Careers & Education

How to choose the best college for pre-med

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Which is the best college for pre-med programs and which is best for you?

Getting into med school is one of the most challenging and competitive experiences a person could have.  Only a fraction of the applicants are accepted, and many highly qualified students are forced to opt for off-shore medical schools. 

So how can you beat the odds and make the final cut?  It starts with choosing the best college for pre-med. And we have some tips to help you do that.

Start with the medical schools

I know, this seems backwards.  We're talking about the best schools for pre-med, and now I'm saying to start with med schools?  Yes, I am.

Medical schools are ranked by the average GPA and MCAT scores of their incoming students.  So one of the best ways to find a great pre-med program is to look at the schools placing their graduates in the first and second tier medical schools. Find out which school's graduates consistently make the cut at Harvard, Yale, NYU, Duke and other top schools.

Enrolling in one of those successful undergraduate colleges increases your odds of being one of the lucky ones who receives an acceptance packet, instead of a "thanks but no thanks"  letter.

Research online

If you're having a hard time identifying which undergraduate premed programs place the most applicants in top medical schools, there are some websites that offer their take on the best college for pre-med question. and Associated Content both offer lists of top pre-med programs. 

These lists are a great place to start your search for a program that will prepare you for the MCAT and medical school.  But since neither list offers information on how they made their selection, you would be wise to use the lists as a starting point rather than an absolute answer.

Start digging

Using the information you gathered in the first two steps, and narrow it down to a half dozen or so schools.  Use other college search websites to help in the process.  Consider factors such as cost, location, admission standards and campus life to choose the best matches for you.

Once you have the list reduced to a handful of top pre-med programs, set that stack aside.

The schools you love

Now think about the schools you would most love to attend.  You may have found them in your college search, or they could be schools you always imagined yourself attending.

Gather information on these schools.  Check out their websites, catalogs and degree programs.  As with the pre-med list, look at cost, admission requirements and lifestyle.  Find out if they offer the classes you would need to prepare for the MCAT and medical school requirements.

Create a short list of the schools that offer the classes you need, and which you could realistically attend.

Bring your lists together

Do any of your two lists overlap?  If so, those are school to which you should definitely apply. Odds are, one of those would be the best college for pre-med for you.

If not, go back and look at both lists.  Start with the top-rated pre-med program list.  Can you see yourself at these schools?  Do you feel that would be happy among your classmates, content in the city or town in which it's located?  If yes, add those schools to your application pile. 

Finally, look at your "dream schools" pile.  Do their programs adequately prepare pre-med students for the rigors of med school? Are the required classes offered regularly? Have any of their students been accepted to medical school in the past 5 years?  Is the percentage of applications to acceptances reasonable? 

Schools that meet those requirements should also be added to your "apply" pile.

The best pre-med college for you is....

Remember, the best college for pre-med may be different for different people.  A combination of doing your research and trusting your heart gives you the best chance of finding a premed program that will lead to excellent performance in classes and on the MCAT -- and that long-awaited "Welcome to medical school" letter at the end of your four years.

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