Perhaps it goes without saying that gaining admission to medical school is challenging. Nearly 50,000 students submit applications each year and about 20,000 matriculate into medical school programs the following Fall semester. How do you ensure entry? While you can't ensure that you'll be accepted, you can increase your odds.
The successful medical student most commonly holds a pre-med major. But a pre-med major is not the only way to prepare for medical school admissions Some applicants decide against premed majors. They earn biology or chemistry degrees, either because their universities don't offer premed majors or because of their own personal interests. Science degrees are common because although it's possible to gain admission to medical school without a pre-med degree, all med schools require that applicants take at minimum eight science classes. These requirements are outlined by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which accredits medical schools. That means that completing these courses is a non-negotiable part of your med school application.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, you must take, at minimum:
- One year of Biology
- One year of Physics
- One year of English
- Two years of Chemistry (organic and inorganic Chemistry)
Why Is So Much Science Required?
Medicine is an interdisciplinary field in that medical research incorporates skills, concepts, and findings from the many subfields within biology, chemistry, and other sciences. Successful medical students have a background in these fields that serve as a baseline for their education in medicine.
Medical Schools Are Not Just Interested in Science
Classes in mathematics are also important, though not required by the AAMC. Good grades in math indicate that you are able to reason and think like a scientist. The following courses are recommended but not required. Note the integration of liberal arts skills.
- Genetics (Often required)
- Calculus (Required by many)
- Molecular biology
- Statistics or epidemiology
- Psychology (Upper-level course)
These recommended courses illustrate the basic educational themes that med schools look for in applicants: the capacity for science, logical thinking, good communication skills, and high ethical standards.
It's Not Just About the Classes
Getting into medical school does not simply require completing a set of classes. Your performance in science classes (and all classes) matters. Specifically, you must earn high grades. Your overall grade point average (GPA) must be no lower than 3.5 on the US 4.0 scale. Non-science and science GPAs are calculated separately but you should earn at least a 3.5 in each. Ultimately, you don't need to be a pre-med major to complete these courses and meet the prerequisites for medical school, but a pre-med major makes it easier for you to fulfill all of the prerequisites within 4 years of college. A pre-med major is helpful but not necessary.