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Pre-med at UChicago!

GenerationGeneration Registered User Posts: 16 New Member
edited December 2012 in University of Chicago
How hard is it to pursue pre-med course requirements while maintaining a good GPA at UChicago? Also, how difficult is it to get into top medical schools to pursue MD degree?
Post edited by Generation on

Replies to: Pre-med at UChicago!

  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 1,824 Senior Member
    There are lots of threads on this, just do a search. The general consensus is this: pre-med at U of C is difficult, and harder (with poorer placement) than peer schools such as Brown or Dartmouth, but also that U of C has been changing quickly, and the road is getting somewhat easier based on relatively recent changes in the college (e.g. a better and more involved advising system, more grade inflation, the influx of savvier and more pre-professional undergraduate students, etc.). So, the tales of a pre-med graduating from U of C in 2006 may be somewhat different from a high school student who won't graduate from U of C until 2016 or 2017. Put another way, the culture at U of C may be more amenable to pre-meds for the 2016 graduate than the 2006 graduate.
  • GenerationGeneration Registered User Posts: 16 New Member
    Thanks. I had already perused all the available threads before making my own post here. I had also paid a close attention to the conflicting opinions between you and newmassdad in one of the other threads. But, I really liked your balanced perspective and how you justified all of your opinions. Yet, I am making this post here again just to get a more perspective on this topic from more of the current students and/or recent graduates so that any recent changes/ improvements on the situation could be noted. Any further opinions would be highly appreciated.
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 1,824 Senior Member
    Generation: glad to know you're doing your research about this. Also, just to reinforce what you said - I'd strongly recommend getting in touch with current U of C pre-meds. Chicago has probably changed more in the past 10 years than any other top school, and current students really have the best feel about being a pre-med at the U of C today.

    My general instinct in following the school closely over the past several years is that, in terms of pre-professional pursuits, it's a lot better and more amenable to pre-meds, biz or law oriented folks, than it was just a short while ago.

    Finally, as I've said often, I'm much, much more interested in what the culture and placement of Chicago *will* be than what it was. I'm fairly certain that it was better to be a pre-med at Brown in 2002, but Chicago has been making some pretty significant changes of late. Talking to current students is definitely the way to go!
  • siege1214siege1214 Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    Hi All,

    Before I give you my impression of pre-med at UChicago, let me give you my perspective. I am an MD/PhD student at Pritzker (thats Uchicago's medical school). I did not attend UChicago as an undergrad, but went to another highly regarded undergraduate university in the Midwest. I am not going to give you the details of my undergrad degree because (as you will learn if you go into medicine), medicine is a really small field and I'd rather not have the University know exactly who I am. I have some knowledge about U of C pre-med by taking MD classes in the BSLC (that is also used by the college) and by working in a lab that has U of C undergrads. MORE IMPORTANTLY, however, I have some 'insider' perspective on U of C premed by working for/with/advising/consulting/teaching for (again, I'm trying to be a bit ambiguous) the College's pre-med office. I also have some insider perspective on medical school admissions.

    I hate to say this, but being familiar with U of C's pre-med track record, I could not advise a someone with ambitions of going to medical school to even think of coming to U of C. I certainly would not let my kids go here if they had medicine on their radar. Let me tell you why I say this.

    The numbers speak for themselves. U of C's overall acceptance rate into medical school is an abysmal 40%. 40%. Let me repeat that: 40%. This is horrendous compared to its peers. What makes that number even worse is that the University keeps many students (MANY - I do not have an exact number but I would suspect that its around 50%) from applying. So essentially, the university tells half of its students that want to go to medical school that they cannot apply and then of the half that they let apply only 40% get any acceptance letter to a medical school (not necessarily a good one, but any acceptance period).

    U of C struggles mightily on the MCAT (I know this explicitly). They do significantly worse than their peer institutions (I'm not making this up - I've been recruited to try to help them in this regard). Moreover, they have statistics that show that U of C students have worse admissions prospects when scoring the same on the MCAT as students from peer institutions.

    For comparison, let me name some other universities I'm familiar with. Notre Dame, a university who lets ANY student apply to medical school, regardless of GPA/MCAT, has an overall medical school admission rate of 85-95+% depending on the year. Holy Cross College (a small college in Worcester, Massachusetts) has an admissions rate of 80%. I am not certain, but am under the impression that WashU has a rate near 80% as well.

    I am generally a positive person and hate to write negative things about people/institutions, but it is obviously clear to me that Chicago is doing their students a great, great disservice. It is absolutely pathetic that a University of its stature cannot do better for for their pre-med students. To be frank, they are cherry picking top high school students, who, at any other national university, would have a really good shot at getting into medical school, and hampering their chances. I see this as immensely frustrating as they are keeping otherwise bright minds and enthusiastic individuals from fulfilling their potential.

    I hope this news doesn't upset anyone, but I feel like you guys need to know this when making your college choice.

    One last thing to note is that, generally, a University's medical school will often be well represented by alumni from its college. I think it is somewhat telling that even at Pritzker, there are barely any UChicago alumni.
  • motherbear332motherbear332 Registered User Posts: 783 Member
    Interesting post, siege1214.

    I'm curious why UChicago students have such difficulty with the MCATs (assuming for the sake of discussion that your post is accurate). I don't recall having heard anyone say this before. These students have all demonstrated an ability to do well on standardized tests and there are plenty of test-prep materials out there for the MCAT, so they don't need to rely on UChicago for this. What do you think is going on?

    Perhaps I am mistaken, but I thought MD/PhD programs were funded, and I'm sure your studies keep you plenty busy. So I'm also curious why you are working in the premed office. Do you have some particular expertise in testing/MCAT prep?

    Since you made such a point of not revealing where you were an undergrad, you should be aware that it will take readers of your post all of about 2 seconds to click on "find more posts by siege1214" and find out.
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 1,824 Senior Member
    siege1214 - as motherbear said, note that users can search your old posts and easily find out where you went to undergrad.

    Now, with regard to your post, thanks for your candid reply. My chief question for you is, why do you think U of C is doing so poorly with med school placement? What are the reasons for this poor showing?

    Chicago is arguably the most selective school in the midwest, and (disregarding exact rank) one of the top 10 or so colleges in the country. Given the abilities of the incoming class, it'd be safe to assume they'd perform at least as well as colleges enrolling somewhat less academically talented students (i.e. the schools you mentioned, Notre Dame and College of the Holy Cross).

    So, why do Chicago students struggle so much? Given their abilities on standardized tests in high school, they should at least perform competently on the MCAT. It is extremely unfortunate that, with the nation-wide accept rate to med school at around 50%, Chicago (from what you know) only sends 40% of its students to med school.

    Given that the picture you paint is so dire, I am very keen on understanding the reasons WHY Chicago enrolls some of the very best of the best, and then has a med school placement rate that falls far, far below even the general national average. Again, I expected that Chicago may not place as well as Brown or Dartmouth, but to have a placement rate below that of SUNY Binghamton or U. of Vermont is quite surprising.

    If you have any hard evidence you are able to share, please do so. As an alum, I can assure you that med school placement was much higher when I attended (around 75-80% in the late 90s), all of my friends and contacts who wanted to attend medical school did, and the university did not stop 1/2 of potential pre-meds from applying to medical school. If what you say is true, in just 10 years, the placement rate has dropped from 75-80% to 40%, and that is extremely alarming. I don't think any other top school has seen such a drop in placement success while seeing only an increase in the quality of the incoming students.

    Perhaps alumni letters to the placement office are in order. If you have more information, please respond.
  • Divine ComedyDivine Comedy Registered User Posts: 382 Member
    I am one of the science majors at the University of Chicago, and I have taken numerous introductory and advanced science courses. The primary reason why this school has such a poor medical school placement rate is that, ironically, it is too "easy"! In other words, it does not aggressively weed out pre-meds.

    Many of the introductory science classes, at least the ones I have taken, curve the classes to B's or B+'s, and rarely give out A's to the best and the brightest in those courses. This is very odd for two reasons. Firstly, our peer institutions often curve to B-'s or C+'s for these exact introductory classes. Secondly, these classes give out substantially fewer A's and A-'s than those same classes at our peer institutions.

    Because not very many students receive C's, these classes do not weed out students and actually encourage every single prospective pre-med to apply for medical school. I actually have a grade distribution for one of the organic chemistry classes (and something like <3% get less than a B-). Having tons of B's and B+'s does not help getting into med school. At the end of the day, you have this giant pre-med student body whose med school zeal is just as strong as it first enters college.
    One last thing to note is that, generally, a University's medical school will often be well represented by alumni from its college. I think it is somewhat telling that even at Pritzker, there are barely any UChicago alumni.

    You have to watch out this claim. You really have to be either a current or a formal student of the undergraduate College to know that most pre-med undergraduate students here do not like Pritzker and often do not apply for Pritzker when it comes to med school admissions. They especially dislike Pritzker's lack of community engagement (ex. the debate surrounding its lack of trauma center).
  • Divine ComedyDivine Comedy Registered User Posts: 382 Member
    One last thing to note is that, generally, a University's medical school will often be well represented by alumni from its college. I think it is somewhat telling that even at Pritzker, there are barely any UChicago alumni.

    Oh and some people just want to get out of Hyde Park. (Don't get me wrong. I love Hyde Park, but it gets boring after four years.) I know many successful med school candidates, and most of them refused to apply for Pritzker.
  • soccersara122soccersara122 Registered User Posts: 358 Member
    Well, this is rather unfortunate :( I do want to go pre-med and used to consider this school my top choice. I will still apply, I just really wish this wasn't the case!
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 1,824 Senior Member
    Divine Comedy:

    For that O-Chem class, what % of students received grades in the A range? If it's roughly around 10-15% of the students, the curve would seem to match Chicago's peers, and actually be gentler than Chicago's peers (at other schools curved to a C+/B-, fewer students get Bs or B+s).

    Also, there seems to be some disparity between siege1214's comments and Divine Comedy's comments. What is curious to me is just how strange pre-med at Chicago seems to be, with some pretty significant gaps in public information. For example, from my time at Chicago, pre-med was seen as grueling because most pre-req classes were curved to around a B-, and, ON TOP OF THAT, most of the hum/soc core classes had median grades of around a B. So, overall, students had no way to boost their GPAs in the numbers-obsessed game that is med school admissions.

    Now, Divine Comedy, you're saying that the curve has been bumped up a bit in intro science classes (to a B or B+), and it's generally known that grade inflation has hit Chicago. It seems as if there would be many more opportunities to bump an overall GPA. Now, I know med school admissions look at science-specific gpas, but, they emphasize overall gpa and only report overal gpas to US News.

    With this in mind, wouldn't pre-med at Chicago actually be a bit easier now? If you can get Bs or B+s in your 4 required science classes (which only amount to about 25% of the total classes you take as an undergraduate), and then do very well in the other 75% of the classes you take, wouldn't you be well-positioned for med school admissions?

    I guess that's what is so confusing to me. As my peers at Chicago said, the pre-req courses for medical schools weren't the problem - it was that EVERYTHING ELSE at Chicago was ALSO hard that was the problem. If a student pulled a B or so in O-Chem, and then received A- or A grades in the 3 other courses she took for a quarter, her GPA would be around 3.6-3.7, which is perfectly fine for med school admissions.

    Divine Comedy, am I missing something here? Because the way you described pre-med at Chicago actually makes it sound PREFERABLE to pre-med elsewhere. Lets face it, I highly doubt that Chicago gives out less than 5-10% A-range grades in chem class, and I highly doubt that Chicago's peers give out much more than 15-20% As in intro science classes. If these disparities are correct, that means that a very, very small percentage of students (the gap between the students getting As at a peer school and Bs at Chicago) are benefiting from being at a peer school, and most Chicago students are actually benefiting being pre-med at Chicago rather than elsewhere, because they are getting Bs rather than C+s.

    Put another way, the incoming classes at Chicago are getting to be so strong, the majority of kids set on being pre-med are probably capable enough to attend medical school. If they aren't actively weeded out, then, I don't see that as a problem.

    I don't know - all of this doesn't seem to add up.
  • motherbear332motherbear332 Registered User Posts: 783 Member
    It is clear that one shouldn't take various statistics at face value, even ignoring the fact that the number here are all coming from anonymous posters on a discussion board. It would be interesting to see how many students that start out as premed eventually apply to med school. Weeding lots of kids out in OChem would inflate the percentage of successful admits, but is not good from the point of view of the individual student.

    I can see several areas where the choice of university could have an impact on med school admissions:

    1. Teaching the material necessary for doing well on the MCAT
    2. Advising--do students get the advice they need to be able to put together a successful app, opportunities for practice interviews, etc?
    3. Opportunities for helpful ECs
    4. GPA issues--is it easier or harder to get a good GPA than at other schools?

    In spite of what siege said, I'm pretty sure that UChicago is pretty good on 1 and at 3. I have the impression that 2 may have been lacking in the past but is improving. The GPA issue is multi-faceted and really good data probably doesn't exist--what data there is about this is coming from students and reports from their friends in other schools. But this is also an area where individual choices can make a big difference. Good advising can help here.

    Have I missed anything? How can prospective students compare these issues between different schools?
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 1,824 Senior Member
    Motherbear, all I really have to say at this point is that everything previous posters said don't seem to add up. Also, from what I can see, the "Chicago Careers in the Health Profession" advising group offers a free MCAT class, specific scholarships for students engaged in summer research, and a team of advisers.

    Maybe the execution of all of this is terrible, but its light years ahead of anything offered a decade ago at U of C. I'm not sure if students at Chicago have a "grass is always greener" outlook of other schools, or if there is just not enough accurate information out there, or what.

    Something seems amiss.

    Chicago Careers: CCIHP
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 16,095 Senior Member
    From what I have seen, pre-meds drop out of the program in large numbers, often "encouraged" (negatively) by their advisors. I am sort of shocked to see that 40% number, because I don't have the impression that hordes of unqualified Chicago graduates are applying to medical schools. I would have thought the problem was more people getting discouraged and thinking that they had no chance, which is what I have seen from my limited perspective.
  • Divine ComedyDivine Comedy Registered User Posts: 382 Member
    For that O-Chem class, what % of students received grades in the A range?

    I think around 60% of the class got either a B+, A-, or an A in that class. It was graded very generously. Now I think of it, UChicago has science curricula that are the same as, if not easier than, those of its peer institutions. I think what is really pulling down students' GPA is the harsh grading in the humanities and the social sciences. For those rather subjective classes, it all depends on the professors. I have been very fortunate in getting awesome and lenient professors for my Core classes. I still think that this school does not do a good job of weeding out pre-meds though.
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 1,824 Senior Member
    Divine Comedy wrote:

    "I think around 60% of the class got either a B+, A-, or an A in that class. It was graded very generously. Now I think of it, UChicago has science curricula that are the same as, if not easier than, those of its peer institutions."

    Well, from your post here, what you're essentially criticizing is that at Chicago, there is a "flattening" of pre-meds, and, while everyone does reasonably well (60% get B+ or above), it's harder to stick out.

    Put another way, it seems your chief complaint is that it's harder for the stars to shine at Chicago, and, while you may have a good chance to go to medical school from Chicago, your chances, as a talented student, to stick out and go to a top medical school diminish at the U of C.

    Am I reading this correctly?

    If so, your explanation seems to imply that, generally, the pre-med experience at Chicago may be gentler and easier than at Chicago's peers, but it's harder for the best students (maybe 5-10% of the pre-med student body) to excel as they would at a peer school.

    Now, you also argue that "I think what is really pulling down students' GPA is the harsh grading in the humanities and the social sciences."

    From what I know, there is no evidence that grading in the humanities and social sciences is "harsh." The core classes are subjective, for sure, but here's an article (from 5 years ago when grade inflation was perhaps a bit lower) covering one of (in my day) Chicago's more difficult core professors:

    GPAs get a .76 boost from grade inflation – The Chicago Maroon

    According to the article, Jonathan Hall, a tough humanities professor, gives out 80% grades in the B range and 20% A-s, with very few As.

    This is one of the more difficult professors I knew about at Chicago, and his grading system now seems quite lenient. Yes, the humanities and social sciences classes at Chicago can be difficult, but I don't really think the grading is "harsh."

    Moreover, once you push past the core classes, even when I was at Chicago, getting higher grades was attainable.

    From the discussion so far, it seems as if getting the necessary GPA (~3.5-3.7) to get into medical school from Chicago is very feasible, but getting the very high GPA (~3.8-4.0) to get into TOP medical schools is difficult. DivineComedy, what do you think? It seems your chief complaint would be about your chances to get into a top medical school. To get into any medical school, the U of C grading system and environment actually seems remarkably lenient.
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