Best Pre-Med Colleges, Pre-Med Majors and Ways to Get into Med School

So you’ve recently graduated high school, or you’re still in high school, and you want to know what your best options are for starting your career in the field of medicine. Maybe you want to be a surgeon, a family doctor, or even a medical researcher, but you don’t currently know where to begin your journey. Fortunately, we’ve created an overview of your pre-med options to help you in your decision-making.

The Best Colleges For Pre-Med

Harvard University – Cambridge, MA

Even though Harvard does not actually have a specific program for pre-med, it offers some of the best training and preparation for the medical field, and a handbook to guide them through the process. Harvard has numerous organizations and opportunities for those looking to pursue medicine, such as the Harvard Premedical Society, which provides potential med students with a one-year advising program, opportunities to shadow physicians, and the chance to volunteer at hospitals. Harvard even offers full-time mentors who are also practicing medical professionals.

Johns Hopkins University – Baltimore, MD

Known for being a top college for prospective med students, Johns Hopkins is consistently ranked among the best training schools in all medical categories. Johns Hopkins recommends that all interested students follow a four-year program and take a bridge (gap) year to allow students to mature before entering medical school. Johns Hopkins offers many programs that allow students to visit labs and research centers, and as a result, some students have claimed that the atmosphere at the school is less competitive and more cooperative.

University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, PA

A top school for nursing in the United States, the University of Pennsylvania offers excellent pre-med opportunities for students. For over a decade, the college has offered a Summer Pre-Med Enrichment Program for Underrepresented Minority Students, which is a ten-week program where students are mentored by members of the medical community, engage in workshops, and sit in on lectures. Interestingly, 73% of U Penn students who apply to medical school matriculated – this is an incredibly high % compared to the national average of just 43%.

Northwestern University – Evanston, IL

Ranked among the best colleges for medical research and women’s health, Northwestern University offers several opportunities for potential med students while encouraging them to become involved in the community. Northwestern’s program, Peer Health Exchange, trains students to teach health courses in high schools that lack access to health education. Another program, NU PPMP, helps new pre-med students get comfortable with the difficult education path by introducing them to supportive upperclassmen who give guidance to the newer students.

Columbia University – New York, NY

With over 4,000 students enrolled in its medical school per year, Columbia University’s pre-med program helps students become part of that number. Columbia also hosts the United States’ oldest pre-med program for grad students, which boasts of excellence in both academic instruction and hands-on experience.

University of Washington – Seattle, WA

The University of Washington consistently falls among the best colleges for primary care and medical research. The institution’s proven research record means that going to this university will provide pre-med students with exceptionally high quality experience. As one of the best med schools in the country, it is no coincidence that the University of Washington also happens to be one of the top pre-med schools. There are numerous programs and shadowing opportunities for pre-med students.

Cornell University – Ithaca, NY

Cornell University offers hands-on experience to students, even during their pre-med years. One of Cornell’s programs, called Urban Semester, has students working in local hospitals while designing their own rotation and focusing on their fields of interest. Another program, known as the PATCH club, is a student-run organization that unites pre-med and pre-health students. Cornell also boasts a supportive, active environment.

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

As a foremost contender for pre-med programs in the Unites States, UNC also puts out programs such as the Carolina Pre-Med Association, where students can network and hear from special guests, and the Carolina Covenant, which offers help to underprivileged pre-med students through mentors and seminars. Another program, known as MED (Medical Education Development), encompasses nine weeks during the summer where students can shadow physicians and participate in lectures and seminars. MED also mirrors first-year med school curriculum.

George Washington University – Washington, D.C

The George Washington University offers pre-med students the opportunity to study abroad in the United Kingdom at either King’s College University of London or Oxford University. The college also offers a special program for proven students that allows them to earn their bachelor’s degree and medical degree at the same time. These students have their MCAT waived and are admitted into GW’s school of medicine at a fixed tuition.

Boston University – Boston, MA

With programs such as the college’s Early Assurance Program, Boston University pre-med students are guaranteed a provisional admission to BU’s medical school. Boston University also offers a dual liberal arts and medical degree path that provides students with the opportunity to earn their Bachelor of Arts and medical degree in seven years instead of eight.

Georgetown University – Washington, D.C

Georgetown offers something special to pre-med students in their sophomore year: the relief of knowing whether or not they are accepted into medical school. This is due to the Early Assurance Program, which is tailored to advancing the best students in chemistry, biology, and organic chemistry. These students can apply at the end of their sophomore year after completing four semesters at Georgetown and four pre-med courses. Top that all off with a variety of other pre-med clubs and seminars, and Georgetown is shaping up to be on every soon-to-be pre-med student’s list.

Top Pre-med Schools by Region

Furthermore, here is a list of the top pre-med schools by region (not necessarily in order)

Best Pre Med Colleges in the Midwest
  • Northwestern University
  • University of Chicago
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • University of Wisconsin Madison
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Best Pre Med Colleges in the Northeast
  • Harvard University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Columbia University
  • George Washington University
  • Yale University
  • Princeton University
  • Cornell University
  • Georgetown University
  • Boston University
Best Pre Med Colleges in the West
  • University of Washington
  • UC Berkeley
  • Caltech
  • Pomona College
  • Reed College
  • UCLA
Best Pre Med Colleges in the South
  • UNC Chapel Hill
  • Emory University
  • Duke University
  • Rice University
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Vanderbilt University

Obviously, there are many other factors to take into account when choosing where you should start on the pre-med track. Tuition-wise, it may make sense for you to stay in-state. The location, culture, and level of diversity on campus may also play into your decision.

Just because you’re on the pre-med track doesn’t mean that you should ignore all the other things that normally factor into where you want to go to college. At the end of the day, the two things that have the largest effect on your chances of getting into medical school are your MCAT score and your GPA. Your MCAT score won’t be directly affected by where you end up going to school, and while your GPA will be affected, if your attitude is that you want to find a school with the most grade inflation, you’re probably not a great fit for medical school in the first place.

Is It Possible to Major in Pre-Med?

Typically speaking, the vast majority of colleges do not offer a specific major for pre-med education. That being said, many colleges offer programs and opportunities for students who are interested in the medical field and want to immerse themselves before heading off to medical school. Most schools will have premed advisers, and many schools will have clubs or societies dedicated to the premed track. Some schools also have specific pre-med programs that you can apply to. Below are two types of programs that you might encounter:

Early Assurance

Some schools offer what is called early assurance – it’s basically a guarantee that you’ll get accepted into the Medical School of the University you’re attending. You typically apply and hear back from the University on your acceptance or rejection to the early assurance program in your freshman or sophomore years – if you get in, you get to skip the MCAT and enter the medical school directly.

Note that if you do apply for Early Assurance and get in, you’re not allowed to apply to any other medical schools.

Some schools that have an Early Assurance programs include:

BS/MD and BA/MD Programs

Some Universities also allow you to apply to a joint BS/MD program straight out of high school. In some cases, the program will allow you to waive the MCAT altogether – this is another way that you can skip the MCAT and the process of applying to medical school – however, for most programs, you’ll need to at least take the MCAT. For some programs, there’s a minimum MCAT score if you want to stay in the program, and in some cases there’ll also be a GPA minimum. Keep in mind that most of these programs are exceedingly competitive, both in terms of applications and in terms of actual performance during University, so it’s only really for those of you who are 100% sure that you want to go through the med school track.

Here’s a reasonably up-to-date list of the Early Assurance, BS/MD and BA/MD programs that are available in the US.

The Best Majors For Pre-Med Students

Most sources indicate that what major you choose is not all that important when it comes to applying to medical school, provided that you’ve taken all the prerequisite classes that are expected of you. Each medical school has different mandatory and recommended prerequisite classes, but in general, you should be looking to at least take the following:

  • One year of Biology
  • One year of General Chemistry
  • One year of Organic Chemistry
  • One year of Physics
  • One year of English
  • Some form of Calculus

All science classes should have lab components attached.

In addition to these common prerequisite classes that medical schools expect, the new version of the MCAT (2015+) will also test you on biochemistry, introductory psychology, and introductory sociology – so it probably wouldn’t hurt to take those classes before you take the MCAT as well.

As for what major you should pick – while most experts suggest that your major isn’t all that important, many students on the pre-med track still choose to go with a science – the most common is biology, but some opt to go with another field of science.

Acceptance rates actually don’t vary in any significant way between science majors and humanities majors, so our advice is to major is something that you enjoy learning about – this will maximize the chances that you get a great GPA, which is a much more important factor than what major you have when it comes to applying to Med School. Also, if you major is something that you enjoy, it’s entirely possible that you’ll decide that you don’t want to be an MD at all.

It’s also extremely important to challenge yourself. Build good study habits, work hard, participate, and earn your place among the top students. This will make the transition smoother for you since med school is notoriously difficult and will require hard work and discipline. There’s no sense in coasting through undergrad taking mostly easy classes, then getting into med school and dropping out. Get used to taking on rigorous and challenging classes, because it pretty much only gets more difficult when you actually do end up going to medical school.

Also, it goes without saying that studying hard and doing your best in school is important. However, you should also do your best to balance school work with other activities, like sports and hobbies. Go out with friends, meet new people, and enjoy your life. The pre-med track isn’t easy, and medical school is even tougher, so it’s important to try and maintain some semblance of a normal college experience while you can.

How to Get into Med School

How to Get Into Med School

The three things that have the largest effect on whether or not you get into a good med school are your GPA, your MCAT scores,and your letter of recommendation.

In order to get a good GPA, be diligent with your college coursework and make sure that you’re dedicating a good amount of time towards your studies. You don’t need to be hermit, but if you’re on the pre-med track, chances are you don’t want to be someone who’s at every single party and social event.

You’ll need to familiarize yourself with AAMC and AMCAS. These associations administer the MCAT exam, which you will need to do well at in order to get into med school. Read and study the materials that AAMC and AMCAS provide, early on. If you want to be as prepared as possible, you should be studying for the MCAT as soon as you know that you want to go to medical school. Some students will be studying for the MCAT in freshman year!

Regardless of when you start, it’s extremely important that you put time aside in your schedule to study the MCAT. You are allowed to take the MCAT multiple times, but the medical schools you apply to will be able to see all your MCAT scores – you want to show continual improvement, especially if your first score is not great.

The three things that have the largest effect on whether or not you get into a good med school are your GPA, your MCAT scores,and your letter of recommendation.

Most colleges and universities will have pre-med advisers available for those who want to apply to medical school – they’ll be able to help you with things like MCAT preparation, and class selection. They’ll also be honest with you about your chances at getting into Medical School – the hard truth is that not everyone makes the cut. Get in touch with your pre-med adviser as early as possible – they will be able to point you in the right direction and let you know if you’re veering off course.

Also, your pre-med advisers will have a large influence on your letter of recommendation, which is another key component of your med school application. A good recommendation can help tip the scale in your favor, and a negative recommendation is almost certainly a death sentence (although these are probably pretty rare).

Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s likely the schools that you apply to will want to interview you. Make sure that you are prepared for an interview – read about what a typical med school interview is like, and demonstrate that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about healthcare and medicine. Obviously, nobody expects you have the level of knowledge that an actual doctor would have, but your understanding of medical care and health should definitely be well above the average person’s.

Show that you are committed and demonstrate your interest in healthcare and medicine. Join groups or societies on campus related to healthcare and medicine, and ask your premed adviser about what you should be doing. Things that might help your application include volunteering, taking internships, and achieving leadership positions inside or outside of college. Also, not everything you do needs to be geared towards healthcare – participation in athletic or artistic endeavors help make for a well-rounded application.

Keep your expectations in check and be realistic about your chances – if you don’t get into medical school, it’s not the end of the world. If you’re passionate about the healthcare industry, there are actually a growing number of jobs available in the sector that don’t require a medical degree.

Scholarships for Pre-Med Majors

The Pre-med track is not exactly cheap, and most students will need to rely on loans in order to make it through their education. Fortunately, scholarships exist to help offset some of that debt. Some scholarships can cover as much as a full year of tuition and fees.

Here are some resources that you can use to look up potential scholarship opportunities.

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