Chance Me: First year student from Houston aiming for a top biomedical engineering school for premed

US Citizen
Male, Asian-Indian

Intended Major
Biomedical Engineering or Biochemistry

3.9 UW GPA
6.7883 W GPA - 7 Points for Honors, AP, and Dual Enrollment, 6 points for regular
1580 SAT

Taken So Far - AP: Chemistry, Physics 1, Physics 2, English Language and Composition, World History, US History, Human Geography, Calculus BC, Computer Science Principles
DC (Dual Enrollment): Chemistry, Calculus 1&2, US History

Senior Year: AP: Physics C, Biology, English Literature, Statistics, Gov, Econ
DC (Dual Enrollment): Biology, Gov, Econ

College Credit Only (I am working towards an Associates Degree in Engineering): Calculus 3, Differential Equations

AP Scholar With Distinction
State-level medals for multiple clubs
Silver Presidential Service Award
TSA Nationals Semi-Finalist

Science Olympiad: Lab Captain
Student Council Executive Vice President
National English Honor Society Fellowship Director
Student Leader at Local Food Bank - 200+ Hours
Two Summers of Hospital Volunteering - 120+ Hours
Boy Scouts: Currently a Life Scout, will be Eagle this Winter, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader
Founded my school’s Interact Club (Rotary)
Founded a local club to push voter registration for seniors over the age of 18
Math UIL Vice President
Member of NHS, Science NHS, Social Studies NHS, and Math NHS
Volunteer at local blood drive - 60+ hours
Worked on a research project at a state teaching hospital (data entry and analysis)
Work Experience: Tutor Manager at a local tutoring location for one year

I’m generally good at writing essays, and I have a few rough drafts completed for the Common App. I’ve done prompts 1, 2, and 7, and I’d rate them all about a 6/7 out of 10. I am planning on asking some of my friends in college for essay tips.

I asked my AP Chemistry and my AP Language teachers for letters of recommendation before school ended for the summer. (My AP Chemistry teacher will also be my AP Physics C teacher next year) I got 5s on both exams as well as getting A’s all year, and both teachers liked me throughout the school year. My counselor also likes me and knows my academic performance more than anyone else, as she was the one who encouraged me to pursue an Associate’s Degree. If I need more letters, I can ask my AP Calculus and my AP US History teachers, both of whom like me but not as much as my Chemistry and Language teachers.

Cost Constraints / Budget
According to my father, my parents have been saving for my college since I was born, so cost constraints aren’t the biggest issue but they will still play a factor. We can afford most schools completely save the ones with tuition of 50-60k a year (NYU, Columbia, etc). However, since I plan on attending medical school after college, I’d prefer to save some money on undergrad to apply to and possibly attend a medical school.


  • Safety *
    Texas A&M (EA) (Guaranteed admission in Texas)
    Baylor (EA) (Guaranteed admission in Texas)
    Drexel (EA)

  • Likely *

  • Match *
    UT Austin (Guaranteed admission into liberal arts college, but not major)
    Georgia Tech (EA)
    UC San Diego
    University of Michigan (EA)
    University of Rochester

  • Reach *
    UC Berkeley
    MIT (EA)
    Johns Hopkins (ED)
    WashU St. Louis

BS/MD Programs
University of Rochester

Well then…you can’t afford the UCs in CA either. You will be full pay there.


Will you qualify for need based aid ?

If not, how will you afford medical school ?

So to me, I’d eliminate the UCs and Michigan, MIT and Stanford. But run the Net Price Calculators on the privates to see. But the publics OOS you selected won’t work except Purdue which will get you in the 40’s with a small chance of a merit aid possibility as well. The UCs and Michigan will be full pay as will Ga Tech. And a private that does not offer merit aid will not work if full pay. Hence removing Stanford, etc. Schools like USC, Vandy, WUSTL, Tulane do offer merit although it’s not easy to get. And privates a few steps down or LACs not at the highest tier can offer significant merit.

Med School is hundreds of thousands more and you want to save. Going to Stanford doesn’t work at $80k plus if you wipe your parents out !!

You might look at W&L if not too small and The Johnson Scholarship. SMU has a similar program…I think the presidential. Hendrix will likely match UT tuition.

But if you want to go OOS, take advantage of your stats to save $$. The McCullough Medical Scholars program at U of Alabama. You’d spend less than $20k a year all in. Florida State, Arizona, LSU, Arkansas, etc. there’s so many reasonably priced OOS that will have solid pre medical advising. I just named a few. But you need cheaper tuition and a school where you can stand out vs be one of another smart kid.

You have a great record but your parents are already concerned with tuition at the highest levels. So what will they say at med school time ?

Save it now - go in state or to an inexpensive OOS which will happen because of your great accomplishments so that you will be ready for med school. Schools like Alabama, Oklahoma, Maine, Washington State have NMFs in droves. You didn’t say you are NMF but it’s to point out there are tons of really smart kids all over so why you’d stand out in the student body, you’d be far from the only one. Schools like ASU and South Carolina have top Honors programs.

So seek cheap and best wishes to you. You have a wonderful path ahead but you do need to be able to afford it.


I wouldn’t mind going in-state for both undergrad and med school; it would be much cheaper. University of Texas medical schools are actually very affordable at about 20-25k a year so that’s definitely an added benefit. My parents aren’t concerned with the high tuition colleges per se, they just want me to explore my options. If I get into an ivy or similar east coast school, my dad would absolutely want me to go and he’d be willing to pay for it. But I completely understand what you’re saying and I will look into the schools you mentioned today and tomorrow, especially Alabama’s McCullough Medical Scholars program.

Thank you so much!!!

To add on to the financials as I didn’t make it very clear: my parents can afford the more expensive schools, but they’d rather keep the tuition under 50k so they can pay for at least part of medical school.

I know about MCCullough but other schools may have similar and many also have Living Learning Communities which will be health care themed and may offer enrichment opportunities.

Most that want med school will never make it there. So if you may end up a bachelor degree only it’s ok to spend. But if it’s a real possibility don’t spend. Your GPA, MCAT, and other app components will get you to medical school…not simply by attending a certain name. Lots of good chats on the CC board about med school you can find that will lay out the process. But they always say…save $$ But run a search for a med school chat.

Ooh okay. I’m pretty new to CC so I don’t know all of the different communities on here, and I’ll be sure to look up medical school ones. I understand that I may not make it to medical school, so I chose biomedical engineering as a backup degree so that I can have a career. I’ll have to talk to my parents and re-evaluate the financials of colleges.

Thank you so much for your help!

great advice from @tsbna44 - though really hard to take for somebody who is clearly a star in their school, b/c everybody ‘expects’ the star to get a big-name college acceptance as the affirmation of what a star they are.

It is much harder for both the star and the people around them to be impressed by a good long term plan- but you are the one who will be paying the debt back. I am not the only poster on CC who knows doctors who are still paying off their student loans when their own children are in high school.

So, yes, take off all the OOS publics that will cost you more than (say) $20k/ year. And unless you qualify, take off the privates that only give need-based aid. You need affordable publics and privates that give whacking big scholarships. See what’s out there - take a look at the big name scholarships (eg Stamps, CV at Vandy, Coca-Cola, Morehead-Cain, Robertson, etc). They are fiercely competitive, but so are you.

If you (or your parents) are thinking that the “better” (ie, more famous) name will get you into a “better” medical school, everybody can think again. Harvard’s intake came from 68 colleges this year.


I really like your advice about taking off the OOS publics. I’ll follow that. I don’t think I’d meet need-based aid but I’ll check with my parents again. I’m going to look into those scholarships as well. Regarding your medical school point: my dad seems to think that a prestigious undergrad increases your chances of getting into medical school, but personally I don’t think that and I want to go to Johns Hopkins (my dream school) for the amount of medical research done there.

If research is something you like, make sure you stick with an undergrad that offers a lot of it and get involved in something you like early. Later you can contemplate if you want to try for MD/PhD spots. If you get one of those, med school is free. To be competitive you’ll need a bit of research in something at the undergrad level.

Lots of medical places do extensive, valuable research, so don’t get your heart set on “just” JH. It’s tough to get into any one place. Have your goal be “a” research med school and you’re more likely (though not guaranteed) to get something without dashing any dreams.

You have very good academic credentials, so I think you can hold your own anywhere assuming you keep up the effort. If you haven’t yet, look at U Rochester’s med school class profile to see the other things you need to be doing to be a competitive applicant. Google other years to read those and you’ll see it’s a template. They look for the same thing year after year - as will other research med schools. (Those not as involved in research won’t care about research as much.)

You want to be someone your future med school could write about.

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But note that biomedical engineering is one of the most competitive majors in the secondary admission process (ETAM or Entry To A Major) for those who start at Texas A&M in the engineering division. Yes, if you maintain a pre-med-worthy college GPA of 3.75, you will get automatic admission to your choice of engineering major, but the chances of getting that major are not good below 3.75.


Oh yes, I plan to find a research opportunity next year so I can dip my toes in for undergrad-level research. I’ve considered applying to MD/PhDs but I feel like that’s a long way ahead so I’m not focusing on that but maybe I should be starting early.

It’s not that my heart is set on just JH, I am open to many other schools, but I’ve always wanted to go there and they have an odd thing where if you apply ED to biomedical engineering and don’t get in, you are released from the early decision contract. So if I apply ED and don’t get into biomedical engineering, I can potentially choose other schools to attend.

I will read U Rochester’s med school class profile tonight and see what they like. I’ve been considering applying to their REMS program (BS/MD) and I actually did a virtual interview with them last night!

Thank you so much for your help! I really appreciate it!

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While that is true and I’m in no way disregarding that fact, many of my friends that are currently in their third or fourth years at Texas A&M said that their general engineering experiences were very easy.

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It certainly is a long way off, but if you start in research at least by sophomore year, you leave your path options open. You don’t have to go that route, of course. There’s nothing wrong with traditional med school - and you can still do research that way.

By all means, try for whatever school interests you. You have the stats to be competitive. My only caution was getting your heart set on “a” school (undergrad or med school). You don’t want to accomplish great things and be disappointed.

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May I just say that not only do you have a very strong profile from high school, but you are incredibly open and responsive to feedback, the latter of which is not something we always see on CC from people who were super stars at their high schools.

One in-state safety you may want to consider is U. of Houston. Its biomedical engineering program is also ABET accredited, but it’s in Houston where there is so much medical innovation going on. It’d be a great location for research and internship possibilities.

I’d didn’t see a biomedical/biological engineering accreditation for U. of Alabama’s main campus in Tuscaloosa, but the Birmingham campus does and it is well-known for the medical research that happens there. I’d take a good look at UAB.

I’d also consider Case Western. It has a very well-reputed biomedical engineering program, and you’d be likely to get a nice merit award to bring down the price significantly…bringing it from the price of the no-merit schools down to your parents’ desired budget to save additional money for possible grad school. Note that Case Western wants to make sure students it accepts really want to be there and that it’s not just a back-up for other choices, so if you decide to apply, make sure you let them know you’re really interested.

You should get some nice merit aid from U. of Arkansas, including automatic awards for your GPA and coming from a neighboring state.

If you’re interested in research and/or hands-on/experiential learning, you may want to take a look at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago or U. of Cincinnati.

It’s a long shot, but I think you would certainly stand a chance at the Park Scholarship at North Carolina State…a full ride to a major university in the middle of the Research Triangle.


Oh yes absolutely. I didn’t mean to give off the impression that it’s JHU or nothing for me. I just feel like applying ED gives me the best shot into the best biomedical engineering program ranked by US, we can afford it, and I would love to go. That’s kind of my reasoning for it. I will definitely apply to other schools and it’s not the end of the world if I don’t get into JHU.

I really appreciate the help and the feedback!!!


Oh my god I completely forgot about listing UH and Case Western. I plan to apply to their Pre-Professional Scholars program and I have demonstrated interest by attending virtual sessions and doing their virtual interview! I’ll look into the other schools you mentioned, especially NC State as it’s research is well known. Illinois Institute of Technology was on my list before but their campus doesn’t seem like I would like it.

I’m the eldest child and my parents did not apply to college in the United States, so I’ll gladly take any feedback and advice from people who definitely know more than I do about admissions here!

I really appreciate all of your help and you taking time out of your day to respond to me!


If going after scholarships, you might want to consider University of Maryland, College Park. You would be very competitive for their Banneker-Key and President’s scholarships, for which OOS are eligible. No additional essays or applications are required, but one must apply EA by November 1 to be considered for these.


If you get into JHU, likely get no money, and their COA is over $80k and that’s without inflation….how does that put you in the zone to meet your goal in the first message ?

They have merit and it is ok to apply. But I would assume I’m not going even if I get in.

If you get into JHU at more than $80k and they estimate travel at only $675…you’re above or A&M at $32k, now you’ve got a pickle.

Take the higher price and you cost your folks $200k, even more. And I’m not sure if you get merit $$ at A&M. THen it’s be even less.

Why even put yourself in that position ?

If your parents have $340-360k, then fine. But your first message contradicts that. Prestige is not worth doing that to your family. Do check the NPC. And JHU unlike a Harvard does have merit aid although unlikely. So it is worth an app but I’d have mental agreement that I’d only go if I hit my $. There are kids at most every flagship who got into Ivies or similar (northwestern, Duke, etc) who opt for the cheap public.

You need to take the emotion out of the equation…if possible. Going to a top school is great on paper but guess what…those $$ have to be paid and your parents, behind the scenes, will feel it emotionally each and every time they pay and could potentially become over stressed those last few years.

Do you have time/finances to visit any of these schools in person? Many, many times I’ve seen students rearrange their order of preference after visits due to meeting profs, students, and seeing labs, etc. There’s only so much one can “see” online.