A Pre-Health's Guide to the Ivies

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!! :smile:

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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. :smile:

  1. Small-town/city vibes/more than an hour away from major cities:

a. Cornell: the largest Ivy undergrad-wise in Ithaca, New York, which is renowned for the beautiful gorges here. I’ve visited here and 110% recommend the ice cream (which is made on-campus, and has too high of a fat percentage I believe to be sold outside of campus,) and walking the trails around the campus which include bridges over the gorges. The architecture is gorgeous: you’ll get to see modern architecture interspersed with more traditional college brick and stone. Contrary to my expectations, Ithaca itself has many of the features of a more larger city, given that it’s home to many, many, many college students; such as diverse restaurants (and traditional fast-food including multiple Chipotles and Starbucks,) as well as some small skyscraper-like buildings. Cornell does have a medical school, however, it is located 3 hours away in NYC, but there is a local hospital nearby (Cayuga medical center I believe) and many students at Cornell successfully go on to medical school every year according to their pre-health website. Cornell does have grade deflation/lack of inflation, so expect to work hard. During the summer, you will find many students here as well (idk if they are all Cornell students or other undergraduates visiting/high school students,) exploring Ithaca and the beautiful campus.

b. Dartmouth: like Ithaca, Hanover, New Hampshire is on the smaller site, but is home to a ski resort that is owned by the campus and gorgeous scenery. Dartmouth’s medical school is located here as well, so students have opportunities to gain clinical experience. Dartmouth has the smallest undergrad population of the ivies, and is unique for the D-plan and a quarter-based academic system (where a quarter’s worth of credit is equivalent to a semester credit somehow I think, read the registrar’s website for specifics,) where you’ll find students studying on-campus at all times of the year. Dartmouth’s doesn’t have inflation, but does list on student transcripts the median grade for courses. The D-Plan leaves a lot of freedom up to students to decide when they want to spend their summer (study abroad in the Fall? work in the spring? the possibilities are endless,) and the smaller size would make it easier to build connections w/professors and among your peers.

TL; DR: All of the Ivies are different from each other, but all are connected by amazing academics and world-class professors. At every school, expect to be challenged, but a student interested in a smaller town like Ithaca or Hanover is not likely to enjoy living in NYC or Boston and vice-versa. Make sure to do your own research in addition to what is available on College Confidential and Admissions websites (talk to current students if you know any, and admissions offices can arrange these for you in many cases,) before deciding on the school that’s the best fit for you.

My Advice on applying ED2 after deferral ED 1:

If you do get deferred from your top choice school, I DO NOT recommend that you apply ED2 if it’s not also a school you love. From my personal experience, I was deferred from Brown ED and was planning on applying to Vanderbilt ED2 (my 2nd top choice,) but I decided against this because I still wanted to go to Brown and this year, unlike the previous, Brown deferred ~25% of the ED applicant pool vs. ~60% last year, meaning I had a higher chance.) I ended up being accepted to both Brown and Vanderbilt RD, proof FOR ME (YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY :smile: ) that if I hadn’t waited, I would have always regretted not waiting for Brown RD. Also, I was admitted even though another student had been accepted ED already, so don’t feel discouraged that it’s not possible if that happens: you STILL have a chance, and make sure to reiterate your interest in the school (look-up what a letter of continued interest is for students deferred/waitlisted.)

HOWEVER, I was willing to wait and risk the lower chance that I wouldn’t get into either of my top choices because I had other options (safeties offering generous scholarships: APPLY TO SAFETY SCHOOLS, ESPECIALLY ONE THAT IS AFFORDABLE AND OFFERS ADMISSIONS ON A ROLLING BASIS etc.) that I would have been happy to attend if not admitted anywhere RD. At the end of the day, every applicant’s admissions journey is their own, so it’s up to you to weight the pros vs. cons of applying ED2 or waiting for RD decisions to release.

Furthermore, applying ED2 shouldn’t be used just to increase your chances of getting into a “prestigious school.” If anything, the second early round is more competitive than ED 1 given that it includes students who applied early to HYPSM etc and weren’t admitted/deferred, and want to go to another school that’s a bit lower on their list. ONLY do this if you’re extremely confident that, like with your ED1 application, you can present an application that shows you’ve done your research and would fit well at the school.

Also, this year in particular, multiple students from my school (and from YouTube videos etc.) were deferred ED 1 and ultimately accepted RD. Even for schools like the Ivies that don’t consider demonstrated interest on paper according to their admissions websites/Common Data Sets, applying ED is THE ULTIMATE form of demonstrated interest: you’re essentially telling a school that if you admit me, I’ll go, and if you’re able to show through your application (essays, letters, interview etc.) that you’ve thoroughly researched the school and are confident that THIS school and its particular resources would make you a “good fit” here; the school is more likely to accept you, given that you’ve taken more time to show interest than a student applying with rushed essays 1 hour before the deadline.

TL;DR: IMO Only apply ED 2 if you LOVE the school as much as your ED 1, can afford the school (run applicable financial aid calculators,) and can present a well thought out application by the deadline.

I might comment on a few details in your first post but posting your impressions is helpful and nice of you.

Just want to remind people that they can major in anything and still go to med school.

Update: You CAN buy Cornell’s ice cream from the comfort of your home! However, the cost is not the same as on-campus, due to shipping :disappointed:

Link: https://foodscience.cals.cornell.edu/cornell-dairy/cornell-dairy-ice-cream-flavors/order-cornell-dairy-ice-cream-onlin/

And Philly isn’t in New England ; )

@momofsenior1 Oops! I probably should have said in the Northeast instead of New England! :sweat_smile:

+1 on the ice cream, anyway.

@PikachuRocks15 This is a very helpful post. Thank you for sharing your experience. Do you mind sharing a list of safeties for pre-med students with rolling admission? We have Uof Washington and BU, but both do not offer rolling admission.

@“Four leaf clover” Pm’ed you!

Wouldn’t most colleges have a “shopping period” based on add/drop deadlines a few weeks after the term starts? However, some popular courses could get full and may only allow adding from their waitlists.

@PikachuRocks15, can you elaborate on how you have enough knowledge on all those schools, given you are a first year college student? I have noticed on other threads you have given advice on many topics/schools that are WAY above a first year student in college pay grade. Just saying, you are giving advice that doesn’t jive with an 18 year old. Just asking what qualifications do you have to give a pre-health guide to the Ivies? I am sincerely asking.

@CottonTales “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.” Put this at the beginning of the discussion post.

@ucbalumnus You’re right, and this BDH article provides more info: https://www.browndailyherald.com/2012/09/05/shopping-period-tradition-thrives-among-students/ The main thing about shopping period is that you’re able to attend as many classes as you want without limit, whereas add/drop would likely limit you to a certain number of courses, though you can’t register for more than 5 course at any time at Brown either.

Thank you for responding. I did note that you said these were you personal opinions, but having friends at all those schools doesn’t give you the breadth of knowledge you have exhibited across every topic on CC.

@PikachuRocks15 , in case you get this message, can you share the list of safeties with rolling admission you considered? My D is in somewhat similar boat now. Thanks!