If you dream of being a doctor, you probably already know that the road to medical school is a tough one. With many schools offering admission to less than 4% of applicants, it’s important to consider which college or university will best set you up for success. But what qualities or characteristics should you keep in mind when you do? Here’s a quick rundown of the sorts of questions you should be asking yourself as you make this important decision.
What percent of students who apply to medical school are accepted?
This figure is basic but important. Many elite universities boast numbers in the 90s (roughly 93% of Harvard undergraduates who apply to medical school are admitted.) You want to make sure that your hard work will make you a competitive applicant, so the higher this number is, the better.
What percent of students who matriculate as pre-med end up applying to medical school?
This is an often overlooked statistic, but it’s a critical one in that it gives you some perspective on an individual school’s pre-med culture. Of course, it’s common for students to enter college with one major and change their course of study along the way–but a lower percentage might indicate that a school does not have adequate resources to accommodate all of its pre-med students, or that grade deflation is in practice.
Are there pre-medical student associations and other on-campus groups to join?
This isn’t critical by any means, but it can be nice to have the added support that comes along with an organized pre-medical student group. Oftentimes these groups are affiliated with university advising systems, making it all the easier to get the help you need as you navigate the complex process of applying to medical school.
Can I do research in a lab?
Many schools will boast impressive-sounding anecdotes of students getting involved with laboratory work, but take the time to figure out exactly how receptive most professors are to having undergraduate assistants. At a huge research university, for example, oftentimes graduate students win out over undergrads in terms of lab opportunities, so check to see how common it actually is for younger students to participate. In order to combat this, many schools now offer specific undergraduate research pathways and programs, so be sure to ask whether the college or university you’re interested in has one.
This is a lot to consider. Is there another way?
For students who are confident that medical school is in their future, many schools offer dual BS/MD programs. These programs offer early admission to medical school, so you can relax a little as an undergrad and focus on pursuing your passions rather than studying for the MCAT. If you’re interested in learning more, check out our webpage on the topic.