The Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons is one of the best medical schools in the world–and also one of the most competitive.
Located in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Washington Heights in Manhattan, NYC, VP&S is ideally situated to provide students with the unique perspectives needed to empathize and treat patients from around the world.
It’s not just the neighborhood that brings together people from all ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds, though. VP&S is also extremely diverse in its student body and faculty.
In fact, U.S. News and World Report ranks it as the 28th most diverse med school–an often relatively homogenous field.
VP&S seeks to expand the teaching of medicine beyond science and math to incorporate ethics, arts, and medical history coursework.
Therefore, graduates of VP&S enter the medical community with a broad knowledge of the historical significance and ethical frameworks surrounding their specialty.
VP&S students can choose a course of study from a wide range of medical fields. The school offers MD and PhD programs, as well as curricula in genetic counseling, human nutrition, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.
Columbia states that their medical school’s variety of program choices and access to top-of-the-line research tools, combined with its close proximity to varying perspectives and backgrounds, make VP&S stand out amongst other medical programs in the country.
For these reasons, VP&S is enormously popular among future physicians and surgeons. Here is a breakdown of everything prospective students should know about applying to VP&S.
Columbia Medical School Acceptance Rate
The acceptance rate into Columbia Medical School is 3.4%.
Obviously, VP&S is very challenging to get into. Therefore, Columbia’s medical school applicants must have outstanding MCAT scores and GPAs.
Upon acceptance into VP&S, students have several academic paths they can take.
Students can choose to enroll in a traditional MD program, which consists of typical medical-focused math and science courses for two years, followed by electives and clerkships in years three and four.
The final two years will also see students working hands-on in hospitals and clinics alongside licensed physicians.
VP&S also offers a few programs for students who already hold an MD and want to earn a PhD, or vice-versa. These involve pre-clinical, clinical, and elective courses for completion.
Students applying to VP&S should also be aware of the cost of attendance, which is quite steep. A year’s worth of tuition costs $66,816, but there are some scholarship opportunities for students who meet need-based financial aid qualifications.
Columbia Medical School GPA & Requirements
The recommended GPA for students applying to Columbia Medical School is 3.9.
Students should recognize, though, that this is the average GPA meaning there is a significant number of students accepted to Columbia Medical School with a GPA higher than 3.9.
It’s essential for students applying to VP&S to have achieved outstanding grades in classes specific to the math and science field.
For example, it’s ideal for a student to have achieved an A in biology, physics, chemistry, or a related class.
Prospective Columbia Medical School students must also take the MCAT and receive a competitive score.
The average MCAT score for Columbia Medical School admits is 521. This means students must earn a score of around 130 in each section, which is quite difficult, so study hard!
Applying to Columbia Medical School is a little more complicated than simply submitting a fantastic GPA and MCAT score, though.
Students must begin by submitting the American Medical College Application Service application, which is an online system used by medical schools across the country. It is similar to the undergraduate Common Application.
The AMCAS will require test and GPA scores, as well as an essay.
Once they’ve submitted the AMCAS, students will then complete an application directly from Columbia University Medical School. These applications open in July and are rolling admission, which means there is no set deadline on which students will hear whether they’ve been accepted or not.
The most important part of the Columbia application is the secondary essay, which includes seven required essay prompts, as well as some others for specific programs.
Students will want to stand out in their essays because these are how Columbia chooses which applicants to interview. Last year, Columbia Medical School interviewed only 878 of their 7,297 applicants.
Securing a coveted interview with VP&S is crucial for applicants because it gives students a chance to impress a Columbia representative face-to-face rather than simply through an application.
Columbia Medical School Notable Alumni
Because it is such a popular yet selective school, Columbia Medical School has many highly notable alumni.
One such notable alumnus is Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, for whom the school is named. Vagelos is a biochemist and is best known for leading technology and chemicals company, Merck as first the President of Research, then the CEO and Chairman of the Board.
In 2017, Vagelos and his wife, Diana, donated $250 million to Columbia Medical School to replace loans with scholarships for medical students with financial need.
Hal Blumenfeld, MD, PhD gave the distinguished alumni speech at Columbia University in 2020. He is a neurologist whose work focuses on epilepsy, cognition, and brain imaging.
Although he received both his MD (1990) and PhD (1992) from Columbia, Blumenfeld now directs Yale’s Clinical Neuroscience Imaging Center (CNIC). He has received many awards and recognitions, including the prestigious Francis Gilman Blake Award from Yale University in 2007.
Another notable alumna from Columbia Medical School is Priya Rajasethupathy, MD, PhD. Rajasethupathy is a neuroscientist and assistant professor at Rockefeller University, where she specializes in the Laboratory of Neural Dynamics and Cognition.
Rajasethupathy has won a series of prestigious awards, including the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award.
Columbia Medical School Ranking
In 2022, U.S. News and World Report ranked VP&S number three in best medical schools: Research and number 73 for best medical schools: Primary Care in the country.
VP&S is also ranked highly by U.S. News and World Report in anesthesiology, psychiatry, and radiology, among other fields.
VP&S’s unique location in Washington Heights makes the school one of the most diverse medical schools in the country. U.S. News and World Report ranks it as the 28th most diverse med school.
With its remarkable GPA and MCAT standards, along with its impressive alumni and comprehensive program selection, it’s easy to see how Columbia Medical School consistently ranks as one of the top medical schools in the country.
Should You Apply to Columbia Medical School?
The first thing students should consider when deciding whether or not to apply to Columbia Medical School is if they meet the high standards of entry.
Students must have at least a 3.9 GPA and an MCAT score of 521. Anything lower is unlikely to be accepted at Columbia Medical School due to its extreme selection rate of 3.4%.
The next thing to consider is whether the medical school is the right fit. Students at Columbia Medical School face at least three years of rigorous classroom and clinic/hospital work. Med school is a serious undertaking, and students should be ready to face the intense workload and hours of commitment.
Since Columbia Medical School is in such a unique location, students should want to live in or near Washington Heights. New York City can be a very fulfilling and engaging place to study, especially the cultural oasis that is upper Manhattan.
However, it is still New York City–an extremely bustling city that may be a tough transition for some students.
Students should also be familiar with the cost of over $66,000 per year. Financially speaking, the good news is that some scholarships are available. Before applying, it’s a good idea for students to strategize the financial implications of attending Columbia.
Finally, students must be ready to study at one of the top medical schools in the world and put their best foot forward doing so.
The opportunity to attend Columbia Medical School is many people’s dream but only becomes a reality for a few. So, if students do get the chance to earn their education there, they should be sure to soak up every minute and learn as much as they can while they’re there.