I Want to Become a Doctor. What Should I Look for in a College?


I Want to Become a Doctor. What Should I Look for in a College?

For students interested in med school, selecting a college can be an especially difficult choice. After all, there is no definitive list of “best” pre-med colleges. However, there are a few factors that aspiring doctors can--and should--look for when evaluating potential schools.

Med School Acceptance Rates

Medical schools are selective. Like, really selective. Every year, there are far more applicants to med school than there are spots available. In 2016, for example, there were 53,029 applicants for 22,031 spaces, which means the overall medical acceptance rate was only 41.5%.

However, some colleges do a better job than others at preparing their students to gain admission into med school. Among students from Swarthmore College, for example, the med school acceptance rate was 80%--almost twice the national average! Don’t hesitate to ask prospective colleges about their own track record.

Swarthmore College is a liberal arts college located in Pennsylvania 

Pre-Med Advising

The med school application process is quite involved. For that reason, it’s important that pre-med students have access to experienced advisors who can help them with course selection, application development, and interview preparation throughout their undergraduate years. Amherst College, for example, offers a Health Professions Advising and Mentoring Program that helps students find internships and research opportunities, supports health-related student organizations, and organizes workshops on writing personal statements. Look for schools with similar resources when putting together your college list.

Research/Clinical Experience Opportunities

Med school applicants can benefit from research and clinical experience opportunities. Be sure to look up research opportunities at the colleges you are considering, as well as the percentage of undergraduate students who participate in research. In addition, find out if there are nearby clinical environments that you can intern or volunteer at, such as hospitals or nursing homes.

Be sure to ask prospective colleges about research opportunities!


Above all else, you should look for a college where you will thrive academically. The most important factor in med school admissions is GPA, so you want to attend a school where you will do well (this is much more important than the prestige of the school). For some students, this means finding a school close to home. For others, it means attending a school with small class sizes. A good fit largely depends on the student.

A final tip: don’t overlook liberal arts colleges (not sure what a liberal arts college is? Watch this short video). Liberal arts colleges tend to offer a lot of advantages for pre med students, including small class sizes, excellent advising, access to research opportunities, and high average GPA’s.

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