10 Best Pre-Med Schools in the U.S.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

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Students who plan to go to medical school generally spend their undergraduate years pursuing a pre-med course of study to prepare them for a career in medicine or other health fields. But what exactly is pre-med, and what courses are you expected to take? If you’re thinking of attending medical school, keep reading to learn more about pre-med requirements and which schools in the U.S. offer the best programs.    

What Is “Pre-Med”?

Pre-medicine, or pre-med, is the academic track undergraduate students pursue when they intend to enter the medical field. There is no specific pre-med major. Students wishing to pursue medicine generally select coursework, research, and activities that provide them with a solid foundation for taking the MCAT and entering medical school. For example, a pre-med student can opt to major in a science discipline, work in a lab, complete clinical experience, and perform relevant volunteer work to pave the way for their next steps in medicine.

Pre-med requirements can vary by college or university. Toward the end of their pre-med studies, students will take the MCAT and complete the medical school application process, including the AMCAS application, secondary applications, and medical school interviews.

Can You Go to Medical School Without Pre-Med?

Do you need to pursue a pre-med program to qualify for medical school? You need to complete a certain number of credits in organic chemistry, biology, physics, psychology, and biochemistry, in addition to lab credits. These prerequisites are considered pre-med, though the required courses may vary by medical school.

As for your major, it’s among the most common medical school myths that you have to major in a relevant science discipline. You can major in whatever you like, as long as you complete pre-med coursework in addition to the requirements for your major. If you graduate without completing all the pre-med requirements, you can enroll in a pre-med post-baccalaureate program before applying to medical school.

Which University Has the Best Pre-Med Program?

Many colleges and universities offer pre-med programs, so it’s important to do your research to determine which schools are the best fit for you. Consider that a 3.5 or higher is a good GPA for med school — especially if you want to gain admission into a top-tier program. Additionally, the schools you ultimately select for your college list should offer a wealth of clinical and research opportunities that enhance and expand on their pre-med requirements.     

The 10 Best Pre-Med Schools

Looking for schools that have the best pre-med programs in the U.S.? These 10 universities are widely considered some of the best due to the strength of their pre-med programs and additional learning opportunities.

1. Harvard University

Harvard University tops many lists for the best pre-med programs and was ranked as the top medical school in the U.S. for research by U.S. News and World Report. Students have access to a pre-med advisor to help them with course selection and planning — they also receive assistance with the medical school application process toward the end of their program. Tutors are assigned to pre-med students from sophomore through senior year. Several nearby hospitals offer research opportunities and clinical experience. Harvard also has highly-ranked biological sciences curricula, ensuring pre-med students receive excellent instruction in the foundational coursework for medical school.

Because it is an Ivy League institution with an admissions rate just above 3%, you may be wondering how to get into HarvardThe average high school GPA for the class of 2026 was 4.2. While Harvard is currently test-optional, it’s helpful to look at scores submitted by enrolled students so you can compare them to your own. The middle 50% ACT composite score range for recent first-year students was 34-36 and 1490-1580 for the SAT.

Additionally, Harvard Extension School offers a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program for students wishing to apply to medical, dental, or veterinary school. This program allows students to complete the core science curriculum and electives required for medical school acceptance.

2. Johns Hopkins University

Not only does Johns Hopkins University have a highly-ranked medical school, but it’s also affiliated with one of the nation’s leading teaching hospitals. This means that pre-med students at Johns Hopkins have access to excellent resources as well as clinical and research opportunities. Students follow a pre-health advising program track, which can be combined with any major. Their advisor works with them on curriculum planning, identifying research and internship opportunities, and applying to medical schools. Pre-health student groups and organizations provide opportunities for networking and resume building.   

Johns Hopkins is a highly-selective institution with an admissions rate just above 7%. The average high school GPA for students enrolled in the class of 2026 was 3.93. Johns Hopkins is currently test-optional, but the middle 50% test score range of those submitting scores for the class of 2026 was 34-35 for the ACT and 1520-1560 for the SAT.         

Johns Hopkins also offers a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program. Students in the program must study full-time for at least one academic year.     

3. University of Pennsylvania

The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania is another top-ranked medical school nationally, meaning pre-med students have access to numerous research and clinical volunteer opportunities. Additionally, the medical school admissions rate for Penn students and alumni far exceeds that national average — 82% in fall 2022, compared to the 43% national average. Pre-med students benefit from advisors throughout the program, ensuring they meet all the requirements for medical school and are prepared for the MCAT.

Want to know how to get into Penn? It’s an Ivy League institution with an acceptance rate around 6%, so it’s important to meet the profile of the average admitted student to be competitive. A strong candidate has a high school GPA of 3.9 and strong standardized test scores. The middle 50% test score range for the class of 2026 was 34-35 on the ACT and 1510-1560 on the SAT.  

4. Columbia University

Columbia University offers a pre-med curriculum through Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science to be completed along with the student’s chosen major. In some cases, students may also complete some of their requirements at Barnard College. Pre-med students are assigned an advisor who provides guidance on the curriculum. Additionally, eligible students can participate in the Gerald E. Thomson Undergraduate Pre-Medical Program (GET-UPP), which offers advising, mentoring, and clinical shadowing to help build a strong foundation for medical school.   

As an Ivy League school, Columbia is highly selective and has an admissions rate of just under 4%. It’s helpful to know the admissions statistics so you understand how to get into Columbia University. Almost 96% of the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s class of 2026 graduated in the top 10% of their high school class. The middle 50% score range for those who submitted test scores was 1500-1560 for the SAT and 34-35 for the ACT.  

A post-bacc pre-med program through the School of General Studies is available to help students who have already earned bachelor’s degrees meet medical school requirements. Columbia’s post-bacc program is the oldest and largest of its kind.

5. Stanford University

Students seeking a strong pre-medical education on the West Coast might consider Stanford University. The university offers pre-health advisors to assist with course planning, fulfilling long-term objectives, and finding clinical and research opportunities. Additionally, sophomores, juniors, and seniors can participate in the Stanford Immersion in Medicine Series (SIMS), a program that pairs students with physician mentors at nearby hospitals. The Office of Diversity in Medical Education at the Stanford School of Medicine offers various activities and events for pre-med students including guest lectures, conferences, and summer programs.  

You may wonder how to get into Stanford, since their admissions rate is currently under 4%. Understanding their admissions data can help. The average high school GPA for students enrolled in the class of 2026 was 3.95. Of those who submitted test scores, the middle 50% had a score range of 1500-1570 on the SAT and 33-35 on the ACT.

6. Duke University

Duke University’s medical school is ranked in the top five nationally by U.S. News, and their pre-med program is also highly regarded. The Office of Health Professions Advising helps pre-med students meet curricular requirements for medical school, find relevant opportunities to gain experience, prepare for the MCAT, and apply to medical schools. Pre-med sophomores through seniors in good academic standing who are enrolled at Trinity College or the Pratt School of Engineering can apply to shadow clinicians at Duke University Hospital.

The acceptance rate at Duke for the class of 2027 is 6%. The most recent data for the class of 2025 shows that out of the enrolled first-year students who submitted a class rank, 95% graduated in the top 10% of their high school class. While not all students submitted test scores, the middle 50% score range of the students who did was 1490-1560 for the SAT and 33-35 for the ACT.

7. Northwestern University

Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine is a highly-regarded medical school that offers summer internships to promising pre-med students as well as the Undergraduate Premedical Scholars Program (NUPSP), an early MD acceptance program. The health professions advising office offers support and resources to pre-med students, from helping them find study groups to identifying mentorship and experience opportunities.  

Northwestern is ranked among the top 10 universities in the nation by U.S. News and has an acceptance rate around 7%. Understanding how to get into Northwestern involves looking at the typical profile of students who are admitted. Out of the enrolled first-year students who submitted class rank for fall 2022 admissions, 96% graduated in the top 10% of their high school class. The middle 50% score range of students who submitted test scores was 1500-1560 for the SAT and 33-35 for the ACT.

Northwestern’s post-baccalaureate pre-med certificate program helps adults who want to change careers or students who need to complete the curricular requirements for medical school. Students can complete the program in less than two years.   

8. University of Chicago

The University of Chicago’s unique cohort program provides pre-med students with access to professional development resources, clinical volunteering fellowships, workshops, and a variety of other activities and programs to prepare them for careers in medicine. Additionally, pre-health advisors can assist students with finding gap year opportunities that will provide them with further experience and preparation for medical school. Pre-med students from UChicago are accepted to medical school at nearly twice the national average rate. 

UChicago’s acceptance rate is around 5-6%, so gaining admission can be a challenge. The most recent admissions data for the class of 2025 shows that the majority of students had a high school GPA of 3.75 or higher. The middle 50% score range of students who submitted test scores was 1510-1560 for the SAT and 33-35 for the ACT.

9. Boston University

Boston University offers several pathways for students to pursue pre-med studies, as well as dedicated pre-professional advisors to assist with setting goals, planning class schedules, and identifying clinical and research opportunities. Students enrolled in the Modular Medical/Dental Integrated Curriculum (MMEDIC) program may have the opportunity for early acceptance into BU’s medical school after two years of undergraduate study.

If you want to know how to get into Boston University, it can be helpful to look at their admissions data. The admissions rate over the past three years has ranged from 10.7% to 18.3%. Out of the students enrolled in the class of 2026, 75% had a high school GPA of 3.75 or higher. The middle 50% score range of students who submitted test scores was 1370-1480 for the SAT and 31-34 for the ACT.

BU also offers a pre-medical studies post-baccalaureate certificate program. Only students who have taken less than three pre-requisite courses for medical school are eligible.

10. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Students wishing to study pre-med at UNC-Chapel Hill can benefit from the newly established Office of Health Professions Advising, which provides personalized guidance and support on career paths, programs, and resources. The office has partnerships both on and off campus with departments and organizations that help pre-med students gain valuable skills and experience. Additionally, students may be recruited into Alpha Epsilon Delta, a national pre-health honor society that provides resources and experiences for each member pursuing a career as a health professional.    

The admissions rate for UNC-Chapel Hill was 16.85% for the class of 2026 and 19.24% for the class of 2025. Of the class of 2025, 93% had a high school GPA of 4.0. The middle 50% test score range was 1330-1500 for the SAT and 29-33 for the ACT. 

Why Are Pre-Med Students So Competitive?

Pre-med students should expect stiff competition when applying to medical school. The interest in pursuing a career path in health care is growing, and medical schools are seeing a higher number of applicants — which also means they are turning away those who are extremely well-qualified due to lack of space. If you’re planning to matriculate directly into medical school after finishing your bachelor’s degree, it’s important to be as competitive as possible and follow the medical school process timeline to ensure you stay on track.

It can be challenging to balance your pre-med coursework with the other application requirements. According to McGreggor, IvyWise Medical School Admissions Counselor, “Medical schools set up a great number of hoops for applicants to jump through … the process is designed to be intense to ensure those going through the steps are willing to endure the trials and hardships inherent in the practice of medicine.”

What Is the Best Major for Pre-Med?

As previously mentioned, pre-med students can choose any major they wish, as medical schools do not have a preference. However, data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) shows that biology is the most popular major for students pursuing a pre-med curriculum — in fact, more than half of medical school applicants over the past five years majored in biology. The remaining applicants majored in a variety of disciplines including the humanities, statistics, mathematics, social sciences, and health sciences. The AAMC recommends that pre-med students select a major that appeals to them and keeps them motivated, whether it’s biology or something else.

Whether you decide to major in biology or not, you must complete coursework in the biological sciences to be eligible for medical school admissions. The coursework and number of credits required in the biological sciences will vary by school, but you may see these types of classes on a pre-med curriculum:

  • General biology (with lab work)
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular biology
  • Neuroscience
  • Human physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Cell biology
  • Immunology
  • Developmental biology
  • Microbiology
  • Physiology

What Are the Best Pre-Med Schools in Virginia?

If you are looking for a good pre-med college in Virginia, consider the quality of the medical school. Pre-med students often gain research and clinical experience at the medical school affiliated with their university.

  • University of Virginia: UVA’s School of Medicine was ranked 30th in the nation for research in 2023 by U.S. News. Pre-med students at UVA have numerous opportunities to connect with medical students for mentorship and networking opportunities. Additionally, pre-health advisors and related student organizations offer support and resources for pre-med students.
  • Virginia Commonwealth University: VCU’s medical school was ranked 64th for research in 2023 by U.S. News. Undergraduates must declare a pre-medical career advising track and complete an average of 200 hours of clinical volunteering and another 200 hours of non-clinical community service in addition to medical school curriculum requirements.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: Virginia Tech’s medical school was ranked 81st for research in 2023 by U.S. News. Pre-med students work with a health professions advisor to ensure they fulfill medical school prerequisites and prepare for their medical school applications.

What Is the Best Pre-Med School in California?

Stanford has already been mentioned as one of the top pre-med programs in the nation. However, if you’re looking for another highly-ranked program in California, consider the University of California, Los Angeles. UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine was ranked 18th in research nationally in 2023 by U.S. News and offers a variety of pre-med opportunities to prepare students for the rigors of medical school.

What Are the Top Pre-Med Schools in Michigan?

Students who are looking for pre-medical programs in Michigan have excellent options. These schools are considered among the best in the state for undergraduates who want to prepare for medical school:

  • University of Michigan: U of M has a highly-ranked medical school, and pre-med students receive support and guidance from pre-health advisors. Additionally, high-achieving students can be part of the honors pre-med program.
  • Michigan State University: MSU is known as a top feeder college to osteopathic medical programs. Students have access to pre-health advisors and are encouraged to explore various health care careers.
  • Wayne State University: Students who study pre-med at Wayne State have numerous options for gaining clinical and non-clinical experience. The Pre-Med and Health Science Center offers advising, professional development strategies, and academic support.

Your path to medical school will be unique, and the best pre-med school for you is a college or university where you will succeed and thrive. However, you must face a hyper-competitive college admissions process before you can begin to pursue your pre-med studies. To ensure you submit the most competitive application possible, schedule an Initial Consultation with an IvyWise College Admissions Counselor.




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