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easy school, better grades v. harder school, lower grades

michplusdichmichplusdich Registered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
edited March 2011 in Pre-Med Topics
Hello,

I will be pursuing a degree in neurology or biochemistry (I am following the pre-med track). I have heard that the most difficult part of becoming a doctor is getting accepted into medical school. I was wondering, is it better to attend a school with easier standards or a school with a higher prestige but harder standards? Which one will prepare me better for grades and MCAT?

These are the colleges that I have been accepted to/still waiting to hear from:
Indiana University Bloomington
Tulane University
University of Notre Dame (Still waiting to hear)
College of William & Mary (Still waiting to hear)
Fordham University
Loyola University Chicago
Marquette University
Post edited by michplusdich on

Replies to: easy school, better grades v. harder school, lower grades

  • MiamiDAPMiamiDAP Registered User Posts: 16,184 Senior Member
    You are the only person in charge of your grades and MCAT prep. No UG institution can do for you.
  • psubmbpsubmb Registered User Posts: 96 Junior Member
    MiamiDAP's answer is largely correct but also somewhat idealistic.

    Going to a harder undergraduate institution won't necessarily make up for a lower GPA. Given the choice, I'd rather have a great GPA coming from an easier school rather than a lower GPA coming from a big-name school. I'm not really sure that you have anything to worry about with your list of schools though.

    Similarly, getting a lower GPA in a tougher major (engineering, physics, chemistry, whatever) isn't a great idea for medical school admissions.
  • MiamiDAPMiamiDAP Registered User Posts: 16,184 Senior Member
    Harder vs easier UG is overrated. In reality, there are no easier UG if one is planning for Med. School. This is based on input from many top caliber students (largely at state a.k.a "easy" schools), including my own D. who got accepted to few Med. Schools. Huge % of those who start as pre-med, simply fall out of this track everywhere including valedictorians from private HS's. So, be prepeared to work hard anywhere, including the lowest of ranks UG that you can possibly imagine. I do not know the level at CC, is it easier or not, I am not familiar.
  • psubmbpsubmb Registered User Posts: 96 Junior Member
    MiamiDAP wrote:
    Harder vs easier UG is overrated. In reality, there are no easier UG if one is planning for Med. School. This is based on input from many top caliber students (largely at state a.k.a "easy" schools), including my own D. who got accepted to few Med. Schools. Huge % of those who start as pre-med, simply fall out of this track everywhere including valedictorians from private HS's. So, be prepeared to work hard anywhere, including the lowest of ranks UG that you can possibly imagine. I do not know the level at CC, is it easier or not, I am not familiar.

    Overrated, perhaps. Not an issue, no way.

    I was a biochemistry major at a state school. I was accepted to six medical schools this cycle and will be attending one of the top 5 medical schools in the country next year. At my easy state school, I had to put in a decent amount of work since I had a tough major, but I came away with a 3.9x GPA. Many interviewers commented on my academic record and they did not seem to express any concern that it was coming from a state school. If you have stellar numbers, where they came from becomes a secondary consideration. I think that if I had gone to a "elite" undergrad, I would have had to put in many times the amount of work I did and still would not have ended up with the GPA I had at my state school. This is based both on the firsthand experience of taking an introductory biology course at an Ivy one summer and comparing the rigor of an intro science course at that institution and my state school, and the secondhand information I have heard from friends who were in similar majors at schools with much better reputations.

    If you look at it as "I'm going to go to an easy school so I don't have to put in too much work to get good grades" you're going to get burned no matter how easy a school you go to. You'll end up being part of that huge majority of people who come in as premeds and give up that ambition at some point.

    However, if you are going to try your hardest and do your best no matter what institution you attend, you may find that this identical maximum level of effort will get you different results at different institutions.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid Posts: 83,489 Forum Champion
    is it better to attend a school with easier standards or a school with a higher prestige but harder standards? Which one will prepare me better for grades and MCAT?




    None of the schools on your list will have "easy classes" for pre-med req'ts. It is a myth to think that if you go to a mid-tier (such as Marquette or IU) you'll have easy OChem classes or something. That just isn't true. The profs at those schools will be well-educated and will use the same books.

    My younger son is a very strong student who goes to a mid-tier flagship. He's worked his fanny off to make sure he has straight As....especially in his pre-med pre-reqs. Even his foreign language classes (Spanish and Italian) have been very demanding. He's become very fluent in Spanish and altho he's only taken this one semester of Italian (currently), I'm amazed at how much he's learned so far from ONE class.

    Mid-tier schools do not have "smart kids" equally spread out amongst all majors. NO. The smart kids are largely concentrated in about 6-10 majors (eng'g, math, hard sciences, etc). So, even if the middle quartiles of a mid-tier have rather "average" test scores, those numbers will not represent your classmates in Bio, Gen Chem, OChem, etc, etc. And, as the semesters go on and kids get weeded out, your pre-med peers will likely mostly all be in the upper quartile.
  • eadadeadad Registered User Posts: 2,759 Senior Member
    Agree 100% with mom2collegekids. In fact, forty years ago when I attended Marquette as an undergrad the pre-med track was a bear. At that time Chem profs had you fill out a 3x5 card the first day of classes to "get to know you better" and asked things like name, where you were from and intended career path. It was widely known that they graded pre meds tougher....many students believed that the profs who taught Chem 101 /102 and Orgo were former pre meds who didn't cut it and were thus making it more difficult for the pre meds.

    Before I enrolled, I was told by an MD family friend who was a MU grad to never acknowledge that I was pre med for that very reason...he had gone to school there thirty plus years before me!

    I'm sure you can find out on the MU boards if that practice still exists...it may not any more because the med school is now the Medical College of Wisconsin but was the MU Med School when I attended.

    In short, wherever you go the pre med track will not be easy....many schools have very rigid curves for science and math classes...if you understand how a curve works, there is zero forgiveness in it.

    Pick the school at which you think you will be happiest.....remember, what happens AFTER classes end can be very important...there are many studies that say that how happy you are where you are contributes greatly to your academic success.

    Your list has schools that are VERY different. MU, Loyola and Fordham are urban schools, William and Mary feels more like a LAC than "big school", Tulane has not fully recovered from Katrina and has lost many programs and good faculty members and Notre Dame is Notre Dame.... it's a great school but by far the most socially conservative school on your list- no coed dorms and very strict inter-visitation policies to name a few things.

    You can get a great education at any of them...and be well prepared for med school admissions, the most important thing is where will you be happiest?
  • MiamiDAPMiamiDAP Registered User Posts: 16,184 Senior Member
    Yes, my D. had straight A's, but she had to work extremely hard for them at her State School and many who had to work even harder since they did not come from rigorous private HS simply did not survive past the first Bio class. AP Bio class in HS did not help much since material from AP Bio was covered in first 2 weeks. I have no idea about levels at elite schools. But D. seen many HS valedictorian fallen out of pre-med track at her State (non-flagship) school.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid Posts: 83,489 Forum Champion
    but she had to work extremely hard for them at her State School and many who had to work even harder since they did not come from rigorous private HS simply did not survive past the first Bio class.


    Yes...my kids have seen this as well. When we were paying for our kids to go to private k-12 schools they thought we were wasting our money. However, once they went to college and saw what a better foundation they had in math, the sciences, and WRITING skills, they understood why we did what we did.

    My kids were lucky that both AP Bio and AP Chem were "double period classes"...so those classes were nearly 3 hours long in a "modified block" schedule. (Class met for the full year, but only on A or B days.) This allowed more time for lecture and more time for involved lab work.
  • michplusdichmichplusdich Registered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    I took AP Chem and AP Bio and neither of them had separate lab courses. yikes. I was also wondering, since it appears that the level of rigor will be the same at each of the universities, are any of the universities below (that I had listed in a previous post) particularly known for being helpful to pre-med students (ex: friendly professors who are willing to help students, lots of tutor groups, research opportunities and internships, etc.):

    Indiana University
    Tulane University
    College of William and Mary
    Loyola University Chicago
    Fordham University
    Marquette University
  • MiamiDAPMiamiDAP Registered User Posts: 16,184 Senior Member
    ^Again, sorry for very general response, but I believe opportunities are everywhere. There are prof's office hours, SI sessions (Supplemental Instructor's), informal study together with friends groups and private paid tutors. Your own willingness to seek help and work hard will make a big difference. Do not hesitate, while some do. Your tuition is paying for all these resources, might as well use them. Your college GPA will open more doors at college as well. Your willingnes to help others will do the same. Go to UG that made you feel that you belong there during visit, trust yourself in your decision.
  • eadadeadad Registered User Posts: 2,759 Senior Member
    No one here can tell you which school is going to be best for you.

    No school is going to hold your hand-it's college and they expect you to be mature, self starters...which is crucial if you are even thinking about med school.

    As I previously said, the single most important thing is "fit"....where do you think you will be happiest and most able to succeed.....the educational opportunities are really pretty much a draw with the schools on your list....the unknown here is where do you see yourself best fitting in....ie if you don't see yourself in a northern or urban setting, eliminate Marquette, Loyola, and Fordham and maybe even Tulane. You can use similar criteria for all the schools.

    Have you visited all these schools or are you just using the internet and brochures? Nothing can beat seeing the school for yourself......photographs can be used to tell a very different story than what the real facts are. They are very different schools with very different personalities. I'd also recommend going to the CC threads for each respective school and asking some of these same questions....however, don't rely on information from other high school students....you want to hear either from parents of students or students themselves.

    You can also make a list of the pros and cons of each school and weight them...then create a short list. Once you have a short list, I'd strongly advise visiting the remaining schools if you already haven't.
This discussion has been closed.