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In College


Completing Course Requirements


One of the most important components of the application is the transcript, and the required course completion it represents. Medical schools vary in the courses they require, making it essential to review individual MSAR profiles to decide what courses to take or to determine eligibility to apply to a school. However, there are several subjects expected or required by most medical schools, including a year of general chemistry, a year of biology, a year of physics, a year of organic chemistry, biochemistry, English, humanities, and mathematics (usually calculus and statistics) (1). These courses can be completed at any college; however, medical school admissions officers often look down on students who complete their requirements at a community college instead of the college they usually attend or a similar institution (2).

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Timing of Requirements:

Medical schools also vary with respect to when they expect the requirements to be completed. Some schools allow the student to complete the requirements at any point before they attend the school. Some do not consider applicants who have not already completed their requirements before submitting their application. It is important to be aware that a school’s expectations with regards to requirement completion may differ from their stated MSAR deadline, and it may be a good idea to speak with someone personally at various schools before applying if you have not finished your requirements. Many students prefer to finish as many of the courses as possible before taking the MCAT. This lessens the amount of new information they will have to learn before the MCAT and enables them to avoid difficulties with unstated requirement deadline preferences. However, this is not always possible, especially for students who realize they are interested in medicine late in their careers or who attempt to balance their requirements with non-traditional majors.

Taking Time Off During College

Consider stopping out one more quarters as an undergraduate. This can restore your vigor, and improve your extra-curricular activities at the same time. There are also many ways to continue academic work even though you have "stopped out." Work on a honors thesis, directed, re search, readings, outreach projects, intern ships, etc. The happiest pre-meds I know are those that weaved an extra year off through their undergraduate years and used this time meaning fully. There is little downside to taking an extra year in school to expand your educational and life experiences, improve your application, and avoid burnout. Medical school is harder than college, and residency is harder still. If you are burnt out going in to medical school, it can rob from the experience.

–Dr. Michael McCullough

Post baccalaureate programs:

For those who do not complete their requirements during a traditional undergraduate career, there are post baccalaureate programs, which range in length and purpose. Some of these are meant to supplement a premedical college record with improved grades or missing classes, while others provide a condensed curriculum enabling the student to complete all of the required classes in several years. More information about individual programs can be found here and about post-bacc programs in general, check out our After College page here.

  1. http://www.princetonreview.com/medical/positioning-yourself-for-med-school.aspx
  2. http://www.studentdoctor.net/2010/05/premedical-preparation/


Choosing a Major

While many students choose to major in a field, usually scientific, that covers many of the medical school requirements, other students may choose to major in a field that does not. The following provides more information on the choice to pursue a non-science major.

Choosing a major is one of the most difficult decisions confronting pre-med students at the university level. It is common for students to believe that a science major is the most common route of a pre-med but a science major is similar to any other major: it has its pros and cons, and the decision should be made on a case-by-case basis. It is not possible to say that a science major is more advantageous than a non-science major, and vice versa. Colleges typically have a plethora of options, so some students may find it more fitting to major in humanities while completing the science requirements.

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A major advantage of a non-science major is the flexibility it offers. These majors can range anywhere from Feminist Studies to Political Science. This provides pre-med students the opportunity to choose from something they truly enjoy, while still taking the necessary science classes for medical school. In this way, students will not limit their education to science courses and will have the opportunity to be experts in more than one field. Majoring in something other than the science can be a rewarding experience, as it does not limit a student to a science-based education [1].  But this is where the situation must be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Most students choosing to do premed choose so because of their love for the sciences, and if this is the case, then a major in Biology or Chemistry is the best way to go.

But choosing to be a non-science major does have a few drawbacks. The first is that being in the field of science provides students with an opportunity to get to know staff and work with them. Research is an important part of applying to medical school. The most important thing to remember when looking for research is to find something that is of interest to you [2].  Secondly, there are students who feel that certain biology courses help students better prepare for the MCAT, but this does not necessarily mean you have to major in biology to take these courses. The general science requirements provide sufficient preparation in order to succeed on the MCAT [3].

There are people who choose to do premed, but are not particularly fond of the sciences. People choose the premed path for a number of reasons, many of which are unrelated to science. This is why medical schools do not require a major in Biology when applying. Majoring in biology does not make a student more fit to be a doctor than does a major in History, for example. The requirements for medical school are completed in either case. In fact, statistics show that non-science majors have acceptance rates as high as science majors, and in some cases even higher. Knox College published the national acceptance rates for science as well as non-science majors. The statistics show that non-science majors are accepted as often, if not more so, than science majors [4]. 

There is also the fear that doing a non-science major might affect the chances of getting into medical school. However this is not true. In fact there are medical school programs that offer programs specifically for humanities majors. One example is the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, which encourages students to pursue a path in the humanities and rewards these efforts by offering an entire program catered for humanities majors [5]. 

Choosing a non-science major has become a lot more common than it was in the past, and it will likely continue to grow. This along with the many other opportunities available for students on the pre-med track should give an insight into the possibility of choosing a non-science major.

  1. http://tiny.cc/zvvgl
  2. http://tiny.cc/njlt9
  3. http://tiny.cc/gubc4
  4. http://tiny.cc/ua4em
  5. http://tiny.cc/kh6af

Contact PCPR

General Contact:
Vy Tran

Mailing Address:

Premedical Career Pathway Research 
PO Box 19456
Stanford, CA 94309 

Phone/Fax: 626-487-6797

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