How Illinois Helped Me Get Into Professional School

Hey guys! So, I was responding to a bunch of questions from my follow pre-meders out there about how attending Illinois has worked to my advantage in terms of professional school. Thanks to your insightful questions… it got me thinking… how has attending Illinois helped me get accepted into medical school?

An Active Community

At Illinois you are really in a campus community. I know one of my best friends from high school goes to school in the city, and her classmates live all throughout the city – some even commuting from home. At Illinois we are all in one place so it makes it easier to find your niche – both with your classmates in terms of study groups (a life saver for biochemistry) and outside the classroom for volunteering at the hospitals. You need to go where you will be the happiest, so you will have the motivation to study when some of your friends are going out every other day. You also need an environment where people also care about more things than school.

The Career Center

I wrote about how much the Career Center has helped me in a previous post. Definitely check it out if you would like to know, oh, the 20 or so reasons why the Career Center is awesome.

Tons of majors

I am sure you didn’t expect to see this one in here! But let me remind you, you can be any major and go to professional school. I have a friend who is a computer science major and he is going to one of the top law schools in the country. One of my other friends I met on the medical school interview trail majored in opera singing! You need to pick something in which you are passionate. Remember, you will be taking a lot of science courses if you are planning on applying to medical school anyway. Honestly, there is no doubt about it – you only get the most choices from a major university.

Challenging courses

To medical schools it not only matters that you received a high GPA in your prerequisites of biology, chemistry and physics, but also where you took these courses. For example, it is much more difficult to get a great grade in general chemistry at Illinois than at a smaller liberal arts college. Still, while some of you might be a little discouraged at this, trust me – the high level of critical thinking and true understanding of science provided by Illinois science classes really prepares you for the ultimate test – the MCAT.

Advisors who know they are helping some of the smartest young adults in the country

I can still remember my first couple of advising appointments. By being open about being unsure of my career choice, my advisors were able to steer me towards resources I wouldn’t have found on my own and gave me very valuable advice. In short, they treated me like an adult. Still, your personal advising session and all of your experiences with the resources I have mentioned above will all depend on one thing…

Keep in mind though, with or without professional school, it is what you make it.

That’s honestly it. Getting into medical school is your job and your job alone. Sure, professors and teaching assistants have office hours, but you need to sit down with a book and do the work by yourself to truly do well. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but in working with freshman for over a year some expect people to hold their hand through college. Those individuals are quickly left behind.

Yet remember, they aren’t going to hold your hand in medical school either. Illinois teaches you to be independent and provides you with the knowledge to find and use resources available to you when you need help.

Also remember that good grades and a high MCAT score is not good enough to get into medical school.

Everyone will have a high GPA and MCAT score.

What will make you stand out?

At Illinois there are plenty of options – you just have to be brave enough to go out there and find ways.

Believe me, medical schools will not only like you better but more importantly you will grow into an even better professional and person overall.


Please note that comments close after 90 days.


May 5, 2010, 1:32 am


Thank you so much for your blogs! I’m going to be a freshman in the fall, and I am interested in pre-med. However, I won’t be majoring in a science. I was wondering if it was difficult for you to fulfill your requirements for medical school and do you have any tips for what I can do as a freshman to start going down the pre-med road?




May 5, 2010, 1:53 pm

Hi Alessandra,

Thanks for taking the time to write all this information, it really helps people like me!!

I am currently in the midst deciding between Illinois (mainly because of the in-state tuition) and some major private schools (which all are uber expensive!!). My parents will pay whatever the cost is for whatever school I want to go to, but I really don’t want to waste their money either, plus whatever is saved can go toward medical school (if I get in one). This might be a tough question, but I have to make some tough decisions in the up coming weeks: Put cost aside, in your opinion, how is Illinois a better choice for an Pre-Med versus a selective private where all most all classes are small, 100% of courses are taught by a faculty member and have a high placement rate in professional schools? Through my own research, I found Illinois does have a significantly larger breath of courses than any of the privates I am considering but my biggest concern is the quality of them. Most state schools I visited it seemed like quantity over quality while the privates seemed more like quality over quantity. You seem to be very very pleased you went to Illinois, in your opinion what advantages would I have at Illinois over some of the privates (ex. Northwestern, Duke, Notre Dame etc…)?

Thank you!!



May 5, 2010, 5:46 pm

Hi Pia,

I would definitely head to the Career Center when you are down at Illinois for summer registration. They have so many resources for you on the exact class requirements you will need to get into medical school.

I believe I have written posts on both the course requirements and the career center, so definitely check them out!

I am not going to lie, taking biology and chemistry at the same time and doing well is not easy. If it was a lot more people would apply to medical school.

Also, keep in mind that no matter what your major is if you are planning to go into medical school your first three years of college will be science heavy.

It is difficult, but let me tell you, SO worth it.

I hope this helps, and good luck at Illinois! I will miss it. 🙁




May 5, 2010, 6:02 pm

Hey Kailey!

I am so glad my posts help you! This literally makes my day to hear and it is also fun to write, so I have the best of both worlds!

So first off, congrats on all of your acceptances. You have a big decision to make. Before you read my advice, keep in mind that of course I am biased.

Like you, I was conflicted about college choices. I was between Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. My logic was undergrad education really is a GENERAL education, no matter where you go. I also have the mentality that everything is what you make it, so the extra $20,000 a year my parents would be paying was honestly silly to me.

Here is the thing I didn’t think about or know when I came to Illinois….but we really are one of the top public schools in the country. You will be stunned with how smart your peers are when you get here – same with private schools.

I almost think that aside from being just as good academically (if not in my opinion even better, we have one of the top biology programs in the country… AKA my major kicks serious intellectual butt), we EXPONENTIALLY exceed privates in terms of outside the classroom opportunities.

This is important because every one of your peers (AKA competition) who will get an interview will have a high GPA and a high MCAT score. What will make you different? In my opinion it is easier to create yourself and to stand out in whatever issue you care about in a diverse, large community than with people who, honestly, came from mostly extremely privileged backgrounds.

I am not meaning to get sociological here, but it is the truth. I came from a high school were basically everyone has the same background (AKA upper middle class, white, Christian), and I wanted something different for my undergrad experience.

Lastly, I want to mention that I am attending Northwestern for medical school, which attests to the quality of an education from Illinois. Obviously, I was the one who put the work in, but the professors I have had are amazing. Just like in private institutions, they are there to build a relationship with if you make the effort.

Essentially, I think with professional education rankings matter so much more (keep in mind Illinois is still VERY highly ranked). It affects how you are taught, your board scores, and where you place in residency. When you are interviewing for medical school however, most interviewers honestly don’t know where you went to undergrad. It just really doesn’t matter if you made it through the GPA/MCAT screening.

Wow – I wrote more than I thought, but I hope this helps!

Good luck no matter what you decide!




May 7, 2010, 1:49 pm


thanks for taking the time to write, I really appreciate it!!

Congratulations on Feinburg!!, (my parents both did there MDs there and thats where they meet for the first time during their m1 orientation!! it wasn’t called Feinburg back then, but a special school for our family of course).

I will take what you said and keep it in mind, I have been “summoned” to Notre Dame one more time and after that visit I will make that really difficult decision of choosing my college of choice. Again thank you for time. Again congratulations on your Illinois graduation and Northwestern admission!!




May 7, 2010, 2:25 pm

Hey Alessandra,

I just want to tell you that your blogs are amazing because they offer me a view into the life of a college student.

I wanted to ask you what you personally thought was the most difficult pre med class you took?—And what tips do you have to succeed in this class?(Im guessing it’s going to be Orgo because thats what i hear from other pre meds lol)



May 8, 2010, 11:40 am

Hi Alessandra

What do you think about being a merit student? Do graduate schools like to see merit students? Is there more worked involved with being a merit student?


Sphynx Cat

May 19, 2010, 12:57 am

Thanks Alessandra. This is an interesting post. My niece graduated from U of I. It’s really an outstanding school.

Sphynx Cat


home and family

July 11, 2010, 1:34 am

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July 15, 2010, 1:09 pm

Hey Alessandra,
Thanks for this post about how you got into med school from Illinois. I especially like the part about pursuing advisors as well as the ending part where you mention that lots of people will have high GPAs and high MCAT scores. It really is true that you have to know what sets you apart from the other applicants in order to get into professional school or grad school. This really is the linchpin, and I’m glad to hear you were successful with your admissions! Best of luck!

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