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Amherst vs Duke Pre Med

cheescakecheescake 52 replies12 threads Junior Member
Hi everyone! I've been fortunate enough to have been admitted to Amherst and Duke and I'm torn as to which is the best option for me. (I've also been admitted to Williams--for right now I've tentatively eliminated it because of its extremely rural location. However, I'm definitely open to hearing arguments for Williams as well.)

I've done a lot of research on CC and other websites, and I've formulated my own opinions of these schools splitting up my analysis of these into two main umbrellas: academics and campus life/ college experience.

Academically, I am pretty set on the pre-med track. I know that Amherst has a very high pre-med admission rate into medical school (around 80-90% from the research that I've done). I've also read Amherst's premed guide so I know that the school is overall quite good at preparing their students. The statistic 80-90% is extremely high so I know that many students who started off wanting to do pre-med ended up not applying by the end. Does anyone have more insight into how this "weeding out" system works at Amherst?

A potential pro for Amherst over Duke is that I would be able to have a closer relationship with professors and not have to compete with graduate students for spots in research. However, I do know that undergraduates get opportunities to be involved with research at Duke's medical center, which has an incredible amount of resources that Amherst might not be able to match, given its location in a small town. Because of Duke's location in the research triangle and hospital/medical school presence, Duke might also be able to provide more summer opportunities volunteering or shadowing or working in the medical field. How easy is it for Amherst students to get similar opportunities/how good is the school at helping students in that respect?

Another potential pro for Amherst is less of the competitive, cut-throat atmosphere that pre-med is infamous for, one that I hope to avoid as much as I can. This is just my guess though, can anyone offer any insight into the pre-med culture at Amherst and how that might compare to the culture at Duke? From what I perceive about Duke, the culture there is competitive but it also isn't close to being the worst out of larger universities.

Now moving on the (for me, slightly less important that academics) half of my analysis of these two schools: campus life/college experience. I think I prefer Duke on this one, though I will be visiting both which I hope will give me a better idea. Generally, I like the idea of a smaller school but I fear that Amherst will be too small, whereas Duke will be the perfect size. I read somewhere from an Amherst student that after four years they felt like they had met everyone and done most everything the school had to offer. However, one concern I have about Duke is the prominence of greek life and social stratification, whereas Amherst strikes me as more of a collective environment, though I could be wrong. I also like the weather at Duke better. Overall, I do give Duke a bit of an edge in this part of my analysis.

Thank you so much if you've read to this point! I appreciate any answers people can give to any of my questions, I just want as much information as possible before making my decision :)
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Replies to: Amherst vs Duke Pre Med

  • EconomathematicsEconomathematics 49 replies4 threads Junior Member
    @cheescake Congrats on getting into such great schools!

    Amherst does not "weed out" students who are on the pre-med track, per se. Students just come to the realization that either a) science is hard, and they don't actually have much interest in premed or b) their interests lie in something completely different, like environmental studies or something. There are definitely not classes here at Amherst that are designed to weed out students. Being a small liberal arts school, Amherst simply wants to get their undergrads to learn as much as they can in their 4 years here.

    You are right in asserting that the close interactions with professors is a HUGE plus at Amherst, maybe even the biggest. We have a program named SURF where students stay on campus for most of the summer, and do research with one of the professors. It is a very popular option, and from what I've heard very engaging and worthwhile. Additionally, Amherst provides funds (of either 3500 or 4500) for internships you receive that are unpaid. This summer (as a freshman!) I was able to secure an internship through an Amherst alum at a hedge fund, and since it was unpaid, I got a stipend from Amherst of 4500. Very generous indeed! And more on the track of what you might be interested in, I have a good friend (a sophomore) who will be interning this summer at Vanderbilt doing medical research. So you are probably right in assuming that Duke will open more possibilities for you, but Amherst does as well. And our alums are fiercely loyal.

    There is not interpersonal competition here, only intrapersonal. You are competing with yourself to do better. It is not - at all - cut throat. Duke and Amherst might be near opposites on that aspect. Amherst is all about collaboration, not competition.

    1,600 is still a large number. And at least personally, I enjoy being able to walk around campus and know people and be able to find friends to sit by everytime I go to the dining hall. Though it is small, it feels much more life a community.

    Good luck deciding!
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  • golacsgolacs 61 replies1 threads Junior Member
    My daughter is an Amherst graduate. She is currently a third year MD student. What I can say is that the premed at Amherst is phenomenal, all my daughter's classmate we knew who wanted to be in medicine had been successfully accepted by medical schools!
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  • cheescakecheescake 52 replies12 threads Junior Member
    Thanks to both of you for your responses!
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  • pmyenpmyen 486 replies55 threads Member
    edited April 2017
    I am an Amherst grad and have been a faculty member at several medical schools, including Duke. I also have served on the admissions committees of several of the top medical schools in the U.S. I think a major consideration is whether you prefer to attend a small liberal arts college or a medium sized research university. Since the student body at Amherst is significantly less in number, you will get to know your classmates better, your classes generally will be smaller (certainly for the intro science courses), and you will have better access to professors. The latter could lead to more face time and potentially lead to research opportunities with them. I think cultivating these relationships with faculty is important since letters of reference are an important part of the application portfolio; thus, it is important to know a few faculty members well enough to write meaningful letters on your behalf. On the other hand, many students, including myself when I was a student, found jobs in medical research centers closer to home during the summer. It also is noteworthy that Amherst offers a number of grants for students to do summer research if they are not paid a salary. In general, medical schools like LAC graduates since they have strong communication skills i.e., generally able to write and speak well, as well as make coherent connections across different disciplines-all skills that are extremely valuable in medicine. I also like the way that Amherst encourages students to take classes in different fields-as a way of learning new areas and as a part of intellectual self-exploration. It even is possible that you may find another area that captures your passion even more than medicine! Finally, Amherst applicants are considered favorably in comparison to other top schools -similar to Ivy League applicants and those from private research universities such as Duke, Stanford, Chicago, etc.

    On the other hand, I also think highly of Duke. Like Amherst, it has a beautiful campus with Gothic archictecture instead New England colonial. The medical school is first rate and offers excellent opportunities for students to do research. It also shares some of the same characteristics as neighboring UNC with its Southern traditions, school spirit, fraternities, and Division 1 basketball and football. These aspects may be pluses or minuses depending upon the applicant. My impression is that students also tend to be more pre-professional especially since the law, business, and medical schools are located on campus. I found Duke to be a friendly place for both faculty and students, so I strongly believe that one also could cultivate good relationships with faculty by taking a little initiative. I think your idea of visiting both places is a good one. After visiting both, imagine where you think you would best fit in and be happiest.
    edited April 2017
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  • ShhsvriShhsvri 11 replies0 threads New Member
    Go to Amherst! Ignore the liberal arts stuff. You can take classes at the 5-colleges consortium. There is a great Falafel place also. I really miss Amherst. The best place for an undergrad.
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