Making it into honors college for your bachelor’s is one heck of an achievement. All those hours spent studying for the top grades in high school, now seem worth it thanks to the extra perks.
But does honors college matter for medical school?
No. Graduating from honors college doesn’t matter that much when it comes to making a competitive application for med school. At least not in name.
Where it can help, however, is in the various advantages studying honors can give you. Especially when it comes to things like priority sign-ups and reduced class sizes.
We’ll go into that more in this article.
Here’s what else we’ll cover:
- What medical schools think about honors
- If most med students come from honors college
- If honors are worth pursuing while in med school
- If they help add anything important to a medical career
As a med student myself, and one who’s gone on a very long journey to get here, I know how important the answers to questions like this can be.
Ready to get started? Let’s go.
Why do medical schools not care about honors?
Although graduating from honors college could play a small part in making up a competitive application, most med school admissions teams will be focused on other areas.
The main areas being:
- Your overall GPA
- Your MCAT score
- Your extracurriculars
If graduating honors from your college doesn’t lend itself well to any of the factors above, it won’t make any significant difference.
Maybe, on paper at least, it looks better than taking classes at community college, but even an applicant from there could outshine you when it comes to things like research, volunteering, and leadership experience.
I detail that all more in the article below…
For the most part, though, it’s not a huge deal.
Some admissions teams like it (as it shows extra commitment), others aren’t so fussed…
“We do take into account the degree to which a student pushed themselves academically, as in taking advanced courses, or choosing to take an honors course when a standard course is available,” adds Dr. Quinn Capers, Associate Dean for Admissions at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “If students do well in these honors courses, it is definitely a positive, but one of many things that will be considered.”(Source)
How honors college could help a med school application
Of course, aiming for honors college is not completely useless when it comes to your aspirations as a pre-med. The perks most honors programs give you could lend themselves very well to how competitive your application could appear in the long run.
Here are some of those things:
Smaller class sizes
Most honors college programs can put you in classes with far fewer students (think 20 instead of 200). That makes it a lot easier to strike up a good relationship with your professor, which could help both your grades and motivation.
It could also really help in landing you a strong letter of recommendation (LOR) for your application.
That’s not something non-honors students can do all that easily!
The fact most honors programs offer their students priority sign-up for classes can also make a big difference in terms of your overall GPA.
Being able to choose the best professors, for many of your prerequisite med school classes, can definitely help that side of your application.
Note: this is also backed up by data at some Honors Colleges. The University of South Carolina, for example, argues its honors students have a higher (60-70%) acceptance rate compared to the 40-50% of non-Honors (Source).
Some of the networking opportunities that honors programs provide can be exceptional.
For students looking to gain access to research teams, gain scholarships, or connect with people for clinical shadowing, aiming for honors can really help boost your extracurriculars.
Can honors harm a med school application?
Although we’ve established that honors won’t necessarily help an application, there could be some areas where it could cause active harm.
The following points could be ones for consideration:
- Honors programs may have you taking extra courses (especially ones that aren’t typical med school prerequisites)
- Your honors thesis may have little relevance to a medical career
- Not all honors programs offer the same advantages (there’s no guarantee of any of the above!)
- The pressure of graduating honors could impact your mental health
So while there are some significant pros to making the honors list at your college, there are just as many drawbacks.
How much of a distraction might it be to you as a pre-med looking to be as competitive as possible?
Only you can answer that!
Do most med students matriculate from honors college?
As mentioned before, many honors colleges boast impressive data when it comes to the increased acceptance rates of their students over non-Honors.
Although this doesn’t universally suggest that most med students are from honors colleges, it could be taken that there is at least a fair amount.
Because the exact numbers are school-specific, it’s impossible to give a general estimate.
Just know it’s of course possible to get into med school without being an honors student.
Is it worth pursuing honors as an M1/M2?
This is an individual decision and one that can also be influenced by the environment of your med school and the importance you personally place on it.
While honors in med school can certainly help you land a very competitive residency, many students are more focused on learning what they need to know to treat patients.
It’s also probably best to focus on them in the later years of med school (M3/M4) because of how they can sometimes be closely associated with residency applications.
Another thing to consider is how honors work at your med school. Are they based exclusively on shelf exams?
Studying for them might mean other skills have to potentially slide. Such as developing good patient care.
You have to decide how important those factors are to you.
Is honors college worth it in terms of a medical career?
For a highly esteemed medical career maybe. But not necessarily.
Just as we’ve discussed previously, a lot of factors come into play!
You can definitely have a great medical career without honors (and many physicians do) but the gravitas and advantages it can bring are also undeniable.
If it’s a differentiator between you and another candidate for a top residency program, the one with honors may be more likely to get it.
Whether that residency program then promises a great medical career is no guarantee, however.
Your career is what you make it!
Do medical schools even care about what college you went to?
Finally, if graduating honors or not is some question of concern, then you might also be thinking about the importance of your bachelor’s college name and the weight it pulls in your overall application.
Again, your MCAT, overall GPA, and extracurriculars matter way more than where you went to college.
Most admissions teams are in strong agreement when it comes to that fact.
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in digital marketing and 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.