I am not going to lie. If your goal is to go to college, take the easiest classes possible, and get into medical school with perfect grades, then MIT is not for you. However, if you want to excel in science and engineering and live among brilliant peers and professors, all in an environment that is unrivaled, then keep on reading. Not only is it possible to be a successful premed at MIT, but I would also argue that MIT is one of the best places for shaping future doctors.
There surely are downsides to being premed at MIT. The classes are much more challenging than at other schools, especially in the sciences (which medical schools obviously focus on). It’s an understatement to say that As are not as easy to come by as they might be elsewhere, and chances are that you will not graduate with a 5.0 GPA (MIT grades on a 5.0 scale). Most likely, you could get better, if not perfect, grades at another college. Anywhere else, you could be at the very top of your class. However, if you choose MIT, then you will have to compete with some of the smartest and most talented students in the world, and unfortunately, it is unavoidable that some students will end up below average. Nevertheless, the benefits of MIT far outweigh these downsides.
Firstly, the education at MIT is unparalleled, and nowhere else will equip you with such a solid scientific foundation. For example, organic chemistry at MIT is not the same as “organic chemistry” at other schools — MIT covers the material much more in-depth. This is great not only for the sake of learning, but because when you get to the MCATs, this tremendous scientific knowledge will shine through. Moreover, where else can you go and finish your math, chemistry, biology, and physics requirements by the end of your freshman year? Finishing the premed requirements early allows you to explore other areas of interest beyond introductory courses. Ironically, it can be argued that at MIT almost everyone is “premed” by default because of the General Institute Requirements.
Additionally, the atmosphere at MIT is one of collaboration, not cut-throat competition. That means that when someone needs help in a class, he or she will be able to find classmates genuinely willing to offer a helping hand. At MIT, the attitude of students is one of working together to triumph over class work rather than one of competition. This may be drastically different from other schools, where premeds have the reputation of being ruthless, aggressive, and unwilling to help anyone else. MIT is an amazing school because of the teamwork and creative thinking that is encouraged here. This is similar to the “real world,” where collaboration is a vital part of any accomplishment.
Furthermore, the research at MIT is not only ground-breaking, but also plentiful and easily accessible to undergraduates. At other universities, it is hard for undergraduates to get research positions because space and funding is scarce. Here, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) ensures that just about everyone who wants to conduct high-level research can do so. As a result, it is not unusual for undergraduates to be published as first authors on scientific papers and to present their research at conferences. No matter your path after MIT, participating in independent research shows responsibility and creativity that is valuable to any employer or graduate school, whether it be medical school or a bank on Wall Street.
Lastly, medical schools will understand that the work at MIT is harder than elsewhere, and so an occasional B is not a nightmare that will end your career. Of course, hard work and good grades are important and cannot be minimized. However, worrying too much about the perfect medical school application is not the way to approach MIT. Instead, it is important to pursue your passions, do what interests you, and learn what you love. There is no better place to do these things than MIT, and choosing a college that is second to MIT just because it may be easier for medical school is absurd.
Students admitted to MIT are admitted for a reason, and the admissions staff is confident that everyone they admitted will thrive at MIT. However, it is even more important to have confidence in yourself, and to realize you can succeed, no matter the hard work ahead.