As widely-used the term is, and as often as you will hear it, pre-med can still be a little bit confusing. Pre-med is not any type of official term or degree track; instead, it is a term used predominantly by college students to express their intention to go on to medical school. Saying you are pre-med is merely a way to define your goals, but it can be helpful to bring up when you are meeting with your academic advisors. While there is no set pre-med major, if you tell your advisor that you’re a biology major, then they will try to help you meet the requirements for biology. If you tell your advisor that you’re pre-med, they will be able to help you hit the right milestones.
The most straightforward answer to the common question ‘what is pre-med?’ is that it expresses your intent to apply to medical school. But, that leaves things very nebulous. Pre-med, while it isn’t a particular undergraduate major or degree program, is still very much a plan of action. Pre-med is essentially the collective term for everything you will need to do to meet the application requirements for acceptance into medical school. Requirements include courses, extracurriculars, recommendations, and more.
Some of the most basic prerequisite course requirements include:
- One year of biology, with lab
- One year of general chemistry, with lab
- One year of organic chemistry, with lab
- One year of physics, with lab
- One year of English
- One semester of biochemistry
- One year of the required math class(es). Some schools require only statistics whereas some require only calculus. Some schools expect you to complete both.
- It is very likely that you will also need significantly more classes to make sure that you are adequately prepared for your exams and future courses and to even get on the radar of a particular school. Some other subjects you should try to include are anatomy, physiology, microbiology, psychology, public health, and physics among others. You want to show medical schools that you are motivated to learn everything that you can. It is something they’re certainly looking for.
The MCAT is another part of your pre-med requirements. The exam lasts roughly eight hours and has four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. The average score for acceptance into med school is 509. Part of your pre-med studies should include preparing rigorously for this exam.
Pre-med also encompasses extracurricular activity in the form of research and clinical experience. Again, your medical school application needs to demonstrate your passion, focus, and intelligence. Extensive research and experience will show them that you are serious about succeeding in the medical field.
To make sure that you can meet these minimum requirements at the least, you need to start planning early. The major that you select is very important. Medical schools don’t look for a set major, and there are over a dozen options to consider. When you’re looking for your perfect pre-med major, you should select the one that allows you to meet all of the required courses, will enable you to take electives that are meaningful and related to your goals, is something that you are passionate about and can academically excel in,will prepare you for the MCAT, and offers you ample opportunity to research.
It is a lot to think about, but an academic advisor can help you through this process as long as you remember to tell them you’re pre-med.