Union College vs CCNY vs Hunter College vs U of Pittsburgh

Hi everyone,

I am an international student from Italy where I graduated from high school in 2019 and then attended one year of college at the University of Bologna before withdrawing from my studies. I plan to major in biology on a pre-med track. I got into Union College (Schenectady NY), City College of New York, Hunter College (NYC), and University of Pittsburgh. They are all public schools except for Union College, which is a private liberal art college, knows as one of the hidden ivies. They all have a different range of tuition, but I am willing to spend more on my education if the college would be able to help me building an outstanding curriculum that would let me successfully gain admission to medical schools. I really like the idea of a small college like Union with the chance to interact closely with the professors, but at the same time, I am scared of not having lots of opportunities since it’s isolated. On the other hand, being in NYC would give thousands of opportunities. Any advice?

Union students who do well there tend to see success when applying to medical school. You will see Union recognized in this site, for example: The 25 Best Colleges for Pre-meds. You will need to research how your international status will effect your medical school applications, however. Schenectady composes part of New York State’s capital district, and should not seem isolated to you. Union’s neighborhood may appear gritty, although. As a social aspect to consider, Union students, reputationally, indulge in alcohol to a greater than average degree. Overall, Union represents an academically solid choice for preparation across the sciences in a fully undergraduate-focused setting.

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Medical school in what country?

What nationalities/permanent residence do you have?

Thank you so much for the information! I know about the alcohol thing, but I’m not worried since I don’t like drinking. Moreover, I know that only 48 medical schools offer spots to international students, and some require at least 1 or 2 years of study in an American or Canadian university. That’s why I decided to get a bachelor’s degree in the United States. Some schools would even consider the international candidate as a domestic one if he graduated in the US.

Medical Schools in the United States or in Canada. I know there could be problems with the fact that I am not a permanent residence, but I know that if I get my bachelor’s degree from an American college, that would increase my chances of getting into many medical schools. I am aware they also care about the financial condition and some of them do not offer scholarships, but, fortunately, it’s not something that concerns me.

Your chances as an International at North American medical schools is still nil. Look to see how many Internationals are attending American medical schools.

Just go in to a situation with your eyes open.

In the last application cycle, 1,890 foreign applicants applied to M.D. programs in the United States, and 325 of those applicants were accepted. It’s not a lot, but it’s not impossible. Lots of international students get immediately rejected because they don’t satisfy the prerequisites or because of their financial conditions. Med Schools like John Hopkins treat international students like any other US citizens if they studied in the US, as the Assistant Dean of Admissions at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine stated in a video. And this is not the only school that said that. I am perfectly aware of what I am going to face, but it’s worth the risk.

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Union is the better choice. Commuter colleges like CCNY and Hunter do not have the resources to provide support and the lack of residence life or campus will also impact you. Union is well known for its strength in the sciences. Its main downside will be drinking so make sure to request a quiet or substance free floor in the dorms (or honors if you got into the program).
University of Pittsburgh is a worthy contender too, with excellent access to medical facilities where you can volunteer.
Between those two, choose the least expensive one.


Thank you for your answer!

Just a comment about Hunter College. It us very much an urban school with high rise buildings and no green campus. It does, however, have 4 dorms, so it is not entirely a commuter school. Princeton Review calls it “the crown jewel of the CUNY system . . . teeming with endless resources”, so I don’t think we can assume that it has inferior labs or other facilities. It is located in New York’s posh Upper East Side neighborhood with lots to do within walking distance, including New York City’s 840-acre Central Park where students and other locals find their green space.

I do have a family member who is an alumna, but her experience is older and not a reflection of how things are today. But when she was there, faculty was highly rated including some professors who were tops in their field.

If money is absolutely NO consideration, then go to Union. It’s not a “little Ivy”, but it’s a good 2nd tier liberal arts college. Pitt would not be a bad second choice. It’s a major medical and medical research center, lots of opportunity to get involved in medical research.

If you are planning on med school in the US, you should understand that this is virtually a pipe dream. It’s very difficult to get into med school even for US citizens. For a non-resident, it’s almost impossible. However, anything could happen while you are here, that might enable you to get a green card.

It is often advised for US students aspiring to medical school, that they major in whatever they want, and just get high grades and a good MCAT score, and they will get in. This would not be the case for you. You would need to show, in addition to fantastic grades and MCATs, medically-related scientific research that had been accepted for publication in leading scientific or medical journals. You would have to convince the few medical schools that do take internationals that you are going to be a leading MD-PhD research academic physician in your generation. So if you are inclined in that direction, carefully consider Pitt vs Union.

Personally, I don’t understand why you didn’t apply to Canadian universities. They’re good, and you would have had a much better chance at getting Canadian residency, and then admission to a Canadian medical school. Once you had your MD in Canada, it would have been easier to get a residency slot in the US, and also your green card in the US.

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Thank you for your response! I read lots of negative reviews about Hunter College saying things like the elevators did not work, and so people have to climb 7 floors in a few minutes to get to class on time. I’m not saying I expect the same experience as a non-urban campus, but there are too many negative reviews. It isn’t easy to register for a science class since there are too few places for too many students, and it happens very often that students have to take an extra semester. I like the idea of not spending too much on tuition, and I would no even have to pay for room and board since I have some relatives living near Hunter. I know that medical schools know the rigor of Hunter, but I am still an International student; I feel I need to work ten thousand times more than US citizens to make med schools realize that I am worth it.

Thank you for your help! Union is known for being a hidden ivy, not a little ivy. They offer so many possibilities for scientific research since there are no graduate students there. Still, I don’t know how much medical experience they can offer since they are not affiliated with hospitals. On the other hand, Pitt offers many possibilities to learn in the medical field, but at the same time is very competitive in scientific research.
Moreover, I applied to four Canadian universities, but the answers, unfortunately, arrive in mid-May, and therefore I find myself forced to accept an American college and then at most give up on choosing a Canadian one.

Little Ivy, hidden Ivy, whatever. Swarthmore, Amherst, Williams, yes. Union is considered to be a tier below them.

No amount of “shadowing” or volunteering will get you into a US medical school. As I said, for you, the only path to a US medical school is positioning yourself to look like the next Jonas Salk, or the next Christiaan Barnard. The only way that could happen for you would be with impressive, published basic science research, and only towards an MD-PhD. US med schools have too many qualified US applicants to accept non-US residents.

This is why I’m hoping for you that you get a good possibility in Canada. Why so late on the replies? Others who’ve posted here knew months ago about their Canada applications. Do they reply later if you’re not a Canadian resident?

For McGill and UofToronto, the estimated dates for release of admission decisions for Fall 2021 for students that studied outside Canada and the U.S. tend to be from Mid-December 2020 to end of May 2021. I applied at the end of December, but I don’t know why it’s taking so long.

Hadn’t you better contact them? Maybe they’re missing some part of your application. BTW, they’re both excellent schools, and given the possible opportunity to get residency there, and then go to med school there, I’d choose either one of them over the US colleges.

I wrote to Queen’s University, but still no answer. I heard from UofT a month ago for some documents, which they already had, by the way, and I wrote to McGill just last week for some updates, but I am still waiting for a response from both.

Note that the May 1 deadline is only binding for US colleges. If you are later admitted to a non American college, you can choose between your international choices and the US college. US colleges are used to this, it’s so common there’s even a name for it (“summer melt”).

Try finding an applicant from long ago called AFrenchie36 (on this forum and tumbler I think). He managed to do what you want to do. He’ll tell you what that takes (you have to be extraordinary).

Is there a big cost differential between Pitt and Union?

Thanks, I found him on Tumblr and I read his journey! Yes, there’s big cost differential between Pitt and Union, Pitt is around 33.000$ and Union is 58.000$ (only tuition). I read about AFrenchie36 and he studied at Penn State. I actually got an offer of admission (2+2 program) from Penn State, but I don’t really know how I feel about it. Any advice?

2+2 is not worth it(you could try to negotiate UniversityPark for Summer start +DUS but since you have Pitt, why bother?)
If Pitt is less expensive, go to Pitt. Did you get into the Honors college?