit a university campus and it feels too large, looming, or overwhelming, you may want to consider applying to smaller, liberal arts colleges.
  • These schools, generally, have smaller class sizes (as opposed to lecture halls with 50+ students during each session), more easily accessible professors and advisors, and more personal experiences with your school community at large.

If you are one who enjoys networking and are resourceful with seeking out the connections and resources you need, then consider going to a bigger institution.

Larger universities excite many students for the possibilities they offer.

There will be every type of student organization available to you, as well as many volunteer and study abroad opportunities.

Their scale also offers valuable potential connections to people who you will be able to build community with as you go.

School location

Are you most comfortable in an urban, suburban, or rural setting?

  • While most schools are flexible in this regard and can sometimes be “in-between” two locations/settings, it is important to think about what kind of environment you like to be in.
  • For example, if you have grown up in a large, bustling city, then it may be hard to adjust to a suburban or rural school.
  • If you are accustomed to smaller, quieter areas, then a school in New York City may not be for you.

Attending a school without considering these aspects can lead to you feeling either overwhelmed or isolated while in school, and neither is good for your mental health or academic performance.

Consider transportation and how you will get around on campus. Will you have a car, or will you be relying on public transportation?

Generally, urban and (often suburban) campuses will have reliable forms of public transportation, while rural areas will not.

Competitiveness (i.e.degree of “cutthroatness” amongst students)

The pre-med route is notorious for its competitiveness, and you will feel it amongst your classmates at some point in your undergraduate education.

  • It may range from the small, like passive-aggressive comments, to the large, like someone withholding previous tests or notes before exam time.
  • As with everything else, the degree of competitiveness varies with school and program culture.

If you are someone who thrives in a highly competitive setting, choose a school that reflects this standard. It will push you toward your potential and make you try even harder to achieve your goals.

If collaboration and teamwork are important to you, then choose a school that values those characteristics over competition, because being in an intensely competitive setting may disillusion you and become a detriment to your learning.

Concentration and area of interest

All the schools we describe in this guide provide a top pre-med education, but they each also have different specializations and things they have to offer.

  • Compare your individual interests (and concentration, if you have one picked out already) and what each school does well. It does not matter if one school is higher ranked than the other if it is lacking in your area of interest!
  • Remember, there is no major or concentration required to apply for medical school. You could major in anything you want as an undergraduate (English, history, music theory, etc.) and still get into top med schools – as long as you also take the required science courses.
  • This sometimes gives you the added benefit of being able to present yourself as a well-rounded applicant with diverse interests.

For example, if you want to pursue medicine but it’s also important for you to get a comprehensive education in women studies, then choose a program that can provide you with both.

  • There are also many applicants who think they would like to go into medicine but are not 100% sure. If you are one of these students, then choose a school with a robust, well-rounded curriculum that is not skewed towards the sciences.

This allows you to dip your feet into the water (of pre-med) while also exploring your other options and considerations.

The last thing we want to leave you with before diving into the schools is this: drop the notion that there is a “best pre-med program.”

One does not exist.

But there are the best pre-med programs for your personal and student needs. Choose the school that you think will allow you to follow through with these three essential things:

  • …practice enough self-care to achieve a high GPA,
  • …make meaningful connections to professors and advisors who are important to your application to medical school,
  • …and enjoy your undergraduate education!

Since there is there no such thing as “the best pre-med program,” we present the schools to you in no particular order below.

For each one, we provide you an overview of the program, what differentiate or make it stand out from the others, and aspects relating to student experience.

1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Chapel Hill, NC

UNC is one of the oldest public universities in the United States.

  • It is located in a suburban area and has a population of 18,862 undergraduates, which puts it in between a medium and large sized university.
  • Its student-teacher ratio is 13:1, and about 39 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students.

Campus life

The university offers a range of student activities, including over 500 student organizations. Chapel Hill is a beautiful city that has been voted one of the best college towns.

  • It boasts a vibrant nightlife, many cafes and restaurants, and a hearty music scene.

Socially, you would never be at a loss for what to do here as a student. It is perfect for those who are looking for a smaller, more intimate school setting.

Upshot: UNC’s school mission is to “is to discover, create, transmit, and apply knowledge to address the needs of individuals and society,” and its school of medicine specifically applies this commitment to service to three areas: patient care, education, and research.

Service and giving back to the community are extremely important values cultivated at UNC.

Opportunities

There is a hospital on campus, plenty of volunteer opportunities, and resources available to students who are proactive about seeking them out.

  • They have an office – The Health Professions Advising Office – that is solely dedicated to helping and counseling students who plan on pursuing a pre-health/pre-med route.

It offers everything from volunteer coordination to class scheduling.

Another stand-out factor of UNC’s school is its Medical Education Development Program (MED).

This is “an intensive educational experience and challenging opportunity to gain insight into the realities of attending medical or dental school.”

  • Specifically, it is aimed at students who have demonstrated a commitment to the health career, but who have lacked the opportunity to pursue it in the past, especially those who are disadvantaged.

Those who are accepted have the opportunity to undergo a rigorous education schedule that is similar to a first-year med student’s schedule; 92 percent of participants in this program go on to medical school.

Applying to the best pre-med schools? Our College Application Boot Camp will help you! Your first session is free.

2. Cornell University – Ithica, NY

Cornell is a private research institution that is included among the Ivies.

  • The university is divided into seven undergraduate and seven graduate colleges of diverse disciplines.
  • It is in a rural area and has a total undergraduate population of 14, 907 students.
  • Its student-teacher ratio is 9:1 and 58 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students.

Campus life

Ithaca is a beautiful city, lush with green running paths and waterfalls in the summer and scenic in the winter.

It is a city that has really grown and shaped itself around the students (who make up half of the city’s population!).

  • There is a strong sense of community and camaraderie because of this, and there are many shops/activities tailored toward students: a robust nightlife, artisanal coffee shops, and local craft beer.
  • It is often described as a “big school with a small-school feeling.”

Cornell’s location is a catch-22 in terms of pre-med experience. On one hand, many renowned professors and research labs are often within walking distance of campus.

  • On the other, their relative accessibility (and the lack of other opportunities outside Ithaca) can make it more difficult to find volunteer or clinical experience if you do not have a car.

It can also feel isolating if you are one who loves an urban city feel or vibe.

Upshot: Cornell states on its website that nearly “one out of six undergraduates” intends to pursue a career in either human or veterinary medicine.

This means that a significant part of the school’s resources is directed towards the health field, and it shows:

Opportunities

Cornell has two programs focused on pre-med students, the Health Careers Program and the Health Careers Evaluation Committee.

  • These provide specialized services to students for each year they are in school, advising them at the beginning of their time at Cornell (class scheduling for 1st and 2nd years, volunteer information, career advising) to the end of it (assessment of student readiness for medical school and providing letters of evaluation for med school applications).

The school also offers hands-on, experiential experiences to its students through its two-month-long Urban Semester Program.

Accepted students are matched with a placement site in New York City where they intern at for four days a week.

They gain experience in an actual health setting and connections with working professionals.

3. University of Washington – Seattle, WA

University of Washington is a public research institution with one of the largest library systems in the world.

  • Its setting is urban and has a total undergraduate population of 30,475 students.
  • Its student-teacher ratio is 17:1 and 32.3 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students.

Campus life

Seattle is a perfect enclave of natural surroundings and city life. Mountains for hiking and camping are within a two-hour drive, while Seattle is rich with quality food (especially sushi and other seafoods), museums, markets, musical history, and all the other attractions of a major city.

UW’s campus differs from other college campuses in that it, while U-District (the area around UW) has developed and shaped itself to tailor to student life, Seattle remains distinct from the university and maintains its own character and culture.

Upshot

The University of Washington is one of the top public institutions for medical research and primary care, and its pre-med students benefit greatly from this:

  • UW’s commitment to its pre-med students begins with its comprehensive online guide. Like many other schools’, the guide lists the required or highly recommended courses for medical school.
  • It goes one step further and includes a suggested list of courses that will further prepare students for studying for the MCAT.

There are pre-health advisors available to “assist in the exploration of, preparation for, and application to professional healthcare programs.”

  • They provide one-on-one, personal guidance to every range of pre-med students – those who are confident in their choices and set on a field, as well as those who have not narrowed down what they specifically want to pursue yet.

In addition to advisors, there are many pre-med student groups (five!) where you can further build community and find support with like-minded people.

Opportunities

Lastly, one of UW’s stand-out gems is the opportunity to shadow clinicians and physicians at work.

While this is possible at other schools, it is normalized and encouraged at UW; it is also more readily available to undergraduate students here than at other universities.

UW dedicates a whole page on how to seek out shadowing opportunities and why it is essential to shadow before you set yourself in the profession.

4. University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, PA

The University of Pennsylvania is a member of the Ivy League that was founded by Benjamin Franklin.

  • It is a top medical research institution.
  • Its setting is urban, and it has a total undergraduate population of 10,496 students.
  • The student-teacher ratio is 6:1 and about 69 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students.

Campus life

Philadelphia is surrounded by many colleges and universities that have transformed it into a hub for educational and economic activity.

Like Seattle, it is well-suited for students but has also maintained its unique character.

It is a city of historical importance and possesses a rich cultural history and an old-time charm because of it.

  • Many “firsts” have happened here: the first library, national capital, zoo, and medical school (UPenn’s own Perelman School of Medicine).

It is well-known for its up-and-coming art scene, national landmarks (liberty bell, Independence Hall, Penn’s Landing, etc.), and good, cheap beer.

Upshot

UPenn’s eminent statures inform much of the pre-med students’ experience at this school.

The education, resources, and services available to pre-med students are top-notch.

Much like UW, Penn has a comprehensive online guide that leads students through their four years at school and beyond.

  • On it, you will find information on every pre-med-related topic, as well as the resources to help meet your needs/goals.
  • For example, information on taking a gap year between undergrad and medical school, international volunteering, extracurricular clubs, and much more.

Opportunities

Penn offers pre-health advising to students through its career services program.

This program also provides students with other valuable services, including health seminars, counseling, and guest lecturers.

  • Thanks to the school’s location, students have ample opportunities for volunteering and shadowing experiences. There are several hospitals near campus: Pennsylvania Hospital, Hospital of UPenn, and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
  • In addition, the university does not limit its pre-med students’ learning and growth to when school is in session.
  • The Perelman School of Medicine (one of the top medical schools) hosts a range of summer enrichment programs aimed at undergraduates pursuing medicine.

As you can tell, all the resources and information are readily accessible to pre-med students – but it is definitely up to you to find and utilize them.

Penn is a highly competitive school for pre-med. It is an especially good fit for students who are committed to pre-med and have an idea of their interests, because they will be able to streamline all the resources Penn has to offer and focus on the opportunities that will help them achieve their established goals.

5. Johns Hopkins University – Baltimore, MD

Johns Hopkins is a private research institution named after its first benefactor, an American abolitionist and philanthropist.

  • It is set in an urban city and has an undergraduate population of 5,366.
  • The student-teacher ratio is 7:1 and about 74 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students.

Baltimore is a city of complicated statistics. Many people know it as “the murder capital,” but this is an over sweeping generalization of a great urban city.

  • It is diverse, with 45 percent of its population identifying as a racial or ethnic minority.

You will see and be around extreme poverty, but it is also part of the philanthropic mission of JHU to serve rather than shy away from poor communities, and it can be an essential humbling experience for future doctors.

Campus life

It has a good public transportation system, great seafood (it is located right near the water, and is a train ride away from DC, Philadelphia, and New York City if you feel the need to visit a bigger city during your time here.

If you are still hesitant about the crime rate, know that, as with most large universities, the area surrounding Johns Hopkins is a nice area and a beautiful campus.

Upshot

Johns Hopkins is recognized as one of the top medical schools in the U.S., and this prestige is well-earned.

It is said that pre-med students at Johns Hopkins receive their education both in and outside the school, where they are surrounded by cutting-edge research and driven professionals.

Because of this environment, pre-med students are likely able to get more professional support at Johns Hopkins than at other schools.

  • For starters, Johns Hopkins has a pre-med advising track for students to follow through its Office of Pre-Professional Advising. Students can schedule appointments – and form a close relationship – with one of four advisors who will assist them with academic planning, pursuit of relevant experience, career options, and eventually with applying to medical school.
  • Students can also sign up for listservs that will send up-to-date information about programs and events.

More so than at other schools, the professors and students at Johns Hopkins are truly dedicated to knowledge for the sake of knowledge, rather than for the GPA.

Because of this, there are higher reports of grade deflation from students here than elsewhere; it will likely be more difficult to achieve an A in courses at JHU than at a different university.

Opportunities

Their dedication to knowledge is also why Johns Hopkins is one of the few universities that urges students to take a bridge year after graduation before they apply to medical school.

  • The university believes that a gap year – taken to do research, pursue a masters or post-bac program, volunteer, or even to travel – strengthens students’ applications and allows time for restoration, growth, and maturity.
  • They want students to be their best and most rested selves while they are undergoing the arduous journey that is medical school.

Lastly, since the pre-med culture is so prevalent at John Hopkins, it is said that students will have no issue finding like-minded peers.

There is a diverse mix of pre-med students here, including those who are extremely competitive or “cutthroat,” as well as those who value collaboration and teamwork.

6. Northwestern University – Evanston, IL

Northwestern University is a private research university that is well-known for its selective undergraduate and graduate programs.

  • It is in a suburban area and has an undergraduate population of about 8,350 students.
  • Its student-teacher ratio is 7:1 and about 77 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students.

Campus life

Northwestern’s campus in Evanston can best be described as idyllic. It is right near Lake Michigan (which makes for very cold winters), has a lot of open, green spaces, and it is a wonderful place to commute on foot.

It has good transportation, including a campus shuttle, as well as buses and trains that go into to Chicago. Students can get to the city in 45 minutes by public transportation and in less time by car.

Because of this proximity, the school has an in-between suburban/urban feel.

Upshot

Northwestern provides a lot of guidance to its pre-med students. It has a particularly well-organized online guide for students to independently research and find answers to their questions.

  • Beyond that, students have the option to attend weekly drop-in Q&A sessions or to schedule a one-on-one appointment with an advisor.

Northwestern even offers mock interviews to students to help them prepare for medical school interviews!

Opportunities

If students want the perspective or advice of veteran premed students, they can get it through the school’s Pre-Med Peer Mentoring program (PPMP).

  • This program aims to “bridge the gap” between underclassmen and upperclassmen. It matches upperclassmen with strong academic standing to underclassmen for mentorship.
  • Upperclassmen share their personal experiences, insights, and ways to achieve success as a pre-med student at Northwestern.

Northwestern excels at research in terms of undergraduate experience. While other schools on this list are top research institutions, Northwestern (also a top research school) goes beyond this title to extend opportunities to its pre-med students.

  • They have Undergraduate Research Grants (URGs) that give students $1000 to conduct independent research projects, as well as summer URGs that provides $3,500 to cover research and living cost expenses.
  • There is also the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program that matches students with researchers.
  • More experienced students can help with projects, while less experienced ones receive mentorship. If medical research is at the top of your list, this Northwestern should be a strong consideration.

The university also has connections to many organizations and health clinics around Evanston – as well as the greater Chicago area.

This provides many opportunities to pre-med students, as is evident on the Health Professions Advising “Events & Opportunities” page.

It lists many places where pre-med students can get volunteer, shadowing, and internship experiences: CVS pharmacies, non-profits, and even Lurie Children’s Hospital.

7. Harvard University – Cambridge, MA

Harvard is a member of the Ivy League and has been ranked the top medical research institution for several years.

  • Located near Boston, in Cambridge, it is in an urban area.
  • It has a total undergraduate population of 6,700 students.
  • The student-teacher ratio is 7:1 and 74 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students.

Campus life

Cambridge has many different neighborhoods, each with its own unique characteristics.

It is an easily commutable city, whether on foot, bike, or public transportation. Contrary to popular belief, many people who live in Cambridge report that they love the community for various reasons.

  • While the city is home to Harvard and many highly educated people, the general vibe is humble rather than pretentious.
  • Cambridge brings people of many different races and backgrounds together and is an enclave of diversity. Its closeness to Boston provides students with both a “small-school” setting, as well as a real urban city.

Upshot

Of the schools on this pre-med list, Harvard probably has the most name recognition. This can take students far – if they can manage to balance a decent GPA, extracurriculars, social life, and achieve a good MCAT score.

  • Harvard’s Peer Advising Fellows group estimates that about half of an incoming class are pre-med, and the Office of Career Services that, ultimately, about 17 percent of a given class will apply to medical school.
  • These statistics indicate that the academics are rigorous and that the pre-med route is competitive.

Opportunities

This makes Harvard another school that is ideal for students who have thoughtfully considered their reasoning behind this career path and are committed to it.

Students who have clearer goals are more likely to do better during their freshmen year and stick with pre-med through graduation.

This is not to say that Harvard neglects its freshmen, but they do put the onus on students to be proactive about seeking out help. The help is certainly available:

  • Harvard invests in resources for its undergraduates and provides pre-med students with wonderful advising opportunities.
  • This includes a pre-health orientation seminar, a handbook with comprehensive information on pursuing a pre-med journey, drop-in advising hours at the Office of Career Services, and one-on-one meetings with advisors.

The advising becomes even more personalized and tailored during sophomore year and beyond, once students have been sorted into their houses (there are 12 houses, each with their own defining characteristics).

  • Every house has their own pre-medical committee and pre-medical advisors/tutors who support students in their endeavors – and they are readily available as they live in the same dorm!
  • Tutors do everything from MCAT preparation to writing letters of recommendations.

As the top-ranked school for medical research, there are phenomenal research opportunities available.

  • These are open to students who work hard for it and who are proactive about reaching out/making connections to their peers and professors.

Harvard’s location near several hospitals and clinics, as well as near Boston, ensure that students will be able to find a place to volunteer at and to shadow physicians.

Lastly, Harvard has many clubs and organizations for its pre-med students. There are over a dozen active student groups.

  • One of the most well-known ones is the Harvard Premedical Society. It is connected to many resources on campus – for example, surgeons at the Massachusetts General Hospital and doctors in Cambridge and Boston – and its members benefit from opportunities to interact and work closely with professionals in the field.
  • These clubs are also a great way to find camaraderie, while also developing professionally.

8. Columbia University – New York City, NY

Columbia is the second-most selective school in the Ivy League, and it contains the oldest college in New York.

  • There are three undergraduate schools: The Fu Foundation of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Columbia College, and the School of General Studies.
  • It is in New York City and is a truly urban school. It has a total undergraduate population of around 4,500 students.
  • Its student-teacher ratio is 6:1 and 83 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students.

Campus life

Columbia’s location in New York City may be one of its most sought-after aspects alongside prestige and a rigorous, robust education.

  • It is in the Upper West Side of Manhattan and provides everything a person would desire in “a city life:” phenomenal food, nightlife, and culture.
  • Its worldly location is a plus for the diversity in the student population (50 percent of undergraduates identify as a student of color).
  • It also draws many well-known people to campus: famous speakers, writers/poets, and politicians.

Upshot

The university’s proximity to New York City is particularly beneficial to pre-med students, as they have numerous hospitals and clinics to choose from for internship, shadowing, and volunteer opportunities.

  • Columbia is similar to Harvard in that it is truly a “work hard, play hard” kind of school. The resources and name recognition are all there to work towards pre-med students’ advantage – if they can handle the academics.

In addition to being the second most selective school, the number of required courses to graduate from Columbia is among the highest in the Ivy League.

Opportunities

If you are committed med school and are ready to tackle Columbia, it has many resources to offer.

Pre-med students here have access to the school’s Pre-medical handbook” through the School of General Studies.

It is a comprehensive guide that details required classes, suggested schedules, majors/concentrations, and extracurricular activities that students should look into.

  • Once students officially declare a premed concentration in GS – an option that is rarely available to students at other schools – they are actually assigned an individual premedical advisor through.
  • The advising staff is part of Columbia’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program, which is the oldest and largest of its kind in the U.S. They are there to support pre-med students throughout their undergraduate career.

After pre-med students complete their required curriculum, those who have good academic standing and volunteer experience, and who meet these other requirements, may apply to receive support from the Premedical Committee for their medical school applications.

  • Successful applicants would get a recommendation letter from the Deans of the Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program – a strong endorsement of their “superior academic preparation, fitness for a career in medicine, fulfillment of the clinical experience requirement.”

Lastly, one of the stand-out aspects of Columbia is its unique Core Curriculum, a set of common courses required of all undergraduates for graduation.

Through it, the university aims to be true to its mission to provide students, regardless of their major or concentration, “wide-ranging perspectives on significant ideas and achievements in literature, philosophy, history, music, art and science.”

This makes Columbia an ideal school for motivated pre-students who desire a well-balanced, well-rounded education.

9. Duke University – Durham, NC

Students who decide to go the pre-med route at Duke have an opportunity to shadow a practicing doctor who also happens to be an alumnus of the university.

You can start your career toward a variety of medical fields from primary care to dentistry.

10. Case Western Reserve University – Cleveland, OH

At Case Western Reserve University, you can choose to major in anything you desire.

The university believes that a well-rounded background builds better-prepared healthcare professionals.

You’ll just need to complete certain requirements in the sciences to be considered a pre-med student.

11. Washington University in Saint Louis – Saint Louis, MO

The curriculum for pre-med students at Washington University in Saint Louis is based on exactly what medical schools say they look for in their future medical students.

With the resources of a large university but with a smaller student population, you’ll find an abundance of opportunities to further your studies and explore extracurricular activities.

12. Georgetown University – Washington, DC

AT Georgetown University, students who want to be on the pre-med track must have a major within the Department of Biology.

Georgetown also offers a Post-Bac Pre-Med program for students who studied outside the biology field but now wish to continue to medical school.

13. Princeton University – Princeton, NJ

With a top-notch Office of Health Advising, Princeton is a great choice if you are hoping to be a pre-med student.

It’s totally possible to work the pre-med curriculum into any major you choose at Princeton and come out ready for medical school.

14. Yale University – New Haven, CT

With Yale-New Haven Hospital nearby, you’ll get an excellent education that prepares you for medical school and have opportunities close by for volunteering.

Yale offers tutoring for all students, including tutors for classes needed for pre-med students.

15. University of Chicago – Chicago, IL

Although half of the pre-med students at the University of Chicago major in biology, it is not a requirement.

In the past few years, the University of Chicago graduates have been accepted to medical school between 79-88%, which is well above the 40% national average.

16. University of Southern California – Los Angeles, CA

The University of Southern California has a mission to be a leader in healthcare and is committed to training new professionals for the future.

The pre-med track, called “pre-health,” provides the tools and knowledge for students to become confident doctors whether it is in medicine, veterinary medicine, or one of several other healthcare industries.

Pre-Med Advice From the Experts:

We’ve asked some of the brightest minds in the field their take on studying pre-med.

They discuss their academic experiences and give you a snapshot of pre-med academics. Here we go!

From Cory Deburghgraeve, a graduate of pre-med at Loyola University of Chicago (neurobiology), Rush Medical College (MD), and University of Illinois at Chicago (Anesthesiology residency):

Studying pre-med in college was such an exciting and intellectually stimulating time in my life. Unlike high school courses, which were highly standardized, pre-med at a university allowed for much more individualization.

While biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus are required to enter medical school, I was also able to explore specialized science courses such as the science of movement disorders (I.e. Parkinson’s Disease), a course on how to manipulate genes to make a worm glow, and climate change— all of which were surprisingly relevant when I entered medical school.

I’m able to talk to and more importantly listen with empathy and an open mind to my patients thanks to the excellent training at my college, particularly after taking courses in social justice, world religions, and the philosophy of science. An additional aspect of pre-med that I loved was it has a very defined career path, but with the room for flexibility.

By that I mean, with the help of my university pre-med counselors I knew the exact timeline to apply for med school, when letters of recommendation were due, how to write an effective personal statement, etc.

Now, as a very satisfied anesthesiologist, I can say that my pre-med courses not only taught me the facts I needed to know, it taught me how to think like a scientist, how to analyze information- whether it comes from a reputable source or is anecdotal, and how to see the person as a whole and not a disease or pathology.

From Ashton Mays, nursing student at Duke and former Sweet Briar College pre-med student:

I decided I wanted to go into nursing at the beginning of my junior year at Sweet Briar. Being a psychology major really helped because of the various mental health topics required/recommended for completion of the major.

In particular, the Abnormal Psychology class (not a prerequisite for the program at Duke) allowed me to learn more about specific mental illnesses, which helped me get ahead.

In addition, the two developmental psychology courses, which were prerequisites for Duke, allowed for further understanding of the mind and body at every stage in life.

In nursing, individuals must be able to stay focused and advocate for the patient and their wishes, so it is important that there are leaders in these positions who will not back down when faced with a controversial treatment from a provider (i.e., doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants).

At Sweet Briar, I was a part of many clubs/organizations and served as a resident advisor, as well as a board member on the Student Government Association, so I was very accustomed to being in a leadership position and speaking up when things weren’t fair. I gained valuable problem-solving techniques and the ability to discuss any issues with supervisors in a professional manner.

From Dr. Craig Story, a professor of biology and director of pre-health professions program at Gordon College:

I love it when students finally start to see how the introductory courses they have taken begin to pay off and come together in more advanced classes, such as biochemistry and microbiology.

Sometimes students are concerned that they are not studying enough for the MCAT, and I remind them, truthfully, that by taking this or that course, they really ARE studying for it.

Another thing I enjoy about being the health professions advisor is bringing students together each week to discuss current issues in biomedical ethics, as well as meet people in the field. Having this health professions seminar each semester for four semesters allows them sufficient time to evaluate their gifts and determine the path that is best for them.

When a student decides, after hearing directly from doctors and other health professionals, to change their original idea and recommit themselves to nursing, or PA school, or pharmacy school, rather than becoming a physician, I feel that is a tremendously valuable thing for them to have figured out early rather than after they have already become a doctor and realize it was not what they expected.

Because Gordon is a faith-based, Christian college, I believe that more than the normal fraction of our students are motivated by selfless desire to serve others, as Jesus modeled by washing his disciples feet.

Of course, many doctors from diverse backgrounds may be motivated by this kind of humanitarian concern, but I find the “servant-leader” model to be very alive and well in contrast to other motivations, such as financial benefit, or prestige.

Conclusion: The Best Pre-Med Schools

As discussed, when thinking of the “best” pre-med school, think of campus life and how you fit in the student body.

Don’t rely on number rankings and prestige. You want to excel as an undergraduate so you can set yourself up for success later on.

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