Best Pre-Med Schools in California
1. Stanford University
|Location:||Palo Alto, CA|
|National University Rank:||6|
|Average SAT score:||1505|
[2020 Medical School grad/alum application information: 213 applied, acceptance rate around 70%]
Like many schools, Stanford does not have an official pre-med major. “Pre-health” students can major in any discipline and are encouraged to meet with pre-health advisors to discuss curriculum requirements, the med school application process, interview practice, and plans for gaining practical experience.
Stanford offers a number of clinical and research opportunities. The SIMS (Stanford Immersion in Medicine Series) program (also discussed in this article here; Physician Shadowing Programs In San Jose) offers students a chance to shadow physicians at the Stanford Hospital, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, and the Palo Alto Veterans’ Administration hospital.
Pre-health students can also volunteer for clinical experience at over 25 local hospitals and health organizations through Stanford. Another unique option is “Community Health in Oaxaca,” a medical-based study abroad opportunity. Stanford’s professors offer many opportunities for research, highly recommended for pre-health students.
The student-led Stanford Pre-med Association and the American Medical Student Association Stanford Premedical Society are two of the groups on campus for pre-health students.
- Name: Stanford University
- Location: 450 Serra Mall, Palo Alto, CA 94305
- Phone: (650) 723-2300
- Website: www.stanford.edu
2. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
|National University Rank:||9|
|Average SAT score:||1545|
[2020 Medical School grad/alum application information: not given, but average MCAT scores in 90th percentile]
Caltech has a reputation for being one of the most difficult schools in the country, and also a reputation for being a very hard school to do pre-med at – some even say that pre-med at Caltech is “an unnecessarily difficult path.”
Pre-health students at Caltech can choose any major, and the Career Development Center offers Pre-Health Counseling for students hoping to apply to medical school. Each term, CDC Pre-Health Counseling offers 2-4 workshops covering topics related to health science programs; additionally, they offer a Professional Forum Series each term with medical professionals discussing their specialties to increase students’ knowledge of the health industry.
For clinical experience, Caltech offers the Summer Preceptor Program in which students shadow doctors at area hospitals (Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Cedars Sinai Medical Center). Other volunteer opportunities are available throughout the school year also.
Caltech has a variety of academic-year and summer research opportunities for students: “The low student-faculty ratio (3:1) provides undergraduates with many opportunities to be involved in cutting-edge research.” (Source)
Student groups vary from year to year, but the Caltech Premed Association is an active campus presence and offers an understanding community for pre-health students.
For more on undergrad life at Caltech, check out the video below…
- Name: California Institute of Technology
- Location: 1200 East California Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91125
- Phone: (626) 395-6811
- Website: www.caltech.edu
3. University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA)
|Location:||Los Angeles, CA|
|National University Rank:||20|
|Average SAT score:||1405|
[2020 Medical School grad/alum application information: 1,152 applied, 51.3% acceptance rate]
UCLA is a very large university (31,000-plus) with its own medical school and medical center, and because of this is able to offer some world-class research and clinical experience opportunities to its undergraduates.
Pre-health at UCLA falls under the Department of Life Sciences and has an active community to help students explore and understand the pre-health track. An active Facebook page, newsletter, and online portal keep students connected and informed of career exploration opportunities, career fairs, and Career Center updates.
In terms of clinical experience, UCLA offers a multitude of established volunteer programs with various hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers. They also have PULSE (also mentioned here; Physician Shadowing Opportunities In Los Angeles), the student-led physician shadowing organization that operates through UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center, to allow students to gain field experience and explore “the different dimensions” of medical careers.
Related: Deeper dive on this premed offering here; Is UCLA Good For Pre-Med? (Everything You Need To Know)
To help Pre-health students gain research experience, UCLA has access to world-class lower- and upper-division research, funding, and programs (school year, summer, and nationwide) for both individuals and groups.
To find out more about what pre-med life is like at UCLA, check out the video below…
- Name: University of California-Los Angeles
- Location: Los Angeles, CA 90095
- Phone: (310) 825-4321
- Website: www.ucla.edu
4. University of California-Berkeley
|National University Rank:||22|
|Average SAT score:||1415|
[2020 Medical School grad/alum application information: 728 applied, 55-65% accepted]
Pre-med/Pre-health is not considered a major at Berkeley but rather a “pre-professional path.” The Career Center has produced an extremely helpful Academic Guide with information about curriculum requirements, how to gain clinical, service, and leadership experience, and how to get involved with the Pre-health community.
The Career Center also has two dedicated Pre-health advisors offering one-on-one appointments running 30 minutes. They coordinate planning, workshops, panels, and visits from medical schools. Students and alum are encouraged to meet with their advisor frequently to prepare for the medical admissions process and to make sure they are availing themselves of Berkeley’s broad opportunities.
While clinical experience is not required for medical school, it is certainly expected. Berkeley offers a wide range of volunteer and shadowing programs in over 20 area hospitals and clinics. The Career Center also notes that “any kind of altruistic or leadership experience is beneficial.”
Berkeley students have many options for research: they can participate through structured programs, through their majors, and/or through independent study or faculty labs, or research groups. Berkeley also offers research opportunities through Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute and UCSF. (Berkeley’s Medical Guide reminds students that medical schools like interdisciplinary and social science research as well.)
Berkeley has a vibrant Pre-health community and over 50 health-related student organizations, including the Student Pre-med Advising Network, American Medical Women’s Association, Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals, and the Blood Pressure Project.
To find out more about pre-med life at Berkeley, check out the video below…
The video below has some great info on pre-med life at the school…
- Name: University of California-Berkeley
- Location: Berkeley, CA
- Phone: (510) 640-6000
- Website: berkeley.edu/premed/
All admissions data is taken from the American Association of Medical Colleges (Source). Ranking data is taken from U.S. News.
Is It Important To Attend A Good Pre Med School In California?
Having a reputable school on your med school application can look good. Performing well during undergrad, at any of the colleges recommended above, is a strong indicator you’ll fit in studying medicine.
How much an individual school actually contributes to your chances of becoming a doctor is open for debate, however.
The biggest factors, in terms of competitiveness, are your GPA score, your clinical experience (shadowing, working, etc), and extracurriculars, and how well you present yourself in application essays and interviews.
To say the strength of your candidacy comes solely down to where you studied for pre-med would be a stretch!
What College In California Has The Best Medical Program?
The best medical school in the state, according to U.S. News Ranking, is The School of Medicine at Stanford University. You’ll need an average GPA of 3.89 and an average MCAT of 520.
How To Improve Your Medicine Application As A Pre-Med In School In California
A great way to make your med school application as competitive as possible is through extracurriculars.
In California, you have a lot of clinically relevant medical/hospital volunteering opportunities to take advantage of. We’ve included links to them throughout the article.
These positions are organized and very useful for obtaining letters of recommendation (LOR’s), shadowing, and other important networking connections.
You can also look into relevant pre-med jobs like scribing, EMT, and phlebotomy available in the state for extra clinical experience.
What Is The Hardest/Easiest College In California To Get Into For Pre-Med?
Based on the data above, the University of California-Berkeley appears easiest to gain admission into as an undergrad. Their admission rate is one of the highest, their SAT scores the lowest, and their undergraduate admissions are more than other schools on the list.
Stanford, owing to its Ivy League status, appears the most competitive.
What Major Should I Choose As A Pre-Med?
The standard advice is to choose a major you feel you can do well in. Your GPA will be possibly the biggest differentiator between you and other pre-med candidates.
Here’s what you should consider:
- How motivated you’ll be to study (choose something you’ll enjoy)
- How “suitable” you are to the subject (maximize your chance of a high GPA)
If you did well in a particular subject in high school, or find something relatively easy to get good grades in, that could make for a good pick.
Something else to think about is the MCAT. Sometimes life science subjects can be a good fit as they’ll help you in the preparation for this key med school exam. They also may cover many of the prerequisites.
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.