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What Are the Best Pre-Med Majors?
Choosing a college can be stressful for many students. Then, add on choosing a major, and students might feel overwhelmed. For students who decide to take the pre-med route, some majors might be better for them than others. So, let’s talk today about how you can choose the best pre-med major and what things you should be considering.
What to consider
In order to determine the best pre med majors, it’s best that we get into it by starting off with a look at what medical schools care about. A student’s GPA, MCAT score, and major are very important when applying to medical schools. There will be other things, such as your application essay and interview as well, but the main things will be the three we just mentioned.
Remember, you’ll want to choose a major that will help support you in all those areas. That’s a lot to ask from a major! But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, rather, it means you’ll need to put thought into your planning.
There are certainly some misconceptions surrounding the idea of medical school and medical students. Some people think that all medical students are naturally talented students with excellent grades, or that every student chooses a science major for undergrad.
So, before we look at specific majors, let’s make sure we’re starting with all the right information by discussing a few common misconceptions.
“Non-science majors aren’t worth it”
One myth you may have heard about pre-med majors is that they must be “science based.” That, however, isn’t true! Medical schools do not require that you complete a science curriculum to be admitted to their programs.
Maybe you are asking, “won’t a non-science degree leave me unprepared for medical school and looking like a rather non-competitive candidate?” It’s true that pursuing a non-science major may leave you slightly less prepared than your peers in some areas.
For the MCAT, you may have to spend a little more time studying and preparing, but if you are aware of that ahead of time, it shouldn’t be a hindrance to you. In fact, the average MCAT score for medical school applicants in the 2021-2022 school year was higher for humanities majors than for biological sciences majors.
“You must have a natural aptitude for science”
Again, it’s not true that you must have a natural gift for all things science to apply to medical school. Some students may even struggle greatly with things like chemistry and anatomy.
Just because something takes a little more effort for you doesn’t mean it isn’t the right path for you. Some students have to take advantage of tutoring hours and peer mentoring a bit more, but that isn’t a negative thing. In fact, it might even make you a more well-rounded student!
“Your major matters more than GPA or your MCAT score”
Finally, you may have heard that your major is what is most important in medical school applications. However, that also is not true. Saying which is most important, GPA, MCAT score, or major, is a bit like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg? There isn’t one thing that will outweigh all the others. All three of these things will work together to paint a whole picture of who you are as a student.
Check out next: How to get into medical school with a low GPA?
Choosing what’s right for you
All right, now let’s get back to the major stuff! There can be a tendency when looking at majors in college, to choose the thing that you think is going to look the best on future applications. But that really shouldn’t be your motivation for choosing a major. Doing this can lead you into a major that you don’t enjoy and may affect your grades, mental health, and overall well-being negatively. As a first step, you should answer a few questions.
Before you choose a major, ask…
- What did you enjoy studying most in high school?
- Does the college you are attending, or plan to attend, offer a variety of majors you think you may enjoy?
- Are there majors that you feel strongly against or for studying in college?
Hopefully, those questions were enough to get your thoughts going about what it is you will enjoy studying. It’s important to remember that there is no one major that is inherently better than the other. There is simply the major that is the best fit for you.
Once you choose a few possible majors, use the questions below to further explore how you feel about them.
After you’ve chosen a major, ask…
- Do I feel reasonably confident that I could see myself studying this subject for the next few years?
- Am I choosing this major for myself or for others?
- Do I think this major will help prepare me for my future goals?
Every major will have a class or two that you are either not excited to study or that will be extra difficult. Don’t let that deter you from choosing a specific major. Difficult classes are part of college and certainly a part of medical school!
Let’s look at what some of the most common pre med majors are. Perhaps you’ve heard of these areas, but you may not understand what classes go along with each of them. Maybe you also wonder how compatible each of them is with a pre-med curriculum. While medical schools don’t require you to major in something specific, they will still require a list of classes that must be completed before you apply. Most students can complete these while pursuing their undergraduate degrees. It will be easier to fit them all in for some majors than others.
Related: Scholarships360’s major guides
Biological or physical science
All the courses above are just a few examples of classes you may find in a biological or physical science degree. Physical science majors will focus more on earth sciences like physics, geology, and astronomy. Biological science majors will focus more on things like chemistry, biology, and anatomy courses. These degrees are a great choice for pre-med majors, as they will overlap heavily with the classes you will need for medical school.
Math and statistics
- Data analytics
Math may not have been one of your first thoughts for a pre-med major. However, math and statistics majors tend to be very strong candidates for medical school. If this is a degree that interests you, it is certainly a feasible option!
Social science majors study a wide array of classes that explore human behavior and how we interact with each other and our environment. While some of the courses will cover some pre-med requirements, you will most likely need to be a bit more strategic with your planning.
- Foreign language
A humanities degree can be a great option for pre-med students. While it will require you to be much more strategic with your planning, and potentially enroll in one or two summer semesters, it certainly will help provide you with a more well-rounded foundation that your peers in science may not have.
Switching majors as a pre-med major
Switching majors may sound scary, but rest assured that doing so is common. However, that doesn’t mean you should feel free to switch your major whenever you feel like it. There are things you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re considering switching majors.
The first thing to note is that switching majors can affect your graduation timeline. Graduating within four years is not an absolute must, but it is something to consider. It’s also worth noting that medical schools will have copies of your college transcripts. If you choose to start off in a difficult major and then switch because your GPA dropped and you couldn’t handle the course work, they will be able to see that. It’s best to keep up steady grades and a consistent GPA than it is to switch from major to major and have a fluctuating GPA.
Sometimes it’s best to switch majors…
Let’s look at a hypothetical situation about picking a major. Say that you decide you want to declare chemistry as your major. You sort of liked it in high school, but mostly you think it will look great when you are applying to med schools.
You start off with a heavy load of chemistry courses and electives, but after some time, they start to weigh you down. Your grades start to drop, and you find yourself not enjoying school anymore.
If this happens, that’s okay. Switching your major is probably what you need to do, but if this can be avoided, that’s even better!
So, how could you avoid the above scenario?
Know what your school has to offer
It’s important to know the majors and minors your school offers. Could you have chosen to major in something less academically demanding and pursued a minor in chemistry instead?
If you don’t know what your school offers, you won’t have all the information you need. Most colleges offer several degrees with similar core courses but varying specialized courses that differentiate them. Meaning, there may be majors that include chemistry, but also explore other areas of science. Knowing what your school offers is key to starting this process.
Recognize what you’re capable of
The next step is recognizing what you’re capable of doing. It may be that you did really enjoy chemistry in high school, but you also remember having to study every day for it. That’s okay, but remember, you should be realistic about having to balance college academics and student life.
Studying every day for multiple hours on end may not be possible with a full schedule of classes and extracurriculars. If you’re concerned about a specific major being too much, speak with your advisor and peers to ask for their thoughts.
When you’re just starting out at college, it is entirely acceptable to not declare your major immediately. Take your time exploring classes and find out what you enjoy spending your time studying.
While you’re registering for classes, explore all kinds of subjects and read the descriptions of various courses. Even if a course doesn’t fit in your schedule, you can make a note of it for future semesters.
If any of the classes you noted have large lectures, go and sit in on a few of them. If it’s a smaller course, email the professor and ask if they would be willing to allow you to sit in on their class. Often, professors are happy to speak with students about their classes and help them find what’s right for them.
From there you can get a taste of the material and see how it resonates, or doesn’t resonate, with you. College is about finding what works for you. It can take time. So, don’t get discouraged by the process!
By now your head is probably swimming with the words biology, medical school, and major. So, let’s wrap up with two more quick thoughts about the best pre med majors and call it a day!
Consistency is key
As we mentioned before, a steady GPA and grades tells a medical school board a lot about you as a student. Medical schools want to see that you are a consistent and dedicated student. A major that gives you the ability to do this will serve you best! So, the best pre med majors are ones that you are talented in and that allow you to succeed.
More than your major
While academics are certainly an important part of medical school and everything leading up to it, they are not the only thing. As we’ve mentioned before in this article, being a doctor is also about being a well-rounded person.
Medical schools want to see that you took part in things outside academics. Clubs, volunteering, and working are all examples of things they might ask you about. So, while your major is important, it’s also important that you spend time learning about other things as well.
Further reading: How to pick a major