Applying to Medical SchoolGap YearHigh School Students & BS/MDPre-Med Academics

Pre-med Competition

UCLA is one of the most competitive schools in the nation. It is an elite public school with many pre-med students. This is not a rumor. This is fact. If you are a UCLA student, when you go to your first chemistry or biology class, at least 50% of your classmates are or will be thinking about going to medical school. Obviously that percentage drops dramatically as the years go by, but many students will still entertain the idea of becoming a doctor.

With the sheer quantity of people who want to go to medical school, pre-med competition becomes a natural phenomenon. Each application cycle, out of the plethora of medical school applicant, only a small percentage is granted an interview and from that an even smaller percentage is accepted. In essence, you are competing with the whole nation when you apply. However, do not let this should scare you or prompt any malicious competition.

From my experience at UCLA, a school notorious for it’s competition, I did not meet any people who were hyper competitive. Most of my classmates were kind and willing to help others and myself. Yes there were many brooding pre-meds who were very serious about their GPA but I don’t think anybody purposefully lied to me when I asked them a question. As a pre-med, it is easy to have a “me against the world” mentality. You want to be above the class average for every test. You want to score better than the guy next to you. You even want to score better than your long-time friend in the class. From my observations, however, there are very few people with that mentality who actually succeed.

Even the most competitive pre-meds understand this principle of mutualism. It is very difficult to succeed alone. In any given class, if you don’t help others and, in turn, don’t receive others’ help, it becomes almost impossible to cover all the material thoroughly. Study groups prevent blind spots. So ironically, if you want to be a competitive applicant for medical school, you have to stop being so competitive. I’m not saying that this understanding was the main motivation that drove my fellow pre-meds to help me (I think most of them were really cool and good people), but it is important to know and implement mutualism if you want to succeed.

When I was at UCLA, I tried to help whoever asked me. If someone asked me to study with them, I usually would. The benefit for me was twofold. First, I had the opportunity to be a good neighbor/classmate. Second, assisting others often covered my own lack of understanding, allowing me to comprehend the class material more in depth.

I don’t think there are that many maliciously competitive pre-meds at any given school. The level of competition at each school varies depending on the class difficulty, grading policy and culture of that school. Nevertheless, no matter what school you attend, there will be a certain degree of competition and at the end of the day sabotaging one person does not really improve your odds of medical school acceptance. So don’t be that guy or girl who wishes ill on others. Their lack of success will not guarantee your own.

Edward Chang

Edward Chang is the Co-founder and Director of Operations of He graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is currently a urology resident at the University of Washington. He also attended UCLA as an undergraduate, graduating with a major in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. If you are interested in contributing to, please contact him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @EdwardChangMD and Prospective Doctor @ProspectiveDr.

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