Harvard or Yale vs Duke/Hopkins for BME Major and Pre-Med?

I’m a student who is very interested in Biomedical engineering and pursuing a medical degree who is trying to decide where to apply early. Are Harvard and Yale’s BME/Bioengineering programs comparable to the programs at Hopkins/Duke? If not, how much of a difference relies between them? Additionally, would Harvard or Yale provide a better premed experience and med school admission than Duke or Hopkins?

All are incredible places to be for undergrad so you can’t go wrong at any of these choices. Hopkins BME has widely been considered the top place to be for BME and the program’s reputation I’d say is up there with the tippy top schools especially when it comes to recruiting and grad school placement. Duke is usually up there as well for undergrad BME is almost always second to Hopkins. Harvard’s BME program I’d say is up and coming, especially at the undergrad level and has incredible connections with Harvard med, Mass Gen Hospital and MIT. Yale isn’t really thought of as a BME school since its engineering programs are overshadowed by its social science/law/finance atmosphere, however, it boasts a top 10 medical school as well. That being said Harvard’s program is more comparable to Duke/Hop than Yale’s is. But in my honest opinion the best place to be for BME and premed that is not on your list is Stanford because it has top 3 engineering and medical schools, pretty decent grade inflation, and the best premed environment of this group.

Visit these 4 (and Stanford) and make your decision based on how you feel you’ll fit in at each because all of them are so extremely different from each other. If you still can’t decide know Hopkins/Duke have much higher acceptance rates for early decision but you are bound if accepted, whereas Harvard/Yale/Stanford are incredibly difficult to get into even in the early round but you can still apply elsewhere later on if accepted.

<<<Additionally, would Harvard or Yale provide a better premed experience and med school admission than Duke or Hopkins?<<<

No, not at all. And going to a “lesser” school would not hurt your chances of a med school admission or premed experience either.

How badly do you want to go to med school?
What are your stats?

Med schools don’t care about the school name. They care about your grades and MCAT score. Go where you’ll get the best GPA. Colleges do NOT prepare you for med school, nor do they prepare you for the MCAT.

In addition to above, go where you’ll have the least debt and if you can, save money towards med school.

Will your parents be paying for your college costs? Will they help pay for med school?

I’m planning on applying ED to Duke, and I want to maximize my chance for a merit scholarship. What do the Robertson/AB Duke/BN Duke committees look for in an applicant? Does applying ED either hurt or improve chances of receiving the scholarship?



What’s the situation with paying for college?

I respectfully disagree with @mom2collegekids. As a physician I can assure you that there was no random assortment of undergraduate institutions at my medical school which was heavily weighted to USNWR top 30 schools. In order to graduate with the least debt and highest GPA she would want you to choose a school with most classmates way below your abilities to garner boatloads of merit aid and unable to challenge you in the classroom. There are others that agree with her that if the prize is medical school admissions, then undergraduate experience is just something to pass through on the way there. You only live once and that would be a shameful waste of four years.

I think the truth is in between the positions of @mom2collegekids and @YaleGradandDad. For public (in-state) medical schools, selectivity of undergraduate college is apparently given low weight. However, at private medical schools, it is given significant consideration. There is a survey by the American Association of Medical Colleges that supports this. I don’t have any first-hand experience with the composition of a public medical school. But at the private medical school I attended, about half the class came from a handful of colleges. However, the remaining half came from a variety of other colleges.

Considering the unknown number of smiling faces who show up on day one as premed, of those who actually survive the premed gauntlet and get to point of applying to med school, 60% fail to start anywhere. Getting into any one med school is quite the accomplishment. I actually agree with @mom2collegekids.

@YalegradandDad I don’t get your point. Why is going to a school where you can graduate with little, if any debt, and/or can shine academically mean one is just passing through to med school? Why is going to a school where you can graduate with little, if any debt, and/or can shine academically mean that one cannot challenge his/herself? How to you jump from going to a college where one can graduate with little, if any debt, and/or where one can shine academically to the conclusion that one is shamefully wasting four years of their life?

To help in your decision, I’ll add some more considerations to my previous statement. First, the numbers might have been more like one-third of the class from relatively few colleges, I’d have to dig up my class list to be sure. Second, we did have students from relatively unheard-of schools, which does suggest that individual accomplishments matter to admissions committees. Third, my experience is from over 30 years ago, so things may have changed since then. Fourth, over-represented colleges may have had a large number of individuals who were ambitious and able to do well on the MCAT, and those individuals might have done just as well anywhere else. Fifth, there is a bit of a gamble in going to a selective college, because if you don’t do well with your grades, then it will indeed be difficult to gain admission to medical school. Therefore, it may be safer to try to do well at a less competitive college. Sixth, the vast majority of medical schools are public and only relatively few are private, and for public medical schools, it does appear that undergraduate college is given little consideration. Seventh, for the most part, it probably doesn’t matter in your eventual career whether you go to a public or private medical school. Eighth, financial considerations do have some bearing in a medical career, since it may involve a fair amount of student debt. In short, the choice is somewhat complex, and there is no easy answer that fits all situations.

@ipodtouch129 started this thread looking at four of the most challenging schools to gain admission where he/she would be surrounded by incredibly accomplished peers. Some of them would be hoping to go pre-med but the majority won’t and these classmates will enrich those four years as true peers in a way he/she may never have experienced in high school unless coming from an elite selective admissions one. Anyone who could obtain admissions to one of these schools could get a full merit ride somewhere as suggested by @mom2collegekids so that the most amount of money can be saved for medical school. It is likely that such a place won’t have similar students academically to Yale/Harvard/JHU/Duke and will be an easier place to get that A in organic chemistry. Fundamentally, the question is should exceptional hopeful pre-med students go to colleges that will challenge them amongst true peers and share space with the top pre-meds but also poli sci majors, poets, and history majors or should they take the 3rd tier merit option where they are being recruited to be the top of the class with achievements and academics that dwarf their classmates? Is getting an assured high GPA at a super safety school “shining academically” as @Jugulator20 notes? Not in my book. I gained a rigorous liberal arts education in college and made life long friends who were peers in every way whether they became doctors, high school teachers, or ministers. If you can get into one of the aforementioned schools but choose a third tier merit option for the high GPA/low EFC reasons, I feel that you are wasting a gifted opportunity.

I will qualify some of the above immediately. Although patients ask me where I went to school and are often impressed by the Yale name, no way do I think that increases my earnings potential or gets patients to return. That would wholly depend on me as a person. Having parents willing to sacrifice to pay the EFC when the kid could make the choice to go for merit aid is a privilege not all kids get. It is easier to take on medical debt as a cardiologist or anesthesiologist than it is as a psychiatrist or pediatrician and those med school bound won’t know their direction until after they get exposure to all of the above. It’s “safer” to try to do well at a less competitive college as @mdphd92 states and some kids may happiest being assured they will be the academic superstars like in high school and not want to be a little fish in a big pond. Finally, I don’t buy for a second that the top medical schools are blind to the fact that a 3.9 GPA at Harvard means something different than a 3.9 at the University of Toledo (just an example). I know that from the dean of admissions at my private medical school as told to me by a former classmate whose kid just got in. Do state medical schools have similar discussions when choosing applicants? I would think so but I just don’t know. I have read @mom2collegekids arguments before but I have never read or heard a medical school dean of admissions say they only admit by GPA and MCAT without regard to other factors including college selectivity. If someone has a link to even one med school website that states otherwise, please share.


I am looking at a 2014 convocation proceeding from a T10 medical school, in that, they listed all the graduates and where they went to UG in alphabetical name order. From this proceeding, I tallied the UG school for the class as follows:

About 10 out of 100 is from their own UG
2 from Harvard
2 from Yale
… I will skip all the “top schools” like Princeton, Stanford and JHU or even WashUSTL.
4 from Indiana
1 Ohio
1 Spellman
1 Wheaton
1 Grinnell
1 Iowa
1 Idaho
1 Berkeley
1 Georgia
1 Drake
1 Boston C
1 Boulder
1 Wake Forest

None from MIT

As you can see, not all T10 medical colleges takes in only HYPMS graduates. It is OPEN to all students that have high stats.

@YaleGradandDad <<< order to graduate with the least debt and highest GPA she would want you to choose a school with most classmates way below your abilities to garner boatloads of merit aid and unable to challenge you in the classroom. >>>

I’m not suggesting going where “most classmates are way below your abilities” and where you’d be in a situation that is “unable to challenge you in the classroom.” No one is suggesting that the student go to some podunk school.

As for minimizing debt, that doesn’t just mean getting “boatloads of merit.” That can mean going to a school that gives great need based aid or having parents that will pay, as well as going where a merit award with or without parent contribution means not needing significant loans.

And things have changed since you were in the premed to med school process.

There are others that agree with her that if the prize is medical school admissions, then undergraduate experience is just something to pass through on the way there.


I would never go as far as saying that, but if a student wants med school then avoiding some unnecessary risks can be prudent.

In some ways, the premed to med school process has become somewhat of a game. The premeds didn’t make the rules, but if they want to better their chances, they need to know the rules and strategize the best they can.

If someone has their heart set on going to med school, AND they would be very disappointed if they didn’t get in, why shouldn’t they choose a less risky path?

You only live once and that would be a shameful waste of four years.


?? What the heck? What would be a shameful waste of four years? Are you under some impression that if a student goes to, say, Purdue, UIUC, UGeorgia, UAlabama, or UTexas instead of a Yale-like school that they’re engaging in some sort of “shameful waste of four years”??? Lolololololololol… omg…are you suggesting that their premed prereqs and degrees were some sort of cake walks?

hey, I “get” that having an ivy pedigree is important. But really, all US med schools are very good. One’s residency program is more important. If a student is hoping for a top competitive residency, then shooting for a med school that has a MSTP can be a good idea because those med schools often have more opportunities, There are about 40 of those med schools.

The paradigm is changing.

There also are many students whose chances are better getting into medical school if they can achieve w/o competing for grades in a tippy-top UG program.

If a student wants merit for UG; if a student wants to be accepted to medical school and have less debt.

Parents have a big say in where a student is going to go to school, due to the financial situation.

@artloversplus Looking at your list gave me a thought.

I would not be surprised to learn that every single medical school in the USA has a couple of students from Harvard, Yale and the usual suspects. However, I would be surprised if those same schools each have one student from Wheaton, Idaho, Drake, etc. I bet if you looked at a different med school, you would see the couple of students from the same handful of elite schools, but the other students would be from Beloit rather than Drake, from Hillsdale rather than Wheaton, from Univ. of North Dakota rather than from Univ. of Idaho, etc. There are thousands of colleges in this country. Every college can get a student or two into med school per year.

In other words, I suspect that the very tippy top students at every college can get into med school, but the students at elite colleges who are not the very tippy top also get there, while the students at mid-tier schools who are not tippy top are far less likely to get there. Amherst College, for example, historically gets 90 percent of its pre-meds into med school (and it does not have a committee weeding out the lesser applicants to boost its stats). I suspect that Harvard and Yale have similar figures.

That is probably true for T10 private med schools but for public med schools you will find more students from in state colleges of any ranking. The public med schools has a mendate to accept certain percentages of in state applicants, in a lot of public schools they only accept in state residents.

It really does not matter which med school you attend if clinical medicine is intended. The residency programs determines the specialty you will be in. And students from Harvard work side by side with students from lower ranking med school graduates such as Commomwealth.

@mom2collegekids “Med schools don’t care about the school name. They care about your grades and MCAT score. Go where you’ll get the best GPA. Colleges do NOT prepare you for med school, nor do they prepare you for the MCAT.”

Grades and MCAT are important for sure, they do consider other things like school name, research, volunteer work etc… I know of a couple of people with superb mcat and gpa that are taking a gap year because they couldn’t get into any med school this year.

Colleges definitely help, the Amherst 90% number you cited was a quote form the placement director where he mentions they have a program that helps students with apps, the interview etc… And this is found at other places as well with the caveat that it maybe only open to the best students. I’m not saying that going to the four schools mentioned in the OP or schools like them is the best way to get a pre-med education, especially if the costs are steep However it would seem odd to suggest that getting a 4.0 from southwest california state is seen the same or better than a 3.75 from JHU in BME for med schools. Those are two different caliber of students and you’ll take the one that pushed themselves.

@theloniusmonk It’s not that where one attends college is of zero importance, but what weight that is attached at any one med school to where an applicant attended college (or volunteering, research, etc) is an unknown.
After med school comes residency (ie a med student’s first job). In order to get into a residency, there are two parts, one getting offered an interview; two getting ranked high by a residency program director (PD). Look at the 2016 NRMP Survey of Program Directors figures 1 and 2 below. Figure 1 lists factors PDs consider important in offering an interview. Figure 2 lists factors PDs consider important in ranking. To translate the factors, what’s important in getting an interview is primarily performance in med school, whether one went to a highly regarded US med school is far less important (Figure 1). What’s important in getting ranked high is again performance in med school coupled with ability to communicate/get along with current residents. Again whether one went to a highly regarded US med school is far less important (Figure 2). I understand the Survey does include all PDs from every residency, but I don’t think residency PDs are that much different from med school adcoms in considering factors that carry more weight in application process.

@ipodtouch129 If you’re considering and are competitive for Harvard, Yale, Duke, Hopkins, etc, I’m assuming you’re a simply amazing hs student. Congrats. But when you start college, you’ll start with a clean slate as far as med schools are concerned. Your hs successes will be old news as far as med schools are concerned. IMO getting into med school will, like residency, be more on you than any school you attend. All of the schools you’re looking at will (as will most colleges) provide you, a hopeful premed, the opportunities and resources you need to attain your goal. This is where your thought process should include cost, fit, etc. Good luck

“I understand the Survey does include all PDs from every residency,”

my bad, the above sentence should read I understand the Survey does not include all PDs from every residency,

However it would seem odd to suggest that getting a 4.0 from southwest california state is seen the same or better than a 3.75 from JHU in BME for med schools.



Did you see where I wrote: “No one is suggesting that the student go to some podunk school.”

And when I listed some schools, I listed schools like: "Purdue, UIUC, UGeorgia, UAlabama, or UTexas "

The MCAT is the great equalizer. Acceptance isn’t based on GPA alone.

A student with a 4.0 from a lesser-known school that has a MCAT 518 and an otherwise strong application will be a competitive applicant. If interviewed along with that JHU applicant you mention, maybe both will be accepted, maybe only the 4.0/518mcat applicant will get accepted, or maybe neither will be accepted.

And, yes, research and medically related ECs are important as well.

@ipodtouch129 While it is true that the bioengineering departments of Harvard and Yale are not quite on the level of JHU or Duke, for undergrad there are many other things to consider in addition to specific departmental strength. For example, Harvard and Yale (and especially Harvard), have much bigger grade inflation than JHU and Duke, which might make the journey to medical school easier. Also overall strength of the school matters to many people, given that college is also a time to explore different academic fields and learn from ones peers. Another important point is for the student to have access to top notch medical research opportunities. All of these schools provide that, with the edge going to Harvard and JHU. Lastly fit matters a whole lot. These fours schools have very different cultures and provide very different undergrad experiences.

Fwiw if i were a prospecive BME pre-med major I would choose amongst these 4 schools as follows: 1. Harvard 2. Yale 3. Duke 4. JHU

Other top schools that have top BME departments, top medical schools and reasonable grade inflation are Stanford and Penn.

@ucbalumnus I wish I could find your quote. Help me out. You once wrote something along the lines that when being premed, searching for the most challenging curriculum can be counter-productive. If you could repost your quote here, it would help.

I see people post that they want “the highest ranked bio program” for their premed student. That is totally not necessary. A student isn’t going to be a better med school student or do better on the MCAT because he went to a school with a top ranked bio program (not sure if bio programs are even ranked for undergrad anyway).

@mom2collegekids I do see your point in saving money for medical school. However, for some students money is not an issue and for someone who wants access to the most cutting edge research and facilities, top of their field professors, and inspiring peers/environment, attending a top ranked program makes the most sense. I mean it is really simple supply and demand when looking at the growing competition for these spots, otherwise who in their right mind would drop 200k over the name on a diploma if it truly does not make a difference. Sure the top programs are self selective with bright individuals who are likely to succeed elsewhere, but it’s being around like minded individuals that makes these environments so much more unique and rewarding as @YaleGradandDad puts it.

For the discussion on the name of the school making no difference:

Hopkins graduates around 1400 undergrads per year with around 200-250 matriculating premeds to medical schools at a success rate of ~70% (80% over 5 years) with the national average being ~39%. Over the last 3 years, 42 medical schools have accepted at least five students from Hopkins each year, and 67 with at least 3.

From these 42 here are some of the tippy top medical schools that have accepted AT LEAST 5 Hopkins students per year: Harvard, Hopkins, UCSF, Columbia, Northwestern, Upenn, Yale, Duke, Michigan

That’s 9 of the top 11 that are ranked in the top 10, just missing Stanford/WashU, which I suspect are still part of the 67 that still accepts at least 3 a year.


For such a small student body that is remarkable and I bet Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Duke and Penn put up similar numbers all with time tested consistency. If you extend this to the other top schools including top LACs, you can see a large portion of the matriculating medical class coming from a handful of universities. Does this prove going to one of these schools makes pre-med easier? Not necessarily. But if I’m shopping for a premed program I’d be more comfortable paying for one with a proven track history of success.

Also, here’s another argument. Let’s say a kid is 3 months into college doing fine but decides he/she doesn’t want to be premed anymore and finds an interest in business or law. Well, that kid is much better off at an Ivy league or other elite school for the network they’ll obtain and the type of academic exploration they’ll make. @YaleGradandDad and @Penn95 can probably go on about this more but the whole purpose of this thread was to compare 4 BME/Bioengineering programs.