Help with Economics Major and Pre-Med Undergrad Track

Hi all!

I’m relatively new to this forum but will be a senior this year and wanted to get some extra input on college lists.

I recently got the chance to take Macro and Microeconomics at a local university as a dual-enrolled student, and while I didn’t absolutely fall in love with it at this entry level, it made sense to me and I could see myself exploring it further in college. I have always said that I would be interested in following a career in the medical field, but as I got this new direction with economics/business/management, the plan evolved to most likely major in economics for my undergraduate degree while keeping the pre-med track open. It is possible that I will end up dropping the latter as I become more exposed to the field of economics, but for now would like to keep it open.

I am from New York City and am not looking to go to a small LAC, so my college list is mostly constituted of medium-large colleges that hopefully have strong departments in both economics and science. I was hoping to stay within a 3-4 hr driving radius of home, although there are some exceptions to that on the list below. My family would most likely not be eligible for much financial aid. Together with help from my parents I believe we could cover around $40-50,000 with various work-study and loan combinations that I am willing to take, but as for the rest I am seeking merit aid from colleges. My goal would be to graduate with as little debt as possible.

Here is the college list we are currently working with:

Binghamton University
Boston University
Northeastern University
Fordham University
Macaulay Honors College
Lafayette College
University of Rochester
University of Maryland
Pace University
Baruch College
Carnegie Mellon (this is my reach)

My stats are:
33 on the ACT as of last October (am registered to take it in two weeks and hope to bump it up by a point or two);
Unweighted GPA: 3.79;
Weighted GPA: 4.6;
Will have 7 APs by graduation, all with 4’s and 5’s;
SAT Subject Tests in Chemistry and Math 2: 760 and 700, respectively (Mathematics 2 I will be retaking in October along with the SAT Literature Subject Test);
Four dual-enrollment courses at our local university;
Long-term volunteering involvement at a local historical museum and have many extra-curriculars along with many years of theater involvement (leadership roles, etc.)

Would anyone have any other colleges that may in some way fit these criteria, or perhaps links to lists or databases that may help? We are still evaluating the colleges I listed above, but I would love to get some extra feedback. I would also welcome any critiques to the list I included or general suggestions.

This analysis will help you compare economics departments across universities, though note that the rankings have not been normalized for school/department size: This analysis for liberal arts colleges includes Lafayette:

Run the net price calculators at each of the schools that you hope to attend. It should narrow down your list somewhat.

You shouldn’t be borrowing that much money in loans. You only qualify for $5500 per year during freshman year. The total amount loaned by the government for your expenses would be about $27,500 over four years.

If you don’t qualify for financial aid, you’re probably not going to qualify for work-study. In other words, you don’t get to just choose work-study- it’s not something that you choose off of a menu. You either qualify for it, from the federal government, or you don’t. If the university has jobs for work-study, then those jobs are prioritized for the people who are limited in funding. Work study is meant to cover incidentals and minor expenses-Assume about $2k per semester or year.

Merit aid is very very competitive. Your unweighted GPA will probably keep you out of the running for most merit aid. You should be looking at some of the SUNY’s that your family may possibly afford.

If you think you’re going to do premed, then you need to be on a strict budget. There is no funding for medical school.

Every student, in medical school, has perfect grades, perfect MCATs, and great EC’s, so any scholarships would have to cover every single student at a medical school. It doesn’t happen.

Most med students rely on huge expensive loans, loans, and more loans, or on the bank of mom and dad. Your parents need to save a quarter of $1 million to put you through medical school.

You need to go to the cheapest school possible. If you and your parents take out significant loans now, for your undergrad- it’s possible that neither you, nor they, will qualify for more money and loans after you’re done with your undergrad.

Bottom line is your school needs to be affordable. If you can’t afford the cost, you won’t be going there.

Economics is not much different in terms of preparation for entering a business career then any other liberal-arts degree such as History or English. The companies recruiting are not going to be looking for Econ majors in particular the way they might for one of the business majors such as Accounting or Finance.

Look especially hard at who recruits at the colleges you are considering; the reputation of the college and what you’ve done (grades and internships) are going to be how you stand out from the million other college grads looking for a job.

As for premed, it is compatible with just about any degree since it’s just 10 or so classes. You can take these at any college.Since you are already wavering I suggest you focus on how to position yourself for the business world, the odds seem high that your pre-med goal will be abandoned once you see how much work it takes to get the top grades to be a strong medical school candidate (to say nothing of the other committments it requires such as volunteer work in a medical setting)

I think that’s a good, solid list for your stats. (You might want to even add in another reach?)

Judging from my daughter’s experience (albeit a couple of years ago), I would expect you’d get offered some merit at Fordham - she got merit with a slightly lower gpa and lower ACT than you have.

@mikemac Thank you so much for your input! I do know that economics on its own is somewhat like an umbrella field, so until I narrow it down it would be as vague as an English major. I have been somewhat more drawn to B.S. degrees in economics as opposed to B.A. because the sample classes that I have found on college websites seem to be more serious and closer to what I am looking for. Would that make any difference with what companies may be looking for when they are recruiting at college career fairs? Or, for example, if I combined the degree with either a management or statistics minor? I will absolutely look at the recruitment pages that colleges provide, thank you so much for the advice! I know that public universities tend to be more vague in this area, but I will still look and see what I can find. Are there any specializations that you know of within economics that would make me more desirable to companies down the road? I have been interested in exploring fields such as supply chain or operations management, but my own knowledge of all the possibilities is still limited. I would love to hear about any extra advice you might have.

@merc81 Thank you so much for the lists! I will work my way through them and see what may apply to my situation. I really appreciate it!

@SJ2727 Fordham is in a convenient location for us and I got a really favorable impression from a virtual info session I attended, so I will absolutely be applying. Thank you for letting me know, it definitely helps to have an extra perspective on that!

@“aunt bea” Thank you so much! I know it is very easy to get carried away with “big name” colleges, and I truly do appreciate your reminder about the stiff competition for merit aid. We are hoping to apply as widely as possible, and will evaluate my options come Spring. But again, I really do appreciate your opinion of my stats and chances for scholarships.

@mikemac this is just an incorrect statement Finance is just an applied sub field of Econ. Someone with an Econ degree is much more likely to be competing against a Finance major than a History major. Both Engineering and Math would come way before a Humanities major.

@Eeyore123 I absolutely understand the concern, but I know graduating with just an economics major may leave me a bit stranded in the sense that I don’t have a specialty. I was considering pairing it with either a statistics or management minor to give me of an edge, but would love to hear your thoughts on this.

My other concern with studying Economics is that I know there are two approaches to it. One tends to be more theoretical and research-based and the other is more applied. I think my temperament leans more towards the second one, so while I absolutely don’t mind doing research in college I don’t think I would want to base my whole career around it. I have been able to get a sense of what type of Economics different colleges offer by seeing the classes required for the major, but I don’t know that that is the only indicator. For example, University of Rochester, which I have attended many info sessions (virtual) for and very much liked, seems to offer a degree based more in theory and research. How much of an impact could this have on the careers I could later follow?

Another question I had was comparing state colleges. In many of the rankings I have seen for colleges offering Economics as a major, Rutgers University comes in ahead of Binghamton University. Is it worth it for me to consider paying the out-of-state tuition for Rutgers over the in-state tuition for Binghamton? Or would the education I could get from either comparable? Similarly, would the education for Economics at Binghamton be very different from what I could get from, say, Lafayette College or University of Rochester? These are somewhat broad questions and I know there are conflicting opinions, but I would absolutely love to get some input on that.

How to compare economics major programs at different colleges:

  1. Economics major programs typically have a core set of economics courses: introductory economics (1 or 2 courses), intermediate microeconomics, intermediate macroeconomics, econometrics.
  2. In addition, you need to take several upper level elective economics courses.
  3. The intermediate economics and econometrics courses typically have math and/or statistics prerequisites. Some colleges offer more than one variant with different levels of math intensity. 3a. The least math-intensive programs requires only introductory statistics, but not calculus. 3b. Moderately math-intensive programs require single variable calculus and (sometimes calculus-based) introductory statistics. 3c. Highly math-intensive programs require multivariable calculus and/or linear algebra and (often calculus-based) introductory statistics.
  4. Additional math and statistics is recommended if you want to go to on PhD study in economics, or go into such work as quantitative finance.
  5. So you can check academic fit for your preferences by checking (a) how math intensive the program is, and (b) what upper level economics electives are offered.

Combining Econ with Stats/Math/CS is very common and opens up some opportunities beyond just Econ. Econ is a very broad subject area. The good news is that you don’t have to make a decision early. Your first class are normally the same. I just glanced at U Rochester and it didn’t look theoretical to me. It really depends on what you do for your electives. They do have a Financial Econ track that doesn’t look theoretical at all. The one thing that can become limiting is if you decide on grad school latter and didn’t go far enough in Math.

I would not pay a premium for any of the schools that you described.

Pair Econ with math/stats. Not sure I’d do Econ by itself. A double major in Econ and math/stats would be ideal. A graduate degree in Econ requires a higher level understanding of math/stats if you go that route. Math would also help with MCAT’s I suppose.

For a career you could go into finance, operations or data science with an Econ/math background. FWIW my undergrad is in Econ/math. I’m in Big Data.

Don’t go into debt for your degree. Especially if you’re thinking med school. Your list looks solid as long as you include a few in-state safety schools like Bing and Baruch. S20 loved Fordham. Gabelli was on his short list. Just didn’t quite get enough merit to make it work. Being in NYC area for internships is a great option.

After applying to a few safeties I’d look at schools ranked in the 20-60 range and pick a few private schools like Lafayette or Bucknell. You might get the cost down to around $40k, especially if you can up your ACT a point. Also looking outside the NE might get you some $ because schools are looking for geographic diversity.

@ucbalumnus Thank you so much! I was already doing this to some extent, but wasn’t exactly sure on what to look for. You gave me very clear guidelines, so I will go ahead and tackle it again and start making side-by-side comparisons for the different programs/colleges I have been looking at.

@Eeyore123 It’s good to know that paying out-of-state tuition costs would not really be worth it in this case. Math is one of the things I am very aware of through this whole process of comparing programs, especially since it could become such an issue later on if I don’t cover it adequately in undergrad. Thank you for the advice on that! I really appreciate it.

@chmcnm Thank you so, so much for the advice on double-majoring in both Economics and Math. I was considering doing a minor in Statistics or something similar because I know Econ on its own is somewhat vague. I wasn’t considering a double major but will absolutely keep that in mind as I continue to research different programs, especially since I don’t have to make a decision on it immediately and can continue to look into my different options. Thank you also for all of you other advice. It was incredibly helpful!!

I did have another question surface as I was thinking through all of this. If I hypothetically end up dropping the pre-med track and decide to fully dive into Economics/Management/etc., would it be advisable in all circumstances to go on and pursue a Masters or MBA degree? This would put me in a similar financial situation of wanting to get my undergrad degree as cheaply as possible, but I would love to get input on how important Masters degrees are in this field. I have seen many colleges offering 4+1 programs – should I be considering them more heavily? Or, would it perhaps be better if, let’s say, I end up attending Binghamton University for just their undergraduate college and go on to pursue a graduate degree from, for example, Columbia or NYU? These are all hypothetical scenarios but I would love to get some advice on them if anyone has any input or experience.

An advanced degree is always a plus. For some of the high-end analytics positions a PhD is required but a Masters/MBA will still open doors. My advice would be to get your undergraduate degree and then think about an advanced degree. That’s way off in the future.

Regardless, a higher knowledge of math will help with any advanced degree and could be a pre-req for some advanced degrees like Econ. I’ve known some Master’s candidates that had to take remedial math classes to meet the standards to pursue advanced degrees.

Personally, I would consider business school for undergrad if you’re thinking of management for a career. They’ve incorporated a lot of math and CS into their programs for Data Analytics. The more flexible programs offer double majors like Marketing/Stats or Finance/Math. Not to add more confusion but some Industrial Engineering programs have business tracks that combine business classes and math with a splash of CS. Something to consider. Engineers, including IE’s are very employable but engineering isn’t for everyone.

MBA’s have fallen out-of-favor recently. Costly and not as necessary as before because undergraduate business schools have really improved in the last 10 years. A BS from a top business school probably carries as much or more weight than an MBA from a middling school. FWIW I also have an MBA.

If you’re still not sure then maybe the best approach would be to apply to schools that have undecided majors. Take a few classes in each discipline and then declare your major and transfer into Arts and Sciences for Econ/math or the business school your sophomore or junior year. Beware that some majors are easier to get into as a direct admit Freshman than later as a transfer. It all depends on the school. Good luck.