The Best Pre-Med Schools for Future Doctors

Curious medical students study molecule model
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The best pre-med schools in the United States tend to be large comprehensive universities with their own medical schools and close proximity to teaching and research hospitals. The top pre-med schools all have academic strengths in fields such as biology, chemistry, neuroscience, and psychology, and all have excellent advising programs for students seeking medical careers.

That said, realize the limitations and biases of any list (including this one) of the best pre-med schools. For one, future doctors do not need to pursue a pre-med major or focus as an undergraduate. Your grades and your score on the MCAT will be the most important part of your medical school application, and the reality is that English majors often outperform biology majors on the MCAT because of their strong reading and analytical skills. Yes, you'll want to take some carefully selected biology and chemistry classes to prepare for the MCAT and meet med school entrance requirements, but any undergraduate major can lead to a successful medical school application.

Also, remember small liberal arts colleges can open the door to top medical schools just as well as larger universities. In fact, the small classes and personalized mentoring of a liberal arts college may better prepare you for medical school than some of the much more famous pre-med schools listed below. Nevertheless, all of the schools below are well known for their successes both in and out of the classroom preparing students for medical school.

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Boston University

Boston University Castle
Boston University Castle. Photo Credit: Katie Doyle

Boston University's Early Assurance Program is an excellent choice for high achieving pre-med students. By enrolling in Early Assurance, students can earn their undergraduate and medical degree in seven years instead of the usual eight. The program is highly selective and requires SAT Subject Tests in Chemistry and Math 2, three letters of recommendation, a special essay, and an interview. Admitted students can expect to be promoted to BU's medical school upon completion of their undergraduate degree.

However, even if you don't enroll in the Early Assurance Program, you will still have a stellar pre-med experience at Boston University. All pre-med students at BU work with an experienced pre-professional advisor who can assist with course selection and research projects, which helps to ensure that BU graduates are well positioned to apply to medical school whatever their major might be.

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Columbia University

Low Library at Columbia University
Low Library at Columbia University. Allen Grove

Columbia University, one of four Ivy League schools to make this list, is an excellent choice for students looking for a top-notch pre-med program in an urban environment. The university has a dedicated Office of Preprofessional Advising to assist students interested in health professions. Columbia does not have a pre-med major, but through its excellent advising programs, students are guided to take essential courses for both the MCAT and medical school requirements.

Columbia University also provides students with opportunities to conduct research and gain clinical experiences. Both are important elements of a winning medical school application. Many Columbia pre-med students volunteer at nearby Mr. Sinai St. Luke's Hospital.

Finally, for students who decide on a medical career late in college or after graduation, Columbia is home to the nation's oldest and largest postbaccalaureate premedical program. The program has a medical school placement rate near 90 percent. 

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Cornell University

Cornell University Sage Hall
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While the majority of schools on this list are located in urban centers, Cornell University offers a winning pre-med track in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York. 

Cornell has a Health Careers Program that provides students with a wide range of services to help them on their path to medical school: advising, health-related programs, information resources, and use of the Health Careers Evaluation Committee (HCEC). The HCEC will create a comprehensive written review of a student's candidacy for a health career that can be submitted along with letters of recommendation.

Cornell is also home to PATCH, the Pre-professional Association Toward Careers in Health, a student organization that supports and advises students pursuing health careers. The group organizes an annual tour of SUNY Upstate Medical School to give undergraduates the opportunity to speak with current medical students and admissions officers.

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Duke University

Duke University Chapel at sunrise
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Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University is one of the top private universities in the United States. Biology and biomedical engineering are are two of the most popular undergraduate majors. The university offers undergraduates ample opportunities for research and hands-on experiences both in the science labs and at the medical school.

Duke has no pre-med major, but your choice of major really isn't that important for attending medical school. The university's excellent pre-med advising keeps students on track for a successful medical school application regardless of undergraduate major.

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Emory University

Cafeteria on Emory University Campus
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Emory University, one of the best colleges in the southeastern United States, has an enviable location next to both Emory Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The school's location makes it easy for students to pick up research internships to broaden their experiences and strengthen their medical school applications. 

Emory's PreHealth Mentoring Office (PHMO) provides students with advising, mentoring, events, and guidance as they take classes and prepare for admission to a medical school. PHMO also provides peer mentors for pre-med students. These mentors are current pre-health juniors and seniors who serve to support peers who are interested in health careers.

Georgetown University
Georgetown University. Kārlis Dambrāns / Flickr / CC by 2.0

Georgetown University is one of the very best Catholic universities in the nation. Its Washington, D.C. location gives students easy access to numerous medical facilities for research and clinical opportunities.

Like Boston University, Georgetown has an Early Assurance Program (EAP) that allows students to apply to Georgetown's School of Medicine after completing four semesters at the university and earning a 3.6 or higher GPA. One of the beauties of EAP is that students who are accepted are not required to take the MCAT.

Finally, Georgetown has a Pre-Medical Society that helps with everything from mock interviews to pre-med advising, and the club hosts lectures by accomplished members of the medical profession. More »

Annenberg Hall at Harvard University
Annenberg Hall at Harvard University. Jacabolus / Wikimedia Commons

Harvard University, which often ranks first among the nation's most selective colleges, is not surprisingly also one of the best schools for studying pre-med. 

Harvard gets high marks for its pre-med advising. All students will find pre-medical advisors in their residential house, and the Office of Career Services also provides pre-med advising. Harvard pre-med students tend to speak highly of the institutional support they receive, and the evidence of that support is in the school's extremely high med school acceptance rate.

Students also support each other at Harvard as can be seen with the student-run Harvard Premedical Society. This organization runs a variety of programs including medical school information sessions, peer advising, and Prescriptions, a publication that explores the intersections of the arts and medicine. The Harvard Premedical Society also runs a physician mentoring program to match students with doctors in the greater Boston area.

Finally, Harvard's Extension School offers a premedical program for students who have completed their baccalaureate degrees but have not done the coursework necessary for medical school (typically biology, chemistry, physics, and English classes). The program is an excellent way to get the advising, experience, and sponsorship necessary for a successful medical school application. More »

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Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University. callison-burch / FLickr

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, has an unusually large population of students interested in health-related fields including nursing, public health, biomedical engineering, and the biological sciences. The university also has a newly-launched interdisciplinary major called Medicine, Science, and Humanities.

The university offers opportunities to conduct research and shadow doctors at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, and typical of a top-tier research universities, motivated undergraduates will have little difficulty finding meaningful internship and laboratory experiences.

Along with their non-major undergraduate pre-med program, the university offers a post-baccalaureate pre-med program for recent graduates who aren't fully prepared for medical school.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Justin Jensen / Flickr

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology consistently ranks as one of the best engineering schools in the country, so it may seem like a strange entry for a list of top pre-med schools. MIT, after all, does not have a hospital or medical school. That said, about 10 percent of MIT's graduating seniors go on to medical school or some other graduate program in the health professions.

MIT premed students come from a wide range of majors, and the institute is hard to top for the quality of instruction students receive in biology, chemistry, and physics. MIT's office of Global Education and Career Development offers professional advising for students interested in health professions and medical school. Finally, keep in mind that MIT students can cross-register at Harvard and take advantage of some of Harvard's pre-med resources.

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Northwestern University

Northwestern University Hall in Evanston, Illinois
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Northwestern University, located just north of downtown Chicago, is one of the top research universities in the United States. Like many of the schools on this list, Northwestern's pre-med strengths come from a combination of excellent science programs and strong pre-med advising (through the university's Health Professions Advising office).

Northwestern students can gain physician shadowing opportunities through the Northwestern Network Mentorship Program, the Northwestern Externship Program, and several other programs. Students can find research opportunities through UR@NU, Northwestern's centralized resource for undergraduate research. Finally, Northwestern's Engage Chicago program is an eight-week summer program whose participants attend seminars and gain field experiences in health fields.

The university also has many student-run groups related to the health professions. One of these, the Pre-Med Peer Mentor Program (PPMP) links up first-year students with an upper-class student mentee.

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Tufts University

Olin Center at Tufts University
Olin Center at Tufts University. Photo Credit: Marisa Benjamin

Tufts University is one of several Boston area colleges to make this list. Tufts an Early Assurance Program in which strong students can apply for medical school after their sophomore year. This is not an accelerated path to a medical degree, but an opportunity for students to be admitted to Tufts Medical School well before the majority of applicants.

Tufts' Office of Undergraduate Education has two health professions advisors who work one-on-one with students, hold workshops, arrange speakers, and generally support pre-med students at the university. Any given year, the university's acceptance rate to U.S. medical schools is between 75 and 90 percent.

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University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Allen Grove

The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill is the flagship campus of the UNC system. As a public university, it represents an excellent value, especially for in-state students (compare UNC's total in-state cost of $25,569 to the private universities on this list that tend to have a $70,000 price tag).

UNC Chapel Hill is part of the Research Triangle with North Carolina State University and Duke University, and the school is home to a highly rated medical school. Students will find plenty of opportunities for shadowing doctors, internships, and research. The university also has an extremely high medical school placement record.

UNC's Medical Education Development (MED) Program is an intensive nine-week summer program designed to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds learn about the realities of medical school and develop the skills necessary to compete successfully for admission to medical school.

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University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania
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The University of Pennsylvania is another of the prestigious Ivy League schools on this list. The school's campus in Philadelphia adjoins the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. Those facilities, combined with the university's many research labs in the sciences, mean that students have no shortage of opportunities for applied learning experiences related to the health professions.

Like other schools on this list, Penn has excellent advising services for pre-med students to help with everything from course selection to the logistics of med school applications. The university has an impressive placement rate for getting its students into quality medical schools. Penn also has a summer program to help underrepresented students succeed in a pre-med academic path.

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University of Washington

The University of Washington
The University of Washington.

 Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The University of Washington in Seattle is a huge comprehensive public university with nearly 31,000 undergraduates. Roughly 14% of those students will graduate in biological fields such as biochemistry, biology, physiology, and molecular biology. Public health and nursing are also popular majors. The university has robust resources for pre-health advising, and students will also find many extracurricular options related to health fields.

The University of Washington is home to one of the nation's very best medical schools, and undergraduates get plenty of opportunities to shadow medical professionals. Along with UNC Chapel Hill, this public university is one of the more affordable pre-med options for in-state students (although you should keep in mind that financial aid can make any school on this list affordable for qualifying students).