Is UCLA A Good Medical School? (PROS & CONS)

The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA is famed as being one of California’s most popular medical schools. Founded in 1951, and renamed in 2001, its Los Angeles location is an enviable one.

But does UCLA med live up to the hype?

As a med student wondering this question myself, I did some research, and here’s what I found out!

Is UCLA a good medical school?

Yes, UCLA is a good medical school. It has a diverse student body and provides many opportunities for students to follow their career and social interests. Its high research and primary care ranking, coupled with its close to 100% match rate, make it a great choice. 

The higher entry requirements and a heavy primary care focus, make it both super competitive and possibly a little restrictive in terms of specialty training. So it may not be for everyone!

Read on to find out more about UCLA medical school and see if it is a good option for you. 

UCLA Med School: The Positives

1. Relaxed Environment 

At UCLA med, students are not ranked on their test scores – the curriculum is strictly pass/fail. That makes the culture a little more relaxed and cooperative compared to other medical schools.

2. Favorable Curriculum Format  

The curriculum is entirely organ system-based. For example, you could be doing the Gastrointestinal System for 6 weeks and in that time cover the Anatomy, Physiology, and Pharmacology for it. PBL is incorporated once a week. 

Generally, this is the most preferred type of med school curriculum among students.

Related: Medical School Curriculum Types (What’s The Best?)

3. Few Mandatory Classes 


Lectures are not compulsory- you only have 10 to 15 hours per week for labs that are mandatory. 

Not having to go to lectures enables you the freedom to study via your own preferred methods and strategies.

4. Graduate Opportunities


UCLA medicine graduates match into many fields. UCLA prepares you well for any residency provided you are a competitive candidate and begin the process early.

Many students from the school go on to positions in Primary Care (more on this later).

5. Study Life Balance 


UCLA students are known for being well-rounded. It is an elite institution but the people know how to have fun. It is a great option for students who are serious regarding their education but don’t want academics to be the be-all or end-all. 

6. City of LA at your convenience

The weather is amazing all year round and there is something to cater to everyone’s interests. As far as party medical schools go, this might be considered one of them!

7. Student Organizations


There are several ways to join student clubs, groups, and organizations to help develop your medical and community interests. Members of the UCLA Medical Alumni Association coordinate Books Without Borders, a project to send medical textbooks and journals to US military physicians and nurses in Afghanistan/Iraq. 

8. Diversity


The student body, faculty, and staff at UCLA med are very diverse with a high faculty-to-student ratio (3.6:1). 

This is also something evidenced by their national placement of #9 in a new measurement based on enrollment of underrepresented minorities, the Diversity Index. Significantly higher than average!

9. Opportunities for Combined Degrees 

Medical students can earn combined degrees through the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) with the UCLA Anderson School of Management. 

There are also joint degree programs offered with other institutions like the Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science/UCLA Medical Education Program. Perfect for students who want to work in disadvantaged rural and urban communities. 

10. Extensive Hospital Links 

The School of Medicine is closely linked with top-ranked hospitals Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Centre and other hospitals like the LA County Harbor UCLA Medical Center and Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center

The city of Los Angeles itself also has a ton of physician shadowing and volunteer programs to explore also!

Related: 8 Physician Shadowing Opportunities In Los Angeles! & 16 Hospital Volunteer Opportunities In Los Angeles! 

UCLA Med School: The Negatives  

1. Competition


It is very competitive to get in (as expected from a highly ranked medical school).
The acceptance rate is around 2.8%. For the class of 2024, there were 11,778 applicants and 175 matriculants. 

The average MCAT (517) and GPA (3.9) only add to that.

So although it might be a “good” school it might not be a good fit for the less competitive applicants out there.

2. Harder for out of state students 


Generally, it is harder to gain acceptance to UCLA as an out-of-state student vs an in-state resident. There is also a difference in the tuition fee; $36,720 for in-state vs $49,865 for out-of-state students. 

You might also want to learn Spanish too. It could aid your in inpatient interactions.

3. Expensive cost of living 


The closer you live to school the more you have to pay. Rent in university housing in a 2 bedroom is around $1450 per month! 

Related: How Do Medical Students Pay For Living Expenses? (Crucial Money-Saving Tips)

4. Heavy emphasis on primary care

This explains why almost 50% of graduates from UCLA choose to go into primary care jobs. This strong focus may prove tricky for students who wish to explore other career paths.

What is UCLA’s Medical School Ranking? 

Something that adds to UCLA med’s status as a good school is its ranking.

It ranks #21 of the U.S. News Best Medical Schools Report for Research and #12 for Primary Care. 

Although we’re keen to point out that medical school rankings aren’t the best way to assess how good/bad a school is, they can be used as a rough guide.

What is UCLA’s Match List Like? 

UCLA doesn’t give exact figures for its match list but, based on the national average and its high ranking, we can assume it’s close to 100%.

You can see for yourself what each student (from each class) matched into in the published lists here.

Notice a large number of placements in Primary Care.

UCLA Medicine Vs Stanford Medicine: What’s Better?

Based on data and prestige, Stanford’s Ivy League status and higher U.S. News rankings may potentially help it look the better of the two in terms of academic prospects. 

That said, you’ll need to factor in the discussion points above to really decide. The differences in Stanford’s curriculum, student culture, and geographical location should all be taken into consideration.

Is USC Vs UCLA Better for Medical School? 

USC has a couple of positives over UCLA; it’s private, there’s more support, and it’s connected to LA County Hospital. 

Where UCLA wins out is in tuition fees (it’s cheaper), prestige (higher rankings), and a possibly better location.

Deciding which is better for you comes down to your own personal circumstances; how comfortable you are with financing, and what type of school and location you wish to study medicine at.

Is UCLA a Good Medical School? Reddit’s Opinion 

Reddit is a great place to go to get actual unfiltered opinions on how good/bad a medical school is. For UCLA med there are both positive and negative comments.

Positive opinion on UCLA Medical School

They care about well-rounded individuals who have non medical interests  

“I’ll be honest, I pigeonholed myself into being 100% premed. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a premed and didn’t feel burnt out, but looking back I wish I did more non-medical related activities. [UCLA] actually looks for non-medical activities in applicants to identify well rounded candidates. So as long as your studies come first, I highly encourage you to pursue all of your interests, medical or otherwise.”

u/gotlactose

Negative opinion on UCLA Medical School

Packed schedules 

“I’m pretty worried. Looking at a sample weekly schedule, it seems full to the brim with labs, group discussion, doctoring, and lectures. I keep comparing it to Stanford’s curriculum, which offers so much more flexibility in scheduling your day. I’m worried that between commuting in LA traffic, keeping up with classes, and studying for boards, it’s going to be a recipe for burnout. The lack of info also worries me”. 

u/throwawayfapugh

High entry requirements 

“With a 3.1 GPA, your chances are slim to none. Focus on raising that as much as you can (try to get 4.0s for the next 3 years). You’ll need a great GPA, great MCAT, awesome ECs, great recs, etc. just to have a shot at a Cali school”.

u/computernerd225

The Geffy Guide

A good way to gauge the quality of a medical school is to read accounts from older students. A fantastic resource to use here is UCLA’s very own Geffy Guide, a 97-page PDF document designed to guide prospective applicants and new matriculants through life at the med school.

Here’s one comment from the guide itself that says a lot about the quality/suitability of the school…

“One of the best things to me about going to a school like UCLA that has so many grad schools and undergrad departments is that there is more research going on than you can wrap your head around. Med students definitely get involved in that research, although you really make your own decisions about how much you want to do and in what area. Some students start in the first year, some do research over one summer and focus on school the rest of the time – and some even take a year off to do research full time. You decide what works for you!”

– The Geffy Guide

The Geffy Guide is a great resource as it describes information like the following:

  • The best blocks covered during the medical degree.
  • Ways students can get involved in activities.
  • Advice from students on USMLE Preparation.
  • Advice on how to make the most of UCLA med clerkships.

If you’re on the fence about heading to UCLA medical school, definitely check it out.

Conclusion: Is UCLA a good medical school?

UCLA is a great medical school if you want a good work-life balance and a more active approach to learning. It boasts excellent links with hospitals and has plenty of opportunities for research. Its high primary care, research, and diversity ranking also add to its top-tier status. 

Now you’ve read through a whole bunch of reasons why we think UCLA’s a great choice of medical school, take a look for yourself at UCLA’s own admission page here

The video below also provides additional key information on what you can expect attending this top-tier LA-based institution…

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