Pros and Cons of Attending Baylor College of Medicine

Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), the beloved institution responsible for my medical education, has proven to be an amazing place indeed. Many prospective students as well as current interviewees face a point in their application process where they must decide why one school is better than another, and since I’ve now finished 1/3rd of my preclinical studies at BCM, I think some of my readership will find a list of pros and cons to attending Baylor Med pretty useful. 🙂

Pros

  • Curriculum
    • Labs are built into the classroom time rather than having them in the afternoon
    • Lectures only last from 8 AM – noon
    • Only two required courses outside of lab/lecture
    • Awesome electives which cater to all sorts of interests
    • Integrated, organ-based approach
    • Pre-clinicals last 18 months (as oppose to 24) and are on a pass/fail (albeit ranked) system.
    • You really can’t appreciate the amount of time you’re not in class until you’re a student.
  • People
    • My classmates have worked at the NIH, published in journals, worked internationally for non-profit groups, and invented gadgets; however, we tend to also be some of the most laid back students I’ve come across.
    • Because of the way you get divided into small groups starting from orientation, there are plenty of student, faculty, and non-faculty mentors you have the opportunity to know.
    • Everyone is extremely helpful and there’s a collaborative spirit unlike any other. Upperclassmen are constantly inundating MS-1’s with advice and professors are always open to address questions/concerns about school or life.
  • Cost
    • Houston has practically every amenity one could ever need, and the cost of living (especially food) is relatively cheap compared to other large cities around the nation.
    • Baylor Med has the lowest average student debt upon graduation compared to any other private medical school in the nation.

Cons

  • Exam grades
    • Since test writers tap into a pool of questions assembled over the years, we don’t get to see our exams unless we schedule a special session to do so.
  • Parking
    • Now this really isn’t BCM’s fault, nor does it affect contract parkers like me, but parking in the Texas Medical Center can be pretty tough at times.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What options do students have for breakfast/lunch?
    • Luby’s (gotta love those breakfast tacos/migas) and Starbucks (hey, you’re a med student) are on site. The Texas Medical Center’s commons is less than five minutes away which is essentially a food court with much more variety. If worst comes to worst and you find yourself studying at Baylor around 2 AM, Ben Taub has a McDonald’s that’s open almost 24/7. I may or may not be guilty of exploiting this wonderful fact before exams. 😉
  • Does BCM have a gym?
    • Yes and no. Although there’s a gym on site (more specifically, on top of garage 6), many students prefer UT Houston’s recreational center due to its vastly superior amenities and relatively close proximity. Plus, since you have to pay for membership at either one, might as well put your money in a better gym. Personally, I only use Baylor’s gym because it has an indoor basketball court while UT Houston’s doesn’t.
  • As an out-of-state (OOS) resident, is it possible to ever claim in-state tuition?
    • Absolutely! Many OOS students purchase property (ie, a condo), so they can be considered an in-state student beginning in their second year. As if BCM’s tuition wasn’t low enough to begin with. 😉
  • Is there a second look weekend for accepted applicants?
    • Not at this point. You’ll have to schedule a private tour and meeting with the dean by calling admissions.
  • Will Baylor Med’s tuition go up if/when they merge with Rice University?
    • No. Baylor Med has an agreement with the state of Texas to educate a certain number of doctors each year at a fixed tuition. Our tuition will remain the lowest in the nation. 🙂
  • Do Macs work on Baylor’s network?
    • Macs will work with everything on the BCM network (since it’s all Internet based) with the exception of Enounce, a plugin to help you speed up and slow down RealPlayer video streams (helpful when reviewing for exams or trying to catch up on lectures you’ve missed).
  • What does parking cost?
    • I can only talk about contract parking, which is probably the most expensive parking option, since I currently have it. It’s ~$175 per month. You can read more about it on the Texas Medical Center’s website. There are other options like “park and ride” (parking at a remote lot and taking a shuttle in). There’s also free parking in front of Baylor after 6 PM.
  • Where do most people live?
    • The overwhelming majority of my classmates live within five miles of Baylor Med at various apartments/condos. Fortunately, transportation throughout the medical center reaches out to most of these complexes through the Metro Light Rail, bus, and/or shuttle, so traveling to and from school is convenient. Some popular places include Lanesborough, Greenbriar, and Valencia.
  • As a first year, what is the clinical exposure like? What are you allowed to do? Are there any free, student-run clinics that you can volunteer at?
    • The Patient, Physician, and Society (PPS) course you’re required to take matches you with a preceptor, a physician in the community who has elected to take on a medical student to practice his/her skills on real patients, starting in your first month. In addition, the Emergency Medicine Interest Group (EMIG) has a program (for work-study, if you qualify, or just volunteering) with Ben Taub General Hospital for students to work in the emergency center. Many of my classmates have taken advantage of this opportunity to draw blood, start IVs, start EKGs, suture, etc. BCM students also volunteer at the HOMES clinic.

Useful Links:

Please leave a comment if you’d like a specific question(s) answered! 🙂

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8 Comments
  1. ruby says

    Hi ! I’m not looking to attend Baylor anytime soon for the fact that I’m only in 8th grade at the moment. However Baylor Med is definitely top on my list of collages to attend. I just wanted to ask, Is Baylor Med a good collage to help achieve my goal and become a heart surgeon ?

    1. Rishi says

      Hey Ruby, thanks for the question! Baylor Med has arguably one of the strongest heritages when it comes to cardiothoracic surgery, and it remains a fantastic institution to do your medical training. Definitely consider it when the time comes to apply!

      On a side note, since you’re still in grade school, keep in mind that the road to becoming a heart surgeon is very long and difficult. Many sacrifices will have to be made for a very long time. Study hard, don’t get distracted, and keep your goal in mind. Best of luck to you! 🙂

  2. Nicole says

    Do you think one would need a car in Houston? Is it possible to just walk or bike around since everything’s in the TX Medical Center? A student at UT Houston told me it’s feasible to get where you need to go without a car, esp. as a first/second year med student- what are your experiences?
    btw, thanks for having this blog- it’s very insightful! 🙂

    1. Rishi says

      Personally, I think having a car in Houston is an absolute must. The city has so much to offer, but everything tends to be spread out (outside of walking distance). As far as needing a car strictly for medical school, I don’t think it’s necessary, but I’d imagine shopping for groceries and the like would be significantly easier. As a first year at BCM, you won’t really need to go outside of the main building in the first place (except for your preceptor, but if you indicate that you don’t have a car, you’ll probably end up at the Baylor Clinic – well within range).

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  3. BCMMSIII says

    I do have to correct one thing in your post where you say:

    Students going out for the not-so-competitive residencies (psychiatry, pediatrics, etc.) just need to “pass.” Since these students will be more laid back, it’ll reserve the top class spots for those who really need them. In other words, the plastic surgeons and neurosurgeons in the class won’t be competing against their entire class for AOA and other distinctions… just a fraction. At least this is how I try to justify it, because in all honesty, the fact that we’re “pass/fail” has tremendously reduced the “I’m going to fail” mentality for everyone.

    AOA is more than just whether you are going for a competitive residency. It’s a marker of academic achievement and not reserved just for those going for Neurosurgery or Plastic Surgery. It’s like an NHS at medical school. It not an assurance of even getting an interview. I know upperclassman who were not AOA and got interviews at some places that AOA candidates didn’t. One may want to go for Pediatrics, but it’s the difference between going to UPenn’s Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia vs. an unknown community hospital in Pediatrics.

    You are still competing against your entire class. The only thing is it is masked on your transcript. So writing someone off as “Oh, you’re going for Psychiatry so you don’t need AOA,” is wrong. Really by BCM going to a P or F only system, it puts a lot more pressure for someone to be an AOA candidate and get a high board score (vs. with before, you could actually get into AOA, if you did really well on your transcript, and happened to not do so well on Step 1). The new system actually makes it easier on slackers, and harder on those at the very top.

    1. Rishi says

      Thank you so much for the clarification! I admit that my notion of the pass/fail system and AOA’s place is rather juvenile, but I’ve linked to your comment in the original post so others can be sure to read it. 🙂

  4. Emily says

    Hi, I’m an OOS (NYC actually) applicant applying to matriculate 2011 and I was already in love with baylor but now I’m obsessed considering you have two cons on that list and they’re not really relevant to me. Any thoughts on what it’s like to be from the northeast down there/how to get in from up here?! THANKS!

    1. Rishi says

      Thanks for the comment, Emily! While there’s no magic recipe for getting into medical school, it should be noted that pre-meds need to focus on acquiring unique life experiences to discuss at interviews and on the actual application. These experiences can be in anything – research, community service, international work/studies, etc. As an OOS applicant, you’re at a slight disadvantage since BCM fills ~30% of each class with non-Texas residents, but once you’re in, you’re in. 🙂

      Saying that Houston is a booming urban center may be a bit of an understatement, but since you’re from NYC, the transition shouldn’t be too drastic. Like NYC, the traffic is horrible, the population is infused with cultures from all over the world, and the food is great. Unlike NYC, the cost of living in Houston is much cheaper. 😀

      If you have any specific questions, feel free to drop me a line!

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