Does College Matter for Medical School Applications?

does college matter for medical school It is a question I often get emailed about from pre-meds. It is also a discussion that takes place on the Student-Doctor Network just about every other week. Does college matter for medical school applications? Will attending a prestigious private school give you a better chance at becoming a physician than the public State University? Here is the definitive answer that I am going to answer very simply...no. What undergraduate school you attend makes almost no difference in medical school applications. This may not please Harvard or Princeton graduates who are reading, but for the majority of us, it should quell some anxiety.

I don't pretend to know how every medical school admissions committee evaluates an application. However I can tell you that while interviewing at six medical schools (including Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, and UNC Chapel Hill), I was never asked about my undergraduate schooling. I attended a public liberal-arts institution that many of you have never heard of, unless you live in the Southeast. It is not "prestigious," and  it probably won't ever win awards in US News & World Report's "Best Colleges" report. However, I received a stellar education and loved every second of my 4 years there.

As a future applicant you should know that all medical school applicants need a stellar GPA, great extracurriculars, experiences in the medical field, good letters of recommendations and a really competitive MCAT score. Do any of these things sound prestigious-school-specific?

Here is the hard truth, how you use your education is far more important than where you get it from. I am almost certain that the basic Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Organic Chemistry courses are 90% the same from university to university. I mean how many different ways can you teach DNA replication or explain gravitational force? Everyone  even uses the same books for the most part! I guarantee you that I scored better on the MCAT than the majority of pre-meds at top-25 schools around the country, and you can too.

The key is to remember all of the information presented to you in these basic science classes. A lot of my friends and classmates would wait until the last minute before tests and shove as much information into their short-term memory as possible. This may be OK for getting a passing grade on the test, but it won't work as well when the MCAT comes along. The MCAT requires understanding the science not just basic recall of facts (although you need that too!).

All of this means that you should attend the college that you want to: whether that is Yale, the University of Texas, or Sewanee. The most important thing to remember is that you need to go somewhere that you can be happy, and feel at home. When you visit the campus, take a few minutes to walk around by yourself, can you imagine doing that for 4 years? Can you feel at home on campus? A lot of people pick the "best" college, or the university where all of their high school friends are going. And a lot of them end up unhappy, or taking a long time to graduate. This is one instance where you have to, as Lil Wayne says, "do you!"

One final note on all of this, please don't let college become a financial burden on you, or your family. I was lucky enough to receive scholarship money to go to college, and my family was able to cover the rest of my cost of attendance, without taking out any loans. I can't imagine having undergraduate debt and then adding medical school debt on top of that. That is soooo much money to pay back, and compound interest is such a powerful force to go up against.

Learn the material from your basic sciences classes the first time through, make some good connections with your professors, get a great GPA (no matter what school you attend), and rock the MCAT. Do these few things and you will get into medical school, I promise.