Few college career tracks are as difficult as going to medical school. Most of the nation’s reputable medical schools reject the large majority of their applicants, bringing in only the best of the best.
To get accepted, students need to be very diligent about their preparations. One of the best ways that students can make those preparations is to get on a pre-med track.
Pre-med is not a major, but rather an advising track. In other words, students major in something like biology or chemistry, but then they take courses according to an outline that covers all of the competencies they’ll need to enter medical school.
While following the pre-med track, students will take not only their science classes but also courses in critical thinking and writing, which medical schools emphasize.
Furthermore, pre-med tracks often have additional elements that will aid them on their career path. Advisors can point students toward clinical and volunteer opportunities, both of which are highly valued by medical school admissions counselors. The tracks also have student-run clubs and organizations, which allow those on the track to work together and support one another.
As one of the best college states in the U.S., Virginia has many schools that offer a pre-med track.
For this list, we’ve ranked the best pre-med schools in Virginia according to those that supply the most applicants to med schools. In the case of a tie, College Gazette determined the tie breaker.
Here are the 10 best pre-med schools in Virginia.
10. Washington and Lee University (Lexington, VA)
The Health Professions major at Washington and Lee University provides students with such thorough preparation for medical school that more than 87% of those in the program find placement into medical schools.
Students gain that preparation through a variety of courses designed to cover the fundamentals of med school preparation. In addition to basic courses, such as biochemistry and genetics, students also take specialized courses, including medical ethics and poverty and human capability. These classes allow W&L graduates to enter medical school with a unique and caring perspective, making them better doctors in the long term.
These courses are taught by award-winning faculty, such as assistant professor Ryan Brindle. Dr. Brindle recently received a $104,500 grant from Jeffress Trust Awards Program in Interdisciplinary Research thanks to his project, “Modeling Energy Regulation Under Stress: A Possible Mechanism Linking Stress and Disease?”
This project uses advanced statistical modeling to examine the link between mental stress and oxygen demand, heart rate, and blood pressure.
9. University of Richmond (Richmond, VA)
The pre-health program at the University of Richmond has everything that a future med student will need. With its unique programs and acclaimed faculty, U Richmond’s pre-health program covers all of the demands of the best med school curricula.
The quality of U Richmond can be measured in part by the achievements of its graduates. 2008 graduate Max Sirkin not only serves as an Army doctor at Fort Bragg but also developed the Sirkin-Hiles Rail System (SHRAIL). Named after himself and his partner Col. Jason Hiles, the SHRAIL is an innovative stretcher that simplifies the process of transporting an injured soldier from the front.
2016 graduate Christian Voto combined his training in the pre-health program with his business minor during his internship at the nonprofit the Health Wagon. Voto spearheaded a drone-delivery project, which effectively brought medicine to underserved and remote areas in southwest Virginia.
8. Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA)
At Old Dominion University, the pre-health program equips future medical students by taking it one step at a time.
By the end of students’ first year at the school, they’re already developing a mindset of care and service, designing a portfolio to showcase their summer volunteer activities.
During the second year, students start studying for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and gaining clinical experience. Years three and four are devoted to classwork and research opportunities, ensuring that students graduate with a plan and with real experience.
To aid them along the way, Old Dominion provides its pre-health students with a variety of resources. These include a dedicated advising team, who can not only direct students toward the best possible classes for their future plans but also keep them directed toward the volunteer and clinical experiences med schools want to see.
7. Liberty University (Lynchburg, VA)
For those who want to study from a conservative Christian perspective while preparing to enter medical school, the BS in Biomedical Studies at Liberty University is an excellent choice.
In addition to giving students the background in biology they’ll need in their later careers, Liberty also provides access to exciting research opportunities. Students can spend time examining everything from amphibians and their microbial symbionts to the environmental impact of man-made chemicals.
Along the way, students receive support through several organizations. The Liberty Pre-Med Club is a student-run organization that allows future doctors at the school to interact with and encourage each other. The Club organizes celebrations and visits to medical schools, allowing students to glean knowledge from one another.
The Pre-Med Honor Society is reserved for pre-med students devoted to academic excellence. The Society provides its members with special study guides and networking opportunities, giving them the best possible chance to succeed in their future endeavors.
6. James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA)
The Pre-Med track at Harrisonburg’s James Madison University involves all the coursework one will need to move on to medical school. The track includes not only courses in biology, chemistry, and physics but also those that encourage critical thinking, such as those in philosophy and the humanities.
The comprehensive nature of the program has allowed students such as Margo Deihl to move on to a successful medical school career. Before she graduated from JMU in 2016, Deihl also minored in music and non-profit studies, which allowed her to focus on treating juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma.
JMU’s professors brought out the best in 2012 graduate Ahmad Abdul-Ali. Encouraging him to draw from his own experiences as a refugee from Afghanistan, professors in the pre-med program allowed Abdul-Ali to see how his studies could make a real impact on the world. He continues to draw from that learning as a resident at the University of Michigan Medical School.
5. George Mason University (Fairfax, VA)
The pre-med track at George Mason University may not be official, but it certainly is extensive. GMU students who plan to apply to medical schools are given a clear outline to follow, covering all of the topics that they’ll be tested on during the MCAT exam.
At the center of the track’s success is its engaged advising team. Advisors make sure that GMU students have all of the knowledge they’ll need to be successful in their studies. That includes not only taking the right classes but also getting the volunteer and clinical experience that impresses med school admissions counselors.
Additionally, the school hosts webinars and information sessions to keep students apprised of their options. With this support, students are both knowledgeable about their subject and confident in the resources available to them.
4. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, VA)
Students in the pre-health program at Virginia Tech leave ready not just for medical school, but also veterinarian’s schools and many other science-based careers.
The program covers a variety of majors, including biochemistry, biology, chemistry, engineering, human nutrition, and psychology. But when taken within the pre-health program, students enjoy a special focus on the competencies measured on the MCAT and looked for in a med school application.
This can sound daunting, but the advisors at Virginia Tech are poised to help students along the way. Working closely with students, these advisors direct students toward the medical school that will best suit them and ensure that they’ve developed the competencies expected by that institution.
No matter what major you’re looking for, the pre-med program at Virginia Tech covers all the important bases.
3. College of William & Mary (Williamsburg, VA)
If you’re going to go to the trouble and challenge of doing a pre-med program, then you’re likely thinking about a career in the medical profession. For that reason, the College of William & Mary’s pre-med program deserves attention.
The William & Mary pre-med program emphasizes the resources offered by the school’s Cohen Career Center. The Center helps students look for jobs that suit the skills developed during their undergraduate studies.
More importantly, they help students start planning for that career early on, even before going to proper medical school.
To that end, the school also strives to make sure that students stay informed and prepared every step of the way. The school’s pre-med advising resources provide students with plenty of direction, covering everything from studying for the MCAT to looking for med school requirements.
2. Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA)
Virginia Commonwealth University builds its Pre-Medicine track around the principle of information. The school strives to make sure that everyone in the program knows what is expected of them, both during their undergraduate career and as they head to medical school and beyond.
That commitment to information begins with access to a Canvas portal, which contains an easily accessible knowledge-base filled with articles about every aspect of the pre-med track. By reading these articles, students are ready to plan their course load.
Working according to the requirements listed provided by the American Association of Medical Colleges, advisors at VCU direct students to the prerequisite classes that give them the best shot at med school acceptance. This information directs students toward the right path as they head toward medical school.
1. University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA)
As the premier state school in Virginia, the University of Virginia unsurprisingly comes in the top spot here. U Virginia earns this distinction not just because it sends more students to medical schools than any other institution in the state. It also has a top-flight pre-med program, one that prepares its graduates for medical excellence.
Based in the U Virginia Career Center, the pre-med track prides itself on supporting students on every step of the path. That support begins with laying out the possible classes a student should take in their undergraduate studies, but it certainly doesn’t end there. U Virginia directs its students toward those extra elements that stand out in a medical school application.
Using the pre-med track resources, students can find research opportunities and volunteer positions that help build experience. They can look for clinical posts that put them face-to-face with the demands of the medical field.