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Does undergrad school really matter?

Discussion in 'Re-Applicants [ MD / DO ]' started by akinf, Apr 24, 2004.

  1. akinf

    akinf Senior Member
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    Hi everyone, I am new to this forum and I have a few questions about medical school relating to selection of undergraduate schools. I am in my final semester of high school right now and I am in the process of deciding where to do my undergrad. I live in Canada and have been accepted to some of the top schools (Queen's and some others). Let me get to my question. Do medical schools actually care where you take your undergrad? I am really concerned about this because I can decide to stay in Manitoba, get high marks at what I consider to be a "lesser" school, or go to Queen's, struggle more, but have a valued degree (most likely biochemistry or microbiology). I have heard two conflicting views. A med. school will regard a certain school better. All you need is a high GPA, high MCAT, and extracurriculars. I have also heard that it is better to attend undergrad at the school you want to enter medicine in. Now, I am still young and still doing research of medical schools, but my top choices from what I have read and heard through the grape vince are McGill, Queen's, Toronto, John Hopkins, and almost any Ivy League school. I'd like to study medicine in the U.S one day, and since it could be harder, I am looking for a little advice. Any and all advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
     
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  3. Peterock

    Peterock "PeeT-Ro'k"
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    Medical schools just want good numbers.

    A 3.8gpa/28MCAT from a school X, where the SAT ave is 1000 is looked on with more favor than a 3.2gpa/32 MCAT from school Y, where the SAT ave is a 1400.

    It's a stupid system, but now you know.
     
  4. Kap793

    Kap793 New Member

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    What a great question! I am a struggling pre-med graduating from a very tough undergrad school right now and think about this often. I do, however, feel that there's a lot to be gained from going to a more prestegious school because just getting into medical school isn't the only thing that's important. I am not trying to sound like a snob, I know that plenty of people have great intellectual experiences at lesser known schools, but it might me more difficult to get excited about learning in that type of environment. Honestly, I would rather spend an extra year boosting my GPA and have had the undergraduate classes that I did. Just my .02
     
  5. Allygator89

    Allygator89 Senior Member
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    I dont' fully agree with the above posters. Keep in mind that many medical schools also standardize grades in a way. They do see the AMCAS application, but they also look at what school you went to. If you have a 4.0 from your local community college and a 25, 26, 27 MCAT, they are going to look at you less favorably than someone that went to a more prestigious school, had a 3.4, and a 32. Everything is relative and things do balance out.

    Another thing that committees look at is the workload that you took while you were in school. Anyone can get a 4.0, but did you do extracurricular activities, volunteer, play sports, ... work.. anything to better yourself and others?

    There is not cut and dry formula for getting into med school, no matter what anyone tells you. Paying more for an education doesn't necessarily mean you are getting a better education. Just make sure that where you go is where you feel you will enjoy life the most, as well as affording yourself the best educational opportunities.

    Oh, and it is great to sets your sights high, but dont' be upset if you don't get into an Ivy League, or don't get a 4.0, or you change your mind and don't decide to pursue medicine.
     
  6. akinf

    akinf Senior Member
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    Thanks for the posts. Another kinda follow-up question. Do med. schools look at individual courses? I know there is the biology, the gen. chem, and organic and some other stuff that you have to take, but if I take a really easy course, so I have been told, like nutrition or religious studies, will they look lesser of me than someone who took applied nuclear physics?
     
  7. Peterock

    Peterock "PeeT-Ro'k"
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    Again... no, they really don't care about your major etc. I have a friend who has a 3.35/32 (10/12/10) and she received 2 out of 16 interviews. Her personal statement was fine and she has ave. ECs. You'd think a biomedical engineer from duke w/ a ~3.4/32 would get respect, but they don't.

    My application was better than a different friend from top to bottom minus 0.3 gpa. I was hospitalized for a large portion of my junior year and took a massively more difficult course load. My MCAT was slightly higher than hers as well, but her 0.3gpa got her interviewed at schools that rejected me. It's kind of pathetic since I literally spent twice as much time as her (she took a very water down sci major). I also had 3.5yrs of lab reserach to her 0 and just as much hospital volunteering. I also had a much better PS and applied disadv. status...

    As I've said, this is a very stupid process.

    Go to a school you know you can be the best at, not the best school you get in.
     
  8. fullefect1

    fullefect1 Senior Member
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    Isn't it really difficult to gain entrance to any United States Medical school if he does his undergrad work in Canada?

    This post shoud also be moved to pre-allo forum, it will probably get more responses.
     
  9. exmike

    exmike NOR * CAL
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    Yes, where you go to school matters, but not nearly as much as doing well in school! Where you went to school matters when comparing two similar applicants. Of course the Harvard 3.5/30 student is more desireable than the Podunk U 3.5/30

    In regards to your major, no it doesnt matter. I dont think ANY adcom has the patience to scrutinze every course in your AMCAS.
     
  10. Lux Aeterna

    Lux Aeterna the eternal light
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    Perfectly said. :thumbup:
     
  11. UseUrHeadFred

    UseUrHeadFred Oh no! It's a Wumpus!
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    I would DEFINATELY go to an undergrad with an associated medical school. The medical school often gives preference to their own undergrads.
     
  12. bigdan

    bigdan SDN Donor
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    I agree with exmike.
    SUNY Upstate says they'll look at your GPA *in conjunction with* looking at how your undergrad school rates in the Barron's College Guide to school selectivity; my 3.85 GPA from Utica College is not as impressive as the 3.85 from (enter Ivy League school name here). But, it is a 3.85. Do well in any case. And doing well on the MCAT is the great equalizer, all things considered.
    Best of luck.

    dc
     
  13. DoctorDoogie4

    DoctorDoogie4 Senior Member
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    In regards to your question, it doesn't matter where you went to Undergrad. I have met some idiots from Harvard while I have met some geniuses from a state public school. Medical schools should not take into account the instituation you went to but rather look at the courseload you took and the MCAT score you received. Remember, the MCAT is the test that levels the playing field.
     
  14. winstonm

    winstonm Senior Member
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    akinf,

    It depends where you want to go for medicine. If you're a Canadian citizen without US citizenship, unless you're rich, Canada would probably be your best choice. Except for the absolute best US schools, you won't get any better medical education in the States than you would here. Plus, 1 year in the States will cost as much as 4 years here. Also, it's not the Canadian undergrad degree that will keep you out of US med school but a lack of US citizenship or PR status--undergrad in the States won't change that.

    If you're an Ontario resident and your preference is an Ontario medical school, the official policy is "an A is an A" and no school cares where it came from :rolleyes: .

    Furthermore, unlike many US schools, MCAT scores aren't that big a factor here with Queen's having the highest strict MCAT cutoff in the province (32). Mac and Ottawa don't even require the MCAT, Western's cutoff is low (30) and Toronto uses it as a flag. So unlike what the above poster said, in Canada your MCAT doesn't count for all that much. What this means is that GPA is worth a hell of a lot and there are no checks (eg. highly weighted MCAT score) against attending an easy school. So go where you'll get the best marks. In my opinion, the system is setup so that people who get 75% in highschool get into meds cuz they end up at way less competitive undergrad schools and get better marks. American schools will definately look at the university you go to though, but remember, it is very difficult to get into US medschools that compare to Canadian ones if you're not a citizen.
    I don't know for sure how the schools in other provinces view the undergrad institution, but there is a general, and foolish, underlying policy in Canada that all schools are equal.


    Having said that, DO NOT GO TO TORONTO (St. George campus). Every class over 40 people is curved from a C- to B+ and keep in mind most of the people there have a high 80+ high school average. You can do well there, but there is extreme competition for As, and the classes are huge, making it difficult to get good letters from profs. Many US schools require 2 letters from science faculty--when Immunology is a class of 300 and taught by 8 profs, it's difficult to get to know one really well, and may science profs are reluctant to give letters to people going to med school as opposed to grad school. Plus, it's demanding--what is usually first-year chem at nearly every other school in N. America is compressed into 1/2 year and the first half of orgo is taught in year 1. Why?? :confused:

    The only advantage to Toronto I can see is that you have perhaps the widest variety of science courses on the continent and later on, you can be taught by people at the absolute top of their field (my developmental cardiovascular physiology course was taught in part by the cardiac transplant surgeon at the Hospital for Sick Children and the first person to prove that infants can be transplanted across blood groups, for example). If you do get letters from people like this, then the names will be known pretty much everywhere. But if you don't get the grades you need, quality of education won't mean anything when all your friends who went to easy schools are in med school and you aren't.

    If I had to do it all over again, I would go to McMaster, which my friend who just graduated from there described as "marginally more difficult than high school." Now he's a smart guy, but he knows there is a difference in difficulty at different schools and at least in Ontario, it's all about numbers. So go where you feel you'll get the best marks (stick to a school with a med school though) and have opportunities to volunteer or do research if you like that stuff.

    As for individual courses, you'll cover the bases for most schools if you do 1 yr general chem, 1 yr orgo, 1 yr bio, 1 yr physics (all with lab), 1 yr math through calculus and 1 yr English. Many like a course in stats too.

    Again, in Canada it varies. Schools like UBC, Alberta and Manitoba want 1 yr of biochem, while Mac has absolutely no prerequisites and Western will have only "suggested" courses in 2006. Check the schools' websites.

    What Canadian schools (except Mac) will look at is difficulty of courses. Don't take a bunch of 1st or 2nd year courses in your later years.

    One thing to keep in mind is that some schools in Canada have helpful weighted GPAs where only some years are considered or some courses are dropped. This generally applies only if you've taken 5 full courses per year, regardless of what is required at the undergrad institution. I believe that many top schools in the States, especially the Ivies, define a full course load as 4 full classes per year (8 half-courses), so unless you exceed that, the weighting formulas won't apply.

    good luck :luck:
     
  15. annabelle.

    annabelle. Member
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    Hey! I have a strong opinion on this! undergrad school DOES NOT MATTER!!! (provided, of course, it is not a community college or something) It is much better to get great grades at a mediocre school than mediocre grades at a great school. The only exception to this is if you can get great grades at a great school, then go for it!
     
  16. akinf

    akinf Senior Member
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    Hey everyone. I remember posting on here about 2 years ago, and now that I'm finished 2nd year, I'll let you know what my opinion is. annabelle has got the right idea. I decided on U of M (manitoba) and I've done pretty well. I'm applying to med. schools this year (a bunch across Canada) and I know that a number of my friends here and away don't even have the GPAs to be competitive. I've busted my ass for the last 2 years and it's payed off. Hopefully so will the next year.
     

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