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Choosing the Right College
How do you decide where to go to college if you plan to go to medical or dental school? While your first inclination may be to look at statistics, here are the things you really should consider when selecting a college:
- Pick a school where you are going to do well. Graduate schools care about your undergraduate GPA, so pick a school that is a good fit. Consider what learning environment (class sizes, teaching style) will be best for you and what resources you will need to excel in classes: tutoring, availability of faculty and advising.
- Choose a college where you can get involved. Graduate schools want to see that you have been learning outside of the classroom, so look for a school that has extracurricular activities that interest you and that offers abundant research opportunities for undergraduates (like UMass Amherst).
- Select a school where you will be happy. Doing well in your classes and excitedly engaging in extracurricular activities becomes difficult if you are unhappy, so seek a school that fits you. Consider location, study body, campus resources, and student services support.
- Determine a program that aligns with your finances. Graduate schools in the health professions are typically very expensive, so minimize the debt that you accrue as an undergrad.
UMass Amherst Resources
UMass Amherst offers a wide range of resources for pre-med/pre-dental/pre-health students.
Students pursuing a graduate degree in a health field are encouraged to take advantage of advising throughout college. For freshmen, this means attending group advising during orientation and in the fall and spring semesters. Group advising details what courses to take and how to be competitive for graduate admissions. Freshmen also have access to their major advisors and to the pre-health peer advising team. Students in their sophomore year and through matriculation to medical school are encouraged to meet one-on-one with a pre-health advising professional each semester to track progress.
Beyond advising, pre-health students have access to all of the resources offered by Massachusetts’s flagship university:
- Academic support and tutoring at the Learning Resource Center (open until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday!)
- Help finding research and other scholarly opportunities through the Office of Undergraduate Research Studies and Biology Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship program
- Opportunities to work with top-tier students across a range of disciplines in identifying cutting-edge solutions to current problems through the Integrated Concentration in Science program (iCons)
- Support in finding internships and co-ops through Career Services
- Connection to the campus and the community through the office of Student Activities and Involvement
- And more!
How to Interpret Admissions Rates
A school’s reported percentage of admits to medical/dental school can be difficult to interpret. Statistics can be misleading. Most graduate programs in the health fields strongly encourage students to get a committee letter—a letter of recommendation—from their undergraduate institution. Schools that want to say that 100 percent of their students who applied to medical school were admitted can simply decline to write a committee letter for anyone who is unlikely to be admitted. Nationally, about 40 percent of applicants get accepted to medical school.
UMass Amherst, being a public institution of higher learning and committed to transparency and flexibility, writes a committee letter for any student or alum who requests one by our deadline. Advisors coach students who are not on track for admission to fill the gaps in their application before applying but do not stop anyone from applying.
That said, more than 75 percent of UMass Amherst students and alumni with cumulative and science GPAs of 3.7 or higher and who scored at or above the 79th percentile on the MCAT (509) were admitted to MD programs for fall 2018. The rate of admission increased substantially beyond 75 percent when students had meaningful, sustained service and clinical experience before applying and when they were genuinely open to attending DO programs. For this reason, students are coached as early as orientation about what admissions committees will expect.