Last Updated on June 2, 2022
Pre-med is a college track made up of specific courses that a student chooses to take as prerequisite courses for medical school. It’s almost related to a major. Students can decide to major in any field of their choice, but they are required to take all of the required pre-med courses to stay on the pre-med track.
Studying medicine can prepare scholars for a wide range of careers, but most people choose to pursue their education before entering the workforce. Depending on the education and work history of graduates, graduates may become general practitioners, registered nurses, health educators, medical researchers, allied health managers, forensic science technicians and clinical laboratory technologists.
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Picking a College as a Pre-Med: Factors to Consider
Your GPA is very important when it comes to med school. A strong GPA supersedes class rank or position so you should be looking for colleges where you can perform well.
Most medical schools follow a mathematical formula to assess students. This formula takes in the numerical value of GPA. For example, having a 3.9 GPA and ranking #35 in your class is better than a 3.5 GPA and being #15 in your class for the sake of getting admitted into medical school.
This does not mean that you shouldn’t aim to be amongst the brilliant students on campus. GPA is important, but class rank shouldn’t be left out. Most college classes are graded in such a way that being at the top of your class gives you a high GPA. For example, it’s better to have a 3.95 GPA at Bates College than a 3.35 GPA at Princeton. Moreover, narrow down to schools that have moderate to strong grade inflation and avoid schools that have grade deflation.
Science GPA plays a vital role in med school admissions, and at the same time, the rigor of your major is very crucial. A high GPA in an “easy” major won’t be enough; a rigorous course load will still be needed to validate a high GPA.
Additionally, you should generally avoid your state’s flagship university because they have many academically competitive students who didn’t have the financial means or extracurricular activities to attend top-tier universities. So getting As in your pre-med classes will be a lot harder.
A good MCAT score is also important for medical school admission. Look for a college with a good curriculum that will teach and prepare you well for the MCAT exam. MCAT science materials are covered by most colleges through their pre-med classes. However, also ensure that the college you choose has good sociology, psychology, and general education English classes that cover in-depth reading techniques. The college that reinforces these other MCAT components helps a student perform much better in MCAT.
Med school requires financial commitment for a student and his/her family. Most families will prefer to save money on undergraduate studies so they can afford to pay $200,000 throughout the four years of med school. Luckily, top-tier colleges usually offer at least some assistance to families with under $200,000 per year in household income and grant great financial aid. There is a lot of competition in flagship state schools so it’s not recommended you apply to those. Explore private schools that offer a strong merit aid package.
Pre-med school and medical school combined require 10-12 years of commitment to school, residencies, and fellowships. This can be very hard for even the most passionate and brilliant students. If by the time you apply you’re still unsure, apply to schools that will easily allow you to switch majors and programs without you applying internally. So you might want to apply to the most competitive school possible and get admitted to a good school regardless of if you’re on the pre-med track.
Medical School Requirements
Your MCAT Score
Some schools have a minimum MCAT score and GPA requirements and will filter out applicants who don’t meet them.
Usually, you’ll need to respond to prompts on both the primary and secondary applications. The topics vary, but typically you’ll be asked to explore the reasons you want to pursue medicine, the events that have shaped you, and your passions, experiences, achievements, and interests.
Letters of Recommendation
Most medical schools require three letters of recommendation, usually two letters from science faculty members and one from a non-science discipline, although this varies from school to school. If your undergraduate college has a formal pre-med committee, a committee letter is usually required to present an overview and evaluation of your undergraduate performance and candidacy.
Most medical schools will want to see relevant extracurricular activities, including research, clinical experience, and volunteering and community service. You can gain exposure to the profession by shadowing physicians, working as a scribe, or contributing to the medical community by assisting practicing professionals with research.
Medical schools also want to know what kind of person you are, so your application will also ask for non-medical extracurriculars. It’s kind of like the Common App all over again, though the activities section for medical school is more extensive, and you’ll be asked to write approximately 500 words about each of your three most important extracurriculars.
Keep in mind that individual medical schools may have additional requirements or recommendations. Most schools also conduct interviews, extending invitations to a small percentage of candidates after reviewing their applications.
Pre med majors
- Biological Sciences and Human Biology: More than half of med-school applicants study biological sciences during their undergraduate years. Majoring in biology means that your major requirements and pre-med requirements will overlap significantly. That being said, studying science exclusively can be intense and exhausting. If you major in biology on the pre-med track, you may want to carefully select a unique minor or interesting elective courses to avoid burnout.
- Physics, Chemistry, and Other Physical Sciences: Just like the natural sciences, the physical science major courses typically overlap with the pre-med requirements. Though the coursework will differ slightly, the risks and benefits of physics and chemistry are about the same as those of biology.
- Psychology, Economics, and Social Sciences: Social science applicants make up about 10% of medical school admissions. The requirements for these majors have some overlap with the pre-med requirements, but students will need to spend most of their elective units completing pre-med courses.
- Philosophy and the Humanities: Humanities majors are less popular for pre-med students because they leave all pre-med requirements to be completed with electives. This will take planning on your part and will require clear communication with your advisors. That being said, humanities graduates who pursue medicine may be more personable and well-rounded than students who exclusively focus on the sciences. Philosophy is a popular major for pre-med students in the humanities.
- Math, Statistics, and Related Majors: While math majors are not actually a popular major for pre-med students, they have the highest MCAT scores and GPAs of all applicants and thus, typically have favorable positioning in medical school admissions.
Best SUNY Schools For Pre Med
10. CUNY Brooklyn College (New York, NY)
Regardless of major, Brooklyn College undergraduates planning a career in a health-related field can avail themselves of the Pre-Health Professions program.
Students in the program consult with the pre-health professions advisor for guidance in course requirements and sequence, as well as for long-term career goal strategies. The Pre-Health Advisement office maintains letters of recommendation and arranges review classes for required standardized tests.
Campus organizations like the Brooklyn College American Medical Student Association help pre-health candidates find networking and research opportunities. SERVA, the on-campus volunteer organization, offers listings for volunteer opportunities counting toward a service honors notation for their transcripts.
The Pre-Health office assists students interested in pursuing other professional programs besides the MD, including Physician’s Assistant and Dentistry degrees.
Students interested in a Pharmacy degree can choose to accelerate the typically six-year timeline to four years, guided by the Pre-Health office’s recommended path of study.
Research internships constitute an important part of the program, and students can choose to work assisting Brooklyn College professors through the Pre-Health program.
Once accepted to a medical school, Brooklyn College Pre-Health students who have completed Biomedical Research internships may apply for the school’s Salk Scholarship to offset the costs of their medical programs.
Brooklyn College offers a very competitive Coordinated BA-MD program for exceptional students, moving on to SUNY Downstate College of Medicine for medical school once they complete their undergraduate requirements.
9. Fordham University (New York, NY)
Fordham University offers a concentration in Pre-Health, coordinating with any major in or out of science fields.
This concentration does not require enough specific coursework to constitute a major, but it does mandate Biology and Chemistry courses as foundations for other classes required to fulfill the concentration.
The Pre-Health Concentration also requires a single-credit, pass/fail symposium in which upper-level Pre-Health students advise and prepare new Pre-Health students for rigorous, college-level science courses needed to prepare for medical school tests.
The Fordham approach follows a slower, careful ramping up to the rigor of college-level work, and it takes into account the challenges of adapting to college life.
For students needing close advising and training in study skills, this program offers specifically-designed features to ensure success.
Fordham provides one-on-one counseling for Pre-Health students. Advisors focus on preparing students according to the Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students as identified by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
For students majoring in non-science areas, Fordham offers a post-baccalaureate program to address any deficits in science coursework. This transitional program presents an appealing, well-rounded candidate to medical schools: a recent graduate earned acceptance at 18 different institutions.
8. CUNY Hunter College (New York, NY)
While Pre-Health doesn’t constitute an official major at Hunter College, Hunter’s Pre-Health advising office provides some of the most detailed plans and support for its undergraduates interested in applying to medical school.
Dedicated one-on-one advisors and group advisory meetings help students adhere to a Pre-Health Timeline that sets benchmarks for each undergraduate year of study.
First-Year benchmarks include attending the Hunter College Pre-Health workshops designed to acquaint students with the expectations of the program. The plan urges students to join medical-related organizations on campus, schedule volunteer work, and arrange for shadowing healthcare professionals.
Each of the following years’ plans include workshop and seminar registrations, summer research, and steps toward application letter and CV composition. Hunter Pre-Health asks students to read widely in the medical fields, maintaining a reading log.
The Pre-Health Mentoring Initiative pairs upper-level Pre-Health students with incoming Pre-Health students, allowing all students to share valuable insights, gain experience in mentoring, and build lasting professional relationships. Students go on to some of the most prestigious medical programs in the country.
Many self-assessment tools provide students with multiple ways to prepare for their eventual application process. Hunter helps students track every stage of their progress, from their first course registrations to planning their gap years.
Hunter College students can apply for Early Assurance programs at several New York medical schools, including the FlexMed Program at Mt. Sinai, and Assurance Programs at SUNY Upstate and the University of Rochester.
These programs extend early medical school acceptance to students demonstrating academic excellence, allowing them to pursue broader coursework than a pre-med path typically would.
Some Early Assurance programs also offer options like paid summer research or early access to medical school courses.
7. SUNY Buffalo (Buffalo, NY)
SUNY Buffalo invites prospective Pre-Health students to attend a workshop like Pre-Health 101 to determine whether or not they want to pursue a health-related career.
Tours of the medical school and the biomedical research facilities on campus also offer interested candidates a way to imagine themselves in a Pre-Health program before committing.
Students in Pre-Health at SUNY Buffalo receive individual advice and support from a designated faculty advisor. Each first-year student completes an online course designed to introduce aspects of medical professions and medical study.
SUNY Buffalo Pre-Health provides separate guidance for multiple medical tracks, including Pre-Veterinary, Pre-Physician’s Assistant, Pre-Optometry, and more. Nursing and Pharmacy have separate preparatory programs within the university.
A 12-member committee evaluates student progress and provides assessment letters for each candidate when they apply to medical programs. This comprehensive look at a student’s career features their academic work, research, related job experience, volunteer work, and community activities.
6. University of Rochester (Rochester, NY)
Though the University of Rochester has neither a specific Pre-Med major nor a Pre-Health concentration, the School of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering provides extensive advice and support for students applying to all health-related programs.
The University’s Medical Center, Medical and Dental Schools, and medical research facilities provide undergraduates interested in health careers with a wealth of research and volunteer positions, as well as opportunities to shadow working medical professionals.
Full-time Pre-health advisory staff provide academic counseling, application essay critiques, and help securing letters of recommendation. The program offers information sessions and workshops to facilitate the application process.
The Greene Center for Career Education & Connections functions as a valuable link to internships and other practical matters related to the medical school application process. Rochester recommends meeting with a career advisor as soon as possible in order to plan out coursework from Freshman year on. Advisors can help narrow the overwhelming number of options down to the ones most useful toward students’ career goals.
Rochester nurtures its healthcare community with campus events, volunteer opportunities, and student groups. News and events reach students through a comprehensive online portal, organized by subheadings like Human Services and Biomedical Research.
Rochester Early Medical Scholars offers highly qualified and motivated students an eight-year BS/MD opportunity. Students with high GPAs and demonstrated interest in the medical field (hospital volunteering, EMT training) make good candidates for this very competitive program.
5. SUNY Binghamton (Binghamton, NY)
The State University of New York, Binghamton University provides strong scaffolding for students planning medical careers. From Nutrition to Occupational Therapy, from Veterinary Medicine to its main Medical track, the Pre-health advising program at SUNY crafts a specific approach for each career path.
Binghamton’s First-year Research Immersion course sequence lays a strong foundation for the science background pre-med students need. The unique approach sets apart SUNY applicants to medical school; students completing the FRI program gain real-world research experience within the context of academically-rigorous coursework.
Within Binghamton’s Research-Stream Specific Course Sequences, classes like Biomedical Chemistry, Microbial Biofilms in Human Health, and Neuroscience can give a medical school applicant a way to fulfill requirements while demonstrating interest in a specific field.
An excellent summer program connecting students with alumni medical professionals gives Binghamton students a way to stand out from other medical school applicants in terms of extended medical experience.
Early Assurance programs provide an excellent way for highly successful undergraduates to secure a place in medical school to pursue a broader range of undergraduate coursework without concern for the medical school application process. Binghamton operates several Early Assurance programs, making it a perfect program for students who know they want to attend medical school but would like to take a wide variety of undergraduate coursework.
4. Columbia University (New York, NY)
Columbia University’s medical school often ranks in the top ten nationally, so it stands to reason that facilities, faculty, and access to internships make it a solid place to prepare for medical school.
So many of its undergraduates attend a medical school that it ranks in the top 20 schools nationally for the number of its students who go on to medical programs.
At Columbia, “Premedical” indicates a curriculum, but not a major. The school’s Berick Center for Student Advising works with students all four years to follow the rigorous plan of study while making room for summer internships and other professional experience.
Columbia does not expect students to manage the challenging coursework without help. The Academic Success Programs cultivate collaboration, mentoring, support and student confidence with skills training, tutoring, study groups, and workshops.
Columbia maintains a nationwide catalogue of volunteer and internship opportunities, encouraging students to spend summers acquiring experience rather than taking more coursework.
Columbia offers a popular Post-Baccalaureate program for students who have completed an undergraduate major but still need some of the courses required for a successful bid to medical school.
3. Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, NY)
In a state with some of the best medical schools globally, Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine ranks in the top ten. For undergraduates planning health careers, Stony Brook has the financial benefits of a state school with the reputation of an elite private school.
Stony Brook strongly encourages students to major in a topic they love, but also one that will give them the time and energy to complete medical school prerequisite courses.
Pre-Health advisors help students choose disciplines with varied connections to medical careers, not just biology and chemistry majors.
Stony Brook urges students to develop communication skills and study skills, providing practical support for students at all levels.
Stony Brook Pre-Health Advising supports students through all aspects of a medical school application, explaining and assisting with the important committee letter and offering guidance and advice for interviews. The office helps students locate summer internships and volunteer opportunities.
The Academic Associate Program at Stony Brook offers a singular opportunity to pre-med candidates.
Undergraduates from Stony Brook staff the Stony Brook University Medical Center and screen patients for participation in clinical studies. Working with the hospital as an undergraduate can lead to further research opportunities, and students receive academic credit for their work.
2. New York University (New York, NY)
New York University cultivates a thoughtful and detailed Pre-health Program, providing students with academic guidance, practical experience opportunities, and connections to other aspiring medical students.
Personalized advising for each student considers strengths and weaknesses, assessing the candidate’s chances of admission and assisting them in assembling the most effective application possible.
NYU encourages students to gain clinical experience, either through volunteering at the many Manhattan hospitals nearby or through summer enrichment programs. Students can work with the Wasserman Center, the campus Career Development Service, to look for internships or get help constructing a resume.
While some programs caution students against studying abroad, New York University makes a study abroad experience not only practical but advantageous for potential pre-med students.
Candidates studying at other NYU campuses can take some of their required coursework abroad with the full credibility of an NYU-endorsed class.
NYU also offers a post-baccalaureate program for students who decide on medical school after completing graduation requirements without fulfilling all the medical school prerequisite coursework.
1. Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
Cornell University prepares undergraduates for the strenuous medical school application process in a well-rounded process: academic counseling, education in health careers, help in application preparation, and mental health management skills.
Cornell’s successful Pre-health program makes it one of the top-ranked feeder schools for medical programs nationally.
Support comes from many directions at Cornell.
First-year students draw on the resources of the Tatkon Center for study help, campus life, and career information.
The Cornell Undergraduate Research Board provides great opportunities for potential medical school applicants to find the right kind of campus project for research experience.
Cornell advises prospective medical students to take a bridge year between undergraduate diploma and medical school application.
The Pre-health advisory program suggests many options for that year, including travel and additional health-related experience.
Preparing to apply to medical school becomes a step-by-step process through the HCA-APP, the Health Care Careers Advising Application Preparation Process.
Letters from the school’s evaluation committee come from assessing candidate assignments designed by the committee to elicit meaningful reflection.
Cornell’s approach considers student well-being and encourages the full development of self-awareness before attempting a medical program.
The program asks students to keep a journal of reflection, answering a series of questions over their years in the program. A considered reading list gives candidates a place to start a habit of personal education.
Best medical schools in the world
10. University College London
This prestigious institution has been educating students from as early as 1834, making it one of the oldest medical schools in the world. Like most world universities – apart from those in the United States – students at UCL have the option of either pursuing undergraduate study in medicine and completing a degree in 6 years or undertaking a post-graduate degree in medicine after undergoing separate undergraduate study. This school has multiple departments within the faculty of medicine, including but not limited to: brain sciences, immunology and inflammation, infectious disease, metabolism, digestion and reproduction, and surgery and cancer. UCL Medical School is also home to a number of impressive alumni, including presidents of the Royal College of Physicians, presidents of the Royal College of Surgeons in England and chairs of the General Medical Council.
9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Whilst this university itself does not have its own medical school, MIT comes in at 9 on QC’s prestigious list due to its partnership with Harvard University. This alignment between universities allows students to participate in a Health Sciences and Technology Program, which integrates science, medicine and engineering to solve problems in human health. Students also have the opportunity to pursue a dual degree and receive both a MD and PhD. Due to the emphasis on research, most who graduate from MIT pursue careers in biomedical research, rather than becoming physicians.
8. Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut
The first Ivy League school to feature on this list, Yale University is home to one of the most prolific medical schools in the world. Interestingly, this medical school emphasises that students are not required to major in anything health-related as undergraduates, as long as they fulfil the prerequisites for entry into medical school. Yale is also home to a number of other graduate schools and programs and as such, offer students many different dual degree combinations, including an MD and JD, MD and MBA and MD and MDiv – a Master of Divinity. In addition, about 20% of students choose to pursue an MD alongside a PhD. Like many other universities on this list, Yale Medical School alumni are among some of the most prominent on the global medical scene. One distinguished alumnus is Aaron Beck, who is known for his success in the field of psychiatry – one of his most notable achievements being the development of cognitive theory.
Los Angeles, California
UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine is one of the most renowned public medical schools, ranking in at 4th in the US and 7th in the world. The UCLA medical centre, the primary teaching hospital for both those pursuing a degree in medicine and in nursing, offers training in a number of different specialised fields. Students also have the option to pursue multiple different programs and joint degrees, including an MD and PhD, MD and MBA and MD and Masters of Public Affairs.
6. Karolinska Institute
The second European medical school to feature on this list, the Karolinska Institute is the single largest centre of medical academic research in Sweden, responsible for 40% of medical research within the country. Unlike other universities on this list, the Karolinska Institute is one of the cheapest medical schools in the world – it is free for all students living in the EU.
5. Johns Hopkins University
Not unlike many of the other medical schools featured on this list, Johns Hopkins Medical School boasts a highly competitive program, admitting only 3.9% of applicants. As such, class sizes at Johns Hopkins are relatively small, often only containing 120 students. Despite the competitive nature of their application, Johns Hopkins fosters a collaborative atmosphere amongst students and faculty. famous alumni include Harvey Williams Cushing – an American neurosurgeon, pathologist and writer who was the first physician to describe Cushing’s disease.
4. Stanford University
Palo Alto, California
Despite being known for its success and excellence in the fields of business and entrepreneurship, Stanford University is also home to one of the most distinguished medical schools in the world. Like others on this list, Stanford offers a variety of dual degrees, including the popular combination of an MD and PhD, in order to facilitate pathways between medicine and research. Similar to Johns Hopkins, the medical program at Stanford is small, with each cohort often only containing between 90 and 100 students. Located in Silicon Valley, students at Stanford Medical School are also able to reap the benefits of cutting-edge technology being at an arm’s reach. Their location also enables greater opportunity for medical research to more easily reach an application stage.
3. University of Cambridge
Ranking at third, Cambridge Medical School is the oldest institution on this list, being founded back in 1540. As a European Institution, Cambridge allows its students to study medicine at an undergraduate level and graduate as a doctor in just 6 years. This university particularly excels in the field of biomedical science – its most notable success being the discovery of DNA in 1953. Notable alumni include: Ieuan Hughes (world famous paediatrician) and Barbara Sahakian (globally recognised clinical psychologist).
2. University of Oxford
Coming in just one place ahead of its UK-based rival, University of Oxford is often considered to be home to the best medical institution outside the United States. Similar to its European counterparts, students are able to begin their studies of medicine straightaway. Oxford also offers an accelerated program for those who have already completed their undergraduate degree and are ready to pursue their medical studies at a graduate level. Oxford alumni can be found in a number of different fields, including but not limited to academia, research, and in private practices.
1. Harvard University
At number one, Harvard Medical School is considered by many as the best in the world. This university is renowned for its distinguished faculty and premium teaching hospitals, including Massachusetts General and Boston Children’s Hospital. Harvard is also home to a number of successful alumni, including Jill Stein, acclaimed physician and Green Party nominee for the Presidency in both 2012 and 2016, Sidney Farber (noted oncologist/pathologist who is considered the ‘father of chemotherapy’) and Helen B Taussig (pioneer of paediatric cardiology and co-developer of the Blalock-Thomas-Taussig shunt).