Why would anyone want to go to an Ivy League medical school and pay those hefty fees and be in that pressure cooker environment?

Ivy League medical school or not?

There are plenty of reasons to seek out an acceptance to an Ivy League medical school, and reasons why you may choose another option. So in response to the original question here, “Is getting into an Ivy League medical school everything it’s cracked up to be,” I’d have to say, “yes,” and “no.” (And by Ivy League, I’m including other top-tier schools like Duke, Johns Hopkins….)

Ok, so here we go….

Reasons to shoot for an Ivy League/top-tier medical school

These aren’t in any order of importance, so take them for what they’re worth…

  1. You want to have the name of that certain Ivy League medical school on your diploma, and on that plaque on your wall in your medical office. There is added prestige that comes with an Ivy League education, no doubt. And if it means that much to you, for whatever reason, you’ll do what it takes.
  2. Your future career demands it. If you want to be a leader in your chosen specialty, teach at a prestigious university or advise the president, it will put an extra finger on the scale if you hail from a prestigious university. However, an Ivy League/top-tier school is not a necessity for all these possibilities!
  3. You work well under pressure. With the level of competitiveness at any Ivy League medical school, plan to study more and play less. That’s not to say you can’t have a well-rounded experience. But medical school being what it is, you can plan to ramp it up a bit when you’re surrounded by super-stars.
  4. You want to get a good medical residency. Going to a reputable med school and cutting the grade there will make you a tad more competitive for getting a residency match than if you’d gone to an unknown (or lesser known) school, even if you excelled there. There’s no exact value I can put on the Ivy League Factor, but it is clearly a factor. And for more competitive specialties, this is especially true.
  5. There are no good medical schools in your state. Since you can qualify for in-state tuition by being a resident of your state, it’s an incredible advantage, especially in states like California, where there are several med schools in the UC system. But going to an in-state school just for the discounted tuition, when it’s not the best school, is rather short-sighted.
  6. You can get a better financial aid package. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it might work to your advantage. Many private schools offer financial aid packages that make them (almost) comparable in price to lesser-known medical schools.

Reasons not to attend an Ivy League medical schoolIvy league med school Harvard

  1. You’re worried about finances. Going to an Ivy League medical school can cost you two or three times what a state school would, which means you’ll be paying back school loans for a decade or two. If the area of medicine you’re planning to practice offers great financial rewards, this may be less of a concern. On the back side, financial aid helps smooth out the differences in average indebtedness of med school students.
  2. You want more hands-on experience. At less well known medical schools, if there are top notch doctors teaching there, you’re more likely to be able to rub shoulders with them. In a larger, more prestigious program, the doctors are often up to their elbows in research rather than surgical gloves. This is somewhat anecdotal, and not meant to suggest you won’t get superb supervision and instruction at an Ivy League school.
  3. You know you can’t pull the grades. To get into a top-tier medical school, there’s no way around it: you need a good GPA, sGPA, MCAT score, extracurriculars (ECs), letters of recommendation (LORs). Any one or two of these, if stellar, could compensate for other areas that aren’t as impressive. Yes, if you have a 3.5 GPA (3.2 sGPA) and a 505 MCAT score, with good ECs and LORs, you could pull a rabbit out of a hat and get into an Ivy League medical school, but you’re more likely to end up elsewhere. There are hundreds of great programs out there where you’ll get a great med school education!
  4. You’re interested in a specialty and you know a campus that specializes! There are programs at state schools that are rivaled by none, depending on your specialty. Do your homework and you may find out the best place for you is a med school you truly never have heard of.

If there were top-tier med schools in every state, there probably wouldn’t be such a premium attached to Ivy Leagues, but there is! I’d venture to say the most important effect of an Ivy League/top-tier medical education is getting into a great residency, but that too can be overrated, since once you are in practice a patient is never going to ask you where you went to medical school or took your residency. Your competence and experience as a doctor are all that matters.

Finally…

To tie up this post, let’s just say you’re best off if you choose a medical school that you like, that you can afford, with a good program in your area of study, and GPA/MCAT scores you can crack. And since financial aid is available to every medical school student irrespective of her or his finances, you truly can go anywhere you can get accepted, including Ivy League medical schools!

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