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The Best Medical School In The World: Harvard Medical School

Advice & Insight From Medicine Application Specialists

Winner: Harvard University Runner Up: Oxford University

It perhaps is not hugely surprising that Harvard University ranks as the greatest in the world for Medicine. 111 of the world’s best medical schools are found in the United States, and the country has five schools in the top ten of the world. Of these, Harvard is the best – and it is the best worldwide too.

It has been ranked as the best in the world for five years in a row, fighting off tough competition from domestic universities (notably Stanford, John Hopkins, UCLA and Yale) as well as international – with Oxford and Cambridge never far behind. Whilst Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) normally provides strong competition in the research rankings, in 2021 Harvard has reaffirmed its place as the best medical school in the world through achieving a number one ranking in the US News and World Report annual ranking of the best performing medical schools for research.

History

The school was established in 1782, and since then its academics and alumni have been at the forefront of advances in human health. In 1799, Professor Benjamin Waterhouse of Harvard Medical School introduced the smallpox vaccine to America. Since then, 16 Harvard alumni have received the Nobel Prize for Medicine, sharing a total of 10 Nobel Prizes.

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Admissions

Only 3% of applicants to the medical school are accepted. Of 6708 applicants in the latest round of admissions, 798 were interviewed, leading to a class size of 168. The average total MCAT score was 519.82 – meaning that the average student at Harvard was on the 97th percentile (or beyond) of the MCAT. Additionally, the average GPA score was 3.9. Applicants ranged in age from 20-34, and 60% were female. 70% were science majors. Harvard requires one year of biology, two years of chemistry, and one year of physics, all including lab. One year of math is also required. You will also be required to have performed research, with 99% of matriculants having research under their belt already. 93% of students have undertaken clinical volunteering work, or have experience of working in community service. 88% have shadowed physicians already, and Harvard therefore expects its students to have exposure to a range of healthcare already.

What it’s like studying at Harvard Medical School

The White Coat Ceremony begins the year for an incoming class, after which the majority of students follow the Pathways program, which builds core scientific skills and concepts before clinical exposure begins in the 2nd year of study. Students are graded as pass or fail throughout, rather than receiving detailed traditional grades. Some medical students register for joint degrees with other schools, achieving an MS & PhD, for example. Harvard is affiliated with 15 of the most prestigious hospitals and research centres in the world, meaning that students have access to the highest level of clinical training. There are a huge range of clubs to join, across a range of spheres. That might mean joining clubs that suit your hobbies or your sporting interests, but could also mean joining an organisation like the Student Affairs Committee, that exists solely to promote the professional journey of students at HMS. Courses are very difficult, and exams are likewise very tough. Given the exacting standards demanded of applicants, it’s not surprising that the exams are difficult. Students are therefore expected to work very hard, and the mixture of clinical work with the world-class difficulty of examinations means that resilience and determination are essential for any Harvard Medical School student, no matter how able they are academically.

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What Harvard Expects

The school expects its students to grow morally, socially, emotionally and intellectually. It expects them to stay healthy, and to follow the same advice that they would give their patients with regard to sleep, diet, drugs, alcohol, exercise and relaxation. The student handbook explains that students must seek out feedback in order to grow, that they must be altruistic, that they must be committed to their intellectual journey, alert to conflicts of interest, and ready to work with others across the fields of healthcare and beyond. Harvard believes that ‘professional development… arises from an ingenious balance of support and challenge. Becoming a physician is challenging intellectually, physically, emotionally and personally.’ Without a doubt, Harvard will provide the most rewarding course to becoming a physician in the world – and that course will be incredibly challenging.

An Overview of Medicine at Oxford

The second-best medical school in the world is also the best in the UK, and in Europe. The oldest university in the entire English-speaking world, Oxford has had teaching taking place since the 11th century, although it wouldn’t be until 1936 that a medical school was established. 150 students are admitted per year, and the academic standards are the most rigorous in the UK.

The Best Medical School In The World: Harvard Medical School

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