I’m an incoming First-Year at Brown and this is my short summary of each of the differences between the Ivies IMO for prospective pre-med applicants from my response to another post trying to decide which Ivy to apply ED. This post isn’t meant to start a discussion, but please feel free to write any major corrections in the comments for future students reading this thread to reference. Also, GO BROWN BEARS!!
ALL of the Ivies are different in terms of school culture, academic curriculum, location etc. though they all will offer you some form of a liberal arts education and personalized instruction/small class sizes (definitely not for intro courses that are taken by every pre-med student like Bio or Chem, but especially at the higher level courses.)
Here’s my PERSONAL opinions of the Ivies. Note that I did not apply to all of them, but I do know students going there. Also, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are Restrictive Early Action schools, while the rest are Early Decision schools.
- Urban Schools:
a. Harvard: Boston’s HUGE and has a ton of hospitals/medical schools and a ton of opportunities as a results. However, there are also a ton of colleges (MA has the highest # of educational institutions per capita, I believe,) so expect there to be competition for these opportunities: not ONLY from fellow Harvard & MIT students. I believe Harvard has distribution requirements for general education, so expect the flexibility in the curriculum to be in between Columbia’s CORE (which has little in their general ed, given that most Columbia College students have to take the same common courses regardless of major,) and Brown’s Open Curriculum (where you essentially have no requirements, except for 2 Writing designated courses offered in multiple fields.) There was an article from a Harvard professor a few years back about grade inflation running rampant here, but it’s also extremely hard to gain acceptance here, so idk…that’s not a discussion to have in this thread.
b. Columbia: NYC is NYC. Like Boston, tons of opportunities, but also a ton of college students and competition. The CORE curriculum (Columbia’s version of general ed) is SUPER rigid but ensures that students are exposed to ALL of the traditional aspects of liberal arts.) There is grade deflation (or at least not inflation) here because there’s no “easy” general ed courses like other schools, given that everyone’s taking the same courses.
c. Penn: Philadelphia, Boston, and NYC are the three biggest cities in New England. Penn’s location is amazing in that the hospital/medical school system is right next door to the undergraduate school. Penn’s College of Arts and Sciences has a distribution requirement system as well I believe, and coursework is definitely rigorous (like all the Ivies, but more grade deflation/lack of inflation than being inflated.) A Penn degree will prepare you well for med school (see their pre-health advising website for stats,) but be prepared to WORK HARD throughout the next four years, though this should be true no matter where you go. I’ve heard it called the most pre-professional ivy, given the Wharton Business School and the high percentage of pre-health students.
- Sub-Urban/Smaller Urban Cities:
a. Brown: I’m extremely biased because I go here, but Brown’s amazing for pre-health students given the dual advantages of an undergraduate-focused curriculum (the Open Curriculum gives you the freedom to study pre-med while also whatever else you’re interested in, and many students create their own liberal arts curriculum by sampling different fields) and a smaller graduate student population/a small state where Brown has like 5+ affiliated hospitals and its med school right in the city of Providence (Brown students have a shuttle to the med school and some of the hospitals.) The grading system is w/o +/-, so while this isn’t ideal for students who have a B+ vs. a B-, an A+ or A- is an A no matter how you look at it. Also, students can S/NC (pass/fail) any course, so you have the freedom to take a language elective course, for example, w/o the risk of a bad grade stopping you from taking it.
b. Yale: New Haven’s more like Providence and Princeton in size than Penn/Columbia/Harvard. Amazing academics and world-renowned professors combined with a distribution like general ed curriculum and a shopping period similar to Brown (at Brown, students can sample multiple courses for the first 2 weeks of the semester before deciding on which to take.) Yale’s medical school is AMAZING, and the resources here combined with the smaller-city vibe would make it easier to build bonds with peers and professors alike.
c. Princeton: Like Brown and Yale; Princeton’s home is on the smaller side, but there’s definitely tons of things to do here. Princeton’s unique among the ivies in that it doesn’t have a medical or law school and a smaller (might even be the smallest) graduate school population of all the ivies,) so the school’s very undergraduate focused. Princeton has distribution requirements for general ed, but is also known for very rigorous academics and grade deflation/lack of inflation, so like with Penn, prepare to work hard. I believe Penn Medicine has a hospital in Princeton/close-by, so opportunities exist for students to gain clinical experience, as well as at Rutgers Medical School (idk how far New Brunswick and Newark are from Princeton, but I believe one of two is close by.) I’ve heard Princeton be called the most “Ivy” ivy, given the abundance of these leafy creepers dotting the buildings of campus.
See comment below for Dartmouth and Cornell.