Question of the Week: Choice of Concentration for Top Medical Schools?

April 1, 2022

Q: What concentration should I choose to maximize my chances at getting into a top medical school? How about certificates?
A: Different applicants have different reasons for putting schools at the “top” of their list—for some it’s staying close to home, some have a certain mission focus (e.g., pursuing biomedical research, working with underserved patients, being a leader in the local community). Plus, there is much less difference between medical schools compared to undergrad schools (and the idea of “rankings” should be taken with a grain of salt, according to many medical schools, experts, and the American Medical Association).
Looking at our top five schools in terms of where Princeton applicants choose to attend (Perelman, Icahn, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson, Weill Cornell, Harvard), 21 different concentrations are represented from across the curriculum. Some matriculants pursued certificates (again across a range of disciplines), and some did not.

What tends to stand out when talking with applicants is their enthusiasm for what they’re studying, their intellectual curiosity as they delve into their areas of interest (and take risks to step outside of their comfort zones), and how they will take what they gained from their studies and apply it within medical school and practice. This doesn’t necessarily mean making direct connections between content knowledge, or even methodology in research, to medicine – it can include academic strategies, connections with peers and mentors, critical thinking and communication skills, and generally how you see and interact with the world. Aim for making intentional choices and then being able to discuss why they are meaningful to you (in your essays and interviews), and choosing a discipline where you’ll find a supportive, motivating community of peers and faculty (via their work with you and their letters of recommendation).
For more advice on major choices, see the HPA FAQ, HPA's Major Choices website resources, and Princeton’s Choosing a Major resources. HPA Peer Advisers and Jock Docs can also talk with you about their majors.

QOTW 2021: PDFing Writing Sem
QOTW 2020: MCAT Without Biochem