The Prerequisites of Medical School

The key to medical school admissions success is careful planning based on correct information. Research the schools in which you are interested. What are their admissions requirements? Keep in close contact with your pre-med advisor. Are you taking the proper classes now? With thorough research and thoughtful questions, you will benefit from the great amount of information that is available to you. By proactively seeking information, you will avoid the aggravation, disappointment, and delays that come upon finding out that you do not meet all of the necessary prerequisites.

Par for the Course(s)

During your pre-medical education, you will be required to fulfill certain coursework prerequisites. In addition, you should select other courses in the sciences and humanities to supplement this core curriculum, enhancing your education and your application to medical school.

Most schools agree on the basic elements for pre-medical education. Minimum course requirements include one year each of biology, general (inorganic) chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and related lab work for each. In addition, about two-thirds require English and about one quarter require calculus. A small number of schools have no specific course requirements.

Bear in mind that since the MCAT covers material from the commonly required courses, you will need to include those courses in your program of study whether or not they are medical school prerequisites. Nevertheless, many students are surprised to learn that the list of courses required by medical schools is so small. The best sources for admissions requirements for specific medical schools are the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) and the Osteopathic Medical College Information Booklet.

Selecting a Major

While science majors are certainly more common, medical schools stress their interest in well-rounded students with broad-based undergraduate backgrounds. In fact, regardless of your major, your undergraduate transcript is a vital part of the admissions decision.

If you are a science major, one approach is to broaden your education by considering at least some social science and humanities electives. If you are not majoring in a science, your work in both science and non-science courses will be evaluated. However, with fewer courses on which to judge your science ability, your grades in the core science subjects will take on greater importance. So consider taking at least some additional science courses, such as biochemistry, cell biology, or genetics.

Bottom line? Don't choose a major because you think it will get you accepted to medical school. Choose a major in a subject in which you are really interested. You will do better and have a more enjoyable time throughout college.

Health Care Experience

According to a recent survey of medical schools, knowledge of health care issues and commitment to health care were among the top five variables considered very important to student selection (the other four were med school interview ratings, GPA, MCAT scores, and letters of recommendation).

You should consider being active in health care activities as much as possible as a premed student. If nothing else, these experiences will help you articulate in your personal statement and interviews why you want to pursue a career in medicine.