Jul 22, 2020
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Hey everyone, I’m facing a big transfer decision and am looking for some help in working through it in my mind.

I am at community college now, have a 4.0 GPA and have applied to transfer to Stanford, CAL, UCLA (via Honors TAP), UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis (via TAG), UC Santa Cruz & Santa Clara University. My pre-med advisor says that I should get into every UC I’ve applied too based on my GPA, extra-curriculars, honors distinction, rec letters, outside work and life adversity. So he said that I better get real clear about where it is I want to go and where I feel I will be successful at.

My major is Psychology (pre-med), end goal is to become a Psychiatrist. Stanford is my dream for undergrad, but I’m under no illusions about getting accepted to the most competitive school in the nation.

I am an older student who didnt attend high school, but did pass a high school equivalency. So I had to work my way through a lot of CCC pre-reqs and am just now ready for the first real level of Chem, Bio and Calculus; leaving the majority of my pre-med course load for completion after transfer. Which means I really need to be very strategic about which school I go to, as I need to be able to keep my GPA intact to get into a good US med school.

I know CAL will open a lot of doors for me IF I can hack it and it’s a major feeder for UCSF (one of my targets for med school), but I worry about the grade deflation and the overwhelming class sizes of the low level science classes, not to mention the lack of student support.

I hear Davis offers a lot more student support and has smaller science class sizes, which might make it a good UC option for me; plus they take about 20% of their undergrads into their medical school (which is another one of my targets).

But it also occurred to me, that it might be better for me to go to a school like Santa Clara University which has really small class sizes and the average incoming GPA of 3.4-3.6 effectively putting me at the top of my class. It is not well known for pre-med, but I would feel more confident in pulling off a 4.0 if I’m graded on a curve of my peers in a school like this.

Also I have an internship lined up in Santa Clara county with a cardiologist through one of my grandma’s Doctors. So to some degree I can overcome the lack of internships at Santa Clara.. though likely not the lack of research.

So in sitting with all of this, I would also add that I’m only average to above average intelligence, certainly not exceptional. I just work really hard and throw a lot of time at studying. I have sacrificed a lot to go back to school at my age and am hell bent on doing this one way or another, and know that I will. But I’d like to make it as painless as these things can be. In other words, I don’t want to put myself in a situation where I have to waste more years doing a post bacc pre-med program, cleaning up GPA drop if I can set myself up for success upfront.

Any insights from those who have walked this path and offer some helpful perspective and advice would be so very much appreciated!
 
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Jun 5, 2020
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Very thoughtful question. I think if you are intent on medical school, you do need to think some about protecting GPA. UC Davis is an interesting case. There seems to be some notion that in order to get into their med school you need to have some ties to Northern or Central CA. Having either lived there, gone to school there, worked there, etc. Not sure how accurate this is, but anecdotal evidence tends to confirm. A case in point, a student from So Cal with a 3.8 or even 3.9 gpa student at UCLA might find med school doors closed at UCLA (it's so darn selective), UCSF (again very highly selective) AND at UC Davis (having no northern CA ties). However, that same pre-med student going to UC Davis could maybe have a 3.7 gpa and be accepted to med school at Davis (or achieve a much higher GPA at the somewhat less competitive UC Davis, and be accepted to UCSF, UCLA, and other med schools).

Some other considerations would be having a med school / hospital attached to the undergraduate school for clinical opportunities, shadowing. Some schools really have this built in and it makes life a little easier. Another is research. Some schools will have more numerous and more impressive research opportunities (for example, UCLA probably has a leg up on Santa Clara in this area). Prestige of undergrad is thought to be a small factor in med school admissions. So a 3.5 from UCLA probably will be limiting but same student might get a 3.9 at a less competitive school be well situated for med school acceptance (as you noted). Just 2 cents from a fellow (though accepted) applicant. Good luck! Great question.
 
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Jul 22, 2020
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Very thoughtful question. I think if you are intent on medical school, you do need to think some about protecting GPA. UC Davis is an interesting case. There seems to be some notion that in order to get into their med school you need to have some ties to Northern or Central CA. Having either lived there, gone to school there, worked there, etc. Not sure how accurate this is, but anecdotal evidence tends to confirm. A case in point, a student from So Cal with a 3.8 or even 3.9 gpa student at UCLA might find med school doors closed at UCLA (it's so darn selective), UCSF (again very highly selective) AND at UC Davis (having no northern CA ties). However, that same pre-med student going to UC Davis could maybe have a 3.7 gpa and be accepted to med school at Davis (or achieve a much higher GPA at the somewhat less competitive UC Davis, and be accepted to UCSF, UCLA, and other med schools).

Some other considerations would be having a med school / hospital attached to the undergraduate school for clinical opportunities, shadowing. Some schools really have this built in and it makes life a little easier. Another is research. Some schools will have more numerous and more impressive research opportunities (for example, UCLA probably has a leg up on Santa Clara in this area). Prestige of undergrad is thought to be a small factor in med school admissions. So a 3.5 from UCLA probably will be limiting but same student might get a 3.9 at a less competitive school be well situated for med school acceptance (as you noted). Just 2 cents from a fellow (though accepted) applicant. Good luck! Great question.
Thank you this is helpful. I have ties to Northern CA, so luckily I won’t have to face that disadvantage when it comes time for me to apply to med schools.

As far as UC’s go, I was initially leaning towards CAL for prestige, but I think I am leaning more towards Davis now just given the high touch student support and direct pipeline into their medical school.

Although I am still very much considering Santa Clara due to its close proximity to home, and potential for high GPA. But you do bring up a great point on the research, which as I understand it will also be a deciding factor in med school applications. I have heard that applicants need a minimum of 1 published research paper, but 3 is ideal to be considered competitive and that may be very hard to achieve at Santa Clara University.
 
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stickgirl390

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My personal opinion: GPA protection is the most important, above all else. Go to the school that you think you will have the most success at academically.
 
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EdgeTrimmer

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Thank you this is helpful. I have ties to Northern CA, so luckily I won’t have to face that disadvantage when it comes time for me to apply to med schools.

As far as UC’s go, I was initially leaning towards CAL for prestige, but I think I am leaning more towards Davis now just given the high touch student support and direct pipeline into their medical school.

Although I am still very much considering Santa Clara due to its close proximity to home, and potential for high GPA. But you do bring up a great point on the research, which as I understand it will also be a deciding factor in med school applications. I have heard that applicants need a minimum of 1 published research paper, but 3 is ideal to be considered competitive and that may be very hard to achieve at Santa Clara University.
As a NorCal resident and being familiar with UCs, I will recommend UC Davis. You can find research and volunteering opportunities at UCD. UCLA and UCB are too risky to get good GPA. You are starting with 4.0 and don't want to show downward trend. Also, what's COA for Santa Clara U?
 
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Jul 22, 2020
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As a NorCal resident and being familiar with UCs, I will recommend UC Davis. You can find research and volunteering opportunities at UCD. UCLA and UCB are too risky to get good GPA. You are starting with 4.0 and don't want to show downward trend. Also, what's COA for Santa Clara U?
COA is still a looming question, but finances are a big factor for me and I am committed to getting out of undergrad debt free, as I know I will likely be taking on about $250k in debt for medical school. I have been invited to apply for Regents and a handful of other scholarships and have financial aid, so I'm hoping to string together a debt free path for myself during undergrad.

But for now in abscence of knowing COA, I am trying to decide where I will be the most successful in setting myself up for matriculation to med school post graduation, as (aside from cost) that will be the second most dominant factor in the decision process.
 
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May 18, 2020
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But you do bring up a great point on the research, which as I understand it will also be a deciding factor in med school applications. I have heard that applicants need a minimum of 1 published research paper, but 3 is ideal to be considered competitive and that may be very hard to achieve at Santa Clara University.

I'm not sure where you heard this but this is absolutely not true. You don't need any research to get into medical school, but having it does help for upper tier schools. You also don't need to be published.
 
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Santa Clara is a terrific school! You can get a great education there, and the students are incredibly happy. I have known both faculty and students there, and would highly recommend it. It's a relatively small school, and very nurturing.
 
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Banco

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Ideally you go to a high prestige school with grade inflation. You want to avoid schools with deflation + heavy competition if you can, especially if you're uncertain of your ability to compete.

If you do end up getting into Stanford and it is your dream school, I'd go and just work your ass off; I'm not sure if they inflate or not. Prestige does play a role in admissions. UCB and UCLA are also highly prestigious schools, but to be honest most if not all UC's are well regarded, so take into account your personal preference and fit too.
 
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Rachapkis

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Hard work, not intelligence, rules the day in the vast majority of cases. You've done well at CC, and are taking a major step up. If you believe in yourself and are willing to continue to increase your level of effort, you have what it takes to succeed. There are pluses and minuses to every option you are considering. At the end of the day, I would go with your gut--what do you think would work best for you and where do you feel most comfortable?
 
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EdgeTrimmer

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Ideally you go to a high prestige school with grade inflation. You want to avoid schools with deflation + heavy competition if you can, especially if you're uncertain of your ability to compete.

If you do end up getting into Stanford and it is your dream school, I'd go and just work your ass off; I'm not sure if they inflate or not. Prestige does play a role in admissions. UCB and UCLA are also highly prestigious schools, but to be honest most if not all UC's are well regarded, so take into account your personal preference and fit too.
Stanford is a grade inflation school and UCB and UCLA are known for grade deflation,
 
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Jul 22, 2020
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I'm not sure where you heard this but this is absolutely not true. You don't need any research to get into medical school, but having it does help for upper tier schools. You also don't need to be published.
There was a pre-med pathway planning pamphlet I picked up at last years SUMMA conference which stated that competitive applicants needed a min of 1, but ideally 3 (assuming published) research papers under their belt at application. My pre-med advisor (former Stanford advisor and alum) has also confirmed this. Although, it might be because of the med schools I’m targeting (UCSF, Stanford, Davis & UCLA), which are all heavy research based institutions.
 
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May 18, 2020
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There was a pre-med pathway planning pamphlet I picked up at last years SUMMA conference which stated that competitive applicants needed a min of 1, but ideally 3 (assuming published) research papers under their belt at application. My pre-med advisor (former Stanford advisor and alum) has also confirmed this. Although, it might be because of the med schools I’m targeting (UCSF, Stanford, Davis & UCLA), which are all heavy research based institutions.

That pamphlet and your pre-med advisor are both wrong. Not only do I know people without any publications who've gotten into those schools (and other T20s), I myself have gotten into 1 of the schools you mentioned (and another T20) with 0 research experience. Pre-med advisors are infamous for giving out bad information, don't listen to everything that person says.

This isn't to say that research experience and publications don't help you get in, but it's absolutely not a requirement.
 
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Jul 22, 2020
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That pamphlet and your pre-med advisor are both wrong. Not only do I know people without any publications who've gotten into those schools (and other T20s), I myself have gotten into 1 of the schools you mentioned (and another T20) with 0 research experience. Pre-med advisors are infamous for giving out bad information, don't listen to everything that person says.

This isn't to say that research experience and publications don't help you get in, but it's absolutely not a requirement.
That’s really good news, thanks for sharing your experience. I want to do research anyway, so I’ll still shoot to get in some quality research under my belt before applying. I have half a mind to pursue a M.D./Ph.D., so I definitely think it’s my best move as far as keeping as many options on the table for myself as possible.
 
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candbgirl

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Thank you this is helpful. I have ties to Northern CA, so luckily I won’t have to face that disadvantage when it comes time for me to apply to med schools.

As far as UC’s go, I was initially leaning towards CAL for prestige, but I think I am leaning more towards Davis now just given the high touch student support and direct pipeline into their medical school.

Although I am still very much considering Santa Clara due to its close proximity to home, and potential for high GPA. But you do bring up a great point on the research, which as I understand it will also be a deciding factor in med school applications. I have heard that applicants need a minimum of 1 published research paper, but 3 is ideal to be considered competitive and that may be very hard to achieve at Santa Clara University.
Who ever told you this gave you bad advice. Research is well down the list of metrics deemed necessary by med school deans/ADCOMS. There is a list floating around here with this information. Go where you will be happy and do well. The rest will fall into place with a little work and some creativity.
 
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Rogue42

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You've received a lot of decent advice here, and I figured I would add my two cents.

The MOST IMPORTANT aspect when it comes to choosing a school, is choosing a school that you fit in at, that you will feel comfortable at, that you will love, that will feel like home at, and that will ultimately make you happy. All of this, "prestige" or "grade inflation" or "protect your GPA" talk is important, but not as important as my statement I just made.

Being happy, being in an environment that makes you happy, will drive your success. Being at Stanford or Cal or UC Davis is hypothetically better* than being at Santa Barbara, until you find that you don't fit in or are not happy in which your grades will reflect that.

I follow that up to say the school of which you attend UG is not nearly as important as your GPA. GPA trumps almost everything except for the rare cases of a student going to a top 10 undergrad (like Stanford) with a >3.9 GPA and a >520 MCAT competing against other applicants to get into a top 10 med school - then undergrad school will carry some heavier weight (but again, in that GPA is high and intact). I guess my point is that, your school you attend for undergrad is not going to save you if you are still subpar in any way.
 
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Go where the median applicant does well and there is a solid system in place to coach students and guide them through the process.
 
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