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Importance of Undergraduate College to Med School Admission

Bill MarshBill Marsh 505 replies5 threads Member
I realize that it’s regarded as a truism here that only test scores and undergrad GPA, regardless of where that GPA was earned are all that matter for med school admission, that the higher GPA from East Podunk State will be taken over a lower GPA from Ivy League U if test scores are the same. As someone who has read this over and over here, I get the impression that the numbers could simply be fed into a computer and the computer could spit out the list of accepted candidates.

I’m wondering how anyone here could possibly know this. There are selection committees at med schools just as there are for undergrad admissions. Has anyone here ever sat on one? Do all selection committees operate the same at almost 200 different med schools in the US?

I’ve read articles on line and in the Princeton Review. I don’t know where they get their insights either, but none of them reduce the admissions standards to as simple a statement as GPA + MCAT = admission or rejection.

Thoughts?
24 replies
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Replies to: Importance of Undergraduate College to Med School Admission

  • joecollege44joecollege44 413 replies19 threads Member
    I agree with you that the college name has to have SOME amount of impact. But as long as it's a reputable school, like most state flagships (think Rutgers, Michigan State, University of Arizona...), it should be fine. Med schools know that people try to save money in college with med school debts looming ahead. Good grades and scores will get you in from any top 100 University. But I am sure coming from a top 20 like Yale, a student can get in with a slightly lower GPA and MCAT- not a lot lower, but slightly.
    Just my opinion, though.

    Keep in mind that students at top colleges maybe are just better test-takers already and perhaps more aggressive or savvy in seeking out relationships with prof's and research opportunities. So if you see those colleges over-represented in med school admissions, it isn't necessarily because of the name on the diploma. It's just the kid.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 10172 replies119 threads Senior Member
    I think it's more that GPA + MCAT = getting passed the first pre-screen. If those two components aren't high enough, there is no more review regardless of how well ranked your undergrad institution.



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  • Bill MarshBill Marsh 505 replies5 threads Member
    My question is how do any of us know what priorities selection committees have. How could we? I know someone who is faculty at an Ivy League medical school who says that how it’s represented here isn’t how it works where they are.

    This is important because students and parents are repeatedly given the same advice here. If there’s not a credible source, it shouldn’t be repeated.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7899 replies84 threads Senior Member
    "none of them reduce the admissions standards to as simple a statement as GPA + MCAT = admission or rejection"

    Neither does the CC community (by and large).

    GPA + MCAT IS the first hurdle, and if you don't clear it, it is rejection. At many (most?) med schools this is an automated cut: if your numbers don't add up you don't move forward. There is no break for a Famous School known for grade deflation, nor any penalty for being at Podunk U.

    But: it is not a binary process. AFTER that first cut comes LoRs / Interviews / etc. Med schools post their priorities on their sites. Even the AMA gives advice: https://www.ama-assn.org/residents-students/preparing-medical-school/15-skills-medical-schools-expect-students-day-one

    The repeated emphasis on CC about how the brand name of the college doesn't matter reflects the pervasive - and persistent!- view on the part of many students and parents that getting into a prestigious undergrad is necessary - or at least a big advantage- for getting into med school.

    There are a fair few posters on CC with direct experience of all segments of the med school admissions processor, including people who serve/have served on adcomms.
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  • Bill MarshBill Marsh 505 replies5 threads Member
    Thanks for the link, College Mom. It’s excellent. And far removed from most of what I see here.

    I don’t think the issue is “brand name” or “prestige”. I think it’s about identifying the colleges which will do a better job of developing the competencies described in the article you linked. I think it’s about opportunities to do research. I’m told that matters. I think it’s about opportunities for mentor ship relationships with faculty members since recommendations matter. I think it’s about academic rigor at the undergrad college since I’m told that matters. I’m led to believe that there are other factors as well, more than I have time for right now.

    It would be great if anyone with direct experience in med school admissions could reference that when they’re advising. I don’t see that happening, so I can’t consider the source. But even that experience is limited to the institution(s) they’ve been involved with. I can’t believe that everyone who repeats that mantra has experience since it’s repeated so often.

    I don’t have any idea what parents believe. I’m sure you’re right that some believe that a “name” school will open doors. But I don’t see the advice being offered just to rebut the mistaken belief that some parents might hold.

    I’m just offering my impressions as someone who reads a lot of these posts. It’s feedback. Take it or leave it. My reaction is that the advice would be more helpful if it were more nuanced. Take it for what it’s worth.
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  • oldlawoldlaw 325 replies14 threads Member
    edited May 12
    Bill, most medical school admission committees are proudly opaque in their decision making, often citing a "holistic" process and not much more.

    But there are medical schools which do place value-not clear how much-on college attended in the admissions process. Specific examples are Jefferson and Emory. Both of theses med schools specifically refer to college attended on their official websites as a selection factor. Haven't bothered to look at all the rest.

    On a purely anecdotal level, two colleagues are on the admissions committee of our state's flagship medical school. Our medical school admissions committee works on a points system(i.e. the more points an applicant gets during application review, the more likely s/he is to be interviewed). And specifically, points can be given to an applicant based on college attended. So that's one more school. Points can also be given for difficulty of major, which contradicts the routine advice given here that "major doesn't matter".

    And may be mistaken, but there are no adcoms on this site.

    And would agree that a more nuanced view is indicated, but unlikely. It is CW here on CC that college attended doesn't matter at all, and this myth persists even though the official websites of at least two schools state that it's a selection factor, right there in black and white on their websites. For this reason, it is often best for budding pre-meds to visit student doctor network, where there are actual med school adcoms/faculty, and where the advice is a lot more, er, pointed.
    edited May 12
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7899 replies84 threads Senior Member
    edited May 12
    I agree with you @Bill Marsh!

    There are a *lot* of posts from students & parents who really are focused on 'I must get into a “brand name” or “prestige” college b/c I want to go to med school, and what I mostly see (at least among the more thoughtful/experienced posters) is a pushing back and saying 'no, you need a college where you will thrive- it's not the brand name of the college, but what you do while you are there that matters most'.
    edited May 12
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  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom 10985 replies235 threads Senior Member
    edited May 12
    @Bill Marsh

    The medical school admission process is nuanced and multi-factorial.

    Is where someone goes to undergrad considered? Yes

    Is the name of the undergrad a major factor in getting an admission? No. Other factors hold much, much more weight.

    AAMC did a survey of admission deans of all US allopathic medical schools, the results of which are available on p.14

    https://www.aamc.org/system/files/c/2/462316-mcatguide.pdf

    The selectivity of the undergraduate institution an applicant attends of "low importance" as is a student's choice of major, the completion of challenging non-science coursework, legacy status, participation in intercollegiate sports, gender, age, and whether or not an individual started out at community college.

    Now this is an aggregate result and some individual medical schools may place more weight on some items than other schools do. But generally speaking, where one attends undergrad is not a major factor when adcomms make admission decisions.


    The difficulty with offering nuanced advice is that
    a) most high school pre-med wanna-bes will never ever even apply to medical school
    b) students seldom give all the relevant factors in their asks.
    They are looking for easy answers. Should I go to State U or Private U ? --as if attending one of the other will automatically give one a leg up on admission to medical school. The true answer is doesn't matter since admission to medical school is based on what one achieves, not where one attends.

    My standard advice to pre meds is to choose the best balance fit, cost and opportunities (including opportunities to explore other career pathways). That balance will be different for every individual.

    FWIW, I have my own very limited data set. One child attended the state U; one child attended a top 30 research U. Their results were identical--both were were admitted to multiple medical schools. At their respective colleges, both had opportunities to form close mentoring relationship with professors. Both had the opportunity to engage in meaningful research. Both had classes that challenged them intellectually. Both worked as TAs and SIs at their schools. Both were able to participate in campus clubs and non-campus activities and rise to leadership positions.

    Getting a medical school admission depend much more on the individual and their persistence, ability, drive and motivations than where they go to undergrad.

    edited May 12
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  • Jugulator20Jugulator20 1567 replies19 threads Senior Member
    FWIW I agree that what weight, if any, is given to a college attended by a med school is an unknown. What factors that may be important to Yale are different than say George Washington that received almost 15K+ applications with 184 matriculants in last cycle. I do think med schools have to start somewhere to thin out the herd and can start by asking if an applicant can cut it academically by looking at their GPAs/MCAT. Assuming the answer is yes, then other parts of an application are fair game and can be weighted as a med school finds useful. And in the end, if an applicant screws up their interview, if offered, it probably won’t matter where an applicant went to college, even Yale.

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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 10172 replies119 threads Senior Member
    This: "Getting a medical school admission depend much more on the individual and their persistence, ability, drive and motivations than where they go to undergrad."

    And this:

    "You need a college where you will thrive."

    This looks different for each individual. Cost complicates it even further.


    Trying to get more concrete information about med school admission feels very much like lamenting the competitive ug process. It's holistic.


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  • Bill MarshBill Marsh 505 replies5 threads Member
    Thank you for all of your thoughts. Much appreciated.

    I do think that advice to students contemplating a pre-med track should go beyond “ go where you can get the highest gpa and where it’s most affordable.” I’d like to see advice that also focus on where a student can get the best opportunities to do research, the best mentorship opportunities, and where s/he is most likely to be challenged both by faculty and by peers while also considering where conditions make it most likely that the student can meet the challenge. Of course finances are always important.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7899 replies84 threads Senior Member
    @Bill Marsh, I think you will find that that is essentially the dominant advice on CC- at least from the long-time / adult posters ;)

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  • oldlawoldlaw 325 replies14 threads Member
    Bill Marsh wrote: »
    Thank you for all of your thoughts. Much appreciated.

    I do think that advice to students contemplating a pre-med track should go beyond “ go where you can get the highest gpa and where it’s most affordable.” I’d like to see advice that also focus on where a student can get the best opportunities to do research, the best mentorship opportunities, and where s/he is most likely to be challenged both by faculty and by peers while also considering where conditions make it most likely that the student can meet the challenge. Of course finances are always important.

    While it would be nice to offer advice of this type, it is regrettably next to impossible. Each of the areas you highlight is fluid, at best; two students may attend the same college, but only one obtains research opportunity, because that's pretty much up to the student. Finding a mentor is pretty much the same; some students are able, some aren't but often that's because of each student's efforts, or lack thereof.

    And have no idea how to insure a student would be "challenged both by faculty and peers" and know the "conditions [that]make it most likely that the student can meet the challenge." Posters here would have to have detailed, almost minute information about every student, which just isn't possible.

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  • blossomblossom 10386 replies9 threads Senior Member
    And don't forget- folks on CC like a "lather, rinse, repeat" approach to advice.

    Years ago, someone advised a kid NOT to attend MIT if they were interested in med school because of huge grade deflation (A's are difficult, B's are common, lots of smart and hard working kids get C's from time to time), because the core curriculum is very tough, AND because most professors save the research opportunities for their grad students and the competition to get research slots is intense.

    Only the first two of these statements are true- but even so, MIT used to post their med school admissions stats right on their website (I don't know if they still do) and it was apparent that neither the grade deflation nor the tough core was hurting MIT med school applicants. And there were kids getting into US Med schools with "bottom of the barrel" undergrad GPA's (at least as far as med school admissions go); however, the very high MCAT scores certainly balanced that out.

    Anyway- for years- the last statement- that MIT is a terrible place to go to do undergrad research, got recycled umpteen times in umpteen different posts. Engineering? Don't go to MIT. Physics? Don't go to MIT. Neuroscience/Life Science? Don't go to MIT. Econ? Don't go to MIT.

    Of course, this is insane. Any undergrad who wants to do research at MIT can do so. There is an entire website devoted to cataloging ALL the opportunities, and for most of them, a student can decide if he/she wants to be paid, or wants course credit. Research spots are NOT doled out on the basis of "does my professor like me"- a student may not have the course pre-requisites to do a particular UROP opportunity as a freshman- but guess what- by sophomore year, he or she will. Research opportunities at MIT abound, and students get to be mentored by both senior faculty and grad students and post grads which is fantastic- more exposure to "colleagues", more ways to be challenged both on technique and content.

    But once this statement got made, it got repeated ad nauseum. My kids know lots of MIT undergrads who went to med school, and those kids were not the grade-grubber "can't get a B" premeds that you hear about at other colleges. The core curriculum at MIT aligns nicely with the med school requirements so you can major in econ and minor in music and still have the right profile to apply to med school without doing a Post-Bac. The city of Cambridge has always welcomed MIT students who qualify as EMT's which is a convenient way to see community medicine up close and get in those hours with actual sick people.

    Some version of this exists for lots of different colleges BTW- don't go to JHU, don't go to Georgia Tech. But on CC it's hard to convey nuance, and this group sure does love to recycle old advice!

    You've got the "it doesn't matter where you go" crowd- and their canned speech. And the "Elite or bust" group-- and their tropes. And the "wherever you go, make sure it's the cheapest of your options" and we all know what that's like.

    Life is nuanced for sure. The ONE fact that is constant- most HS seniors who head off to college intending to go to med school will not become physicians. So if you are having this debate with your HS kid- make sure this reality is part of the conversation.
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  • texaspgtexaspg Forum Champion Pre-Med & Medical 16632 replies343 threads Forum Champion
    GPA + MCAT IS the first hurdle, and if you don't clear it, it is rejection. At many (most?) med schools this is an automated cut: if your numbers don't add up you don't move forward. There is no break for a Famous School known for grade deflation, nor any penalty for being at Podunk U.
    FWIW, I have my own very limited data set. One child attended the state U; one child attended a top 30 research U. Their results were identical--both were were admitted to multiple medical schools. At their respective colleges, both had opportunities to form close mentoring relationship with professors. Both had the opportunity to engage in meaningful research. Both had classes that challenged them intellectually. Both worked as TAs and SIs at their schools. Both were able to participate in campus clubs and non-campus activities and rise to leadership positions.

    Agree with many observations here. There is a threshold of GPA and MCAT (best indicator that has held up - LizzyM score) for each school and if one has not made the minimums of GPA and MCAT as well as median of the total, one may not make the cut for interview. This is your real first threshold. Based on other factors (college, recs, research, ECs, volunteering, major awards) you might be put into a pool of to be considered for later rounds but the early rounds start with the top applicants meeting these thresholds. There has been a saying that has been passed on from successful applicants from top schools that said 3.8 and 38 (current MCAT of 520) can get me an interview anywhere since I am attending a top 10 school. This translates to about 76 in LizzyM but that is just a baseline number but it was more closer to 78 or higher to be sure. In this year's round, I have seen people complain that they had a score of 82 but didn't get any interviews at top 10 schools because they attended a state school. However, that didn't mean they did not get a whole bunch of other interviews and admissions.

    Both my kids went to top 5 schools for undergrad. One did extremely well, attended interviews at 6 top 10 med schools, admitted to 4, attended one. The second kid did a lot of ECs and didn't pay as much attention to the GPA and at one point we considered gap year/masters. But Texas residency helped and she got lots of interviews in state and a few OOS, including one top 10 where she is waitlisted. She would have gotten the state admissions even if she had gone to UT since she would have done probably better at UT GPA wise and arrived at the same results, might have even finished in 3 years. We have a couple of prestigious medical schools in state where they have graduates from all elite schools of the nation, primarily because it is easiest for them to land an admission with instate preference after not being at the top of their classes in elite schools and with almost the lowest average tuition in the nation.

    Most state schools are required to follow processes that clearly outline how they are accepting students and accept a high percentage of instate students. Texas has more than 2000 medical seats with a 90% instate reservation. A large percentage of the schools are filled with state school graduates except in states where there is not that high instate preference (California and Pennsylvania to name a couple).

    https://medicine.umich.edu/medschool/education/md-program/our-community/students-faculty/admitted-class-profile

    Michigan has the most open admission process I am aware of in the nation. They list out how many applications they have received from top colleges, how many they interviewed from those colleges, how many they admitted. So each year you can see that they are interviewing about 20-25 from Harvard, Stanford Yale etc and admit a majority of them. What goes unnoticed is those interviewed have the best stats coming out of those schools and just because one applied from Harvard they dont get the interview at Michigan. My older D's class had several interviewees and admittees and not a single one of her good friends with high stats matriculated. 2 went to Harvard, 2 went to Columbia and so on. I see 4 still attended from her undergrad school that year out of 15 or 18 admitted. Does that mean Michigan interviews and admits lower stats students from top schools because of the loss of these people? No, they still want the best students from those schools but are ok with only a few matriculating since most of their OOS admittees are from top schools. They are aiming for the best 50-60% of their instate students and everyone else better be the best elite school graduates as OOS students.

    The advice in CC medical forum is geared towards providing guidance as to what offers student the best chance of getting into a medical school. There are far better options of reaching that goal outside of just assuming that attending an elite undergrad does that. I advise friends to change residency to states where they have a high instate preference, attend the school they have the best chance of maximizing their GPA, map out all coursework upfront, find the best grading profs for each class, pay attention to MCAT prep, volunteer, do some research etc. if they want to attend medical school. I advise them to go to to top schools for anything other than premed because GPA is not as important outside of medicine.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83399 replies741 threads Senior Member
    oldlaw wrote: »
    On a purely anecdotal level, two colleagues are on the admissions committee of our state's flagship medical school. Our medical school admissions committee works on a points system(i.e. the more points an applicant gets during application review, the more likely s/he is to be interviewed). And specifically, points can be given to an applicant based on college attended. So that's one more school. Points can also be given for difficulty of major, which contradicts the routine advice given here that "major doesn't matter".

    Which colleges and majors were given points (positive or negative)?
    oldlaw wrote: »
    And may be mistaken, but there are no adcoms on this site.

    There was this older thread:
    https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/pre-med-topics/2058785-confessions-of-a-med-school-app-reader-p1.html
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  • oldlawoldlaw 325 replies14 threads Member
    ucbalumnus wrote: »
    oldlaw wrote: »
    On a purely anecdotal level, two colleagues are on the admissions committee of our state's flagship medical school. Our medical school admissions committee works on a points system(i.e. the more points an applicant gets during application review, the more likely s/he is to be interviewed). And specifically, points can be given to an applicant based on college attended. So that's one more school. Points can also be given for difficulty of major, which contradicts the routine advice given here that "major doesn't matter".

    Which colleges and majors were given points (positive or negative)?
    oldlaw wrote: »
    And may be mistaken, but there are no adcoms on this site.

    There was this older thread:
    https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/pre-med-topics/2058785-confessions-of-a-med-school-app-reader-p1.html

    Re: adcoms-maybe in the past, but not now.

    RE: Majors with perceived additional difficulty were given credit for that difficulty: e.g. BME, biochemistry, etc. And the schools were the usual suspects-Ivy, top LAC, etc.

    But this applies to ONE medical school; have no idea how others work.

    And as medical schools go, Michigan is (at least relatively) transparent, as noted above. Here's another chart:
    https://medicine.umich.edu/medschool/sites/medicine.umich.edu.medschool/files/files/tracker/UMHS11580_5YearAdmissInfographic.pdf

    It's a state school, and other than Michigan, every other school in the top 10 for admission offers is considered, for better or worse, a "top" school.

    And to give Michigan credit, their website is full of advice to anyone considering applying.
    https://medicine.umich.edu/medschool/education/md-program/md-admissions/requirements

    Using Michigan's list, above, it would seem to suggest-strongly-that attending a top UG is an advantage. It doesn't, however, establish that but it's something that can't be ignored. The Michigan chart reflects a five year average, and the fact they post it at all-most medical schools don't-would lead one to conclude that this information is important.
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  • texaspgtexaspg Forum Champion Pre-Med & Medical 16632 replies343 threads Forum Champion
    https://medicine.umich.edu/medschool/sites/medicine.umich.edu.medschool/files/files/tracker/UMHS11580_5YearAdmissInfographic.pd

    This is an interesting chart when used with actual matriculant charts for each year.

    https://medicine.umich.edu/medschool/sites/medicine.umich.edu.medschool/files/assets/Incoming Class of 2019.pdf

    They had 135 and 100 from Harvard and Stanford apply, 28 and 20 interviewed, 27 and 16 admitted on average. Looking at 2019 matriculant charts, only 6 went from Harvard and less than 3 (if any) from Stanford. Yale had similar number of interviews and admissions as Stanford and 3 matriculated.

    Assuming that all 3 schools had applicants to medical schools exceeding 200 (one can get these numbers from AAMCAS), only 50% or so applied to Michigan assuming they had a shot, 10% got interviews, 8% got admissions and 1 to 2% actually matriculated from the original pool of medical school applicants. The reason it is so skewed despite Michigan being a top medical school is that those that are admitted have admissions from several other top schools and are choosing Yale, Columbia, Penn, Harvard, Stanford and NYU over Mich. In the end, attending named schools is not enough, they need to do quite well there under intense competition.
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  • oldlawoldlaw 325 replies14 threads Member
    edited May 13
    Well, of course "they need to do quite well"; everybody from every school needs to do quite well.. The issue OP asked was the importance of UG in med school admission; the Michigan statistics would indicate that it is important.

    And the numbers would seem to indicate that some schools ought to assist their students in preparing for interviews, as the number of interviews per school and the number of acceptances for those schools show a marked disparity.
    edited May 13
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83399 replies741 threads Senior Member
    But then how much of the "top undergraduate school" bias is due to selection effect (that those "top undergraduate schools" admit the strongest students to begin with, who would be more likely to be the strongest applicants to medical school), rather than treatment effect (that, for the same student, they would improve chance of admission to medical school in some way)?
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