The Best Pre-Med Schools in Pennsylvania

Many of Pennsylvania’s top-ranked colleges also provide students with a strong base on which to build a medical career. 

Pre-med is not always a major students can pursue but often is an advising track with extracurricular opportunities. 

Depending on the school, this can mean students have access to a center focused on guiding them through the pre-medicine process or that they have access to other resources to help them find their way. 

These programs often can help not only future medical doctors but also dentists and even veterinarians. Students usually can get help at many colleges from the start of their freshman year all the way through to graduation.

While job prospects for physicians and surgeons are expected to grow more slowly than the national average between 2020 and 2030, at just 3%, they are still growing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

In 2020, the bureau said, 727,000 people were working in the field, which is expected to add 24,800 jobs during the ensuing decade.

Below, we’ll break down the eight best pre-med schools in Pennsylvania, ranked by schools supplying the most applicants to medical school in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Schools on this list supplied at least 50 applicants each to medical schools.

Here are the best pre-med schools in Pennsylvania.

8. Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA)

Swarthmore College
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Swarthmore College, a small, selective school on the outskirts of Philadelphia, has earned a place among the “Little Ivies” thanks to its academic prowess and prestige. And there aspiring physicians can find all the foundational classes they will need to prepare for further medical studies.

While the college does not have an undergraduate degree in pre-medicine, students can choose to major in subjects such as biochemistry and physics. Swarthmore has the variety of science, math, and humanities prerequisite courses that medical schools look for when considering applicants, and it recommends that students take two science classes that include lab work. 

Students who earned Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate credits generally can put those toward fulfilling their math requirements, but they’ll likely need to still take science classes so medical schools can see how well they did in college laboratories.

The college also suggests that its students finish these prerequisites by the end of their junior year if they want to move on to medical school right after they graduate. They should then sit for the Medical College Admission Test, aka the MCAT, at that time, Swarthmore advises.

7. Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)

Carnegie Mellon University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Carnegie Mellon University’s interdisciplinary Health Professions Program advises not only current students but also alumni who want to work in health care.

This is not a degree program. Instead, participants receive a range of guidance, starting with exploring what kind of medical careers are available and the type of pre-requisites they should take to prepare them for their desired career. 

Students can get help through the program starting on their first day on campus, learning about research and volunteering opportunities that could help them, and hooking them up with alumni and others working in health care for mentorship opportunities. 

And when it’s time for them to apply to medical school, participants can attend the university’s information sessions to learn about the application process. Carnegie Mellon also conducts committee interviews with participants and offers committee letters of recommendations students can use in their graduate school applications.

Majors at Carnegie Mellon that can provide a solid background for future doctors include biological sciences, offered through the university’s Mellon College of Science. The college’s other bachelor’s degree programs include chemistry, mathematical sciences, and physics.

6. Villanova University (Villanova, PA)

Villanova University
abbike18, Corr Hall, CC BY-SA 3.0

Villanova University has several affiliate programs with other nearby schools for students interested in pursuing different health care careers. 

Villanova students who want to study osteopathic medicine can apply during their sophomore year for the affiliate program in that field with the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, while those who are interested in the programs with the University of Pennsylvania’s Kornberg School of Dentistry or the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University must apply as part of their Villanova application.

Villanova does not have a pre-med bachelor’s degree but notes that many of its students who hope to pursue medical careers study the sciences, which range from biochemistry to psychology to cognitive and behavioral neuroscience. 

However, the university does have a special program to help these students prepare for their future careers. The Health Professions Advising Office guides students throughout their time at the university, from assisting them to pick the best courses and extracurricular activities to fit their goals and then assisting them in putting together their graduate school applications. 

Students also benefit from having two advisers, one focused on academics and the other on health professions.

5. Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)

Drexel University offers its pre-medical and pre-health programs at the graduate level through its School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies. Begun in 1981, the program has grown to encompass several flexible options for graduate study. 

Students can choose from several one- and two-year master’s degrees and a post-baccalaureate pre-medical certificate designed to help students transition into further medical study.

Among these options is the 11-month Drexel Pathway to Medical School (DPMS) program in which students a master of science degree. This is geared toward what Drexel describes as underserved students who have taken the typical medical school prerequisites and the MCAT. 

Upon successfully completing the DPMS program and fulfilling related criteria, students are admitted into the university’s M.D. program.

Another option that can benefit students interested in medical careers is the Intensive Medical Sciences (IMS) program. In this accelerated “special master’s” program, students take the same kind of courses they would during the first year of medical school, such as physiology and immunology. Advisers also help students prepare applications for medical school.

4. Temple University (Philadelphia, PA)

Temple University
Dorevabelfiore, Temple University Paley Library Front View, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Pre-Med Health Scholar program at Temple University sets students on a path toward enrolling into the school’s medical college after finishing their undergraduate degree.

Prospective students who would like to join the Pre-Med Health Scholar Program must complete a separate application in addition to their main undergraduate application. 

And candidates will need to meet several demanding requirements, including having an unweighted high school GPA of at least 3.8 out of 4.0. They also should have taken four years of science and math courses in high school and spent some time volunteering in a health care setting and in the community. 

Students who make it into the program receive provisional acceptance into Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine. 

They will follow a traditional four-year plus four-year (4+4) track unless they choose to apply for the accelerated three-year plus four-year (3+4) track, which they would have to do during their first undergraduate semester.

However, admission to the medical school is not guaranteed for the program’s participants. They must meet several requirements by the second semester of their junior year in order for the medical school to consider them for admission, including having a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.6 in their science courses and overall. They also must earn a composite MCAT score of at least 509.

3. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)

The University of Pennsylvania’s Career Services office helps prepare undergraduate students to one day become successful applicants to medical school. 

While Penn acknowledges that every medical college’s requirements are different, it also notes that several core courses will benefit students no matter where they go and has put together a guide to those courses available at the university. 

The office has resources, too, to help students find opportunities for extracurricular and research activities that set them on a path toward improving their communities, like they may one day do as doctors.

Penn’s Health Professions Advisory Board (HPAB), which consists of faculty and staff members as well as the pre-health advising team, also provides students pursuing admission to dental and medical schools with a guide to the process for preparing their applications to make sure they have everything they need and hit their deadlines. Most medical schools require applicants to submit letters of recommendation, usually from either several professors or a committee at their undergraduate institution. 

Penn students can obtain such a committee letter through the advisory board, which will provide a detailed look at the candidate and their experience, strengths, and more.

2. Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA)

Penn State
George Chriss, Penn state old main summer, CC BY-SA 3.0

Penn State University is unique among Pennsylvania schools in that it offers pre-medicine as a bachelor of science degree. Students can start the program at any of the university’s numerous campuses around the state and can choose to finish it up at the main University Park campus.

The courses focus on life sciences, providing students with core knowledge in chemistry, biology, and related topics to ready them for advanced study in medical or other graduate schools. 

But they will also take classes in topics like ethics, a valuable subject for future medical practitioners, as well as statistics and calculus. Students must complete 105 credits in the pre-medicine major along with 45 in general education classes.

Prospective Penn State students also have the option to apply to the premedical-medical bachelor’s degree, an accelerated, seven-year program in which they earn both a B.S. and an M.D. 

After studying at Penn State University Park for three years, students then move on to Thomas Jefferson University’s Sydney Kimmel Medical College and earn their bachelor’s degree after their first year at the Philadelphia school.

1. University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)

Although the University of Pittsburgh does not have a pre-medicine major, its students can build a strong foundation on which to build a career in health care. 

Ready to help them is Pitt’s Interprofessional Center for Health Careers, where advisers work with students interested in working in medicine on everything from the selection of a major and classes to helping them put together their graduate school applications. 

Alumni of Pitt’s undergraduate program who have moved on to studying at the university’s medical school provide additional advising to undergraduates, offering their unique perspective through the Pitt Med Advisory Council.

The university offers several sciences as majors but also reminds aspiring physicians that they can really choose any major as long as they still take prerequisites that would serve them well in medical school.

Pitt also recommends that students get involved in various extra-curricular activities along the way, including research endeavors and volunteering in the community. 

The Interprofessional Center can also help students find opportunities to gain different types of experience, which could include joining the campus’ Coalition of Pre-Health Students.