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Pre Med Requirements: Classes You Need for Medical School
Thinking of pursuing a career in medicine? Becoming a doctor is a very popular career choice, as it’s a highly lucrative and rewarding path. If you have dreams of going to medical school and becoming a physician, you may be wondering what it takes. We’ll discuss everything you need to know about pre-med requirements and applying to med school.
Also see: How to attend medical school for free
What is pre-med?
Pre-med is the term used by undergraduate students who plan to attend medical school and are taking the required courses. A common misconception is that pre-med is a major, but it’s actually a track. This means you can major in anything you’d like, as long as you complete the courses required for medical school. So you could be a Spanish major or an Economics major and be pre-med as long as you’re on track to attend medical school after graduation. However, there are certain majors that are popular among pre-med students because the required courses overlap with pre-med courses. These are some of the most popular pre-med majors:
- Human Biology
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to apply to medical school, so the pre-med track takes four years to complete for most students.
Related: Top nursing school scholarships
What are the pre-med course requirements?
Medical schools will only consider applicants who have completed certain courses during their undergrad years. Most medical schools require the following courses, without exception:
- Biology – 2 semesters with lab
- Physics – 2 semesters with lab
- General chemistry – 2 semesters with lab
- Organic chemistry – 2 semesters with lab
- Biochemistry – 1 semester
- English – 2 semesters
- Math – 2 semesters
Other common requirements include statistics, psychology, and writing. Undergraduate course requirements vary among medical schools, so be sure to check the specific requirements of any schools that you have in mind.
Also see: How to become a nurse
How do I apply to med school?
When applying to medical school, you’ll complete a primary application and a secondary application. Think of the primary application as the Common App for medical schools.
There are three main primary applications:
- AMCAS (MD programs, most common application)
- AACOMAS (DO programs)
- TMDSAS (Texas medical schools)
Depending on your goals, you may submit just one of these applications, or multiple. Fortunately, each application requires you to submit similar materials. After your primary application is verified, it will be sent out to every school you have indicated.
You’ll then receive a secondary application from most schools. Note that some schools automatically filter applications that don’t meet certain GPA and MCAT cutoffs, so you may not receive a secondary application from every school. These secondary applications, otherwise known as supplemental applications, comprise various school-specific essay prompts. Below we’ll dive into the specific components that make up med school applications.
What are med school application requirements?
There are a variety of factors that medical schools consider when evaluating applicants. Of course, they’ll want to ensure that you’ve completed the required pre-med courses. On top of that, however, medical schools are interested in your academic strength, your personal interests, and what other people have to say about you. To make things digestible, keep in mind that medical school applications are evaluated according to the following factors:
- Personal Statement
- Recommendation Letters
Some factors are weighed more heavily than others, but a winning application will successfully hit on all of these requirements. Let’s explore each application requirement more in-depth.
Having a strong GPA will help you out enormously when applying to med school. Your primary goal during your undergraduate years should be to excel academically and build a high GPA. Most medical schools require you to have a minimum 3.0 GPA to apply, but you’ll need at least a 3.5 GPA to be a competitive applicant at many schools.
Another major factor in the medical school admissions process is the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Similar to how you take the SAT to gain admission to undergraduate schools, you’ll have to take the MCAT when applying to medical schools. This standardized exam consists of the following four sections:
- Critical Analysis and Reading Skills (CARS)
To apply to certain medical schools, you’ll need to meet minimum MCAT score requirements. As such, it’s important to score as highly as possible so that you have options when applying to med schools.
Also read: Top STEM scholarships
While not as important as GPA and MCAT scores, extracurricular activities are a crucial part of your application as well. To demonstrate their interest in medicine, pre-med students typically volunteer or get a paid job at a medical facility during their undergrad years. You should absolutely consider gaining experience in a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or hospice care facility. Medical schools favor applicants who have engaged in any of the following activities:
- Shadowing physicians
- Clinical experience
- Volunteering / community service
Keep in mind that medical schools are looking for extracurricular activities that demonstrate leadership, compassion, thoughtfulness, and interpersonal skills. So you’ll want to be able to explain how your activities have impacted you and shaped you as a person. AAMC has compiled a list of 15 core competencies that medical schools look for in their applicants.
This is another pivotal factor in medical school admissions decisions. The personal statement is a 1.5-page narrative essay in which you explore the events in your life that inspired you to pursue medicine. During your primary application, you will complete the narrative essay. You can write your essay on any topic as long as it reflects your personality and highlights why you want to be a doctor. Therefore, how you write your personal statement carries more weight than what you write about. The key is to find a topic that you’re passionate about. Visit Prospective Doctor for tips on writing your personal statement.
Letters of Recommendation
Most medical schools require three letters of recommendation. This typically includes two letters from science professors and one from a non-science professor. These letters give medical schools an opportunity to hear what others think of you as a student and a person. Strong letters of recommendation can give your application that extra boost it needs, so make sure to request recommendations from faculty members who know you well. These AAMC guidelines are useful for faculty members who aren’t sure what to address in their letters.
See also: Top medical school scholarships
Final thoughts on pre-med requirements
As you can see, the pre-med track and application process is demanding to say the least. But it’s certainly not impossible. Countless students have conquered pre-med and gone on to enjoy rewarding careers as doctors. If your dream is to go to medical school, don’t let the rigorous pre-med track and application process stand in your way.
Related: Grad school financing options
Frequently asked questions about pre-med requirements
What major is best for pre-med?
Finding the right major for pre-med involves finding a balance between the majors most applicable to medical science and the majors that interest you the most. The most popular majors among pre-meds are in the hard sciences, especially biological sciences. That being said, a significant chunk of med students major in math or statistics, social sciences such as economics or sociology, or the humanities.
As med schools begin to place more emphasis on well-rounded applicants, these other fields are becoming increasingly feasible for applicants. However, majors in these fields will need to ensure that they also take classes related to the pre-med track, such as upper-level science classes. If you don’t take any classes related to med school, a humanities major will not be what you need to set yourself up for success.
Can you do pre-med in 2 years?
A pre-med degree consists of a bachelor’s, which the vast majority of students complete in 4 years rather than two. That being said, at some schools it may be possible to complete your pre-med bachelor’s in 2 years. It would be a very intensive courseload and you’d probably have to come into college with some extra credits, as well as take classes over the summer.
Some schools also require that their students take four years of classes to earn their bachelor’s. So, while it is very difficult, and impossible at some schools, to do your pre-med in 2 years, it can be done!
Do minors matter for medical school?
Minors can be a helpful supplement to your studies, but they will not make or break your application in most cases. If a biology minor is the full extent of your pre-med training, you will have a hard time getting into med school. That being said, a minor in the social sciences or humanities might be a helpful boost to your application as it shows that you are a well-rounded student.
Remember that every decision involves some extent of trade-off. If adding a minor stretches you too thin and your GPA or extracurriculars dip as a result, you might want to consider just taking the courses you’re interested in and skipping the minor. At the end of the day, the minor is a nice boost to your application but it is unlikely to be a major determining force.
What majors do best on the MCAT?
Historically, majors in the fields of hard sciences, math and statistics, and humanities have scored the best on the MCAT. Because it is geared towards future doctors, majors that involve medical-adjacent information such as biology will often be some of the most helpful fields of study. That being said, with a thorough study routine and the right tutor, anyone can do well on the MCAT.
Is psychology a pre-med major?
Psychology is a popular major among pre-med students, and recent studies have shown that psychology majors gain admission to med schools at the same rate as biology or chemistry majors. However, as with all pre-med majors, you will want to keep your intent to enter medical school in mind throughout. There will be certain classes outside your major that will be important to take to bolster your application and prepare yourself for the MCAT.