Vanderbilt Bio/Premed major

So I eventually want to go to Med School, and my top choice right now is Vanderbilt. After visiting and learning about the programs, I loved the school, except after doing some research I found out that it suffers from major grade deflation. I was wondering how much the grade deflation would affect my chances of getting into Med School and if it as bad in a general Biological Sciences major as it is in the straight Pre Med major. Also, are there any other majors related to sciences that are easier that will still allow me to get into Med School? I am trying to get these questions answered before my Early Decision application so I know wether I really want to send it in or not.

Thank you!

Another thing I found was the Medicine, Health, and Society Major at Vanderbilt. I was wondering how hard this was and wether I could still take all the pre med prerequisites through this major.

it as bad in a general Biological Sciences major as it is in the straight Pre Med major.




What is the “straight premed major”? Does Vandy have a premed major? Only about 2 colleges in the US have a premed major.

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I’m a freshman at Vanderbilt. The grade deflation doesn’t seem to be that bad…although I know that other schools (cough cough the ivies) are known to inflate grades, which could negatively affect Vandy students. There is no “pre-med” major, a lot of Biomedical engineering, science and Medicine, Health, and Society majors are on the pre-med track.

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So you saw this thread or some similar?

Vanderbilt is not unusual in their use of ‘weed out’ classes to cut down on the pre-meds in freshman year. Many top schools (and not so top schools) do this. If you are truly concerned (and you probably should be if you are convinced that medicine is the career for you), take a look at some LACs. The atmosphere at even the top LACs is less ‘weed out’ oriented, less competitive, more supportive. You will definitely know the faculty when the time comes to get your committee letter. If you like Vandy, then Davidson might be a better alternative. Look at Rhodes, Eckard and Hendrix too if you are partial to the south. The midwestern LACs are good choices. Grinnell’s sciences are especially strong, but Macalester, Oberlin, Kenyon and Carleton are all excellent choices.

Here’s what AAMC has to say about admissions based on GPA and Test Score (and no, you don’t get a significant ‘boost’ by going to a brand name place like Vandy over your state school):

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There’s no pre-med major at Vanderbilt. Biology is a fairly difficult major. Medicine, Health, and Society would be a good choice, it’s fairly easy. You can do well in anything really though; just avoid engineering. You don’t even have to major in science: as long as you fulfill the med school requirements (chem, orgo, bio, physics, biochem, calc 1) you could even be a history or english major. Choose what you are most interestd in.

Your major is somewhat irrelevant because the main portion of the grade deflation is due to the weed outs: gen chem, gen bio, physics, calculus, orgo, and biochem. All of these classes are curved to the B-/C+ border, so 50% of students in the class get below a C+. A’s are typically reserved for only the best students; in my bio I class, only 5% of the class was given a full A, so only 10 kids in a 200 person lecture. Once you get into your upper level classes junior and senior year, good grades come much more easily.

Many will argue that you should just go to state school as a premed. State schools can certainly be a bit easier, so if you really don’t care where you go and are committed to being in medicine without a doubt, that would be a good option. However, I would advise against completely selling your soul to premed. If you really like the school you can still succeed, and it could be disappointing if you ended up not wanting to go into medicine in the end and realize that you didn’t go to your preferred school.

You can absolutely succeed at pre-med here, with a few skills. Contrary to what you might expect, you can definitely pull a 3.7+ and have a good chance at a 3.85+ with two skills: conservative scheduling and being a good planner. Most kids come in here with the mindset of being the academic elite of their high school and bite off more than they can chew. What you have to do instead is protect yourself by taking the easiest classes humanly possible while also fulfilling the AXLE (liberal arts requirement classes). Limit yourself to 1 weed out per semester. If you have to double up, take physics+orgo with low hours. Use ratemyprof and relationships with upperclassmen to find out the easy classes. One of my friends operated like this, and is graduating with a ~3.95 as a neuroscience major. He is smart and hardworking but not a super genius; he was just an excellent scheduler and planner.

Here’s an example schedule that would be ideal for a good GPA:
Freshman year fall: gen chem I+lab+lowest possible level language of your choice part 1+freshman writing seminar =12 hours.
Freshman spring: gen chem II+ lab+lowest possible level language of your choice part 2+2 easy axle requirements (psych and sociology classes are good for premeds).=15 hours.
Freshman summer (if possible): Physics I+physics II. or calc 1.
Sophomore fall(with physics taken over summer): Bio I+lab+ easy axles or major requirements:= greater than or equal to 15 hours
Sophomore fall(without physics taken over summer): Bio I+lab+ physics I+lab+super easy axles = less than 15 hours.
Sophomore spring(with physics taken over summer): Bio II+lab+ easy axles or major requirements:= greater than or equal to 15 hours
Sophomore spring(without physics taken over summer): Bio II+lab+ physics II+lab+super easy axles = less than 15 hours.
Sophmore summer: something productive. volunteering, clinical experience, research.
Junior Fall: Orgo I+lab+ easy axles or major requirements:= greater than or equal to 15 hours
Junior Spring: Orgo I+lab+ biochem+easy axles or major requirements:= equal to or less than 15 hours.
Junior summer: MCAT. take early if you want to go straight in to med school, take late in the summer if you want a gap year.
Senior year: finish up major requirements and AXLE. Throw in calc sometime if you want it, but its not a real requirement.

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Thanks so much. this all helped a ton!!

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As others have maybe hinted at, statistically, there actually isn’t grade deflation at Vanderbilt. Many of Vandy’s peers in the top 20 are known for inflating grades, and many Vandy students realize they probably could have received higher grades if they went to their state flagship. That said, the average GPA/grade distribution at Vanderbilt is certainly not deflated compared to all other private universities.

The tough thing about bringing in 1600 students who were all at the top of their highschools is that 90% of them aren’t going to be in the top 10% anymore. Some top schools choose to inflate grades to make this less emotionally challenging for students, but most academics consider that unethical, and Vanderbilt chooses not to participate in that game.

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The schools should focus on content and not weird grading schemes to inflate or deflate or uninflate grades. HYP and many other schools embarrass students with the content in the sciences. As in, “let us make lectures and exams that show you how much you don’t know how to do yet and where you need to get”. They may get decent grades at the end, but they will fight their way through it and have to get over not getting 100 (or even 90) on a test. What is humbling to see is when a sophomore or junior science major runs into their first truly challenging instructor content and exam style wise. They have a near 4.0 GPA, got A grades in all other science classes, hit ochem or biochemistry with an instructor that asks for deep problem solving skills, takes first exam and hits the mean (in a class where like a 78-79 puts you in the upper range) or scores even lower. Now THAT knocks humility into the student whether class is curved up or not. Many of course experience this earlier on at elite schools. These are of course the AP credit “babies” I speak of (who get the surprise B in the class they are retaking because they thought it would be a good review or that their AP credit automatically meant “A”). I prefer schools with many teachers that simply tell students that “your thinking and problem solving is not at the level we want it yet” more so than “we give relatively standard but highstakes exams that are not balanced by other components and we don’t curve generously”. Unfortunately, even at many selective private schools the latter is the case for intros. This pack will be weeded out because of grades and the former pack gets winnowed down because they simply get tired of that level of intensity. Typically those in the former category demand a lot more out of class assignments as well that help the grade but add to stress, especially when they are challenging assignments. Regardless of what I prefer, all these top privates have methods of weeding out. Selective schools are actually bigger weedout machines than much less selective counterparts. Even Stanford and Yale, grade inflation and all, manage to get rid of a huge chunk (Stanford actually has a reputation for bad intro. science classes like gen. chem and when I say bad, it used to be very poorly run).

I’m currently in freshman orgo right now and its pretty bad. Everyone in my class made a 5 on the AP Chem exam, but the average score on the last test was still in the low 70s.


70 on an ochem test is honestly not that bad. That would be considered a good average if the tests are objectively challenging (like asked very applied or theoretical questions). if they are rather straight-forward and the grading is just unnecessarily harsh then that is most certainly a low mean. For example, with instructors who give VERY challenging exams and to people who have mostly earned B+ and higher grades in general chemistry (these stronger students self-select into harder ochem sections where I went), a 65-75 would be a very solid performance.

Also, please remember that AP is curved and sometimes (ok, basically never) a 5 does not correspond to a super high (or even high) score much like an A in a college course does not necessarily correspond to a 93. In addition, general chemistry simply does not prep well for the structure and concept oriented nature of ochem especially in the case of challenging and/or fast-paced instruction. I feel only gen. chem 1/2 performance is a fair metric to use and even that has imperfect correlation (with most AP 4/5 receiving a B grade and 4’s often equaling the 5’s performance).

Just want to throw out there, sociology and psych are very notes heavy. If you’re great at taking notes/time management then you’ll do fine, but if you’re not I wouldn’t recommend doing those two together.

@fdgjfg would your friend recommend Neuroscience over Bio? Some of the upper level bio courses don’t seem super appealing but I’m not sure if neuroscience is any better.

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Neuroscience has a reputation for being a bit easier since you have a wide variety of classes to choose from in the neuroscience, biology, and psychology departments. This allows you to avoid difficult classes like genetics or moderately difficult classes like cell biology that everyone takes as a biology major. However, I wouldn’t say that the difference is completely clear cut; some neuroscience classes are also really difficult, like molecules of the brain and neuroanatomy. And if you’re pre-med, you still have to take hard classes like biochem anyway.

I would say that students should stick with what they are more interested in. Neuro isn’t so much easier that I would recommend someone interested in bio to switch. For someone who completely doesn’t care though, it might be worth it to do neuro instead just for the chance that it might be slightly easier.

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@fdgjfg So when applying to vanderbilt with a choice of major in medicine, health, and society, is the school that incorporates this major just the college of arts and sciences. How does this major work, because I heard it is interdisciplinary.

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I believe that it’s just the college of A&S. Interdisciplinary pretty much just means your major classes will be in different departments. So for MHS, some of your classes will be marked as “MHS” classes, but other core classes will be in the chemistry, bio, neuro, psych, or sociology departments as well.

Check the website if you’d like some more info.

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