“Pre-Health” Frequently Asked Questions

What should I major in? I’ve heard that I should be a bio major because medical schools like that, but I also have heard that medical schools like diversity so I should major in something a bit more unique. And should I double-major?

Medical schools want you to major in whatever you enjoy most. Yes, you will have prerequisite courses to take regardless, but you can major in whatever you like. The key is to pick a major you enjoy, you feel excited about, and you are able to perform well in. At UChicago just over half of our pre-medical students major in biology while the rest take on a plethora of other majors. Acceptance rates to medical school do not vary significantly based on major. Choosing to double-major is truly up to you, but should not happen solely because you think it will “look better” to medical schools. Medical schools will want to understand why you elected to pursue two majors, and will take interest in those reasons. 

How many students arrive at the University of Chicago as a pre-med and how many actually apply to medical school?

Usually about 150 entering first-years indicate that they are interested in medical school. Each year, we support approximately 100-125 students and alumni in their applications to medical school. It is important to remember that a big part of the college experience is exploring new interests—both academically and personally—and learning more about the various career paths that are possible. There will absolutely be students who feel certain that they wish to be a physician, but after being on campus, find that their eyes have been opened to a number of different fields that they wish to explore, and possibly to select as the right path for them. Our goal is to assist in this decision-making process and support our students every step of the way. 

Does the University of Chicago have “weed out” classes designed to reduce the number of pre-meds? How tough is the work-load?

Our science courses are not intentionally designed to “weed out” students interested in the health professions. Realistically speaking, yes, some students struggle in the sciences and may realize that this level of science coursework is not interesting or is not a good academic fit—and remember, medical school is going to be another notch higher. So there will be students who decide that this isn’t the best career path for them after taking a few science courses. If you are currently a student who is at the top of your class, with very little effort on your part, you will definitely find that you have to work harder here. You are basically surrounded by others just like you—the best and the brightest! So you have to work a little harder to keep up. But the work-load is definitely manageable once you figure out your study strategies, your balance of time studying vs. time spent on activities, extracurriculars, socializing, etc.

I have heard that UChicago does not have grade inflation. What does that mean for professional school? Do medical schools recognize this difference? Would it be better to go to a less-rigorous school and have a higher GPA?

You are correct—we do not have grade inflation. When medical schools look at your GPA, they are evaluating the rigor of your undergraduate institution, the intensity of your course-load, and your overall grades. They DO recognize that UChicago is not a school that practices grade inflation, and take that into account—within reason. That is not to say that you can earn a 2.0 at UChicago and expect that to be held in the same regard as a 4.0 at another school. The mean GPA nationally for applicants accepted into MD programs in 2016 was 3.70. The mean GPA of UChicago students accepted into MD programs in 2016 was 3.58. Specific to the sciences, the mean accepted science GPA nationally was a 3.64 and the mean UChicago science GPA was a 3.51. It is clear from those results that the medical schools are valuing the rigor of the UChicago experience when they consider candidates. 

Speaking of numbers, what is the average MCAT score for UChicago students who are accepted to medical school? 

Our students historically perform above average on their MCAT exam. The average MCAT score for accepted applicants nationally is 508.8. The UChicago average MCAT score for accepted applicants is a 514.4. 

What is your acceptance rate for medical school?

Over the past several years our acceptance rate has been between 79-88%. The national average over the same time period has hovered around 40%.

What are the most common medical schools to which UChicago applicants are accepted?

This list will certainly vary from year to year, but we usually see a large number of acceptances at: University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Northwestern University, New York University, Emory University, University of Michigan, Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Clinic, Tufts University, University of Southern California, Albert Einstein Medical College, and the University of Illinois.

What is your acceptance rate at the top 25 medical schools in the United States?

Our applicants apply to a broad range of medical schools throughout the country. Since all medical schools teach the same information, selections are made based on a myriad of factors including curricular structure, geographic preferences, patient population, opportunity for service, research options,  availability of dual-degree opportunities, proximity to family, etc. We encourage our applicants to explore medical schools based on their personal goals rather than on an external ranking system, and therefore do not track this statistic.

What kind of support is available to me as a pre-health student?

UCIHP is one of the largest pre-health advising offices in the country when compared to our peer institutions. 

We speak with you at Orientation when you first arrive, and then as often as you would like throughout the remainder of your time in college. We can help you explore and understand your career goals, gain health-related experiences, look for interesting community service opportunities, great RSOs to be involved with, find research positions, and secure internships. When the time comes for you to apply, we also write you a Health and Medicine Committee Letter of support which helps the professional schools understand your overall collegiate experience and what is unique about you as an applicant.

Should you decide not to apply into a clinical program, we also help you explore the myriad opportunities within health care broadly—from consulting to policy to public health to health care economics.

Does UCIHP offer any unique programs that I might not see at other colleges?

Yes! Here are just a few:

The Health Policy Scholars Track is a selective program that you would apply into as a rising second year student. Once accepted, you have the opportunity to engage with health policy scholars through a monthly seminar series, to explore a particular area of interest within health policy, to engage in courses across campus, and to participate in treks where we visit health policy organizations.

The Clinical Excellence Scholars Track, in partnership with the Bucksbaum Institute and UChicago Medicine is a selective program that you would apply into as a rising second-year student, and has as its focus helping to provide opportunities and experiences related to the doctor-patient relationship. This includes a physician speaker series, a physician shadowing and volunteer program, and two large-scale symposia events.

We also offer two summer research programs on campus, the Katen Scholars Program and the UCIHP Fellows in Community and Social Medicine. Both involve a paid 10-week research experience, the first in bench laboratory research and the second in research that focuses on community health and the intersection between the social sciences and medicine. We also offer the UCIHP Summer Cancer Research Program, which provides 6 students the opportunity to engage in research positions at three renowned cancer centers across the US (Memorial Sloan Kettering, MD Anderson, and Fred Hutchinson).