How to Be a Pre-Med Major
Should you major in pre-medicine? Well, here’s the thing: in most schools, you can’t. The so-called pre-med major is actually a set of courses that all students need to take if they want to get accepted into medical school. Students take these classes, along with a major of their choice.
The standard pre-med curriculum consists of the following classes:
- At least one year of general biology
- At least one year of calculus (Calculus I and II)
- At least one year of general (inorganic) chemistry with lab
- At least one year of organic chemistry with lab
- At least one year of physics with lab
- English composition
If you want to get into medical school—which is extremely competitive—you need to have an outstanding GPA. In particular, it’s essential that you get very high grades in the pre-med curriculum. How high a GPA you need depends on the strength of the rest of your application, but 3.5 is generally seen as the minimum.
So what should your actual major be? Does it need to be in a related scientific area, such as biology or chemistry? This is something that experts disagree about. Some say there’s an advantage to majoring in something unique, like French literature or music. Since most med school applicants major in a science related area, this will help your application stand out in a competitive pile of applications. Some argue that there’s an advantage to having a background in humanities or liberal arts since, after all, being a doctor isn’t just about science. It’s about dealing with people.
However, other experts say it’s better to stick with a traditional science major. In med school, scientific knowledge is going to benefit you, so why not get as much as you can as an undergraduate? Moreover, the pre-med requirements overlap with the requirements of just about all science majors, so you can save time with one of these majors. In addition, some feel that because science majors tend to be more demanding, a high GPA in science major looks better on an application than a high GPA on a major that’s easier (or at least is perceived to be easier).
Although opinions differ on whether you should major in science or not, technically it doesn’t matter. As long as you take the pre-med curriculum, you’re eligible to apply to medical school. If you have a stellar GPA in both your major and your pre-med classes, you’ll be in decent shape, no matter what.
Keep in mind that if you want to go to medical school, you’ll be expected to do some serious volunteer work at a hospital, a clinic, or some other medical facility. Schools prefer to see students who have committed to one volunteer assignment over a significant period of time. In addition, many students get some research experience with professors as well, and this also looks great on an application.
One of the most important things you can do is get yourself a good pre-med advisor. Although most schools do not offer an official pre-med major, many do offer pre-med advising programs. An advisor will be able to help you maximize your chances of getting into med school by taking the right classes and getting the right volunteer experiences.
Good luck, future doc!