There is no perfect or wrong choice when it comes to selecting a premed school. Many of the biggest considerations for premed school choice are the same as for choosing a college in general: geographic location, proximity to family, the size of the school, the range of degree programs offered, and cost.
There are, however, some other important things to think about specifically if you are considering medical school after your undergraduate years. Here are our 5 things to think about as you’re choosing the best premed school for you.
Will I Have Time to Party in College as a Premed?
Becoming a physician is a long journey requiring a lot of work, patience, and dedication. So if you are thinking of spending your college years partying every weekend and boozing it up, you may want to reconsider your career aspirations.
There are undoubtedly some professional schools which may still accept you if you skate by with a decent GPA and entrance exam score despite frequent nights of inebriation. Medical school is not one of these. Medical schools take your college GPA and MCAT scores very seriously, as well as how you spend your time in college.Medical schools take your college GPA and MCAT scores very seriously, as well as how you spend your time in college.Click To Tweet
Medical schools require several letters of recommendation and expect a certain amount of volunteer work or research. This does not mean that you can’t have fun in college—of course, you can. But you have to remember the larger picture. College is the first step in a long journey toward obtaining your medical degree.
[Related episode: Is Research Required to Be Accepted to Med School?]
Is a Big University or a Liberal Arts College Better as a Premed School?
One of the big choices to make when choosing the best premed school for you is whether you want to attend a large university or a small liberal arts college.
Can you get an adequate premedical education at both of these types of institutions? Yes, for the most part. Almost all universities will have the necessary premed science courses. Big universities will also typically have several science departments with a lot of research happening in the sciences. Liberal arts colleges, on the other hand, may offer less in the biological and physical sciences.
Your advisor and dean’s office can play a large role in the application process to medical school. The best premed school for you is going to be one that has a great premed advising office.The best premed school for you is going to be one that has a great premed advising office.Click To Tweet
Ultimately you must rely on yourself in applying to medical school. But a good premed advising office can help a lot. Check out this article and this podcast episode for some cautionary words about premed advisors.
So either type of school, a big university or a small liberal arts college can be great for premeds. Small liberal arts colleges just may be less accustomed to working with premed students. So check what they offer for science classes and premed advising.
[Related episode: How a Liberal Arts Degree as a Premed Might Be the Best One.]
Cut-throat Premed Schools vs Laid-back Premed Schools
Some universities will have hundreds of premed students and inevitably have a culture of competition among the students. Others will have a more laid-back vibe. Given the importance of your college transcript, make sure that you select a school which will be a good fit for you.Some universities will have hundreds of premed students and inevitably have a culture of competition among the students. Others will have a more laid-back vibe.Click To Tweet
If you are someone who thrives in competition with your peers and is not bothered by long hours and putting aside your weekend plans for some extra time in the library, then a very competitive premed program at a top university may be for you. If, on the other hand, you are someone who gets nervous and discouraged around this kind of competition, you may want to select a school with a more nurturing and laid-back environment.
[Related episode: Going from Community College, to Premed, to Med School.]
Challenging Yourself Academically as a Premed
Medical schools will look at your science GPA, your total GPA, and the level of rigor in your curriculum. If you have a 3.99 total GPA but most of your courses were in rock painting, your GPA will not be taken as seriously as someone with a 3.85 GPA with courses in integrative neuroscience and analytical chemistry.
Medical school includes many hours of studying very involved science material. Admissions committees are looking for applicants who have applied themselves and shown they can succeed in difficult science courses in college. It’s okay to major in something outside of the sciences, but you need to make sure that you take high-level courses.Medical school is very challenging, so you want to prepare yourself well for that level of rigor by challenging yourself in your undergraduate studies. Click To Tweet
Medical school is very challenging, so you want to prepare yourself well for that level of rigor. A great way to do this is by challenging yourself in your undergraduate studies. The better the study habits you form in college, the more prepared you will be for medical school.
Considering In-State vs Out-of-State Premed Schools
Med schools and the AAMC keep public statistics of where their students come from. If you have any idea about what medical school you are truly interested in attending, review the data and figure out if you should try to gain residency status in that state. Usually, I advise students not to move states for one school they are interested in, but it’s something to consider if you are considering moving for your undergraduate college anyway.
Many schools also keep data on the exact undergraduate schools that their matriculants come from, although I think this data is less important. You don’t know if the students were necessarily accepted because of where they went to school. You’re just looking at historical data.
How Important Is It to Choose the Right Undergrad as a Premed?
In the end, you can go just about anywhere for your undergrad and you still have a good shot at medical school. Have a good GPA and MCAT score, do shadowing and clinical experiences, and be able to explain why you want to be a doctor. Medical schools will look at your whole story, not just the name of your undergraduate college.
You don’t need to go to a prestigious university for premed to get a medical school acceptance. Generally, it’s not a great idea to go to a community college, but even that can work if it’s the only option you have. Start at community college, then transfer to a 4-year university for your last two years to show you can perform at that level of academic rigor. Plenty of successful medical students have taken that path, too.
Links and Other Resources
- Check out my Premed Playbook series of books (available on Amazon), with installments on the personal statement, the medical school interview, and the MCAT.
- Related episode: Premed 101: What You Need to Know to Get into Medical School.
- Related episode: Picking a Premed Undergraduate College and Premed Major.
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” at Next Step Test Prep!
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