Getting into medical school is very competitive and premed students are always looking for ways to stand out.
High GPAs, competitive MCAT scores, volunteering, clinical experience, and shadowing are just a few important aspects that students are constantly working towards.
Can the college you go to also factor into your overall competitiveness? If it does, how much does it factor into your chances of being accepted?
Often times we are looking for these answers even though it is too late to make a change. If this is the case, don’t stress out! It is important to remain focused on becoming the best medical school applicant possible.
But if you are in high school and choosing between a less prestigious vs a more prestigious undergrad, you may want to keep reading to see how much your decision could affect your chances of getting into medical school.
Does Undergrad Prestige Matter For Med School?
Okay let’s get right into it, does undergrad prestige really matter?
Let’s first approach this question from a direct benefit position. Meaning student A and student B have the same exact GPA, MCAT, extracurricular, etc. The only difference is that student A goes to an IV league school like Harvard and student B goes to your good ol’ state university. Does student A get an intrinsic advantage of getting in?
Student A would clearly have the better chance, right?
Okay sure, in this identical robot scenario, then they would probably throw the bone to student A. But the reality is that premed students are like snowflakes, no two are alike. So what really matters is which school is setting you up for success.
So we can’t approach this from a direct benefit scenario, rather the advantages lie within the indirect benefits of going to a prestigious school.
Medical schools favor premed students from prestigious undergraduate programs, this much is true. But let’s dig deeper into why this is the case.
Prestigious Colleges Have More Opportunities For Pre-med Students To Be Successful
I talked about how there are indirect benefits of going to a prestigious college, here are some examples.
Prestigious colleges have more research opportunities. Research is a great experience for premed students and opportunities that lead to being part of a published article looks very good in a medical school’s eyes.
Not all schools are going to have the resources to do large research studies.
Also, more prestigious colleges might be attached to hospitals as is the case with UCLA. Having hospitals and clinics attached to your undergrad offers more shadowing, volunteering, and clinical work opportunities.
Prestigious schools are also more likely to be able to supply each premed student with a mentor which is arguably an important benefit to gaining entrance into medical school.
There are also some prestigious universities that use tactics to give their students an advantage by inflating their grades. For instance, allowing students to retake a class they did poorly on so that their grade only shows the better grades.
Certain Undergraduate Schools Are Known To Be More Difficult
Everyone is influenced to some degree by their experience, and this includes Medical School admissions committees.
For instance, when considering two identical candidates if an admission member knows that University A tends to have classes that are much less difficult than University B, they will without a doubt choose the candidate that went to the University which is known to be much more difficult.
This happens across the board and changes from medical school to medical school depending on the region and the different colleges.
Then of course you have schools like MIT which is notorious for having very strict grading scales across the board. Every medical school knows this and therefore factor that preconceived notion in their decisions.
Which Colleges Produce The Most Medical School Graduates?
College transitions did a study that took education background data from a sample of physicians.
After adjusting for undergraduate enrollment, the top 5 schools were all IV league colleges. Obviously, this is not a coincidence, Medical Schools seem to favor premed students from prestigious schools.
Does this mean you are at a significant advantage if you go to a prestigious undergrad? Not necessarily. This just shows a correlation between medical school graduates and the undergraduate schools they attended.
But correlation does not mean causation!
It is very likely that students who attended these prestigious schools were highly motivated and would be able to get into the medical school of their choice no matter where they went.
Which Colleges Produce The Most Medical School Applicants?
AAMC also published data which shows the amount of applicants that come from each university.
What their data shows us is that the top 20 schools that produce the most medical school applicants include some of the most prestigious colleges such as Cornell, John Hopkins, and UCLA.
Sure this isn’t showing us the amount of students that were actually accepted, but it does show there is a strong premed culture at these schools which would lead us to believe they have lots of funding for these programs.
Do Medical Schools Favor Their Own Undergraduates?
There isn’t really any data on this but based on anecdotal evidence from other medical school students, it seems that some medical schools do favor their own undergraduates.
This does kind of make sense for a few reasons.
Number one, if you are a student in the undergraduate school attached to a medical school you will have more opportunities to network with staff members from the medical school. Perhaps even volunteer in the attached teaching hospitals.
Number two, students like to stay put so it’s possible a higher percentage of students from the connected college will apply to that medical school.
And finally, number three, and probably the most important reason, medical schools like to attract candidates that will stay in the community. This is part of the reason why there is usually a strong preference for in-state applicants. If you went to college in a particular town and want to stay there for medical school, there is a good chance you will settle down there.
Can I Go To Med School If I Went To Community College?
If your question is can you go directly from community college to medical school then the answer is no, you do need a bachelor’s degree.
However, going from community college to a 4 year university and then to a medical school is definitely possible.
Lots of premed students do this. It saves you a lot of money and can bump up your grades. You don’t want to make your application look suspicious by taking all of your medical school prerequisites in your community college but it definitely doesn’t hurt to take a handful of them there.
In the end, you need a high GPA, high MCAT score, and quality extracurriculars to show that you are a motivated premed student! Whether you went to community college for a few years doesn’t matter.
Does Undergrad Major Matter For Med School?
No, undergrad major does not matter for getting into medical school. We go into detail regarding this topic in our post on “What’s the best premed major?”
What we found is that there isn’t a statistical advantage of doing any particular major. It’s important to study what you are passionate about learning. Because when you are passionate about the subject, you will do better and as a result have a higher GPA.
The GPA is what medical schools are looking at.
High MCAT Scores Outweigh School Reputation
MCAT scores are standardized and therefore a good representation of the student’s ability to compete with other premed students. Undergraduate classes can be variable in difficulty between schools so GPA is not always the best indication of educational abilities.
Even if a student has a high GPA from a very prestigious school, but he or she has a mediocre MCAT score, this will weigh heavily against the candidate despite the school they went to.
The MCAT, therefore, is another means to level the playing field. Medical schools understand that there is a tendency to pick students from higher-end undergraduate schools. But medical schools are seeking brilliant students that will make a difference, therefore, they do not want to miss out on students who went to an average school but are academically special.
A Study On Undergraduate Prestige And Earning Potential
This study used data from the National Survey of College Graduates from 2003 to 2017 to study how undergraduate prestige affects your earning potential.
What this study found was that there was a positive correlation between undergraduate prestige and income potential.
That being said, we can expect that the kind of students who get into a prestigious school are already overachievers and would have probably led a life with a higher earning potential.
But nonetheless, one can see how this data would indicate that there is an inherent advantage to attending an IV league college.
Conclusion: Don’t Overthink What College To Go To
After reading this article you might draw the conclusion that there is an advantage to attending a prestigious college. However, this is not the most important factor for getting into medical school. It’s more important to work hard and be active.
No matter what college you go to, you can get into medical school. The key is to remain focused on your own goals. It’s easy to get stressed out by comparing yourself to other premed students who might have advantages to getting in.
Take actionable steps every day to be a better version of yourself instead of other premed students. Eventually, you will reach your goal of becoming a physician and none of that college prestige will matter.