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Preoccupied with top 10 schools...

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jaromic

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I am fortunate enough to have been accepted to a few excellent schools but I am still trying to get a handle on how important the "rank" of the school will be in terms of my future residency propsects.

I have discussed this with many people in the know and their opinion has widely been that one can receive an excellent medical education pretty much anywhere and that 3/4 year grades and standardized board scores will determine how competitive I am for residencies. They also echo the sentiment that the U.S. News rankings are based primarily on research endowments which do not necessarily translate to the quality of their medical education.

That said, they all admit that going to a big name school carries with it a lot of weight with residency directors. Does anyone have any insight as to how important this is?

Thank you in advance.
 
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nonesuchgirl

General consensus is that name doesn't matter if you suck and that Step 1 is more important. Everyone's learning the same stuff.
 

patzan

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I am a 4th year student now interviewing for residency. My experience has been that the school I go to has played a large role in getting the interviews that I have. Residency directors frequently make a comment like, "you've got a good Step 1 score, you come from a great school, and you'll get into a great program."

When you interview at places, and now that you are all trying to pick a place to go, don't underestimate how far a name will take you. That said, only go somewhere you think you will be happy, but realize that there may be more than one of those. Be sure to get a look at a school's match list and see where their students match. You will find that great schools send their students to other great residency programs more frequently than by chance or board scores.
 

lord_jeebus

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My impression is that name matters most if you suck. I also think some "top 10 schools" have much bigger names than others, and many of those names will not give you a significant advantage outside of its region of the country. I'd rather be the 210 from Harvard than a 250 from the University of (insert no name state here), but would not say the same if it were WashU or Michigan vs. no-name school.

I know that my home program in my specialty of choice assigns tiers to each school (I don't know how) and this has a rather significant impact on ranking.

I do think that who you know matters more than the name of your school, but the latter often leads to the former. I also agree with the SDN consensus that an all-star applicant from anywhere can match anywhere, but I think people understate the huge uphill battle this entails -- you would have to work much harder, with a much more focused strategy, and perhaps need a certain amount of luck with clinical evaluations. If you were interested in a specific highly-competitive specialty like RadOnc or Derm, you'd need to know that on Day 1. If you were interested in the most competitive program in a field, you'd need to make contacts early and often.
 

Luxian

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The specific ranks don't matter very much, but the ranges do. So, for example, the top five are all about the same, and those ranked 10-25 are about the same, and all are better than those in the 30-50 ranked range. That said, you're still a doctor even if you graduate from some place not on US News' list.

Visit the school. See if you like the personality/environment. Wait till you see your financial aid. Compare it's tier vs other tiers. Then make your choice. I think once you actual see places the decision should be a lot easier. And don't bother to distinguish between #8 and #12. They're all good!
 

letitgo

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But what about #2 vs. #22? Is that not significant? Especially if I have no desire whatsoever to do a residency at Hopkins or Harvard (not a fan of these cities, and have lived in both). How important is happiness vs. giving yourself a major edge in residency placements?

I can't seem to find a definitive answer on this. I guess match lists are some indication, but that can't be the whole story.
 

lord_jeebus

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the top five are all about the same

I agree with the rest of your post, but I think the differences among the USNews Top 5 in reputation are huge compared to the differences between everywhere else.

I should also emphasize the local nature of the reputation of most "top" schools. Consider where you want to do residency and have a career.
 

ADeadLois

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The specific ranks don't matter very much, but the ranges do. So, for example, the top five are all about the same, and those ranked 10-25 are about the same, and all are better than those in the 30-50 ranked range. That said, you're still a doctor even if you graduate from some place not on US News' list.

You can really only group schools into tiers or ranges based on US News Ranks (whose criteria is very suspect) and avg. GPA and MCAT scores of matriculants. Needless to say, both of these mean very little once you get there.
 

patzan

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But what about #2 vs. #22? Is that not significant? Especially if I have no desire whatsoever to do a residency at Hopkins or Harvard (not a fan of these cities, and have lived in both). How important is happiness vs. giving yourself a major edge in residency placements?

I can't seem to find a definitive answer on this. I guess match lists are some indication, but that can't be the whole story.

There are other top residencies that are not in big, fancy cities. Consider Michigan, Mayo, Duke, Vanderbilt. While good board scores and a good program will get you into the top programs, it will also help you get whatever your top program is.

The distinction between #2 and #22 may be significant, but probably only if you are in the bottom 1/3 of your class. A top 1/3 student from #22 will also likely go where they want to.
 

enigma85

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My impression is that name matters most if you suck. I also think some "top 10 schools" have much bigger names than others, and many of those names will not give you a significant advantage outside of its region of the country. I'd rather be the 210 from Harvard than a 250 from the University of (insert no name state here), but would not say the same if it were WashU or Michigan vs. no-name school.

I know that my home program in my specialty of choice assigns tiers to each school (I don't know how) and this has a rather significant impact on ranking.

I do think that who you know matters more than the name of your school, but the latter often leads to the former. I also agree with the SDN consensus that an all-star applicant from anywhere can match anywhere, but I think people understate the huge uphill battle this entails -- you would have to work much harder, with a much more focused strategy, and perhaps need a certain amount of luck with clinical evaluations. If you were interested in a specific highly-competitive specialty like RadOnc or Derm, you'd need to know that on Day 1. If you were interested in the most competitive program in a field, you'd need to make contacts early and often.

210 vs. 250? Really?? I'd take the 250 from UMass over the 210 from Harvard anyday (assuming the student was near the top of the class at UMass/near the bottom of the class at Harvard).
 

Gut Shot

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That said, they all admit that going to a big name school carries with it a lot of weight with residency directors. Does anyone have any insight as to how important this is?

Oh God, not this again. Look, the odds of a school's reputation making or breaking you is so infinitesimal as to be perverse. Go where you want, do your best, and get on with your life.
 
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167649

Oh God, not this again. Look, the odds of a school's reputation making or breaking you is so infinitesimal as to be perverse. Go where you want, do your best, and get on with your life.

I agree this topic = :beat:

The quality of a doctor that you will be and how far you take your career depends on how strong your motivations are and how hard you work towards it, not where you went to school. Medical school is medical school, you get pretty much the same basic education and training anywhere, and have the same opportunities to advance yourself. Granted, no two schools are alike and all have different strengths. Just take advantage of the opportunities that come at you and choose a school that fits with your personal preference, and any difference that the numerical ranking of the school has on real life will be minimal to nonexistant.
 

Law2Doc

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Oh God, not this again. Look, the odds of a school's reputation making or breaking you is so infinitesimal as to be perverse. Go where you want, do your best, and get on with your life.

Agree with this. The school name matters always more on the pre-allo board than on the boards actually closer to residency. Sure, everything matters, but its way way way down the hierarchy of things that matter. And, if you suck, and tank Step 1, you are SOL whereever you are from. If you are all around awesome, you are going to be fine from any US allo school.
 

WestcoastMD

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I had the opportunity during undergrad to study at both a generic state-university and a highly-regarded nationally ranked school. Although the reputation of the latter surely had a positive influence on my job and med school applications, that alone is not why I would recommend going for the 'better' school.

Regardless of the controversy, there is a reason why certain schools are ranked higher than others. And why certain schools consistantly produce higher step-1 scores, better residency matches, etc. Those better schools attract more competitive students and thus create a more competive environment where you have to work harder to achieve, but in doing so - become a more successful student. Sure you could be a rising star at a lesser known medical school and nail the USMLE, but the mere fact that you have to be a shining star at that place to do so should be a deterent. Personally I would prefer to go to a school where the average student is exceptional than a place where you have to set the curve to stand out. In reality - you will very, very likely score better on the step-1 if you go to an elite med school vs. a generic one. Once again, there is a reason they are elite. And the stats speak for themselves- they have higher average scores.

With that being said - this only matters for those highly competitive residency positions. If you know what kind of doctor you want to be and it is not overly competitive, then there is no reason what so ever to consider the reputation - other than for name dropping.
 

GulabJamooMD

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Also, many students are accepted to residency programs at their own medical schools. Thus, if you like the city, really want to live there , I would attend that medical school.
 

Law2Doc

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Regardless of the controversy, there is a reason why certain schools are ranked higher than others. And why certain schools consistantly produce higher step-1 scores, better residency matches, etc. Those better schools attract more competitive students and thus create a more competive environment where you have to work harder to achieve, but in doing so - become a more successful student.

This might be true if any of what you suggest was a significant component of the ranking methodology. But in fact rankings are flawed because they are driven so heavilly by research money grants, not something that actually necessarilly makes a school or its student body "better". Research money grants are frequently only tangentially related to the med school, and almost never affect the daily med school education. So a school ranked, say, 25 is only "better" than a school ranked 45 in that it has more profs working under bigger grants. The curriculum is probably identical. The average stats of the matriculating class are probably marginally different (I'm guessing something like 3.7/33 vs 3.6/31), which is nothing in terms of how competitive the student body is. Each allo med school is composed of folks who each got "mostly A's" in college, and so the level of competition is going to require folks to work to keep up regardless of where they go. It is a different world than college no matter where you go because all the folks who used to round out the curves with Cs are gone.
And each year there are fairly poorly ranked schools who boast far above average step scores, so your notion that the best ranked schools get the best scores, basically in rank order, is simply not even accurate (and to some extent the fact that board scores are not officially published anyplace perhaps perpetuates the myth you have bought into).

The only thing rank does is give you a rough sense of "prestige". Schools that get lots of research money often attract big name doctors, publish the big papers and thus have a good reputation. This doesn't usually filter down much into the med school in any tangible sense, and pretty definitely won't translate into becoming a better or even better schooled doctor. But some people like the idea of going to a high ranked school, and it gives them a sense of accomplishment. However for those people the race is only just begun because the specialty and residency are brand new things yet to compete for, and once you get to residency, your med school becomes meaningless -- in medicine you are only as good as the last place you've been.
 

Drogba

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The only thing rank does is give you a rough sense of "prestige". Schools that get lots of research money often attract big name doctors, publish the big papers and thus have a good reputation. This doesn't usually filter down much into the med school in any tangible sense, and pretty definitely won't translate into becoming a better or even better schooled doctor. But some people like the idea of going to a high ranked school, and it gives them a sense of accomplishment. However for those people the race is only just begun because the specialty and residency are brand new things yet to compete for, and once you get to residency, your med school becomes meaningless -- in medicine you are only as good as the last place you've been.

Isn't this true in most if not all fields?
 

Law2Doc

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Isn't this true in most if not all fields?

I only know from law. But in law, your law school name is going to go with you and give you cache, regardless of what firm you jump to. When working on a deal with another attorney, I always looked up that person's law school pedigree, because it gives you a sense of how they practice law ("big picture" person, fighter, scrambler). Your law school gives you a brand name that supersedes you. In medicine you much more cease to be the XYZ med grad and become the guy from LMN residency, the GHI fellowship guy, and so on. Nobody really cares where you went to med school once you get to the next level-- it is where you ended up that matters, and lets folks know how "good" you are. Which is why, eg., you see Dr. Rey on Dr 90210 always wearing his Harvard (fellowship) stuff even though he was a Tufts med grad.
 

ADeadLois

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I

Regardless of the controversy, there is a reason why certain schools are ranked higher than others. And why certain schools consistantly produce higher step-1 scores, better residency matches, etc. Those better schools attract more competitive students and thus create a more competive environment where you have to work harder to achieve, but in doing so - become a more successful student. Sure you could be a rising star at a lesser known medical school and nail the USMLE, but the mere fact that you have to be a shining star at that place to do so should be a deterent. Personally I would prefer to go to a school where the average student is exceptional than a place where you have to set the curve to stand out. In reality - you will very, very likely score better on the step-1 if you go to an elite med school vs. a generic one. Once again, there is a reason they are elite. And the stats speak for themselves- they have higher average scores.

This sounds good in theory, but if you look at the board scores and match lists there are "lower ranked" schools that have very high USMLE averages and place many students into competitive residencies. I would imagine this is part of the reason why many schools don't post avg. USMLE scores; it would shatter the notion that they deserve a higher ranking.

You'll find the second you walk into med school that everything you've done prior to that goes out the window. It's a clean slate. The guy with a 30 MCAT and a 3.5 GPA could potentially be at the top of the class.
 

Gut Shot

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I am a 4th year student now interviewing for residency. My experience has been that the school I go to has played a large role in getting the interviews that I have. Residency directors frequently make a comment like, "you've got a good Step 1 score, you come from a great school, and you'll get into a great program."

Can I borrow your crystal ball?
 

Zippership

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I am fortunate enough to have been accepted to a few excellent schools but I am still trying to get a handle on how important the "rank" of the school will be in terms of my future residency propsects.

I have discussed this with many people in the know and their opinion has widely been that one can receive an excellent medical education pretty much anywhere and that 3/4 year grades and standardized board scores will determine how competitive I am for residencies. They also echo the sentiment that the U.S. News rankings are based primarily on research endowments which do not necessarily translate to the quality of their medical education.

That said, they all admit that going to a big name school carries with it a lot of weight with residency directors. Does anyone have any insight as to how important this is?

Thank you in advance.

Going to a top school will of course be an advantage to you. A school's name is a general marker to residency directors that those who tend to graduate from that school make strong residents and doctors. That said, it doesn't make up for any personal deficiencies and ultimately top residency programs are interested in finding the top residents. Will a top school help you get interviews and get your foot in the door? Yes. Will a top school get you the residency ultimately? No - this depends on how you personally present yourself overall. I don't think you can necessarily make generalizations about whether the top person at a lesser known medical school is better or worse off than the bottom person at a top school. It simply is not that black and white.
 

rgarrig

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Going to a top school will of course be an advantage to you. A school's name is a general marker to residency directors that those who tend to graduate from that school make strong residents and doctors. That said, it doesn't make up for any personal deficiencies and ultimately top residency programs are interested in finding the top residents. Will a top school help you get interviews and get your foot in the door? Yes. Will a top school get you the residency ultimately? No - this depends on how you personally present yourself overall. I don't think you can necessarily make generalizations about whether the top person at a lesser known medical school is better or worse off than the bottom person at a top school. It simply is not that black and white.

QFT

But I do recall how many undergrads told me 'dude, grades don't even matter'... not surprising that they graduated with C's and were "shocked" when they had a hard time getting a job interview.

My grandma used to frequently say, "misery enjoys company". This principle can be correctly generalized a great deal, and it even applies here; some people genuinely don't believe school prestige matters - these people I DO respect. Other people claim it doesn't matter, but primarily because they go to a low/no prestige school. Of course, some students at prestigious schools say it doesn't matter, but I think that's just false modesty.

It's dangerous to judge an individual by general truths about his or her group. For instance, a given Harvard MD may not be a good to great doctor; however, on average, Harvard MDs are good to great doctors. Residency directors know this, and that's why a prestigious school gets you the interview, but residency directors also know generalities are just that - generalities, and so personality gets you the acceptance.

To the OP: you will probably get an adequate education from any MD program, but there are a lot of benefits and opportunities to attending a top program. You're more likely to have quality research opportunities, stellar, inspiring classmates, and access to influential members of your intended specialty. In smaller residency programs such as neurosurgery, who you know is (unfortunately) terribly important, so being at a well-known, respected program can help a lot.

Since you did ask, here's my advice: go to the absolute best program you get into, but be aware that the US News rankings are not the end-all, be-all. Make sure your final rankings are personal - what do you want from a medical education? This is of course a very tough question to answer as a pre-med. I didn't know it, but I LOVE systems-based medical education, and I would have hated the case-based system some schools use. It turns out I am much more interested in research then I thought I would be, so having quality research opportunities turned out to be important to me. I did NOT care about how much debt I will graduate with, so financial aid was unimportant; perhaps this is important to you? I do care about location/weather, so Northern California was at the top of my list; again, this may or may not be important to you.

Take all of these, and other factors into account, and choose the program at the top of your list.
 

quiltlady

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i am always amused by pre-meds worried about the quality of residency programs 4 years in the future. At this stage of the game,you don't even know what medicine you want to practice and have no way of evaluating a "good residency". Programs change, faculty move around, funding changes. What is great now might be toxic then. Just because a school has a great reputation for something doesn't mean it is good in all fields, and just because you have an interest in something now doesn't mean you won't like something better later. You seem to be status conscious, so go to the school which you think will bring you the greatest prestige. No one else will care.
 

Law2Doc

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Going to a top school will of course be an advantage to you. A school's name is a general marker to residency directors that those who tend to graduate from that school make strong residents and doctors. That said, it doesn't make up for any personal deficiencies and ultimately top residency programs are interested in finding the top residents. Will a top school help you get interviews and get your foot in the door? Yes. Will a top school get you the residency ultimately? No - this depends on how you personally present yourself overall. I don't think you can necessarily make generalizations about whether the top person at a lesser known medical school is better or worse off than the bottom person at a top school. It simply is not that black and white.

There aren't that many US allo med schools compared to other graduate programs, and compared to residency slots. So honestly, they are all regarded as pretty good, and none can be categorized as "lesser known". As for your last sentence, I actually think that at the extremes, it, in fact, is pretty black and white. The top students at all allo schools with the top board scores tend to do quite well in the process. The top residencies will have stellar folks from a big range of programs. Folks at the bottom of their class with crummy board scores don't do as well, regardless of their alma mater. They will still match someplace, but it won't be particularly competitive. I would rather be the stellar student at the lower ranked US allo school any day, as, I suspect, would most med students. The place where it doesn't stay black and white is when you move from the extremes. But as I suggested above, things like board scores, evaluations, away rotations and the like come into play to a greater extent than school name, most of the time.
So sure, if you can go to a top 10 school over an equally expensive school in the 110-120 ranking range, then it probably makes sense. But if we are talking a school ranked 15 vs 30, 30 vs 50, etc. or some similar interval, it probably won't have an impact in your life. So go where you think you would thrive and do well.
 
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