All doctors were once undergrad students. If you’re serious about attending med school, we have advice on making the most of the four years of college before you get there. We’ll share which majors to consider, what courses to take, and important med school application considerations to keep in mind.
What Is Pre-Med?
Pre-med is the path that aspiring doctors embark on before medical school. It's not a specific major but rather a set of courses covering biology, chemistry, physics, and math to prepare you for the rigors of medical school. Some reasons why you might choose to be pre-med include:
- To prepare for the rigors of med school
- To explore your various interests in the healthcare field
- For the intellectual challenge
What Should I Major In If I'm Pre-Med?
Those already considering medical school after college graduation should strongly consider the following majors:
A classic choice for pre-med students, biology provides a deep understanding of living organisms, from the cellular level to complex ecosystems. It covers crucial topics like genetics, physiology, and anatomy, which are essential for comprehending human health and disease.
Aspiring doctors need a strong foundation in chemistry to grasp the principles of drug interactions, biochemistry, and pharmacology. Understanding chemical reactions and molecular structures is a big part of the science behind medications and treatments.
This major combines biology and chemistry, delving into the chemical processes within living organisms. You’ll benefit from biochemistry’s focus on things like proteins, enzymes, and metabolism, which help you understand diseases and how the body responds to various treatments.
Psychology offers insights into human behavior, emotions, and mental health. It equips you with the communication and empathy skills you’ll need to establish rapport with patients and provide holistic care. Plus, if you’re considering going to medical school to ultimately become a psychiatrist, a major in psychology can provide a solid foundation of knowledge and experience.
An interdisciplinary field, neuroscience merges biology, psychology, and chemistry to study the brain and nervous system. This helps pre-med students understand neurological disorders, brain injuries, and mental health conditions – areas gaining increasing importance in modern medicine.
What Does a Pre-Med Schedule Look Like?
Making your way through college as a pre-med undergrad doesn’t have to be confusing or complicated. Let’s break down what a typical course of study might look like.
Your first-year schedule will lay a strong foundation for medical school preparation. On top of general education requirements like English and History, take core science courses like Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry I. These will give you insights into the building blocks of life and chemical processes that will inform your future medical studies. To hone analytical skills, you might take Physics and Math courses. A Psychology or Sociology course will help you understand the cultural aspect of medicine.
Now that you've laid the groundwork, you’re ready for more in-depth scientific exploration. You’ll need to take Advanced Biology courses, delving into the intricacies of human physiology and genetics. Organic Chemistry II will build on the foundations from your first year, preparing you for the complexities of biochemistry. Physics II and Calculus II will refine your problem-solving skills, while Psychology and Sociology courses continue to shape your understanding of patient care and behavior. Additionally, consider a Medical Ethics course to explore the moral dilemmas in healthcare.
This year, your schedule will intensify with advanced science courses like Microbiology and Immunology, delving into the world of pathogens and the immune system. Biochemistry II will deepen your understanding of molecular processes in the human body. At this stage, it’s time to start thinking about specialized electives related to your medical interests, such as Neuroscience or Medical Anthropology.
For your final year of pre-med, personalize your studies with elective courses that align with your medical interests, such as Pediatrics or Geriatrics. Utilize senior research projects to delve into medical research and contribute to the field. Continue to take advanced science courses like Physiology and Pathology to deepen your knowledge.
Other Aspects of Your Pre-Med Plan to Consider
Pre-med college life is about more than taking science and math classes. You’ll be applying to med school before you know it, so here are a few other considerations to remember.
Think About a Gap Year
Some students may consider taking a gap year between undergrad and med school. Is it right for you? Gap year pros:
- Gain experience: A gap year allows you time for clinical exposure, volunteering, and internships, which can help your understanding of medicine and patient care.
- MCAT preparation: A year is ample time to study for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT - see more below), which can improve your chances of admission to your top-choice medical schools.
- Personal growth: You’ll have many opportunities to travel, pursue your passions, and develop valuable life skills before diving into rigorous medical studies.
Gap year cons:
- Delayed career: Entering med school right after college keeps up your momentum and accelerates becoming a doctor.
- Financial burden: A year out of school may mean a year of lost income, impacting your overall finances.
- Academic readiness: You may not need to take a gap year because your four years of undergrad have prepared you to head straight into med school.
Keep the MCAT in Mind
The MCAT is a vital component of medical school applications. It assesses your scientific knowledge, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities. Allocate time for focused study and practice exams, so you perform well on test day and boost your chances of admission to med school.
Get Involved in Relevant Extracurriculars
Not only do these activities showcase your passion for medicine, but they demonstrate your commitment to making a difference. Volunteer at healthcare facilities, join your campus pre-med clubs, conduct medical research, and participate in community service projects to strengthen your med school application. Admissions committees look for well-rounded candidates with genuine interests, so embrace opportunities that align with your goals and values.
Plan for Letters of Recommendation
Start requesting letters of recommendation for med school applications at least a couple of months before you need them. Cultivate strong relationships with professors, mentors, and supervisors so they can get to know you. This will lead to more thoughtful and compelling letters that highlight your strengths, dedication, and suitability for a medical career. Give your recommenders ample time to write. Communicate your aspirations and experiences to help them craft impactful letters that will get you noticed.
Start Preparing for Your Medical Career with StraighterLine
StraighterLine has over 65 courses, including many that can help you fulfill those pre-med requirements. Our classes are affordable, self-paced, and entirely online. Plus, credit from our courses is guaranteed to be transferable to our partner schools! StraighterLine can help you save time and money on your road to med school!