I can without reservation (but also without proof, heh) state that for the majority of premed students, Duke is hands down the best place to be.
First the statistics, then the reasons.
85% of our premeds get into a medical school; this compares to a national number of around 50%, sometimes lower. (Yes, that does mean that half of all students who apply to medical school will be admitted nowhere whatsoever.) Most comparable schools boast rates that are noticeably lower than that. I can't guarantee this, but I believe people on these boards have been mentioning that Stanford's percentage is about 75%. Of course, Stanford also has to deal with the UC system, so the comparison isn't exact, but I frankly can't imagine anybody preparing us for the process better than Dean Kay Singer and her office.
Second, if you look, you'll notice that the average GPA among our accepted premeds at a given medical school is lower than the national GPA among accepted premeds, and lower than the GPA at some "peer" institutions. This tells you that students from Duke who have WORSE grades are getting into the SAME medical schools as others. Why?
A few reasons.
1.) We have access to a world-class medical center.
It's close and we're actually allowed - and helped! - to do stuff in it. Some schools like Columbia don't have their hospitals nearby, so it's difficult for students to volunteer or do reseach there. Not only is it literally like two minutes from the dorms to the hospital (walking), but Duke has programs explicitly set up (HCIP) to get undergraduates volunteering in the hospital.
2.) Astonishingly wonderful advising systems.
We have famous premedical advisors. I've ranted about this a little bit on a thread relating to UCB in the Premed topics forum (Berkeley is a good place to pursue pre-med?
) but the bottom line is that advising is both key and really wonderful here. They've earned their reputation as being among the best in the country.
This is reflected in their numbers.
3.) World-class faculty in small classes.
Duke's philosophy in hiring faculty is that we want absolutely brilliant faculty on the cutting edge of their fields, and we will put up with almost anything to get them. The one thing we will not put up with, however, is an unwillingness to make teaching their absolute top priority. That means that the faculty we have here love students and will go far out of their way to make sure we learn. This means partly that we learn better, which helps us once we actually get into med school, but it also means that we get better letters of recommendation, which are huge.
This to me is the most important point: Yes, there are schools with similarly or perhaps even more qualified faculty as leaders in their fields. But at what other school do undergraduates have real, worthwhile access to those leaders on a routine basis? Where else will a health economist who is cited repeatedly in every textbook hold multiple review sessions, some of them on Sunday evenings, just to make sure we really learn the stuff? Where else will a world famous chemist respond to freshmen questions via e-mail during his Thanksgiving day? Some schools have wonderful faculty who will do this - but I don't think any of them will top us in the access we have to brilliance.
4.) An encouragement to pursue co-curricular activites.
And yes, I did just call them co-curriculars rather than extra-curriculars. Duke understands that we're training young men and women here, not just scholars, and so I've never heard of a student here who had anything short of astonishing extracurriculars. I'm a tour guide, and I make it a habit when I'm on my tours to mention the accomplishments of the various students I run into - I can afford to do this because Duke students are simply astonishing. Friends of mine have discovered new chemical structures, signed up for internships with the bioterrorism department of the government - it seems everybody has something incredible that they view as normal because that's what Duke students do.
We have a department entirely for the purpose of helping students arrange interesting, educational, or service-oriented (but usually all three) summer projects.
This is crucial - medical schools need good qualifications, yes, but they are also looking for people who will make good doctors. People who have shown themselves to be committed to helping others, who can dive into the intellectualism known as research, and who have proven that their interest in health is more than just "hypothetical" are standout candidates.
Premeds here - knowing that we will all do well in the process - learn together. You won't hear of us stealing each other's notes or sabotaging projects. We study together. We encourage each other. Frankly speaking, we take care of each other. Duke students are warm, and we will support each other through rough times along the premedical track. Is this a stereotype? Absolutely. Has it proven true for me? Also absolutely.
6.) Location in the research triangle.
This is one of the more minor points, but our location amongst the high-powered pharmaceutical companies does make it easier to attract biotechnology-oriented professors, faculty, companies, internships, etc. Duke Medical Center attracts a lot of exciting research for this purpose, and that may impact the premedical experience somewhat.
That doesn't even begin to talk about reputation, courses that prepare you for the MCAT, a pre-professional slant at Duke (which is good for pre-professional students like pre-meds), really world class science buildings like the French Science Building and CIEMAS, a commitment to genomics and science as a future, the interdisciplinary focus of most of our science programs, including medical humanities classes and the excellence of our biomedical engineering... I could go on and on but it's late and I'm getting sleepy.
Let me know if you have any questions - I should be pretty good about checking my private messages in the near future.