Pre-Allo FAQ Series: Does it matter what university you graduate from?

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DoctorPardi

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This is another installment of the Pre-Allo FAQ Series of threads. Basically I'll be offering the community a common topic or question and leaving it to you guys to decide on the best answer. Debate and discussion is allowed and welcomed. The goal is to include the community in answering some of the most common questions pre-meds are interested in.

So the topic for this week as the title alludes too is, "Does it matter what university you graduate from?" Basically, discuss the impact you feel coming from Harvard or Duke has on your application versus coming from a public state school.

Some interesting sub topics might be:
1) As a high school senior, is choosing Harvard over State U worth it?
2) Is an Ivy League (or other "top" ) school really that tough? That is, do they deserve to be given more credit?

Please post your thoughts, but keep it clean. Any insults, or inappropriateness will not be tolerated. Thanks for everyone's participation in what surely will be another great discussion :) .
 

Stolenspatulas

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Its a stepping stone.

However if you have to take out 200K in loans to go to a top 10 school then I'd look for a better option (perhaps an honors program at your state school).

I went to an expensive private and I do not regret it. Then again, I had good financial aid so my loans aren't too bad.

At all the top med schools I've interviewed at, most (90%) of my fellow interviewees were from ''big name'' schools (besides my interview at Hopkins where there were people from everywhere).

If you want to get into a top med school (for whatever reasons yada yada yada) then it is definitely to your advantage to go to a top ugrad.
 
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armybound

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I think the schools care. I think the kids with higher scores and higher grades from big-name schools are the ones they go for first.

Aside from that, your school might have minimal impact. The MCAT is standardized, so this might be a situation where MCAT scores mean more than GPA.
 

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I think schools care. I didn't meet any other interviewees from small liberal arts colleges like my school. Everyone it seemed-- particularly at the top 20 schools -- was from either a very large (and great) state school (e.g., UMich, UCLA, etc) or an ivy.

Granted, I was there interviewing with them, so obviously attending a very small school didn't hurt me that much, but I feel as though the opportunities available at bigger/more prestigious universities really make applicants stand out more. Don't get me wrong, I love my school and would go there again, but pre-meds at most LACs might just have to work a little bit harder to get noticed.
 

mtlove

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I think the schools care. I think the kids with higher scores and higher grades from big-name schools are the ones they go for first.

Aside from that, your school might have minimal impact. The MCAT is standardized, so this might be a situation where MCAT scores mean more than GPA.

Why is this? I attended an ivy for a trimester once, and they were the biggest bunch of babies i ever met. All of the students get mad and leave if the teacher lectures the first weeks, while at many other private schools teachers give tests the first week. Many of the ivys allow you to drop a class way late in the trimester. You can fail a mid-term and then drop the class with it not affecting your GPA. This is too is pathetic. I know so many people that would have loved to do this at my school since its common for the majority of the class to fail a midterm if not the entire class and there is no curve. Almost everyone gets A and Bs (former is the most popular) in a ivy class, so the grade inflasion is ridiculous. I do not think I met one person who got a C at the ivy I attended. I am skeptical that medical schools consider this when viewing applications but they should.

For all of those trying to decide between an ivy and some other school with decent academics. I would do the other school. It may not be favored my adcomms, but you will most likely get a better education. I know I did. After seeing what an ivy was like my junior year of college, there was no regret in my mind for electing a non-ivy.

Sorry if I offended all you ivy alumni and current students, but I must state the facts as I see them (you hit a soft spot).
 

mtlove

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I think the schools care.

Why is this? I attended an ivy for a trimester once, and they were the biggest bunch of babies i ever met. All of the students get mad and drop a class if the teacher lectures the first week, while at many other private schools at least teachers give tests the first week. Many of the ivys allow you to drop a class way late in the trimester. You can fail a mid-term and then drop the class with it not affecting your GPA. This is too is pathetic. I know so many people that would have loved to do this at my school since its common for the majority of the class to fail a midterm if not the entire class and there is no curve. Almost everyone gets A and Bs (former is the most popular) in a ivy class, so the grade inflasion is ridiculous. I do not think I met one person who got a C at the ivy I attended. I am skeptical that medical schools consider this when viewing ivy applicants but they should.

For all of those trying to decide between an ivy and some other school with decent academics. I would do the other school. It may not be favored my adcomms, but you will most likely get a better education. I know I did. After seeing what an ivy was like my junior year of college, there was no regret in my mind for electing a non-ivy.
 

Stolenspatulas

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Why is this? I attended an ivy for a trimester once, and they were the biggest bunch of babies i ever met. All of the students get mad and leave if the teacher lectures the first weeks, while at many other private schools teachers give tests the first week. Many of the ivys allow you to drop a class way late in the trimester. You can fail a mid-term and then drop the class with it not affecting your GPA. This is too is pathetic. I know so many people that would have loved to do this at my school since its common for the majority of the class to fail a midterm if not the entire class and there is no curve. Almost everyone gets A and Bs (former is the most popular) in a ivy class, so the grade inflasion is ridiculous. I do not think I met one person who got a C at the ivy I attended. I am skeptical that medical schools consider this when viewing applications but they should.

For all of those trying to decide between an ivy and some other school with decent academics. I would do the other school. It may not be favored my adcomms, but you will most likely get a better education. I know I did. After seeing what an ivy was like my junior year of college, there was no regret in my mind for electing a non-ivy.

Sorry if I offended all you ivy alumni and current students, but I must state the facts as I see them (you hit a soft spot).

I went to a top 10 school and the average grade for science courses was curved to C+/B- . There was grade inflation for non-science courses (usually avg to a B or B+), but not nearly as bad as some other top schools.

I can't really compare education with a big public school since I didn't go to one personally. What I can do is ask a lot of my friends that went to big state schools about how they felt about their education. These friends were kids that were granted admission to top schools but chose to go to the state school (financing held them back, they didnt want to take out loans). Most/nearly all of them have told me that the most difficult education they faced was in high school (granted it was a tough magnet school that fed a lot of powerhouses like MIT, Caltech, etc). Most of them were science/engineering majors. Go figure.

At my ugrad I knew a sizable portion of people that took their premed prereqs over the summer at their state school. Its a little obvious why they did this. The amount of students that begin premed at my ugrad drops by more than 80% from freshman to senior year. In the end, only about 100 students apply out of the graduating class.

I don't mean to offend anyone. This is just from my own experience.
 

Dookter

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Of course it matters where you go for undergrad, but just like for medical school there is no way to know how much it matters or if it is worth it. I went to public schools all the way through college, and now I'm at a top 10 medical school. Go figure. There are definitely advantages to going to a top school. But for someone that actually has what it takes and who is very motivated, getting into a medical school can be accomplished for MUCH less money than it costs to attend an Ivy school. In my opinion, the reason you see mostly kids from top schools at interviews is that these kids have what it takes. It's not that tons of applicants all over the country with rockin' MCAT scores and tons of research are sitting there without any interviews. The best and brightest generally [and this is a HUGE assumption, but it does tend to be true] usually end up at the best undergrad schools....and then they go on to the best medical schools. No surprise.
 
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Dookter

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Most/nearly all of them have told me that the most difficult education they faced was in high school (granted it was a tough magnet school that fed a lot of powerhouses like MIT, Caltech, etc). Most of them were science/engineering majors. Go figure.

At my ugrad I knew a sizable portion of people that took their premed prereqs over the summer at their state school. Its a little obvious why they did this

I can assure you that this is, on average, a load of crap. I could get on here and talk about the slackers in my MCAT review course from schools like WashU, Vandy, and Rice who I thought were total *****. I could say that these schools must suck b/c of it. But we'd both know that isn't the case. I went to a big state school and I'm finding out that 95% of the science courses I took were better taught and actually more challenging than my med school classes....but of course med school has a lot more material, so I still work a lot harder here. As for comparing my college experience to high school, yeah right. High school, even with the AP classes and graduating with a 4.0 and in the top 5 students, was a complete joke compared to college. So for anyone reading that thinks high school is harder than state schools as indicated, I can assure you that this is not the case. And if it is the case, you need to transfer schools NOW b/c there are cheap state schools all over the country that are better than where you're going....
 

Stolenspatulas

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I can assure you that this is, on average, a load of crap. I could get on here and talk about the slackers in my MCAT review course from schools like WashU, Vandy, and Rice who I thought were total *****. I could say that these schools must suck b/c of it. But we'd both know that isn't the case. I went to a big state school and I'm finding out that 95% of the science courses I took were better taught and actually more challenging than my med school classes....but of course med school has a lot more material, so I still work a lot harder here. As for comparing my college experience to high school, yeah right. High school, even with the AP classes and graduating with a 4.0 and in the top 5 students, was a complete joke compared to college. So for anyone reading that thinks high school is harder than state schools as indicated, I can assure you that this is not the case. And if it is the case, you need to transfer schools NOW b/c there are cheap state schools all over the country that are better than where you're going....


whoa. calm down buddy. im just commenting from what my friends told me from high school. i went to a really tough high school where taking APs and graduating 4.0 in your little world would be a cake-walk. oh wait thats not for me to judge since I do not know your experience? hmm.

my intent is not to generalize for all state schools. i am merely given you input from the perspective of my own experience. I do know a lot of friends from my ugrad that took their premed courses (mostly orgo and physics) at their respective state schools because they knew it would be easier. I do know a lot of friends from back in the day that tell me that their college experience was a cake-walk though they took ''hard'' majors at state schools. dont grill me for this. i agree that their are ***** at every school and that there are ranges of experiences everywhere that shouldn't be generalized for the whole. i was merely providing my own input that happened to balance the previous post's absurdity against top schools.

its awesome how you came to slash at me but didnt slash at all at the previous poster that ripped on kids that went to top schools. sweet bias dude.
 

Dookter

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whoa. calm down buddy. im just commenting from what my friends told me from high school. i went to a really tough high school where taking APs and graduating 4.0 in your little world would be a cake-walk. oh wait thats not for me to judge since I do not know your experience? hmm.

my intent is not to generalize for all state schools. i am merely given you input from the perspective of my own experience. I do know a lot of friends from my ugrad that took their premed courses (mostly orgo and physics) at their respective state schools because they knew it would be easier. dont grill me for this.

its awesome how you came to slash at me but didnt slash at all at the previous poster that ripped on kids that went to top schools. sweet bias dude.

I don't rip on people for their opinions on things. I don't really have a side in the top school vs. state school debate. I went to a state school and see the advantages of that [like basically having them roll the red carpet out and pay for everything you could need if you've got the grades/scores], but I also see a definite advantage to attending a top undergrad. You won't see me ripping on people who talk crap about the top schools, and you won't see me ripping on people who talk crap about the state schools. However, I think it is a little misleading to make a statement that implies that high school is easier than going to a state school for undergrad. That's why I said that, on average, that is a load of crap [in a very isolated instance, it MIGHT be true, but 99.999% of the time, it won't be true]. It's not a bias. It's just helping block some of the BS that is spread around on these forums.
 

Stolenspatulas

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I don't rip on people for their opinions on things. I don't really have a side in the top school vs. state school debate. I went to a state school and see the advantages of that [like basically having them roll the red carpet out and pay for everything you could need if you've got the grades/scores], but I also see a definite advantage to attending a top undergrad. You won't see me ripping on people who talk crap about the top schools, and you won't see me ripping on people who talk crap about the state schools. However, I think it is a little misleading to make a statement that implies that high school is easier than going to a state school for undergrad. That's why I said that, on average, that is a load of crap [in a very isolated instance, it MIGHT be true, but 99.999% of the time, it won't be true]. It's not a bias. It's just helping block some of the BS that is spread around on these forums.

again, my point was not to generalize for the education at all state schools.

i also see your point that there was no real purpose for posting what I did than merely to try and balance another absurd post from earlier with input from my own experience. I thought it was pretty obvious that my experience should not be generalized for the whole.

You are right that in this case I would be contributing information that could be misinterpreted for the budding h.s. premed. Lets let this posting get back on track...
 
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I think that it matters some, but please keep in mind that it is significantly less important than your GPA and MCAT score. Obviously if your school is well-known, it will have some impact, if only subjectively. Some schools even go as far as to assign some additional points (in a points-based admissions system) for your undergraduate institution. In my opinion, it's more or less a bonus, however. The rest of your package, especially your MCAT score and GPA, is likely more important.
 

cherrie

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It really depends on the quality of the state school, the quality of the top school, and what you will get out of the experience. There is definitely a perceived notion that it is harder to excel at "top" schools, especially those that are notorious for being difficult. I attend a "top" school where, after four years, you feel fortunate just to be able to graduate, but I really can't say it has helped me that much. My GPA is at the low end of the acceptable range; it is, by far, the weakest part of my application, and I suspect that it was the reason why so many schools ignored my application, despite my school's reputation for difficulty. But do I regret not going to my state school? Absolutely not. The science courses I have had access to here are far superior to the ones I would have found at my state school, and my undergrad peers are strikingly different than the ones I would have had there. I highly doubt that I would be as prepared for medical school as I am had I made a different decision.
 

Dookter

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The science courses I have had access to here are far superior to the ones I would have found at my state school, and my undergrad peers are strikingly different than the ones I would have had there. I highly doubt that I would be as prepared for medical school as I am had I made a different decision.

I think this is a good point. It doesn't reflect on all state schools or all private schools, but it is a good point. If someone knows he/she wants to go to medical school before graduating from high school, it makes a TON of sense to look at the course catalogs for different colleges to see what they offer. My undergrad happened to have basically the whole basic science medical school curriculum [minus histology and since it was offered, but often at weird times and very selectively]. Some schools don't offer that much. It's definitely worth checking into, regardless of whether it's at top private schools or state schools. I would assume [I don't know since I didn't attend one] that top private schools would have more resources to offer more classes. In fact, I remember one of my classmates from a top school talking about a radiology or diagnostic imaging class or something that she took in undergrad that sounded awesome.
 

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I feel that, being from Hawaii, I'm much too removed from it. I believe that it might sway some adcoms, but the majority out there must realize that there are just too many colleges from state to state. This could just be entirely wishful thinking on my part though. ;)
 

Davjc2009

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IMO, your undergrad won't make or break your chances of getting into med school. You still have to gave killer GPA, MCAT, and ECs to get in.

I truely doubt that in any case in retrospect anybody will ever say "If only I had went to Harvard over State U, I would definitely gotten accepted"
 

Davjc2009

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New Subtopic:


TRIPLE THREAT MATCH:
Ivy/Top Undergrad vs. State School vs. Small, Liberal Arts College


My Biased Response: I got to a regionally(read: South) well-known liberal arts college (most people outside the "Bible belt" haven't heard of it, through I'd say it was a peg or two down from Vandy or WashU in academic rigor). It's small, which means cmall class size. I think it really helps for LORs. I pretty much have a conversation with one or two chem prof's daily. They really get to know you. The research is somewhat lackluster, but that usually means that the prof's are there for teaching. It's cheaper than the aforementioned top schools. And it doesn't carry the "stigma" (real or imagined, I won't step into that debate) of an easy state school.

Only dislikes of the liberal arts education:
1) Too many damn degree requirements
2) It's hard to schedule classes (Oh There's only one Molecular Bio Class and it's the same time as one of the Organic Chem classes. Oh wait I'll take the other organic class... oh man that conflicts with my fine art credit...Gah Damn Liberal Arts Education)
3) You have to see the same gunners two sometimes even three times a day...every day... every year...:thumbdown: :thumbdown: :thumbdown:
 

mtlove

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New Subtopic:


TRIPLE THREAT MATCH:
Ivy/Top Undergrad vs. State School vs. Small, Liberal Arts College


My Biased Response: I got to a regionally(read: South) well-known liberal arts college (most people outside the "Bible belt" haven't heard of it, through I'd say it was a peg or two down from Vandy or WashU in academic rigor). It's small, which means cmall class size. I think it really helps for LORs. I pretty much have a conversation with one or two chem prof's daily. They really get to know you. The research is somewhat lackluster, but that usually means that the prof's are there for teaching. It's cheaper than the aforementioned top schools. And it doesn't carry the "stigma" (real or imagined, I won't step into that debate) of an easy state school.

Only dislikes of the liberal arts education:
1) Too many damn degree requirements
2) It's hard to schedule classes (Oh There's only one Molecular Bio Class and it's the same time as one of the Organic Chem classes. Oh wait I'll take the other organic class... oh man that conflicts with my fine art credit...Gah Damn Liberal Arts Education)
3) You have to see the same gunners two sometimes even three times a day...every day... every year...:thumbdown: :thumbdown: :thumbdown:

I would agree with you about almost all the pros and cons of a small liberal arts school. I would like to mention that you can get around the lack of undergraduate research at some of these schools. My school had undergraduate research that I will probably get some pubs from a few years down the line, but it was difficult for them to get grants and they are not well known. I did not hurt me or my classmates much as many students, including myself, were able to get good research fellowships from my work. We also had independent projects, which from my experience with state schools and ivys is difficult to find. Additionally, the school was located near a university with great research and the city had lots of options to pursue industry. People in the community loved to hire undergrads from the small school, so it was easy to find good research projects with famous researchers.
 

DoctorPardi

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New Subtopic:


TRIPLE THREAT MATCH:
Ivy/Top Undergrad vs. State School vs. Small, Liberal Arts College


My Biased Response: I got to a regionally(read: South) well-known liberal arts college (most people outside the "Bible belt" haven't heard of it, through I'd say it was a peg or two down from Vandy or WashU in academic rigor). It's small, which means cmall class size. I think it really helps for LORs. I pretty much have a conversation with one or two chem prof's daily. They really get to know you. The research is somewhat lackluster, but that usually means that the prof's are there for teaching. It's cheaper than the aforementioned top schools. And it doesn't carry the "stigma" (real or imagined, I won't step into that debate) of an easy state school.

Only dislikes of the liberal arts education:
1) Too many damn degree requirements
2) It's hard to schedule classes (Oh There's only one Molecular Bio Class and it's the same time as one of the Organic Chem classes. Oh wait I'll take the other organic class... oh man that conflicts with my fine art credit...Gah Damn Liberal Arts Education)
3) You have to see the same gunners two sometimes even three times a day...every day... every year...:thumbdown: :thumbdown: :thumbdown:

I also attend a small liberal arts college in the south. I personally love it, the professors are so friendly, caring and really want to help you learn. There are a lot of little things that are great about a small liberal arts school. My school offers a free MCAT prep course taught by the professors (which they aren't getting paid to do). That's just one thing, but there are a number of examples where my professors go way above and beyond to help us.

The cons are as mentioned above, you basically have class with the same 30-40 people in every class. Also my school only offers one organic chemistry class a semester, one mole cell, one physics etc. So you can be limited in that regard.

I think personally a liberal arts education is the best thing that could have happened to me. If I had gone to a big school, gotten lost in the crowd etc maybe I wouldn't even be in a position to be a doctor. Although, there is still the concern that my school's lack of name recognition may hurt me in the application process. All together though, I am very satisfied with how things have turned out.

Also great responses so far guys. I think this topic can be covered with a little more depth than the first one, and so I'm going to keep it open a few days more probably.
 

MahlerROCKS

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I attend a top 15 US News LAC, and although I have yet to apply to schools, my interactions with researchers at conferences have been very positive. The top LACs generally do have substantial research opportunities, along with excellent facilities funded by their endowments. I chose my college over other universities with comparable academics, and I would make the same choice again. One last thing, everyone from my school who applied to med school last year was accepted somewhere, with the vast majority being at top 20 programs.
 
E

Eric Lindros

It's all about opportunities in my opinion. Larger state schools typically have larger everything, including opportunities. Go to a school where you have 500 different majors and minors to chose from. Go to a school that has countless clubs and organizations, sports teams, school spirit. You would be suprised how not "lost in the crowd" you feel at a big school with tons of pride and spirit and opportunities. I realize, however, that some people just enjoy smaller settings and to each his own.

Also, a common myth about large schools is that you don't get to know your professors. Farthest thing from the truth. Case in point: I went to a very, very large university and my strongest part of my application, according to my interviewers, were my letter of recs. 4/5 were from my profs.
 
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Davjc2009

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I would agree with you about almost all the pros and cons of a small liberal arts school. I would like to mention that you can get around the lack of undergraduate research at some of these schools. My school had undergraduate research that I will probably get some pubs from a few years down the line, but it was difficult for them to get grants and they are not well known. I did not hurt me or my classmates much as many students, including myself, were able to get good research fellowships from my work. We also had independent projects, which from my experience with state schools and ivys is difficult to find. Additionally, the school was located near a university with great research and the city had lots of options to pursue industry. People in the community loved to hire undergrads from the small school, so it was easy to find good research projects with famous researchers.

Yeah, they have a few research connections between the med school and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which is probably more well known nationally than my little school. I'm actually getting to do some work at St. Jude this summer; it sure beats the hell out of working in the food industry again. :luck:

Good planning has helped me get around the scheduling conflicts. I would agree with you, DoctorPardi, it's probably the best fit for me. And it was one of my "safety" schools as well. :laugh:
 

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I went to a small liberal arts college, and I couldn't be happier with how my school has helped me during this application process. All of my profs really knew me, so my letters of recommendation were very personal. Since I wasn't competing with grad students or post-docs for attention in my thesis lab, I was able to work very independently on my project, and all of my interviewers have asked about this. My pre-med advising office is very attentive since so few students apply to med school every year, and my advisor read most of my secondary essays and gave me tons of feedback. And now that I've heard from most schools, she's putting me in touch with alumni at the various schools I'm considering. At my first few interviews I was intimidated by the Ivy contingent, but now I know that my undergrad helps me to stand out. I would definitely recommend that high school seniors contemplating becoming pre-med consider going to a small school.
 
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E

Eric Lindros

I went to a small liberal arts college, and I couldn't be happier with how my school has helped me during this application process. All of my profs really knew me, so my letters of recommendation were very personal. Since I wasn't competing with grad students or post-docs for attention in my thesis lab, I was able to work very independently on my project, and all of my interviewers have asked about this. My pre-med advising office is very attentive since so few students apply to med school every year, and my advisor read most of my secondary essays and gave me tons of feedback. And now that I've heard from most schools, she's putting me in touch with alumni at the various schools I'm considering. At my first few interviews I was intimidated by the Ivy contingent, but now I know that my undergrad helps me to stand out. I would definitely recommend that high school seniors contemplating becoming pre-med consider going to a small school.

Completely disagree with this advice. In fact, I think it's pretty terrible advice. Now as a disclamer, if you really feel strongly that you will be intimidated based on the large size of a school then going to a small school is fine.

Ok, here's why I don't like your advice

1) It's a common misconception that you don't know your professors at large schools. I went to one of the largest schools in the country and I knew all of my recommender's on a very personal level and they all wrote me very very strong LORs (or so that adcoms told me)

2) Your statement about the alumni connection is quite contradictory. Smaller schools have SIGNIFICANTLY less alumni connection potential than larger school because, well, larger schools produce more alumni. Therefore, advantage large school.

3) As I said before, larger universities inherently have much more in terms of opportunity: labs, majors/minors, classes, clubs, organizations, events, etc. Another advantage of a large school.

4) Many small schools do not have a pre-med letter writing committee. This is a HUGE pain in the ass. Advantage larger schools.

Now with that said, some people feel strongly about smaller schools because of the size intimidation. If that's the case, then by all means you should be at a small school. But to advise pre-meds to go to small schools because it will give you some sort of edge is just silly if you ask me.
 

brbsb

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I've attended two colleges. One was a liberal college that was highly ranked in US News. I transferred from there to a state school because I hated it. I can say without a doubt that I am getting a MUCH better education at the state school. It's not well-known or anything like UMich or UCLA...it's not even the biggest or best-known state school in my state. However, here I can take 7 classes in one semester if I want to. I have so many more research and involvement oppotunities. At the LAC I attended, you weren't allowed to take more than 4 classes a semester, there were very, very few research opportunities, and tons more opportunities to get clinical experience. Transferring has been the best decision of my life, even if the lack of prestige may make it a little more difficult to get into some med schools.
 

MonkeyNuts!

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Differs from medical school to medical school. I have heard from advisors that some schools even factor in something into their basic equations for difficulty of program/undergrad college, if an objective evaluation of said program/undergrad college exists. Some schools couldn't care less.

In my experience, my undergrad college was important in my interviews. A good number of my interviewers were really impressed with JHU, and some even knew of the BME program there and were happy I even survived it. One interviewer had my transcripts and saw all my C's, but he knew of JHU BME and told me that I'd be academically strong at their medical school. So it may make a difference, even if it is just a little bit, in places of your app that you wouldn't expect (like the interview for me).
 

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yes, clearly small schools aren't for everyone. all i'm saying is that coming from a small school will not hurt you in the application process. i have had an extremely successful application cycle and i think i owe a lot of that to the strength of my undergraduate education and the opportunities that were uniquely available in a small liberal arts college. but i think that if you do well wherever you go, you can get into med school.
 

mtlove

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Completely disagree with this advice. In fact, I think it's pretty terrible advice. Now as a disclamer, if you really feel strongly that you will be intimidated based on the large size of a school then going to a small school is fine.

Ok, here's why I don't like your advice

1) It's a common misconception that you don't know your professors at large schools. I went to one of the largest schools in the country and I knew all of my recommender's on a very personal level and they all wrote me very very strong LORs (or so that adcoms told me)

2) Your statement about the alumni connection is quite contradictory. Smaller schools have SIGNIFICANTLY less alumni connection potential than larger school because, well, larger schools produce more alumni. Therefore, advantage large school.

3) As I said before, larger universities inherently have much more in terms of opportunity: labs, majors/minors, classes, clubs, organizations, events, etc. Another advantage of a large school.

4) Many small schools do not have a pre-med letter writing committee. This is a HUGE pain in the ass. Advantage larger schools.

Now with that said, some people feel strongly about smaller schools because of the size intimidation. If that's the case, then by all means you should be at a small school. But to advise pre-meds to go to small schools because it will give you some sort of edge is just silly if you ask me.

Size intimidation is NOT the only reason to attend a small school. Most of your arguments are not completely valid. I went to a small liberal arts college (not well-known nationally) in a city with a UMich equivalent public school and an equally well-known large private school. In terms of research, most of the PIs at the public institution and the numerous industrial companies in the area would take in undergrads from my small school over those from the other academically well-known, large schools.

I am also very familiar with an ivy undergraduate research program. It consisted of cleaning dishes for all the grad students in the lab or shadowing a grad student as they did research. On the rare occasion, after years of doing what is listed above, they may get to take on an actual project. Unfortunately, this is rare. At my small institution, you are the graduate students as there are no real graduate students around. Thus you acquire experience of doing independent research as early as Freshman year (there was no dish washing). When I was at the ivy, I was even fighting with a post doc over whether or not I was a undergrad or a graduate student, since undergrads there do not get their own research project and are not viewed as competent to do it on their own. This is also why all the PIs near my school would recruit my peers over the students in their own institution for research opportunities.

I would argue that faculty do know you better at a small institution typically than a larger one. At the ivy I am familiar with, the students knew the TAs fairly well, but not the faculty members. I am sure when you are upper classman the classes are small enough to get to know some of your profs, but probably not as well as at a smaller school. At a small school you get to know your profs well enough your freshman year, so that they can write letters for you then. After three more years with them, they know you incredibly well. Most know you well enough to write a two page or more thoughtful, personalized letter to admin. committees. You also get to know other faculty in which you did not take class, do research with, etc. I have one such example that can write my an excellent character rec.

Major and minor opportunities are lacking as you said, but its not something that really hurts you in my opinion. Its not like you can major in all 80+ some large schools offer. I do not know if this is a general trend, but my school had an option to make your own major. I know a few people who wanted to do neuroscience, so they did this option. We have most of the existing classes and you can take others as directed studies or at the neighboring university.

Since this is so long I will end it with a note that some small schools can have lots of activities and events. We had multiple choices every day for a big event/club activity. At least once a month, I would have three I needed to be at simultaneously. The large ivy I went to had few opportunities activities and the clubs were pretty much inactive. Granted this is not always the case, but I have heard this from friends at their large universities too.
 
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Size intimidation is NOT the only reason to attend a small school. Most of your arguments are not completely valid. I went to a small liberal arts college (not well-known nationally) in a city with a UMich equivalent public school and an equally well-known large private school. In terms of research, most of the PIs at the public institution and the numerous industrial companies in the area would take in undergrads from my small school over those from the other academically well-known, large schools.

I am also very familiar with an ivy undergraduate research program. It consisted of cleaning dishes for all the grad students in the lab or shadowing a grad student as they did research. On the rare occasion, after years of doing what is listed above, they may get to take on an actual project. Unfortunately, this is rare. At my small institution, you are the graduate students as there are no real graduate students around. Thus you acquire experience of doing independent research as early as Freshman year (there was no dish washing). When I was at the ivy, I was even fighting with a post doc over whether or not I was a undergrad or a graduate student, since undergrads there do not get their own research project and are not viewed as competent to do it on their own. This is also why all the PIs near my school would recruit my peers over the students in their own institution for research opportunities.

I would argue that faculty do know you better at a small institution typically than a larger one. At the ivy I am familiar with, the students knew the TAs fairly well, but not the faculty members. I am sure when you are upper classman the classes are small enough to get to know some of your profs, but probably not as well as at a smaller school. At a small school you get to know your profs well enough your freshman year, so that they can write letters for you then. After three more years with them, they know you incredibly well. Most know you well enough to write a two page or more thoughtful, personalized letter to admin. committees. You also get to know other faculty in which you did not take class, do research with, etc. I have one such example that can write my an excellent character rec.

Major and minor opportunities are lacking as you said, but its not something that really hurts you in my opinion. Its not like you can major in all 80+ some large schools offer. I do not know if this is a general trend, but my school had an option to make your own major. I know a few people who wanted to do neuroscience, so they did this option. We have most of the existing classes and you can take others as directed studies or at the neighboring university.

Since this is so long I will end it with a note that some small schools can have lots of activities and events. We had multiple choices every day for a big event/club activity. At least once a month, I would have three I needed to be at simultaneously. The large ivy I went to had few opportunities activities and the clubs were pretty much inactive. Granted this is not always the case, but I have heard this from friends at their large universities too.

A lot of your arguments are based on the fact that your small school has these opportunities. Hey, that's great and more power to you. What I'm trying to say is, this is generally not the norm. On average, smaller schools have less research opportunities, less opportunities in general than larger schools. It's part of being a small school. Sure, you can get heavily involved in the research, but how much significant research is really going on at most small schools? Most people will agree it's not much.

I get a little frustrated about the "you are closer to this and closer to that" deal with small schools because I don't think it holds any truth. Sure, you can't get close to EVERYTHING and EVERY professor at a large school because it's literally impossible to. But I would contend that anyone who really wants to know his or her professor has just an much of an opportunity at Big U vs Little U. I don't know anyone at my ugrad who didn't feel the same way.

Also, not every class at big schools is 800 student lecture halls. That generally happens for a few gen eds, but the majority of my classes were 20-50 and probably no different than a small school, the only difference being there are tons of sections and profs available per class, leading to more profs and class times to chose from....another huge plus in my experience.
 

toffinoodle

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i think med. schools care, but i am not exactly sure why. I go to a private school that is not well known because it is small, but i get a lot of one on one attention and know all of the people in my major. For me being in this type of environment is giving me a much better education than i would get in a larger, well known school with large lecture halls.

I think the point of the MCAT is to act as an equilizer between schools. If someone like me has an equivalnet MCAT score, volunteer hours, etc., as someone at, say Harvard, why would a medical school penalize a student for choosing a type of learning environment that works best for them?
 

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Some pro's and con's from my liberal arts experience, as it pertains to being pre-med:

Pro: Small teacher to student ratio, no TA-taught classes and flexible faculty office hours, legitimate independent research opportunities (I started junior year, but others have played significant roles in their lab group since freshmen year), friendly premed committees (I feel like most schools over 1,500 students have them), more opportunities for student leadership

Con: Like a previous poster said, you can only take 4 classes, 5 with a dean's permission; you don't get credit for labs (real pain considering some require 12+ hours of work); you have to go up to bigger institutions for research requiring X-ray crystallography or ultracentrifugation; majority of science classes tend not to curve; fewer class offerings lead to more schedule conflicts

I have a feeling this conversation is going to end up like the MCAT vs. GPA thread, in which each case has to be judged individually, and its really about how you make the most of your situation. However, I can only talk through personal experience, and I have yet to go through the application process. If there are adcoms out there that respect certain programs over others (as the case with JHU), I'd love to hear about them.
 
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aedelste

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Completely disagree with this advice. In fact, I think it's pretty terrible advice. Now as a disclamer, if you really feel strongly that you will be intimidated based on the large size of a school then going to a small school is fine.

Ok, here's why I don't like your advice

1) It's a common misconception that you don't know your professors at large schools. I went to one of the largest schools in the country and I knew all of my recommender's on a very personal level and they all wrote me very very strong LORs (or so that adcoms told me)

2) Your statement about the alumni connection is quite contradictory. Smaller schools have SIGNIFICANTLY less alumni connection potential than larger school because, well, larger schools produce more alumni. Therefore, advantage large school.

3) As I said before, larger universities inherently have much more in terms of opportunity: labs, majors/minors, classes, clubs, organizations, events, etc. Another advantage of a large school.

4) Many small schools do not have a pre-med letter writing committee. This is a HUGE pain in the ass. Advantage larger schools.

Now with that said, some people feel strongly about smaller schools because of the size intimidation. If that's the case, then by all means you should be at a small school. But to advise pre-meds to go to small schools because it will give you some sort of edge is just silly if you ask me.

Sorry I didn't address this in the previous post. While the connections and opportunities might be quantitatively smaller in small liberal arts schools, they still have the potential for high quality. For example, at my school clubs and organisations heavily rely on student leadership and there's a noticable absence of bureaucracy (and that ends up promoting individual initiative). I've had sit downs with our president regarding an EC project, and I am on a first name basis with several deans. For these reasons, our alumni are VERY close to the college, since there's such a personal connection between them and the administration they're leaving behind. I'm not saying that this doesn't exist at larger universities, but the argument should be centered on quality, not quantity.
 

Dr.Watson

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I am also very familiar with an ivy undergraduate research program. It consisted of cleaning dishes for all the grad students in the lab or shadowing a grad student as they did research. On the rare occasion, after years of doing what is listed above, they may get to take on an actual project. Unfortunately, this is rare. At my small institution, you are the graduate students as there are no real graduate students around. Thus you acquire experience of doing independent research as early as Freshman year (there was no dish washing). When I was at the ivy, I was even fighting with a post doc over whether or not I was a undergrad or a graduate student, since undergrads there do not get their own research project and are not viewed as competent to do it on their own. This is also why all the PIs near my school would recruit my peers over the students in their own institution for research opportunities.

I don't know what Ivy you're talking about, but that is not the norm - at all. I've never done dishwashing, even in high school when I was in a lab (maybe it depends on the mentor you chose?). At an Ivy, I was able to carry out my own experiments with some post-doc oversight as early as my freshman year and even got a publication out of it. Every lab I've been in (and it's a few) allowed me independence and my own projects when I asked for it. Most undergrads working in labs that I know of are bio majors who eventually do their own independent senior thesis research, which usually are of a publishable quality (albeit usually only part of a larger paper).

Anyway, to return to the topic at hand. Ivies are AWESOME for opportunities if you look for them (post grad jobs, research labs, clinical experience, rubbing elbows with Nobel winners). I owe a lot of my jobs and amazing summer experiences to professors that I had and people that I met.

However, Ivies can be tough with curving (ignore the grade inflation rumors - it's not in the sciences) and if you pick a hard major, really hurt your GPA. This lower GPA can and will get you screened out of a lot of places. But if you have a good MCAT, some adcoms will read you app and give you an interview invite. Predicting who will and won't is a crapshoot and completely independent of US News ranking. I know a lot of people with both top 10 interviews and top 30 rejections. Most people I know were really happy where they ended up. That being said, our average GPA for those getting into med school is about .2 lower than the national average; our MCAT is about 3 points higher. Take from this what you will.

My gist is some adcoms will forgive a lower GPA if you're coming from a difficult school and you have the MCAT to show that you know your stuff. Some won't and you will be screened out before anyone reads your application. The opportunities at these schools are amazing and I believe that it's worth it to go.
 

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That being said, our average GPA for those getting into med school is about .2 lower than the national average; our MCAT is about 3 points higher. Take from this what you will.

Our MCATs are lower (by a few points) and GPA is lower than the national average for matriculants...yet still 95% success rate in getting in... i guess it shows we got some good experiences in our corner and some strong LORs
 

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I think that we can all agree upon the fact that if you attend a big name school, mainly those being Ivies and a few other well known state schools, the name brand will give you an advantage. The advantage comes from people mostly giving you the benefit of the doubt. This is crucial in the business world. In medicine, it still plays a role, but a strong MCAT score and a strong GPA will speak much louder than your university's name.

That being said, I think that high school seniors should go to a school that will make them happy. Being miserable in college because you hate the place will absolutely ruin it for you (and ruin your grades while you're at it). I believe that if a person is going be successful in life, they will be successful regardless of whether they went to Harvard or not. I attend a top school, but turned down several higher ranked schools because I would be happier where I am now. Ulitmately picking a school that fits will pay off more than picking one because your neighbors have heard of it.
 

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The amount of students that begin premed at my ugrad drops by more than 80% from freshman to senior year. In the end, only about 100 students apply out of the graduating class.

I'm pretty sure that's the way it works everywhere. I mean if you go to any frosh orientation and ask 10 kids "what do you want to do," at least 5 of them will tell you "A DOCTOR!!" (the others are split btwn lawyer and i-banker) Yet for some reason come senior year there are a lot less of those.
 

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"Does it matter what university you graduate from?"

God I hope not.

I think that of course reputation is going to play a small (read: miniscule) part to your application. But your application is so much more than where you went to school. Plus, education is all about what the student takes away from it. Whether you take Organic Chemistry at Podunk University or Harvard, you are going to be using the same textbooks, etc. It all boils down to what you take away from your undergraduate education and what types of experiences you can get from the school you attend.
 

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I think the grade inflation point made above is significant...

I was at Stanford before going to Cal (where I ended up graduating). I had a 4.0 at Stanford and did not work nearly as hard as I did for a 3.3 or 3.4 at Cal. The big state schools (particularly the ones fighting the ivy leaguers for reputation, UVA, Cal, UM, UCLA, etc.) can be ridiculously cutthroat for a pre-med.


Given that caveat, I wouldn't have changed my decision for the world. My experience at Cal was invaluable. Further, I think I ended up being better prepared having gone through the gauntlet at Cal than I would have been after skating through Stanford.
 

SunshineNYC

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I attended a top 25 private institution, (BIG NAME in the medical community) for my undergraduate education. I found the pre-med curriculum there to be miserable (mostly because of the intense, cut-throat competition amongst my fellow students) and so I decided to not pursue it past my sophomore year and majored in something other than science. After graduating, I worked in a hospital for a year which made me want to go back to school as a post-bac and finish all of the pre-med requirements. So, I attended a major, top, state school (well known for its science curriculum) where I took most of the pre-med courses and made straight A's. The coursework was challenging, but it was much more straight-forward and the classes were more organized than at the private institution. I then finished up one more semester of pre-med coursework at another top, big name, competitive private university and I HATED it. I found the science department (which is considered good for some reason) to be completely disorganized and the faculty and facilities were terrible. Everyone going through the program seemed to think that was a good sign, that the obstacles to learning were a testament to their ability to stick through the tough program and to then come out the other end a success. I don't view my pre-med education this way. I don't feel that you need to suffer more to learn more, if anything, I found that the suffering hindered the learning process and instead of everyone actually learning something, everyone just failed every test and then whoever failed less than the others would get an A in the class. Though, that pattern of everyone failing and then the grades being curved held true for both the private and public universities, I really feel that I learned more at the public university. Since my undergraduate institution was a big name private school, I have found their pre-health advisors to be great. So maybe in that sense it helps. Who knows? I do think it helps to go to a big name school, whether it is private or public.
 

OCPreMed

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That it does matter. At my interview at UCLA, my interviewer told me it did, and it was a big deal to some committee members and not that much to others. All in all, it does matter. BIG name schools want kids from other big name schools. Thus, kids from somewhere else have to be that much better; sad but true.
 

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I live in Georgia and have always gotten the impression that Emory is the smarty-pants school and that UGA is the party school. I am wondering how much of a benefit it would be to go to Emory rather than UGA. At first, I thought that there was no competition, but every doctor, dentist, and vet I have met has gone to UGA. Some docs tell me that it's just where I live- but I am closer to Emory. I am only concerned with tuition cost and getting into med school. Everyone in GA loves UGA and people are loyal to the school, while Emory is percieved to have a snotty attitude. Honestly how much of an advantage would going to Emory give me? Does Emory give preference to it's undergrad students when they apply to Emory med or make their standards more difficult on them? I know that UGA does that with their law schools and am just wondering if med school works the same. If I go to UGA I can live comfortably, if I go to Emory I will starve and have to take out loans- I am willing to do whatever it takes to get me into med school though even if I am miserable.
 

DenimDanCO

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CON: I got my a$$ kicked in pre-med/science classes. I'm pretty sure I would have a significantly higher GPA at another, less cutthroat school. There may have been grade inflation in other areas of study, but definitely NOT in pre-med or science classes. I think I would have had more interviews with a higher GPA from a less competitive school.

PRO: I got my a$$ kicked. I am now aware of the reality that just because you work hard doesn't mean you "deserve" a good grade. I had considered myself to be a mature student, but after this experience I feel better prepared to handle all the non-obvious struggles that come with a difficult educational and career path. I've gotten to speak to this point at my interviews and I think they went very well because I am confident that I do "know what I'm getting into" after my undergrad experience.

OVERALL: Though it's hard to admit or understand from the outside looking in, I really believe how you do in medical school will be more important than which school you attend. With a higher GPA from a less competitive undergrad program, I might have gotten into a "better" medical school but my ivy experience is what will help me to succeed in medical school.
 

Dookter

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I live in Georgia and have always gotten the impression that Emory is the smarty-pants school and that UGA is the party school. I am wondering how much of a benefit it would be to go to Emory rather than UGA. At first, I thought that there was no competition, but every doctor, dentist, and vet I have met has gone to UGA. Some docs tell me that it's just where I live- but I am closer to Emory. I am only concerned with tuition cost and getting into med school. Everyone in GA loves UGA and people are loyal to the school, while Emory is percieved to have a snotty attitude. Honestly how much of an advantage would going to Emory give me? Does Emory give preference to it's undergrad students when they apply to Emory med or make their standards more difficult on them? I know that UGA does that with their law schools and am just wondering if med school works the same. If I go to UGA I can live comfortably, if I go to Emory I will starve and have to take out loans- I am willing to do whatever it takes to get me into med school though even if I am miserable.

Go to UGA. There are two kids in my class from UGA, and one from Emory. Obviously this is not a useful statistic other than to show that the UGA kids aren't hurting...
 

Dookter

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CON: I got my a$$ kicked in pre-med/science classes. I'm pretty sure I would have a significantly higher GPA at another, less cutthroat school. There may have been grade inflation in other areas of study, but definitely NOT in pre-med or science classes. I think I would have had more interviews with a higher GPA from a less competitive school.

PRO: I got my a$$ kicked. I am now aware of the reality that just because you work hard doesn't mean you "deserve" a good grade. I had considered myself to be a mature student, but after this experience I feel better prepared to handle all the non-obvious struggles that come with a difficult educational and career path. I've gotten to speak to this point at my interviews and I think they went very well because I am confident that I do "know what I'm getting into" after my undergrad experience.

OVERALL: Though it's hard to admit or understand from the outside looking in, I really believe how you do in medical school will be more important than which school you attend. With a higher GPA from a less competitive undergrad program, I might have gotten into a "better" medical school but my ivy experience is what will help me to succeed in medical school.

It's funny you say that b/c I have noticed absolutely no correlation between undergrad school and success in my own medical school class.....
 

HumbleMD

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These threads always make me feel self-conscious. I went to UMich in state and I hate having people tell me I should feel bad about settling on an inferior state-school education. It seemed like I had some good opportunities and that it turned out pretty okay.

Similar to others, I am afraid of the culture shock of attending a private med school.
 

nubbey24

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I think one of the main problems with this thread is the over generalizations and sweeping claims people are making based on N=1. It is probably true that some of the state schools are really easy, while others are really difficult. It is probably also true that some Ivy's and/or prestigous Universities have grade inflation problems and are also overly easy.

The key thing for people to realize when they go to another University to take a class during the summer time is that their experience is with only a single faculty member or two. I think we have all had experiences with classes that were made a whole lot easier or harder depending solely on the Professor that you have. The individual Professor in my experience is what makes or breaks the difficulty of a course...not the University.

This all being said...regardless of what people who spend $30,000 or $5,000 a year for tuition need to realize is:

1. People from all types of schools get into med school. Your ability to succeed is dependent on your own perserverence.

2. Organic Chemistry is the same material regardless of where you take it. Being at a state institution vs. a private one does not change the mechanisms or the chemical structure.

My advice to anyone who cares is to attend a place where you would be successfull and happy. In the end, if you do that you can and will get into medical school.

Nubs
 
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