Best Medical Schools: Harvard Medical School vs. USyd Medicine
Are you ready for the ultimate medical school showdown?
Buckle your seatbelt because it’s going to be a wild ride!
But each school is great for different reasons... How do they compare? And who comes out on top?
We'll compare them on the following criteria:
- The Basics
- Admissions Process
- Course Structure
- Uni Experience
- Life After Med School
- Job Opportunities
Put down your bets and let’s get started!
Round 1: The Basics
First up, we gotta see how they compare on a base level.
Rankings (based on QS World University Rankings)
Entrance Exam (MCAT/GAMSAT)
Harvard: MCAT: 517, GAMSAT: N/A
USyd: MCAT: 500 minimum, GAMSAT: Minimum score of 50 in each section
Harvard: 3.93 average
USyd: Not currently used to rank students but may be in the future; however, you need at least a 2.7 (out of 4.0) to be considered
USyd: Exact figure not known, but understood to be higher
Number of Students
Harvard: 1,571 (MD+PhD)
USyd: 2,100 (undergrad pathway and postgrad)
Harvard: 4 years full time for Doctor of Medicine degree
USyd: 4 years full time for Doctor of Medicine degree
Tuition (not including living fees)
Harvard: $58,050 USD a year
USyd: Commonwealth Supported Students (Aus citizens only): $8,593 USD a year; Domestic Students (not eligible for Commonwealth Supported Place): $50,614 USD a year; International Students: $59,639 USD a year
If you’re keen on going to the number one medical school in the world, have outrageously high MCAT scores, and a lot of money, Harvard Medical School (HMS) is your best bet.
However, if a top 15 uni is good enough for you and your grades are a little bit lower, USyd is the place for you... especially if you’re eligible for government supported tuition!
Round 2: Admissions Process
In the US, medicine can only be studied at postgraduate level, which means you’ll need to complete an undergraduate degree before med school.
Some unis offer a pre-med undergraduate degree but you can study anything you wish! Just keep in mind that you need to meet the course prerequisites, which include:
- 1 year of biology with lab experience
- 2 years of chemistry (four courses including inorganic and organic chem as well as biochem) with lab experience
- 1 year of physics, lab experience not required
- 1 year of maths including calculus and statistics
- 1 year of writing
Once you complete a Bachelor’s degree and sit the MCAT, you can apply for medical school!
The HMS timeline is as follows:
May: AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) application opens
July: HMS secondary application opens
September: Interviews start
October 16: Final deadline for AMCAS
October 23: Final deadline for HMS secondary application
Early March: Decisions sent
April 30: Last day to pick a school
When you apply you need to choose either the MD Pathways track or the Health Science and Technology (HST) track or both. There’s also an option to complete an MD double degree program. I’ll tell you more about these tracks later!
You are assessed based on your:
- GPA/academic records
- Letters of evaluation (up to 6, two from science professors, one from a non-science professor and all research supervisors)
- Extracurricular activities
- Summer jobs/internships
- Life experiences
- Experiences in the health world
Usually, there are two requested (not required) 4,000 character essays and one additional essay if you want to enter the HST track. Typical topics are about what you’ve done since graduation and any important aspects about your personal background you wish to share with the admissions team.
After the admissions team reviews your application, they may invite you to interview in Boston.
The Pathways interviews include exploring the HMS campus and Longwood medical area. You’re also encouraged to attend classes and speak with current students. Of course, you’ll also have a one-on-one interview with a member of the Committee on Admissions.
As you know, the acceptance rate for HMS is extremely low so you’ll need to crush your application and interview in order to get in.
Like Harvard, USyd allows you to study any undergraduate subject you want before going to medical school. However, it does offer an undergraduate pathway via the Double Degree Medicine Program (DDMP), which guarantees you entry into the MD provided you keep your grades up!
In order to be admitted to the DDMP straight out of school, only a perfect ATAR of 99.95 will do, making it the most competitive in Australia. In fact, there are only 30 domestic and 10 international places available each year. You’ll also need to complete a written assignment and take part in a panel discussion.
The best part? If you get accepted and meet all of the ongoing requirements during your undergraduate degree, you won’t need to sit the GAMSAT or be assessed again before medical school!
As for the standard graduate entry Doctor of Medicine (MD) program, you’ll need a valid Bachelor’s degree and a GAMSAT or MCAT score.
The admissions officers also take into account your:
- Undergraduate GPA
- Relevant work experience
- English language proficiency (transcripts or IELTS/TOEFL results)
- Short written questions (DDMP)
As a domestic applicant, you need to submit an application for Qualifications Assessment Service (QAS) through the Universities Admission Centre (UAC) and then submit an online MD application and supplementary form. If you meet the projected minimum average GAMSAT cut-off (as determined by the applicant pool), you’ll be invited to complete an online confirmation page. Finally, if you meet the actual average GAMSAT cut-off score, you’ll be invited to interview.
P.S. If you’re an international applicant, you do not need to submit the QAS through the UAC. You only need to submit an MD application and supplementary form. Woohoo!
The application timeline is as follows:
- Early April: QAS applications open
- Mid-May: Online domestic applications open
- Mid-June: Both the QAS and online domestic applications close
- Early August: Online confirmation pages sent
- Mid-August: Interview invitations sent
- August-September: Multiple Mini Interview rounds
- Mid-late October to January: Offers made
USyd uses the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) model to decide whether or not you’re good enough to get accepted.
This involves you rotating around stations and speaking to different interview panels who have no background knowledge about you. They’ll assess your:
- Communication skills
- Sense of caring, empathy and sensitivity
- Ability to make effective decisions
- Teamwork skills
- Appreciation of medicine
- Sense of motivation
The MMI can be very intimidating but if you crush it, you’re pretty much guaranteed a spot!
The admissions processes are pretty similar but if you aren’t into writing essays and think you'll have more luck with your people skills in the MMI, go with USyd.
If you don’t mind writing essays and prefer Harvard’s more holistic admissions process, HMS is your winner.
Round 3: Course Structure
First up, Pathways! Pathways is what HMS calls its MD curriculum.
The timeline of your pathway (haha, good one) is as follows:
Year I: All about the foundations of medicine including anatomy, histology, biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, fundamental social and population sciences, pharmacologic principles, genetics, immunology and more. You’ll also learn the fundamentals of communicating with patients, conducting a physical exam and how to work in a clinical team.
Year II: Time to get your hands dirty! The Principal Clinical Experience (PCE) is 12 months long and consists of 4-12 week clerkship rotations at a hospital coupled with coursework about primary care, clinical science case conferences, mentoring and lots more fun topics!
Year III and IV: Your next two years are filled with advanced courses that take you deeper into the type of medicine you’re interested in practicing.
There’s also an optional fifth year program available, which allows you to get another degree, take an extra year of classes or work on a research project.
If you’re interested in the crossroads between medicine and technology, HMS offers a collaborative program between Harvard and MIT called Health Science and Technology, to help you solve global health problems.
Year I and II: Your first two years are consist of very rigorous classes in molecular biology, engineering and physical sciences. The goal is to make you the best physician-scientist possible. You’ll take classes at both MIT and HMS.
Anchoring Clinical Experience (ACE): A two month clerkship between your second and third year.
Year III: Guess what! You also get a 12 month PCE that’s basically the same as the Pathways PCE.
Year IV: Time for more class!
Research and Thesis Requirement: You are required to be involved in independent research and are encouraged to take a fifth year to spend more time on research. You must also complete a thesis.
You can also choose to do a dual degree such as medicine and business.
USyd prides itself on turning you into a ready-to-practise doctor with fantastic clinical skills and research experience.
Here’s the basic MD timeline:
Year I: Classes, classes and more classes! Think: musculoskeletal science, respiratory sciences, cardiovascular sciences and more! You’ll also spend one day a week at your hospital.
Year II:_ More classes and one day a week at your hospital.
Year III and IV: In both years you’ll go through eight week terms through blocks such as Medicine, Surgery, Child Health, Critical Care etc. Your last year also starts with an elective term project and end with a pre-intern term. You can take your elective term abroad. Not to mention, you’ll also spend the majority of your time at your hospital.
Research/Capstone Project: You also need to complete research or a project ending with a 2,500 word report that is good enough to be in a peer-reviewed journal.
Both unis are very similar in terms of coursework but it really depends on your interests.
Harvard’s collaboration with MIT is a fantastic option if you’re interested in health science but USyd is a very solid MD option.
It truly depends on you.
Round 4: Uni Experience
Medical school isn’t all business! You’re allowed to have fun along the way too!
HMS is located in Boston, Massachusetts, one of the most well-educated (and fun) towns in the entire US!
The weather sucks, i.e. it’s really hot and humid in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. That being said, the city is FULL of universities so you’ll always be able to find a good time.
As a medical student, you’ll have access to some of the top hospitals in the world (Massachussetts General Hospital is ranked seventh) and of course, the top education at HMS.
P.S. Don’t forget to go to at least one baseball game. Go Red Sox!
USyd in located in Sydney, Australia.
Think beaches, flat whites, and smashed avo on toast... yum!
The weather is fantastic and almost every day is a good beach day.
Typical activities (outside of school) include surfing, shopping and cuddling with koalas!
You’ll have fun in either city but if you hate the snow, USyd is the place for you!
Round 5: Life After Medical School
Like law school, you don’t become a doctor right after graduation… far from it.
After you graduate, you’ll most likely complete an internship. The one-year program is the minimum training requirement you need in order to get a general practice license. You might also opt to do a rotating internship that isn’t as specific.
After your internship (or in some cases, instead of), you’ll take part in a residency. Your residency can range from three to seven years depending on your specialisation.
If your area of interest is highly specialised such as endocrinology, oncology or pediatric surgery, you may also need to take part of a fellowship which can take another one to three years.
Finally, you’ll need to pass a board certification exam either with a written or practical test.
Basically, you’ll spend at least four years in undergrad, at least four years in med school and then anywhere between three to eleven years training!
No one said the road to becoming a doctor was a short one!
On the other hand, you can also go into healthcare consulting, management, administration, pharmaceutical work or a load of other career paths that don’t require you to actually be a doctor.
After medical school at USyd, you also need complete a year long internship, usually at a public hospital during which you’ll learn emergency medical care, patient care, surgery among other medical professions .
Then comes your Residency program that can be anywhere from one to four years before you get accepted to a speciality program.
Then comes your Registrar program… UGH!
After you’re accepted to a speciality training program you’ll enter the registrar program, which can last between one to four years.
Depending on your speciality, you may also take on a fellowship.
So you’ll spend three years in undergrad, four years in med school and then a million years training before you become a doctor... but when it happens, it’ll be great!
Becoming a doctor is a loooooooong journey regardless of where you study.
The amount of time it takes you to get certified depends on what you choose to specialise in.
Sorry, once again the winner depends on your preferences!
Round 6: Career Opportunities
Since HMS is the number one medical school in the world, your job opportunities are endless!
You could become a pediatrician and work with children, work your way up to the chief of surgery at a major hospital or even work overseas through [Doctors Without Borders](http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/]!
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and do something completely different. Take your education and solve major world problems such as cancer or develop an app to make people's’ hospital experience better.
Job prospects at the USyd are quite similar to Harvard’s!
You can do almost anything with a medical degree from working a hospital to doing research in a lab.
The world is your oyster so put your degree to good use!
Working in the medical profession is a pretty good way to ensure that you’ll always have a great paying job.
Both Harvard and USyd are globally recognised medical schools; you should have no problem ever getting a job with a degree from one of these prestigious institutions.
What if I told you that you could get the best of both unis???
If you're really struggling, you don't actually have to choose between these two fantastic universities... well, sort of.
You could go to Harvard for an undergrad degree and then USyd for med school!
Bam! Life changed.
You’ll get all of the benefits of a US university and of Boston (i.e. top notch professors, a brand name university and the Red Sox) plus a fantastic medical education (with Commonwealth supported tuition if you're local) at USyd!
See! You can have your cake and eat it too, no matter what your mum says!
Starting your application for the University of Chicago? Learn how Max tackled his personal statement and gained admission to one of the world's top colleges
Writing your personal statement? Hear from University of Chicago accepted student, Chris, on how he got inspiration for his essays.
Writing your personal statement? Learn how recent UPenn admit, Chris, was able to make all 650 words count
Recent UPenn admit, Chris, reveals how he tackled the strategy for his personal statement and landed on the perfect topic to wow admissions officers.