The Everlasting Question: Does Undergrad School Matter?

<p>Does it matter what undergraduate college you go to for medical school admissions?</p>

<p>I'ver researched this subject for quite some time now, and I've come up with a conclusion:
1. It doesn't matter much where you go. It matters a hell lot more what you do when you're there.
2. The name of the institution is noteworthy, but it is NOT the dealbreaker by any means.
3. As long as you get a good GPA (3.7+), a good MCAT score (30+), do plenty of medical extracurriculars (volunteering, shadowing, research, etc), and have decent social skills...where you go to school DOES NOT MATTER.</p>

<p>I've been having a debate with my buddies about what undergrad school one should go to for medical school. They're going to the state flagship college (school A) while I'm going to a lesser state school (school B). </p>

<p>My reasoning behind going to school B is that I would pay less for the lesser state school and the competition would be weaker. At school B I am getting a full scholarship. At school A I would only get a partial scholarship. Also, at school B, I wouldn't be competing against most of the state's smartest students who are going to school A; I would get a higher GPA at school B than school A. Also, my family friend is a physician who had four other siblings who became physicians...and they all attended school B. By going to school B, I would save money and get a higher GPA. </p>

<p>My friends believed that going to school A would give one a better chance of getting into medical school. Their reasoning was that school A's pre-med program is better (which is true). Their pre-med program offers better researching opportunities, etc. They also pointed out that the state medical school belongs to school A, so students from school A would get some leverage over students from other schools. I think this is also true. These are fine points.</p>

<p>I've also heard arguments from others on the web that it is best to go to a school with "good pre-med programs". While these fine programs are good, I'm wondering: do they actually matter enough?</p>

<p>Agree? Disagree? Add your thoughts. Thanks in advance.</p>

<p>I looked at your past posts, and I might actually attend the school you're talking about for "school b", except the part about the state medical school belonging to the flagship. That doesnt fit Texas though, so maybe I'm wrong.</p>

<p>Why is it so important? It is important to go to school that matches your personality and wide range of interests. So, yes, it is important, it is 4 years of your life, ask yourself if you want to feel great and looking forward to be there, or you want to feel misearble? Obviously, yes to first. My D. is still visiting her UG and after every visit she says the same, she is very happy that she chose it.<br>
On the note of stats, I would say that it is 3.7+ and better 33+. 30 is probably OK, but do not expect to have great choices. 35 will definitely have great options if applied to the right list of Med. Schools.</p>

<p>Cottoncube....</p>

<p>Are you saying that your friends are going to UT-Austin, while you're considering....what? Texas A&M? UT-Dallas? What?</p>

<p>Texas has a good number of state schools....some much better than others (which is probably typical of states with large populations). </p>

<p>UT-Dallas is an "up and coming school," so if that's the one you're considering, that sounds ok.</p>

<p>However, if it's one of state schools where the middle range of ACT scores is terribly low (like UTEP with a range of 16-22), then I might rethink that unless it's your only option. Unless the students in the pre-med pre-reqs have much stronger scores, I would fear that the curriculum would be very dumbed-down.</p>

<p>Thank you all for your responses, but please disregard Texas. I ended up not moving due to last minute decisions. </p>

<p>I am still in Oklahoma. I didn't want to mention it because I thought I would make the question too specific, and I was looking for a broader outlook on the subject. But if it will help you answer, then I don't mind making it a bit specific. School A is the University of Oklahoma and school B is the University of Central Oklahoma (you probably haven't heard of it). </p>

<p>@MiamiDAP
I definitely agree that it is important to go to a school that I'm comfortable in. I am actually looking forward to going to school B, so I assure you I won't be miserable there. Thanks for pointing this out. However, for this thread, I wanted to focus on practicality of the undergrad for medical school. I also agree about the MCAT scores, because you're right about the 33+ for a better chance at all national med schools. I said 30+ because I was focused on the state medical school specifically.</p>

<p>@mom2collegekids
I agree about the 16-22 ACT range; of course that would be too low for me to consider. School B (UCO) has a range of 19-24. While this is not too much better, I know the pre-med curriculum is decent. It's nothing to be afraid of in terms of challenge and growth. I know plenty of UCO graduates who went to medical school, so I have good trust that its education quality is good enough. In Oklahoma, the three most top public colleges are OU, OSU, and UCO. While UCO is inferior to the other two, it is still respectable in Oklahoma.</p>

<p>I apologize for any confusion. Tell me if you need to know more.</p>

<p>What are your reasons for considering OCU as your top choice?</p>

<p>1) Finances? Is it the only affordable school? Did it give you merit?</p>

<p>2) Do you love the school? (BTW....is this school mostly commuter/suitcase? If so, will you be negatively affected by that in any way?)</p>

<p>3) Do you feel that you can stand-out grade-wise at this school?</p>

<p>4) What are your reasons for not choosing OU or OSU?</p>

<p>What are your stats (GPA and test scores)?</p>

<p>Go to OU. Don't look at competition. If you study hard then that is nullified at a state school. You want the total collegiate experience and don't want to regret anything. I thought about some of the same things as you are as a HS senior and went towards my own 'School A' and I don't regret it one bit academically, socially, and in any other fashion. </p>

<p>Also, don't underestimate the importance of having ambitious, intelligent, and 'gunning' (to an extent) peers. These traits of theirs will only push you to work harder, think more outside the box, be creative, and collaborate. These things will only make you better as a person and individual and eventually lead to a better network of successful friends.</p>

<p>Sorry for the poor grammar...I have a lot of work to do but I had to comment on this thread because I feel passionate about the topic.</p>

<p>" wanted to focus on practicality of the undergrad for medical school."</p>

<p>-I do not know anything about it, all I have is my D's experience. She did not think about Med. School acceptances when shoosing her UG. She went where she feels fine and she also ended up on full tutition Merit award there - in-state public. She had no problem getting acceptances to few Med. Schools including top 20 outside of ner bs/md program. I do not know if any of it is applicable to your case. You might be aspired to go to high ranking, Ivy / Elite. My D. never checked any rankings and was not aspired to go to Ivy / Elite UG. She wanted to be in bs/md, but ended up applying out any way. So, her goal seems to be different from yours. She is an MS1.</p>

<p>I think the only reasons you should ever choose a lower ranked school are:
A) you genuinely like it more than the other school for reasons other than "I think I can outperform kids better there" unless you think not being able to outperform people is going to make you sad and depressed - which is probably something you should get over since you're not the smartest person you'll ever encounter for the rest of your life.
B) money</p>

<p>You never know what your GPA is going to be no matter how dumb/smart you think the kids are, and the moment your GPA takes any hit in a school that you feel you only went to because of how much better your GPA would be you're going to freak out, and while you're right that smart kids will get in regardless of the school they go to, the upper tier schools provide boosts to kids who start to slide down the GPA scale a little bit.</p>

<p>Happiness/fit definitely trumps all. If you genuinely feel that you would enjoy school B more than school A (that includes things like having money to actually participate in things with friends) by all means, don't look back and just go. But don't let "I think I'll get a higher GPA there because everyone else is dumber than at school A" be a major driving force in your decision.</p>

<p>^That is if you ever check ranking, some people do not care and never look at it.</p>

<p>@MiamiDAP, perhaps times have changed and technology has become dominant in our lives. For all I know, I knew that all the kids at my high school knew about where their respective college stood in ranking. But in that, I also think that no one really cares of ranking in these tough times. People who were smart, went with a low tier university that offered them full aid. They were content with their choice and although the rush of getting into the best college is always present in senior year high school, the emotions all drain down the sink when you finally get to the institute. I wish a lot of students had the perspective of a college freshman...rather than a high school senior when making their ultimate choice. I don't encourage that you go to a low tier school...cause you can tell that the institute may not be as challenging depending on the student population...but I do say that you should make your decision based on your standing rather than what the hype of the moment tells you so.
What I have learned so far is that you should always go with the place that will offer you the maximum...regardless of whether or not you ever get to use the entire list of advantages of that institute.
Lastly, I would try to go to intro lvl courses that you may have covered with your AP score. This way, you can get a feel for how your freshman classes may seem. I think this is a very intelligent tactic if you sample some familiar courses ...and of course the unfamiliar subjects (just for the high achieving).
Other than that, if you continuously try to find reasons to reject an institute or that you are completely ignorant towards your safety...it is time that you visit your safety and give it a good look too. I know that I never visited my safety...for fear that I might second guess myself. Now, I sort of wonder about what might be on the other side and sometimes regret my rash decisions...which is frequent in all pre-med students.
But if I had gone into my safety...I would have probably thought that it would have had easy classes...which is simply not true. Overall rankings only give a superficial picture of student body. You may find that a school is excellent in math or some other field...and that it actually attracts a lot of geniuses. You may also not know that the reason why the kids at your institute (ranked higher than the safety) think the science/math classes at the other school are easy is due to the rigorous curriculum found at your institute.
It is best to say that until time machines have not been invented...you just got to tread your path carefully and not ignore the things that seem the most obvious at the time and place.</p>

<p>@mom2collegekids
I just noticed you were THE mom2collegekids. Wow! Anyway...
1. UCO is extremely affordable. Money is a major reason for my undergrad decision. I am getting a full scholarship there. OU is a bit more expensive (about $15,000 a year after scholarships).
2. I do like UCO very much. It is known to have small class sizes , which I really like. It is also rich with student opportunities, and it focuses much on leadership, which I'm interested in. Most students at UCO commute because of its "central" location. I will be commuting as well, but it won't be a problem to me. The school is literally 15 minutes away from my house. Living in a dorm is not worth the money to me; it just isn't practical.
3. While I feel that I would stand out somewhat grade-wise, this is a perk of going to UCO rather than a reason to attend there. If I was accepted into an Ivy League school, I would not refuse to go because I wouldn't be a top student there (which I wouldn't be).
4. For one thing, I do not like OSU (I don't like orange or cowboys). While I do like OU when it comes to football, I'm not hardcore enough to want to go to school there. I acknowledge that OU is considered a better school than UCO, but I have no strong desire to go there.
5. My GPA is a 3.9 and my ACT is a 31. I'm pretty involved in extracurricular activities as well, but I'm not here to boast.</p>

<p>@ImOnOne
You have good reasoning. However, competition isn't the only factor in the decision. I do agree that the standards of peers can influence one's work ethic, but I can't depend on others to improve my effort. I also can't put full trust in the possibility of creating connections. Ideally, this would be great, but I need to expect the worst to be safe. Cost is also an important factor.</p>

<p>@MiamiDAP
You have good advice. I'm focusing too much on medical school admissions for my undergrad decision. I agree that it's important to not concentrate too much on rankings of colleges. I'm not crazy about going to an Ivy League school or anything. Being comfortable at a college is very important, but I also need to be smart with my decisions. Cost and quality of education are probably the top two factors in terms of practicality. It seems your D enjoyed her undergrad, had her costs payed for, and received an enriched education. And evidently, she didn't need to graduate from a high-ranking school to get into medical school. This is ideal. I think I would have a similar experience at UCO. While it isn't the state flagship school like OU, I doubt the "prestige" of the institution would have a significant impact on admissions. We seem to be on the same page here.</p>

<p>@i<em>wanna</em>be_Brown
You're absolutely right. I shouldn't focus too much on competition for this decision. And you have a good point--what if my grades aren't what I expected them to be? However, this is where (like you said) money and satisfaction come into play. The truth is that cost is a big issue for me, and it would be extremely convenient to go to UCO instead of OU for this reason. As I've explained to mom2collegekids earlier, I would enjoy going to UCO more than OU. Weaker class competition is nothing to attend a school for, but it is a potential perk of going. However, I still need to take it into consideration, especially for medical school admissions. But you're right on the point that I can't depend on this whatsoever. Thanks.</p>

<p>@Liveulife
I agree with you. The rankings never tell the full story, and there are several hidden factors that come into play. I understand your concern about going to a low-tier school because of the lack of a challenging education. I agree with this, but I assure you that UCO is challenging enough. For the AP scores subject, I think you're right; being familiar with the classes will help one transition into college easier. I wasn't really planning to skip any classes anyway. I also agree that while it may feel great to get into the best college possible, it's best to be smart about the decision and consider everything before jumping into it based on the hype. And I do believe that UCO offers a great amount of opportunities, so you might approve of my decision to go there. Don't worry, I'm very familiar with this school. Thank you.</p>

<p>From what I've gathered from this discussion, happiness, money, and quality of education are top things to look at for the undergrad decision. College rankings are to be noted, but not fully trusted. It seems the name of the school has very little weight in an application compared to WHAT a student does at that school. Though going to a top school would give a boost, it isn't an option for me. Knowing your competition at the school is important to consider; it gives you an idea of what to expect. However, it is not something to underestimate or take for granted, and it is NOT a good reason to decide to go to the school. </p>

<p>What do you think of schools that have "good pre-med programs"? How much do they matter?</p>

<p>Pre-med programs only go to so many lengths to make a student seem prepared. In my opinion, there are a very few schools that specialize in premed and are actually quite good at it. One name comes to mind and I think it is Northwestern. For the majority or the rest, I think they just create propaganda to attract applicants, since a lot of science students come in as premeds. The latter school category basically makes you meet with an advisor (not as helpful and probably speaks the obvious facts like a psychiatrist asking his patient normal questions) then you plan for yourself the courses you want to take. Afterwards, you spend the rest of freshman year in your own shell (you'll have friends but your study commitments will be a fair amount based on your choice of classes) trying to make that med school dream possible. So, the premed committee in this case isn't much of help for the first two years of college really. I mean your advisor may send info on a daily basis to keep you informed of your resources...but to be honest, I think that the info is redundant or accessible to nonpre-med students too. So you're really not in a specialized category here.
All things really start when you get into your junior year and senior year. These are the two years when the committee really wants to know you...and I mean through your grades and participation in major(s). In this sense, I don't think that it really does want to know you...it sort of ends up being a pre-screening process moreso.
Verdict: "good" can mean a lot of things and oftentimes...it has an apathetic phenotype in college. "Best" means something special, and you will have a much better and noticeable experience with this. Now, given a small school, the advisor may be more caring, and in this I hold an exception. For example, I like how Swarthmore's size works for its premeds.</p>

<p>Good answer, Liveulife, it makes a lot of sense. Personally I don't have the luxury of being able to go to one of the "best" pre-med schools, but it's assuring to know that students from "good" pre-med schools do not necessarily have a true advantage over other students. I didn't think it mattered much anyway, but knowing that others that share this opinion is nice. I will definitely keep your pre-med info in mind in the future. Admission into medical school ultimately depends on the applicant, not the undergrad school. You're right about the propaganda. It seems every school I look at boasts about their pre-med programs.</p>

<p>Do not overlook some potential downside of going to a "small" college:</p>

<p>1) Some elective may be offered every other year.</p>

<p>2) If a required class is always taught by the same professor every year, and most students hate this professor for any reason (e.g., he rarely gives As as his interest may be in finding very few academic superstars who may follow his/her step in the academic circle, or he himself may be a potential Nobel winner in the future but is really not interested in teaching premeds very much), you have no way to avoid taking his class unless you take it in another institute in the summer and then you may need to explain why you do so if you are asked in the interview.</p>

<p>A few years ago, somebody posted here that, at some top LAC, there could be very few premeds applying to medical school as a junior/senior. (We are talking about less than 2-3 non-alumni applicants here. My wild guess is that this school really works its students very hard -- either too much ECs due to the peer pressure, or too little time for ECs because many professors have the opinion that "anyone who has a pulse can do as many hours of ECs as he wishes, and they do not appreciate their students' efforts on these non-academic activities but medical school adcoms may demand these.)</p>

<p>Of course, there is some downside of going to a large school as well.</p>

<p>"@MiamiDAP, perhaps times have changed and technology has become dominant in our lives."</p>

<p>-not too much has changed in 4 years. Making technology a dominant force in your life is a choice. Not everybody is choosing to do so. Some insure that their choice belong to them, not to ranking or any other info. that they find on internet. They like to visit multiple times, talk to students, faculty, spend overnight, study programs. It does not occur to them that they will be happier at higher ranking place. But it does not mean that others should do the same. It is just another way, for others ranking might be the first that they consider. If high ranking makes you happy, then, you should go for the highest ranked place.</p>

<p>I think where you go to UG matters to a point but that point being having sufficient science classes to prepare you for the MCAT and a good pre-med advisory team. One school our DD looked at was a good fit for her for the most part but the science department was not strong and we didn't get a good feeling from the pre-med adviser during our visit. It's a great school otherwise and her brother may end up there for his major, which is a strong program for them...just not so good for premed candidates.</p>

<p>Sorry, I didn't bother to read all the comments, so this may have already been said. </p>

<p>I'm not so sure if picking a school where you'll shine so much is really a great idea. Because if you want to go to a respectable med school, that's not going to be the case. </p>

<p>It could be a very tough transition, and you might not be prepared for the rigor of study after breezing through your undergrad. At OU, you'll be challenged, which is exactly what's going to happen in med school. It will be harder to attain a high GPA, but if you work hard, you can absolutely get a 3.7+. And the rigor of your studies at OU would kill two birds with one stone by helping you immeasurably when it comes to the MCAT. </p>

<p>Just my opinion. Sorry if it's already been said.</p>

<p>"I'm not so sure if picking a school where you'll shine so much is really a great idea. Because if you want to go to a respectable med school, that's not going to be the case."
-I have only experience with my D., so based only on that:
- It is extremely good idea to pick a school where you'll shine and you will end up getting accepted to very respectable Med. Schools if you apply to them.</p>

<p>saman42--I know it goes against every logical thought to not go to "the best" school you can get into but if you look at it this way, the way you get into med school is by your GPA, MCAT score and your extra "stuff"-research, sports, activities,volunteer work. Who, on paper, is going to look better, the kid that has a 3.5 from Harvard but was just average in his class so he didn't get an opportunity to work on a research project or to volunteer at the hospital down the road, or the student that went to good LAC, has a 3.5 but lead a research project because he was the star of the biology class freshman year and through that research got asked to help at the hospital down the road working with kids undergoing treatment for cancer. Both students have the same MCAT score</p>