Mizzou vs. Penn State

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Jan 13, 2021
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I am still awaiting financial aid offers (which may greatly influence the situation) from both schools, but have narrowed down to 2 schools and would love any input in helping me choose the best fit for me as this is a huge decision.

A little about me: I a non-trad with a family, so my husband and young children will be moving with me. He works from home, so the job market for him is not an issue. I am originally from the Midwest, currently live in the Midwest, and the vast majority of my family is in the area. I have lived on the West Coast before which was a very life changing but difficult experience due to being so far away from family.

When I applied to schools and interviewed, Mizzou (University of Missouri Columbia) was initially where I pictured myself and continue to picture myself. I was very impressed by the flexibility of the program and felt it would be a great fit for someone with a family. However, I can’t get over the feel I got from Penn State and how well the school’s mission and vision aligned with my own professional goals. So, without further ado, here are the schools:

Mizzou - University of Missouri Columbia (Tuition $198,392 without scholarship, if qualifies for in-state after first year)


P/F Preclinical, non-mandatory lectures, no internal rankings

Tests only 4 weeks/year

Great overall schedule (8 weeks material, 1 week tests, 1 week off)

Schedule matches up well with local school districts (time off would coordinate with my children)

Close to family (could drive home for family events, special occasions on weekends if needed)

Better housing market (looking to buy and lots of available houses in budget)

Housing set up in traditional neighborhoods (what my family is used to after living in the Midwest)

Lower cost of living

Much easier move (could easily move on a weekend)

Could qualify for in-state tuition after first year

Tend to accept more non-traditional students (per Facebook group, several other parents admitted)

Good recent match history in specialty areas I’m interested in

Later start date – more time to sell house, buy house, move, and get established

MedZou free/student-run clinic volunteer opportunity

Students seemed very happy


In Missouri (not a huge fan of the state in general)

Possibility of having to move to Joplin for clinical years – they use a lottery system (although may be able to get exception based on kids enrolled in school)

Global health program that is currently established is not in areas I’m especially interested in

Would have to work over M1 summer to qualify for in-state status (research opportunities available)

Slightly awkward feel to interview (but could be that it was my first interview of the cycle)

Penn State – Hershey, PA (Tuition $209,448 without scholarship)


P/F Preclinical, no internal rankings

More exciting – located in a part of the country I’ve never been to

Lots to do on the weekends and breaks (and lots of history nearby) – Philadelphia, DC, NYC all a relatively short drive

Hiking – my family and I love to hike and Appalachian trail is only 30 minutes away

School’s mission/vision lined up perfectly with my professional goals

Great Global health program

Strong focus on advocacy, advancing healthcare for all

Overall feel – got amazing vibes from everyone that was part of interview day, felt immediately comfortable and like I was meant to be there (to the point where it really surprised me)

Research is integrated into the program

Excellent recent match history – 2022 had 99% match rate

Students seemed happy


Higher cost of living

Worse housing market (in the time I’ve been monitoring, very few if any houses within my budget)

Farther from family (realistically would see family such as parents, siblings, grandparents 1-2x/year max)

Housing seems to be set up very differently than what I am used to and what I prefer (more rural, standalone vs. neighborhood – confirmed this with a friend who’s from the area)

Harder move (would most likely take several days to get out there)

Earlier start date (less time to sell house, buy house, figure out childcare, etc)

Schedule does not match up well with desired local school district for kids (time off wouldn’t always coordinate)

Compared to Mizzou, schedule seems very test heavy and more daunting (less breaks)

Quite rural - less to do in the immediate area and less amenities (would have to drive 20 minutes to the nearest Target)

Definitely fewer non-traditional students/students with families

I’m trying to figure out which program will make me the most successful in my current situation. If I did not have children or a family, I feel like I honestly would choose Penn State because of the feel and for how well it matched up with my professional goals. I would also appreciate exploring a different part of the country. However, as it stands, I have a husband and three kids I also need to consider. I feel like Mizzou would definitely set us up better financially, make the transition less difficult, and provide more flexibility with my life as a parent. So essentially, I feel like it comes down to head – aka: finances, schedule, comfort, and flexibility vs. heart – aka: mission, vision, opportunities, and feel. Thoughts?


5+ Year Member
Apr 10, 2017
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Disclaimer: I'm on PSU WL

Possibility of having to move to Joplin for clinical years – they use a lottery system (although may be able to get exception based on kids enrolled in school)
I would reach out to Mizzou and ask this. If you can get in writing that you'd get priority in the lottery, that would be helpful.

I'd go Mizzou for the cheaper COL, having family close by (especially since you have children), and the reduced stress of moving/housing situation. Can tell your heart is with PSU but objectively, Mizzou is the better choice here.


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2+ Year Member
Mar 3, 2021
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I think given your family, Missouri would allow for a lot less headaches. Do make sure that changing residency is something that can happen and isn’t a difficult process. It might be that it only occurs under rare circumstances. I feel that it would be hard to make more than a few trips from Penn State to NYC. And from Missouri, you could make similar trips to Kansas City and St Louis
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Mar 29, 2022
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For what it's worth, only the first year at Mizzou is P/F. The second year is H/P/F.


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Oct 23, 2017
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Having a child enrolled in school (kindergarten or later I believe) in Columbia is one of the few exemptions to the lottery at Mizzou, so you'll be fine there FWIW. Feel free to message if you have any questions about Mizzou, I'm an M1 here