Which college to choose for best chances at pre-med

S has gotten into UCR, Barrett College at ASU, Chapman University, SCU, UIUC, Purdue, wait listed at BU, UDub - which college will be best suited to pursue pre-med? Given we are California residents, looking at angles like grade deflation, class sizes, quality of education, weather, plan B if pre-med does not pan out? any advise would be greatly appreciated.

UCR offers the Thomas Haider Early Assurance program for UCR Undergrads. It provides qualified, “mission-fit” UC Riverside undergraduate students or recent graduates with a guaranteed seat in a future UCR School of Medicine class. Admitted EAP students enter the School of Medicine one year after selection.


Something to consider if a CA resident. “Pre-Med” is an intention so which major is she pursing? What is the backup plan?

Where best does not think she will thrive academically, socially and financially?

She is planning on pursuing a Neuroscience major in each of the schools she applied to; for the schools which do not offer Neuroscience, she applied as a Biology Major.

The backup plan is to pursue either Dentistry or Veterinarian Studies if Med school does not pan out. Plan C is to become a PhD researcher.

In terms of best fit, we are doing extensive research to conclude which school she will thrive best at academically and socially, so each school is a valid contender at the moment.

1 Like

You’ve got an expensive road ahead. Is one option significantly more affordable than the other?

Vet school is also very competitive. Not sure that is a viable plan B especially since the undergrad focus would presumably be so different.

I have a Purdue 3rd year engineer. The school makes sure they have no grade inflation. D has had classes where the grading rubric was changed after the fact because too many students got As. I’m not sure if the same is true in the CoS but I would look at course grade distributions.

Medical school is a competitive admission with only ~40% of those who apply actually receiving admittance. Admission to dental or veterinary school is equally as competitive or more competitive than med school. IOW, none of those pathways offer a such path forward at the end of the road.

And because of the EC expectations/ requirements, one can’t just switch from to the other at the last minute if one doesn’t get an admission to med school.

Additionally, both you and your child should understand that a PhD in biology (or neuroscience) has an extremely poor job outlook.
There is a HUGE oversupply of biological science PhDs and not nearly enough jobs to absorb them all–even when you consider industry as well as academia. This has been true since the late 1980s. Bio grad students provide cheap help in the lab so PhD programs over accept. Many bio PhDs end up as low paid permanent post-docs or teaching adjuncts.

If your child is set on a healthcare career, they should look through this site:

It lists dozen and dozens of health-related careers that you and your D are probably not familiar with.

I also suggest that pre-med hopefuls consider adding a minor in a more employable field that will help them with post graduation job prospects. My daughters, for example, each added a second major in mathematics–which improved their post-graduation job options enormously. If math isn’t your child’s thing, have her consider business, public health, education (teaching certification), sales/management, etc.

None of the universities your D has been accepted to offer any substantial advantage for a med school admission. All offer the required classes, all (except for Chapman and possibly Riverside) are large state Us which will have plentiful research opportunities, but will also have large class sizes.

Intro level bio and chem classes everywhere are filled with pre-med/pre-dent/pre-vet hopefuls and no matter which school your child chooses it will be competitive for earning the As needed for a strong professional school admission. Every major flagship U grades those intro classes on a curve with only a limited number of high grades awarded.

You asked about weather–I can speak to UIUC since I lived there for 5 years while completing my grad degree. Winters are cold. Sometimes extremely cold with the potential for blizzards that shut down everything. (I vividly remember the first week I moved to CU–the high temperature that week was -10º F. Typically it’s not quite that bad, but central IL is cold in the winter.) Summers are hot and very muggy. Spring through August/September is tornado season. The area is also very…flat. I always felt that if I could only find a small hill, I ought to be able to see the ocean. There’s not a lot of outdoor sport opportunities in C-U. There are 2 small hospitals in CU, but lots of pre-meds. It’s tough to find clinical volunteering opportunities during the school year.

What I told my own daughters (who are now both physicians)–pick a school that offer you best combo of–

FIT–because happier students do better academically
COST–because med school is hideously expensive and the only FA is loans, loans and more loan. Pre-med/pre-vet-/pre-dent student need to minimize undergrad debt as much as possible
OPPORTUNITY–to grow and develop as a person; to get involved in campus activities (professional school are looking for well round individuals who demonstrate leadership qualities); to form mentoring relationships with their professors (students need strong LORs to support a professional school application, so do grad school applicants); to have opportunities to volunteer in the community (expected of prof school applicants) and to find research opportunities (critical for any science grad program application)

But a lot of the success of a pre-med depends on the individual. My Ds took very different paths–and both ended up in the same place. Successful med school applicants come from every type of undergrad imaginable–from tiny, rural SLACs to huge state Us to exclusive private Us and everything in between.

Good luck with your daughter’s journey!

1 Like

I am not sure whether a DVM program is any easier to get into than medical school. One of my daughters starts in a DVM program in September so we have some experience there. Having a LOT of experience working in a wide variety of veterinary situations is probably a big part of what got her accepted to multiple very good programs.

My understanding is that medical school similarly wants a lot of experience in medical situations, which are not quite the same. I am not sure how you would get experience in both.

My understanding is that UC Riverside has a very good medical school. I am wondering whether since you are in-state it would be any more affordable than your other options.

Regardless you need to budget for 8 years of university. The last four are going to be expensive. At least medical school has the advantage that with an MD degree you get paid well enough to eventually pay off those big medical school debts. Regardless, it is important to minimize the debt as much as you can.

I am personally dubious about attending reach schools for undergrad if you want to get accepted to medical school later. There is something to be said for coming in as a student in the top 1/2 of all accepted students if you want to be in the top 1/4 of the class in very tough premed programs.

By the way, my optometrist once told me that he did not go to medical school because he did not have a high enough GPA. One time in an elevator I ran into a radiology technician (the guy who had just done my MRI) who told me the same thing.

1 Like

If you want to go pre-med then think about:

  1. The cheapest reasonable college so you/your parents can use the money for med school
  2. The college needs to prepare you for MCATs but still allow you to get a good GPA
  3. Access to volunteering opportunities (e.g., near a hospital)
  4. Success in graduates getting into med school
  5. Options if you don’t go to med school. You think you are going to med school, but less than 20% of pre-med freshman actually do.
1 Like