I love colleges and love working with students to help them get admitted to the best college for their needs. But one thing you must always remember when visiting colleges and talking about colleges.
Colleges are businesses.
So, what does that matter? It matters because it is not uncommon for many colleges to put together statistics to make themselves look good. And sometimes the result of trying to look good is to stretch the truth on such issues as the percentage of students admitted to medical school.
Let me give you a very common example. Many colleges will tell students that their medical school placement rate is 90% and some colleges have even said it is 100%. If you are looking at attending medical school through the traditional route that certainly seems like a college that you would want to attend. What the college doesn’t tell you is that they only write recommendations for students that have a minimum GPA and a minimum MCAT score. If you only write recommendations for students with a 3.8 or higher GPA and a 90% MCAT score, then yes, you will have very high placement rates into medical school.
What happens if you happen to have a good GPA, say 3.7, and an MCAT score in the 80th percentile? At this college you might not get a letter of recommendation and without that letter you will have virtually no chance of admissions to medical school.
If you really want to know what medical school acceptance rates are like from a particular college, you need to ask if they write letters of recommendation for all students that want to apply to medical school. If they say yes, then ask if they have placement information based on various grades and MCAT scores. Most colleges will have this information but most will not want to provide it. Here is an example of that information from Emory University that is very transparent. But note that for the last two years even Emory has stopped providing this information and now justs provides the grades and test scores of students that were admitted and do not include students who were not admitted to medical school.
Many colleges will not want to give out this kind of information because it doesn’t make them look good. They will often say something about not tracking that kind of information but don’t be fooled because almost every college knows this type of information.
There are colleges out there that regularly place 80 to 90% of their students into medical school even when writing letters for all students. However, finding these colleges can be a major challenge for most students. Even most college counselors are not aware of which colleges have a strong history of medical school acceptance.
So what do you need to do? Ask lots of questions of the colleges you are interested in. And hope that they will share with you some of the information about their medical school acceptances.
Adnan Khan says
What are your thoughts on the UC system? Would the grade deflation hurt my chances at maintaining a high GPA? Would I be better off going to a private school like USC?
Todd Johnson says
The UC’s are not particularly known for grade deflation as such although most public colleges do have lower average GPA’s than most private colleges. However, the bigger issue tends to be the size of the undergraduate college. In general terms larger colleges have larger class sizes and students tend to not learn the basic sciences as well which often is reflected in lower MCAT scores. Moreover, it can be harder to get to know a professor at a bigger school than at a smaller school which can make getting a recommendation for medical school difficult. Finally, medical school guidance is lacking at many larger colleges which can also make apply to medical school more difficult. For these reasons, a large public like the UC’s isn’t that much different than a large private like USC. Neither is ideal for medical school placement.