Medical Schools

Hi all,

I have kind of an odd question. I’ve noticed that when people come on this website and state their intentions, some state the school(s) they’re looking to get into, etc. What I haven’t seen, is anybody announcing any intentions to go to one of the “high-power” schools such as Johns Hopkins, Yale, Harvard, etc. This may sound like an ambigious question, but why not?

Maybe I’m out of my mind, but personally I’m going to shoot for the moon. I know that there are special circumstances that do restrict nontraditional students (family for example) but I’m sure that not every nontrad has this stipulation in their life.

Now, this is a highly generalized assumption, and by no means am I trying to make any kind of negative (or positive, for that matter) commentary regarding anybody’s aspirations. I’m just interested in what people are thinking.

Anybody’s input would be great. Thanks.

Well, from everything that I have read on this site and other places, there aren’t really any “great” schools or “bad” schools. I am sure that everyone on this site has their own personal reasons for applying wherever they think they will receive the best education in a place that works for their family. You’re right that a lot of non-trads have complicated family lives, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that restricts them to one kind of school. As for myself, I am shooting for the moon too!!! At least I know I’ll either get the moon or the stars, either way I win. :slight_smile: Also, keep in mind that many many members of OPM do not post too many threads, so there may very well be a lot of people out there applying to the specific schools that you stated. However, I wouldn’t assume that because certain people mention other schools that they are not shooting for the moon. After all I think the moon is something different for all of us and a moon named Mayo can be just as meaningful to one person as one named U. of Kansas. to another, and I feel very strongly that the education lies within the person more than the school. That is to say I believe the person makes the good doctor, not the school. :slight_smile:


Touche. Well-put. I agree with you. However, the school DOES, to some degree at least, have influence over the residencies you can get (notice I didn’t say apply for). It IS what you make of it, but I’m certain having a big name school to back the education you’ve made the best of will certainly give you a powerful boost in the match.

I think the main thing to keep in mind is to apply broadly. The entire admissions process is so competitive, so obviously the more schools you apply to the better chance you have of getting accepted somewhere. It’s a great goal to try to get into Harvard or Yale or any of the top ranked schools, but I think it’s a good idea to apply to all of the schools that you would be happy attending.

Hope that helps!

We have OPMs at schools like Mayo; we also have OPMs (like me) who have applied and not gotten in. shrug

I’d have to imagine that there are several reasons that you don’t see “those schools” discussed as much here. I couldn’t begin to guess which is the most significant.

We do have OPMs at top tier schools; Mayo, Harvard, and the like. They’re just either that inclined to rest on their laurels and congatulate themselves, or they’re… well, busy :P.

Some of us may consider ourselves less competitive, and may not even attempt those. That may be what you fear. shrug We have successes, and we have… successes elsewhere. Quite honestly, I am happy with where I’ve been accepted, and I’m sure any number of others are as well.

It may be that OPMs in general are less motivated for, say, Hopkins. I hesitate to prejudge, or present straw men, so please do take this with a grain of salt… Some of us, perhaps, are more motivated to seek a collegial school than one populated by motivated - and likely successful - gunners. If we perceive “those schools” as that type - well, we are less likely to aim for em.

These reasons and any number more might be why you perceive a dearth of such applications. The end result is… so the heck what? If you want to go for it - if that’s what you consider the moon - shoot for it!

  • medeirosaurus Said:
...the school DOES, to some degree at least, have influence over the residencies you can get (notice I didn't say apply for)...

Actually, I strongly disagree with your here. The name of your med school + $2 will get you a cup of coffee. When it comes to earning the respect of your training colleagues, the supervising staff physicians, the allied health professionals &, most importantly, your patients - they could not give a rat's ass where you went to med school. And, having just completed a very high-end residency at an Ivy League institution, I can guarantee you that their grads, the Harvard/Yale/UCSF/Mayo grads were not treated any different than anyone else. The expectations are far more involved than the frat-boy comeraderie associated with being an Ivy-alumni. Medicine is much much more serious.

  • medeirosaurus Said:
...It IS what you make of it, but I'm certain having a big name school to back the education you've made the best of will certainly give you a powerful boost in the match...

You started off well - your education & training are what YOU make them. But then, you proceed to undermine your own logic - your success will not be a product of the name of the place you graduated from. You may get an extra pat on the back or some friendly advice at the outset from a fellow alumnus, but if you are not making in-roads to earning the respect of your colleagues pretty damned early on, the name on your diploma will not help you at all. In fact, if you do turn out to be a pompous, self-aggrandizing ass who feels entitled due to their alma mater, you may find that your fellow alumni can turn into your worst enemies because you are tarnishing their reputations by association.

There are lots of reasons - some of which mentioned above that I may repeat. First, this is a relatively small community (especially compared to SDN). A lot of the people who stumble upon this website are very unsure that they have even a tiny shot at getting into ANY medical school, so they haven’t given any thought at all to applying to the “name” schools. I know that with my original ugrad GPA of less than 2.8, applying to the “best” schools wasn’t even in my mind. We have had people here who have ended up at Harvard and Mayo, though.

Second, as mentioned by others, location can be a huge issue. Less important if you are relatively free, but if you have a spouse and children, it becomes a big deal. I didn’t even bother to apply out of state was not ready to uproot his career yet to move for medical school.

Another issue for me was cost. I chose not to apply to Case Western (a very good school in my state) because I figured if I got accepted to Case, I would have gotten accepted to at least one of my other state schools. Given the fact that I will be over 40 by the time I get done with residency, I decided I would be unwilling to go to a school where I would accumulate nearly twice as much debt as I would at any of the state schools. To me, the name wasn’t worth the extra $150000 or so that it would have cost.

Research can be another issue. Many of the schools you mentioned are huge research schools, so it can be difficult to get accepted without any kind of research experience/background. If you are a non-trad just going back for a year or two of pre-reqs without seeking another degree, it’s very hard to find someone to do research with. Some non-trads also don’t want to DO research and a lot of the “best” schools require that you do research. Even though I am in a research MPH now, I originally had no interest in doing research. Frankly, I was very intimidated by the thought of doing research.

So, those are a few reasons I can come up with. Don’t think that there aren’t any non-trads at those schools, though. I think Yale’s website stated that the age range of their students goes into the early 40’s. If attending one of those schools truly interests you, then you should definitely go for it. My only caution would be not to think that going to a “better” school is going to give you an edge getting into a residency of your choice. Although where you go to school can certainly help a little, it ultimately comes down to how YOU do. If you end up not being happy at a school, your grades and board scores may reflect that. You should choose a school based as much if not more on how you think you will fit in there as any other factor.

When I was applying for med school, I (and others) would ask how the students there matched for residency in various specialties. Now that I’m in med school, I realize that you can’t really look at a match list and determine how good a school is. The fact that a school doesn’t have very many people match in a certain specialty is not necessarily a reflection on the school - it may be a reflection of the students. An example - we only had 5 students match into a particular specialty last year that we normally have 10+ students match into. So, on the surface, one might think “gee, our students didn’t match very well this year”. However, when you asked around, it turned out that we only had six students even attempt to match into that specialty.

Hope that is kind of what you were looking for.

I’m sorry, I respectfully disagree with Dave. All other things being equal, I believe you are more likely to match a prestigious and competitive residency coming out of Harvard or UCSF than coming out of a less-heralded institution.

I agree, of course, once you get there, the respect you command will come from your actions, not your record.

Interesting. Y’know, there is a general pressure, albeit low, to get into a “big name” or Ivy League school around many students looking to get an advanced education. I’m particularly young compared to many of the nontrad students here, so I definitly lack the life experience that others, such as yourself, Dave, have. When I was in high school (I graduated in 2002), there was that expectation that you strive for the “best” schools out there, because in the end, the name of the school would be a huge factor in your employment opportunities.

I did not go straight to college out of high school. I was a terrible student with a horrid work ethic. I often skipped classes and scraped by with Cs and Ds because I had no intention of applying myself. Essentially I shot myself in the foot. But, any talk of college was usually accompanied by some high-powered university name.

So, I guess I’m still stuck in that mindframe. I haven’t had any exposure to any other group attempting to get into a school other than this one, and I’ve only just started posting here in the last few months.

But, I appreciate everyone replying to this post. You responses have cleared up a lot of mystery surrounding that topic for me. The general consensus seems to be that the school has a little bit of effect, but it’s really up to you what the outcome is.

When my oldest child started looking at colleges over ten years ago, there was an internet forum where I often saw the term “window sticker schools.” As in, you’ll see the big brand-name schools plastered across the back windows of proud papa’s car, but you’re less likely to see Podunk U. on the same car. The advisor who ran that forum strongly urged parents to avoid falling into the window sticker school trap, and that same advice goes for medical school.

Because so much of med school training is what YOU make of it, you can get a good medical education at any U.S. medical school. You can also employ networking skills to help get yourself into a good residency program. By working REALLY hard while in med school, and making a good impression particularly in third year, you greatly increase your chance of being competitive in the match.

Relative to the effort you’ll need to expend to get into any med school (for any of us = considerable effort!) and the effort you’ll need to put into doing well in that med school, it just doesn’t seem worth it to worry about the Name Brand med school. You go where you get in, for one thing, and where you can afford to, for another, and where you think you’ll do well. The name just doesn’t end up being that important.


Thank you all very much for your input and responses to this; it helps a lot.

I’d just like to add a bit of advice that my father has always said–every medical school in the U.S. teaches good medicine. It’s not like you’ll come out a worse doctor for choosing, say, a state school in the south over an ivy league school in the northeast. Much of the process is based on national exams anyway–everyone needs to pass the USMLE (or the similar COMLEX for D.O.s) and everyone needs to go through basic residency training. Medicine is a national training program, not a regional one.

That said, schools like Harvard and Yale are known for producing researchers, so if research is your strong focus and you have published something already, or if they perceive you as someone who’s going to do a fair amount of writing and publishing, you may be a good candidate for such a school. Harvard loves writers. It should also be noted that HMS is primarily a research institution that is full of Ph.D. scientists doing all kinds of interesting stuff, or so I’ve been told by people who work there. Perhaps our resident oldpremed Joe Wright, who completed his M.D. at Harvard, can chime in here and tell us the real scoop.

But if your goal is to get into the residency program of your choice and to practice good medicine, any medical school should work. Good luck,

I’m a little late to this conversation. But I just wanted to say that two years ago I applied to and was accepted to several of the “high power research schools” with full scholarships. There are several nontrads (over age 30) at all of these schools that I visited (17 in all) with the possible exception of Wash U. However, as others have said, nontrads at high profile schools are for the most part people with research backgrounds and/or academic medicine career goals. In addition, the nontrads at top schools pretty much need to have the same stats that the trads have. If you look at the AAMC website, you will see that on average, students over age 30 score the lowest on the MCAT, while students under age 20 score the highest. That makes it harder for the average nontrad to beat out the average trad. However, those nontrads who are over 30 and who do manage to score very well on the MCAT (and have excellent grades and ECs) do get interviewed and accepted to the top schools.

In response to Emergency!, one thing I’d suggest is that you ought not avoid applying to private schools just because the sticker price is higher. Private schools do cost more, but they also disburse more institutional aid. After you get your financial aid package and do the math, it may well end up being cheaper to attend a private school than it is to attend your state school.

If anyone wants specific advice about applying to high-profile research schools as a nontrad, feel free to PM me. You can also find posts about some of my interview experiences around here somewhere if you do a search for them.