Pre med recommendations? University or LAC?

Hi! I am a junior in HS and planning on pursuing a pre med track in college (currently planning on majoring in biochem). I’m trying to make a good college list for strong colleges. First off, would a LAC or public university be better? I’ve heard opposing arguments, and I also know that it can depend a lot on stats. Here is some basic info, lmk if you need more:

I am a white bi female from OH (don’t love the idea of staying in state, though)

Completed 4 APs (Enviro -5, APUSH - 4, WH - 4, Lang -5), currently enrolled in 5 more (chem, gov, lit, Spanish, and calc AB, and doing well in all)
3.95 UW GPA
4.15 W GPA

School doesn’t do exact ranking, but I am easily top 10%

SAT: 1530 (790 Math, 740 RW)
PSAT: 1500 (760 M, 740 RW)
No SAT II yet, planning on taking some
Scheduled to take ACT in Feb

Biggest one is theater, I have held multiple leadership positions and have over 400 hrs (nearly all technical) - likely not continuing theater tech in college but idk; will do all 4 years

I am in the highest orch in my school (cello)

Mock Trial - all 4 years, team leader, have made it to state competitions and won “best – award” at lower competitions

Idk if I’ll put this or not bc it’s kinda weird but I am the Social Media director of a youth-led mental health organization called AspireTomorrow, so that’s cool ig.

I am in the Spanish Honor Society in my school and hold a leadership position (planning on continuing next year)

I am in the NHS

I am in my school’s Spanish club

there are other ones as well, but not as major, and I’m sure I’m forgetting ab some stuff lol

Summer programs:
ASPIRE: physics based program (summer after freshman year). It lasted a week at OSU, applications were required

Pills, Potions, and Poisons: Medical/Pharmaceutical-based program (summer after sophomore year). It lasted a week and was virtual through OSU - applications were required

If there are other pieces of info yall need lmk, it would be so nice to get some recommendations, though! I’ve heard that both LAC and larger schools can be good, so feel free to offer your opinion or suggest either!

Is cost a concern for you? This can be a huge issue for some, so I wanted to ask before making any recommendations.

Not the right question. The specific schools matter more than their general type of school.

Not what you are asking but I encourage you to include your work with AspireTomorrow on your application. It jumped out at me as something interesting and different in your list of ECs. It doesn’t read “weird” to me; in fact, working with a mental health organization seems potentially relevant to your interest in med school and/or a proposed biochem major.

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It is a consideration, but not a huge one, so (at least for a prelim list) i’m not thinking about that too much until it comes to narrowing down the list

ok thanks! and i’m mostly just looking for recommendations of places to look into lol

Are you deeply serious about med school (as in, you have thought this through, done a lot of research, have A Plan)? If so, great! The next question is: can (& will) your parents pay college w/ no loans? If not, $ is your first metric:

→ Med school is hugely expensive, and ideally, you want no UG loans.
→ IRL, your most likely med school admission is your home state university- and they will not care where your UG degree is from.
→ The things that will make the most difference in med school admissions are your GPA & MCAT followed by your LoRs (incl Committee letters if relevant), followed by experiences- all of which can be found at dozens of schools, from State U to tiny LAC.

So the key metrics are affordability & an environment in which you can be a star.

That makes sense. I am very serious about going to med school. My parents have a decent amount of money saved up, so depending on financial aid and overall original costs, there is definitely a chance that i could get away w no loans. My thing is, i don’t know the degree to which i should look at cost. My parents always say that I should just go somewhere that makes me happy, but on the other hand, I know that realistically, I do want to not take on more debt than is necessary, especially because i’ll be taking on a ton of debt from med school, and i won’t be making a ton right after leaving med school (in residency). So ig my problem is that I don’t know the extent to which i should consider it.

Agree with @collegemom3717
Cost is what will drive your decisions. It will be very expensive, so you need to be smart about it.

My daughter is finishing up her program.
She attended a public flagship and did everything she had to do to interview for her schools. (Her university had 1000 graduates in the College of Biological Sciences! A large majority applying to med schools. That’s just from one college in one quarter not semester!)
This was her experience:

  1. Her part-time jobs, at the uni, were all in labs and these were extremely competitive.
  2. Because she worked in high school for a vet, she learned about universal precautions, lab disinfecting and sterilization procedures which helped her gain the lab jobs and showed prior experience.
  3. While at her instate public, she volunteered at a low SES clinic (also competitive- requiring team interviews) for 4 years, and was the driver for 3 other students who didn’t have transportation to that clinic.
  4. She completed an internship in Spain, learning their methods of medicine, and brought that to her interviews, such that, she was accepted to several schools, given her background and experience along with her test scores. Her friends weren’t so lucky.

It has been very expensive for us, but fortunately, we saved money for all three of our children’s education. For medical school, EVERYONE is a star, so scholarships don’t really “exist” for each and every one of those students. Med school is either funded by the Bank of Mom and Dad and/or loans, loans, loans.
Our daughter was smart enough to go instate, to a public university, so that we could save the $240K+ for later. She attended tutoring/office hours almost every day to maintain her high grades. She became an officer in one of her neurobiology clubs. She was fluent in Spanish but learned sign language.

Cost is a huge factor, so you want to have a conversation NOW with your parents about how much they can afford to pay. Please don’t ask your parents to rifle their retirement accounts. It’s not the way to go and has serious implications.


I think a good option for you would be Miami of Ohio, as with your stats and resume you would easily be able to get at least close to full tuition through merit awards. The school has a good reputation and some good opportunities for those interested in pre med. Here’s a link to some info on their website:

Listen to your parents. If they’re the ones telling you to go ahead and do the research and come up with a good fit, do what they suggest. There’s plenty of time to pare the list down once they take a look at the NPCs (net price calculators) for a family with your profile. Many, if not most tippy-top colleges keep their eye on what in-state public college’s charge these days and try to keep their financial aid at a competitive level. Depending on how you define “middle-class”, a Wesleyan education can cost as little as $22,000 a year inclusive of room and board.

You could research colleges that appear through an online search:

“The 25 Best Colleges for Pre-meds”

  1. Bowdoin
  2. Princeton
  3. Duke
  4. Bates
  5. Bryn Mawr
  6. Dartmouth
  7. Johns Hopkins
  8. Swarthmore
  9. Union
  10. Brown
  11. Carleton
  12. Rice
  13. UChicago
  14. Hamilton
  15. Stanford
  16. Amherst
  17. Tulane
  18. Middlebury
  19. Williams
  20. Columbia
  21. Northwestern
  22. MIT
  23. Harvard
  24. Centre
  25. Colgate

While not definitive, this list offers variety. For this reason you should be drawn to at least some of the colleges included.

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You can apply to medical school having attended any undergrad college. You need a great GPA, a great sGPA, a great MCAT score, and a resume that includes shadowing, volunteering (with less fortunate folks is a plus), great LOR, and all the prerequisite courses to apply to medical school…these things will get you possibly to the door for an interview. Your ability to interview well will be important too.

As noted, you want to have close to $0 undergrad debt. Many parents say “just apply…we will make it work” when really making it work means significant loans. Medical school will be paid with loans, loans, and more loans.

In addition, you need a Plan B…which might include other health care professions. Remember, many many many students who apply to medical school don’t get a single acceptance.

So…I would suggest you broaden your thinking about undergrad school. Think about the qualities you want in a college…location, size, religious or not…that sort of thing. Then start looking at possible majors they offer that can get you to your end goal and Plan B.

@WayOutWestMom what did I miss?


@circuitrider, this is new to me. Most of the tippy-tops that I know best just say that they “meet need” (which ofc they get to define!) and don’t really do much (if anything) in the way of merit aid. Can you expand on this?

You are correct. These are not (by and large) schools that give out a lot of merit aid. On the contrary, they are the members of COFHE, the Deep State of need-based financial aid. You can find them here: Consortium on Financing Higher Education (

A couple of generations ago they used to consult with each other regarding individual grant awards in order to encourage uniformity. That stopped when they entered into a consent decree to avoid a big anti-trust suit in the 1970s. Meanwhile, they still award billions of dollars in proceeds from long dead donors to a brand new crop of college-goers every year in one of the largest transfers of wealth from one generation to another anywhere on the planet.

The only way to know whether they meet need as defined by you the parent, is to go to each of their NPCs and get a quick and dirty estimate.

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Whether an LAC or Public/Private U is better depends upon what you want to do. Do you want smaller classes with no grad students to compete with for research opportunities? Go LAC. Do you want a lot of class/major options with tons of different research opportunities? Go med or larger U. There are other differences too, of course. I just mentioned two. Successful med school applicants come from all sorts of schools. Students are more likely to do better somewhere they like and in a major they like.

Having Plan B is super critical. It’s not just “many” who apply who don’t get accepted, right now it’s the majority applying to US MD schools. Only about 41% do get an acceptance. Some will probably say that’s no big deal - just go to the Caribbean, but don’t listen to them. Getting a residency out of the Caribbean, esp for a specialty, is really, really tough. DO schools are another legitimate possibility, but they are also super competitive to get accepted to.

Some schools to consider in or near Ohio?

Besides your state public schools (which are also fine):

Case Western
U Rochester (all three of these schools have hospitals right with them)

Franklin & Marshall
Washington & Jefferson (all smaller schools that come to mind in PA where students I know have gone on to med school)

I’m in PA, so I’m more familiar with those schools based upon where students from my school have gone. There are plenty of other options in other states.

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You can get what you need for med school admissions at many types of colleges. Your decision should be based first on affordability (especially with med school costs in your future) and then on fit. Hopefully you will be able to visit some schools when the pandemic ends and you can determine what environment would work best for you. It is a personal choice – no right or wrong answer.

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Honestly you need to decide on going to a liberal arts pre med vs non liberal arts colleges. Pre med at liberal arts has its pros and cons just like large research institutions. Theres no right or wrong answer it’s all about fit. Im doing pre med at a top LAC and I really don’t like it, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t fit you.

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The cost issue has been addressed and is very important. There is very little money for scholarships compared to undergrad even if the parent university is loaded because the endowments are typically separate. Here is my take (I was a med school admissions dean for 7 years and on admissions committees (AdComs) longer than that) minus the money issue, which has been addressed:

  1. AdComs really don’t care where you go to college; however, they are more familiar with some schools over others and this varies a lot from med school to med school and state to state. A Ohio med school might be more familiar with Kenyon or Denison but a med school in Florida might not be so familiar with these schools. This it doesn’t matter much since the admissions dean makes it their business to know. A typical AdCom member in Florida may not have ever heard of Kenyon, but the dean or AdCom chair should. A med school with a parent university is obviously way more familiar. My guess would be that Case Western interviews a disproportionate number of Case undergrads.
  2. LACs typically have a more hands on premed advising than a large state school HOWEVER the larger schools typically have a larger variety opportunities for research, volunteer, leadership, and clinical exposure. It is easier to roll out of bed and walk across campus to the lab or volunteer opportunity at the hospital at UVa than (I’m just guessing) Washington & Lee or Hampden-Sydney. The W&L student might have to get those opportunities in the summer. Some schools have a little, or a lot, of both.
  3. After saying all that… even if you went to a school that had few opportunities/ resources, the AdComs will look to see if you took advantage of what was available. If you rung everything out of No Name Itty Bitty College that you possible could, then great! If you went to Harvard and didn’t take advantage what it has to offer (spent all your time studying), not so great.

I could go on and on, but overall go someplace that makes you happy and makes financial sense. Make the most of your experience and visit the pre-med advisor early and often. Oh, and LISTEN to what they are saying. I got that complaint all the time.


I like pretty much everything @PathDad posted, except beware of this. Not all pre-med advisors know what they are doing. Sometimes colleges just seem to hire previous graduates who need a job and they are as clueless as anyone else with absolutely no medical experience, nor seemingly the desire to learn about it. This happens at top schools as well as not-so-well-known schools.

My suggestion is to visit and be known (can be important for applications later), but double check everything you are told with credible sites on the internet. Doing so can save a lot of heartache.

Anyone who wants to get into med school has to be able to take the initiative and learn, plus be able to decipher conflicting advice to be able to see what is more likely to be true.