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Tough Decision: Harvard vs. UCLA David Geffen (full ride)

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DeacDoc04

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Longtime lurker but I need some perspective on a tough medical school choice. I received the David Geffen Scholarship to UCLA, but I was also admitted to Harvard. I'm pretty certain that I'll pursue surgery, and I want to stay in academic medicine.

Pros of UCLA:
+My family is middle class, so a fully-funded medical education (plus a living stipend) is a very strong factor in the decision making process
+Location: my mood is definitely weather-dependent, so I would be much happier in California (where I can also surf and ski)
+I love the diversity of the patient care experiences, from Ronald Reagan to the county hospital
+I would learn medical Spanish

Cons: large class size, commuting to rotations, two-year preclinical curriculum, seems to have a large primary care / internal medicine slant in the match list

Pros of Harvard:
+Harvard is far more prestigious (at least, that's my east coast bias). I don't think the quality of the education is necessarily superior, but I think the connections with my peers could be beneficial if I decide to enter policy, work in international health, start medical writing, etc.
+I prefer Harvard's accelerated preclinical curriculum - more time for electives that would help me select a surgical specialty
+I would love to rotate at some of the best hospitals in the world

Cons: I estimate that a Harvard education would cost ~$150-200k based upon the details posted on their financial aid site, and Boston is terribly cold

I'm quite torn, so any advice/perspective is definitely appreciated
 

FlyingEagles123

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All of my friends who are at UCLA are pursuing research and enjoy it (it's a top 15 schools) and don't feel there are any drawbacks in support. Where is your family located? That's another consideration of east vs. west coast. I don't think you can go wrong with either one but full rise to a school like UCLA is great and it won't hold you back in terms of opportunities. I would go to both revisits and see which you like more!
 

Nietzsche's Barber

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Longtime lurker but I need some perspective on a tough medical school choice. I received the David Geffen Scholarship to UCLA, but I was also admitted to Harvard. I'm pretty certain that I'll pursue surgery, and I want to stay in academic medicine.

Pros of UCLA:
+My family is middle class, so a fully-funded medical education (plus a living stipend) is a very strong factor in the decision making process
+Location: my mood is definitely weather-dependent, so I would be much happier in California (where I can also surf and ski)
+I love the diversity of the patient care experiences, from Ronald Reagan to the county hospital
+I would learn medical Spanish

Cons: large class size, commuting to rotations, two-year preclinical curriculum, seems to have a large primary care / internal medicine slant in the match list

Pros of Harvard:
+Harvard is far more prestigious (at least, that's my east coast bias). I don't think the quality of the education is necessarily superior, but I think the connections with my peers could be beneficial if I decide to enter policy, work in international health, start medical writing, etc.
+I prefer Harvard's accelerated preclinical curriculum - more time for electives that would help me select a surgical specialty
+I would love to rotate at some of the best hospitals in the world

Cons: I estimate that a Harvard education would cost ~$150-200k based upon the details posted on their financial aid site, and Boston is terribly cold

I'm quite torn, so any advice/perspective is definitely appreciated
My vote is UCLA...hands down. Your reasons for choosing Harvard are rather superficial and it seems like you will be happier and healthier (financially and psychologically) in LA.
 
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Certified Corsair

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Longtime lurker but I need some perspective on a tough medical school choice. I received the David Geffen Scholarship to UCLA, but I was also admitted to Harvard. I'm pretty certain that I'll pursue surgery, and I want to stay in academic medicine.

Pros of UCLA:
+My family is middle class, so a fully-funded medical education (plus a living stipend) is a very strong factor in the decision making process
+Location: my mood is definitely weather-dependent, so I would be much happier in California (where I can also surf and ski)
+I love the diversity of the patient care experiences, from Ronald Reagan to the county hospital
+I would learn medical Spanish

Cons: large class size, commuting to rotations, two-year preclinical curriculum, seems to have a large primary care / internal medicine slant in the match list

Pros of Harvard:
+Harvard is far more prestigious (at least, that's my east coast bias). I don't think the quality of the education is necessarily superior, but I think the connections with my peers could be beneficial if I decide to enter policy, work in international health, start medical writing, etc.
+I prefer Harvard's accelerated preclinical curriculum - more time for electives that would help me select a surgical specialty
+I would love to rotate at some of the best hospitals in the world

Cons: I estimate that a Harvard education would cost ~$150-200k based upon the details posted on their financial aid site, and Boston is terribly cold

I'm quite torn, so any advice/perspective is definitely appreciated
I am only saying this to check off one of your cons, but as someone who has commuted in Boston for a year for internship... probably worse and no less expensive than out there.
 

Hyelampa_2016

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Wait to see what your financial aid package at Harvard looks like before making a final decision - you just never know, they may surprise you. I would also discuss your financial aid package with them (maybe email the Dean?), and say look I would love to come here but I have a full-ride at Geffen etc, and see how they respond. If they want you, they may up the package to make it affordable. This is just my guess and from conversations with people who have been in such situations (though not the same exact schools). It is a hard decision to be in for sure, I mean a full-ride is the opportunity of a life-time and so is the possibility of having that Harvard name in your credentials. It is gonna come down to you and your long-game - where do you see yourself sitting in the world 20 years from now and which path is gonna get you there cruising? Up to you. Best of luck :) I am sure whichever decision you make will make you the happiest.
 
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calimed2017

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I would try to see if Harvard can match your Geffen scholarship - who knows they might be able to they certainly have the money! I feel that if you really want to go into academic medicine, I have been told you are compensated way less than if you do pure clinical work. Therefore, having a full ride at a great place like UCLA may ease the financial stress you could potentially face doing research as a physician. Both are top medical schools so I don't think you would be at a disadvantaged coming from either institution to enter academic medicine. Finally, think about the culture of the students. Would you rather go to a school with gunners or people who are collaborative? Go to second look for both schools, if you can, and see where you are the most happy. Happiness and well-being should be just as important as the name/prestige/opportunities at each school. Good luck!
 

alcoholdehydrogenase69

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Also, where do you want to practice? East coast or west coast? May be easier to match cali with UCLA and some of those top tier programs on east coast with Harvard
 

DeacDoc04

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I would try to see if Harvard can match your Geffen scholarship - who knows they might be able to they certainly have the money! I feel that if you really want to go into academic medicine, I have been told you are compensated way less than if you do pure clinical work. Therefore, having a full ride at a great place like UCLA may ease the financial stress you could potentially face doing research as a physician. Both are top medical schools so I don't think you would be at a disadvantaged coming from either institution to enter academic medicine. Finally, think about the culture of the students. Would you rather go to a school with gunners or people who are collaborative? Go to second look for both schools, if you can, and see where you are the most happy. Happiness and well-being should be just as important as the name/prestige/opportunities at each school. Good luck!

I'm definitely planning on asking about financial aid with Harvard, but the website makes it pretty explicitly clear that they use a unit loan system and I have doubts that they'll stray from that. It's certainly worth a shot though.

Also, where do you want to practice? East coast or west coast? May be easier to match cali with UCLA and some of those top tier programs on east coast with Harvard

I'm not quite sure where I want to practice yet, and that's the challenge. I haven't spent time on the West coast, but I would love to give it a shot. The only concern is that if I don't enjoy the experience, it may be difficult to get back into a top tier program in the East
 

calimed2017

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I'm definitely planning on asking about financial aid with Harvard, but the website makes it pretty explicitly clear that they use a unit loan system and I have doubts that they'll stray from that. It's certainly worth a shot though.



I'm not quite sure where I want to practice yet, and that's the challenge. I haven't spent time on the West coast, but I would love to give it a shot. The only concern is that if I don't enjoy the experience, it may be difficult to get back into a top tier program in the East
]

I wouldn't worry about not matching into a top program in the East Coast. I think they told us UCLA student have a 90% match rate into their top 3 choices!
 
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Willy38

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Depends how much Harvard is worth to you. We can't answer it for you. I would say go for Harvard. You only get to do med school once and if you'd prefer Harvard then just go for it! No regrets!
 

bluelamin

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i would say ucla but thats just me. the harvard name is very enticing. altho the quality of education may not be significantly different you have to see whether $$>brand-name
 

calimed2017

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i think that the name may sound alluring but u also may want to think long term like where will u be most happy, hows the student body culture, better location is impt too. plus the big elephant in the room: FREE med school plus 32k a year stipend vs having to take out 200k in loans for school plus interest over time. u could easily get a big house with that money!
 
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chm9332

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Normally I would suggest that you go for the cheaper option, but man, it's Harvard....It's a tough one. Try to see if Harvard can match or come close to UCLA's package
 

Ampharos

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If you're going to be miserable at UCLA regretting not going to Harvard every day -- that's certainly a consideration as well...

Disclosure: not on either waitlist
 
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neekzg

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I wouldn't guarantee learning medical Spanish lol

The weather in LA is unbeatable. Even being in SF I miss the sunshine and warmth of Westwood all the time.
 

wagonwheel23

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Prestige does not bring happiness. Stunning weather and $200k+ though... Only choose Harvard if you truly think it is a far far better fit for you.
 
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Skenti

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If you want to do academics I'd go Harvard no question. UCLA is a great school, but Harvard is Harvard. If you want to be a surgeon, 200k is totally neglible over the course of your career. Everyone on SDN always says to go to the cheapest option, but life isn't that simple. Don't ask premeds, go ask residents who want to go into academics, or attendings who did. You'll get better answers (that I think would definitely skew towards Harvard).
 
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dpmd

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If you want to do academics I'd go Harvard no question. UCLA is a great school, but Harvard is Harvard. If you want to be a surgeon, 200k is totally neglible over the course of your career. Everyone on SDN always says to go to the cheapest option, but life isn't that simple. Don't ask premeds, go ask residents who want to go into academics, or attendings who did. You'll get better answers (that I think would definitely skew towards Harvard).
200k is not negligible on an academic salary even in surgery. You are acting like he is deciding between Harvard and some Podunk school no one in academia has heard of.
 
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Skenti

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200k is not negligible on an academic salary even in surgery. You are acting like he is deciding between Harvard and some Podunk school no one in academia has heard of.

Median academic surgeon salaries are between 300k and 600k. 200k isn't nothing but a surgeon over the course of their career will make millions. You're acting like I didn't say UCLA is a great school; I did. But if you think there isn't a difference between UCLA and the best medical school in the known universe then I doubt I'm gonna change your mind so I won't bother.

If OP had said he wanted to do rural primary care I would have said UCLA no question, but going to Harvard will set him up for academic surgery in a way that UCLA will not. HOWEVER, OP also sounds like they love California, and if he wants to stay on the west coast for life I would say going UCLA is a perfectly sound decision! I'm not sure about this, but it's entirely possible that matching into top Cali residencies could be easier from UCLA due to connections.

EDIT: I just noticed OP is considering going into policy later on, in which case Harvard would be even more of a boon. It's definitely a tough choice and not an obvious one, I just wanted to offer an opinion that I know is not the general consensus. OP wants to do academic surgery and maybe go into public policy...if ANYONE would be justified in picking based on prestige it would be them.
 
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JJRousseau

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I think it's interesting that in the hypothetical thread for top 5 vs full ride top 20, the consensus was overwhelmingly for the full ride at top 20. Indeed, many of the posts condescended to any fellow or lady that would even consider taking out the debt. Yet, in a concrete example the consensus is much more evenly split, perhaps even leaning toward full expense at Harvard.
 
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Lawpy

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I think it's interesting that in the hypothetical thread for top 5 vs full ride top 20, the consensus was overwhelmingly for the full ride at top 20. Indeed, many of the posts condescended to any fellow or lady that would even consider taking out the debt. Yet, in a concrete example the consensus is much more evenly split, perhaps even leaning toward full expense at Harvard.

Having a poll is a better measure for determining what the consensus thinks.
 
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efle

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Come on dude, you can't really be worried about UCLA holding you back from anything for lack of prestige/rep! You'd be happier there and I assume you would prefer to be in California for residency and beyond, plus huge $$ difference...easy choice imo.
 
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tessellations

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Take the money and run, unless Harvard gives you a ton of money. UCLA is a great school and certainly won't hold you back from going into academic medicine.
 
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ptm33

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OP, what did you end up deciding? Harvard is great for acedemics and UCLA is top notch for hands on experience, exposure to diverse community, enriched culture, etc. and you or someone already mentioned the unbeatable Westwood weather. I'd say chase after the former and save the latter for last. My family member and a friend did undergrad at Harvard then UCLA for residency/fellowship. I'd say for them the Harvard name goes a long way. Superficial or not, being associated with that institution benefited them a lot in the long term. It was a worthwhile investment that they themselves did not foresee lasting many decades later and beyond.

Go hard at Harvard then you can always come back to UCLA or choose to be in LA at later stages of your career.
 

RFK1954

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UCLA for sure. I am a professor there and previously interviewed for a fellowship at Harvard. Very pretentious. You'll be happier at UCLA.
 

DeacDoc04

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I chose UCLA and haven't looked back. I've had nothing but beautiful weather, financial freedom, and a great educational experience so far.
 
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hpnerd

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Both schools are highly prestigious and will give you a great shot at a surgical residency. The important thing to remember is that it's not just the school that gets you that opportunity. It's about the effort you put in. Either way, you have to put in the time and hours and effort to be a great candidate for a surgical residency.

That being said, I would recommend UCLA because of the financial benefit. It will definitely help you out in the long run because you don't have to worry about years of being in debt.
 

chemdoctor

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If prestige is really important to you, then go for Harvard. Damn... Harvard Medical School. But then again, a FULL RIDE scholarship for medical school is crazy too. Which one would you be happiest at? Don't necessarily go for UCLA just because it is the cheaper option because you may end up regretting it later. I'd go for Harvard but its up to you!
 

Coupd'Cat

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Don't think UCLA will hold you back at all--it's a great place. I'm on the more thrifty side and would choose it just for the full-ride.
Think about if you'd like the west or east coast better, if you can handle the traffic in LA, etc.
Also try to reflect on the kind of personalities are at both places and where you'd best fit in.
 
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