UCLA vs Pitt

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Apr 28, 2024
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Hello! I know it's last minute, but I'm struggling to decide between these two schools.

UCLA Pros:
  • Interested in matching back to the West Coast for residency
  • P/F for the first 3 years
  • My partner and I will initially be long distance. LA will allow them to visit more often (same time zone, cheaper/more direct flights)
  • Discovery Year seems like a great opportunity to get more deeply involved with research/my specific interests.
  • Better weather + access to outdoors (I go hiking regularly)

UCLA Cons:
  • More expensive: $300k in loans compared to about $175k for Pitt (This may be lower, as current students say UCLA overestimates some of the living expenses).
  • I've heard mixed things about the new curriculum (particularly how well the school prepares you for STEP exams), and there doesn't seem to be much exposure to NBME material.
  • Schedule seems pretty intense (cramming a lot into the first 2 years to make room for the Discovery Year, and will now require classes during all 3 summers)

Pitt Pros:
  • Students I spoke to seem happy, and it seems easy to find mentors/research with faculty
  • Less expensive: $175k in loans over about $300k for UCLA
  • From my campus visit, seemed to have nicer/newer facilities (smaller factor)
  • Offers Flex Weeks to get experience shadowing, etc. (and 1 can be used as a personal break)

Pitt Cons:
  • The location is in a part of the country I don't intend to stay in.
  • Only P/F for the first 2 years
  • More rigid class schedule, including mandatory attendance and Longitudinal/Community Alliance Programs (These were initially a pro, but a current student told me they can be very hit or miss, as they were only recently made mandatory.
  • 1.5 year preclinical could mean later exposure to specialties and delay me in choosing a specialty/building my residency application

Thank you for any help or guidance you can provide me! I'm feeling very torn at the moment.

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Disclaimer: Waitlist for UCLA

If Pitt offered you a brand new Porsche to go to the school, you’d probably say yes. That’s the price difference between UCLA and Pitt, schools that are basically equal in prestige in medicine, and it’s possible to match to the West Coast in both. UCLA will make it easier to match to a top tier residency in the West Coast, but not a 125k difference — which will lead to higher interest payments and take a longer time to pay off.
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As a T15, Pitt will be absolutely fine for matching in the West, Northeast, and pretty much anywhere else. And $125,000 less in loans is nothing to sneeze at. But: don't discount the importance of having your support network somewhat closer; a 2hr flight is cheaper and easier than a nearly-5 hr. flight, plus only one airline (Alaska) flies direct between SEA and PIT. UCLA may be working out some kinks in the curriculum, but it is not something to worry about as long as you are reasonably self-directed in your studies. You can't go wrong with either of these, really. Congrats on your acceptances.
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You're going to be in an LDR anyway, so wouldn't way that too heavily. You'll be using third-party resources to prepare you for Step 1 and Step 2, so I wouldn't worry too much about the curriculum.

What I'm really seeing here is P/F clerkships + location in ideal matching area + great weather vs saving $125k (this is truly the only pro I see for Pitt).

I won't lie, that's a lot of money. I tend to be debt-averse, so that'd bother me a lot. But I'm not sure if you can put a price on having P/F clerkships and being in the region you hope to match in. Although UCLA and Pitt are peer institutions and you can match on the West Coast from Pitt, you will undeniably have an easier time doing it from UCLA. UCLA and UCLA-affiliated residencies will prioritize UCLA grads, plus there is absolutely a strong regional bias in residency matching.

I'm inclined to slightly lean towards UCLA for you, but I don't think you could go wrong regardless.
Pitt is cheaper and wouldn't hold you back in terms of matching into CA IMO.
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