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Do You Need to Be a PreMed Major to Apply to Medical School?

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Do You Need to Be a PreMed Major to Apply to Medical School?
Daniel Wehner / Flickr

Many would-be medical school applicants don't apply because they wonder whether they are qualified. Do you need to be a premed major to apply to medical school?

The short answer is: No, you don’t need to be a premed major to get into medical school… But a premed major increases your odds of admission.  The fact is that many universities don’t have premed majors. In those cases students usually major in biology or chemistry.  Social science and humanities majors can earn admission to medical school.  For example, I’ve seen psychology majors at my university get accepted to medical school. While some applicants are successful in gaining admission to medical school without a science degree, make no mistake, it is challenging. All successful applicants, regardless of major, have at least one thing in common: Lots of science courses.

What do medical schools look for in applicants?
Med school admissions committees look for applicants who have the potential successfully complete the program.  Applicants must demonstrate the capacity to do the academic work entailed in earning a medical degree. That means that you must show that you have the capacity to handle all of the math and science required to get through med school. Your undergraduate coursework is the only indicator of your preparation and your potential for academic success.

All medical schools require, at minimum, the following courses:

  • One year of biology
  • One year of physics 
  • One year of English
  • Two years of chemistry (organic and inorganic chemistry)

Many other courses are recommended. For example, math, although not listed as an essential by the Association of American Medical Colleges, is an important indicator of your ability to reason and think like a scientist. 

Make room in your schedule for science classes.
The more science, the better. Students who choose majors outside the sciences will likely use all of their electives on science or may find themselves delaying graduation in order to complete the science requirements. Therefore a premed or science major is not necessary to apply to medical school, but it makes it easier to complete the science courses required by all medical schools. 

GPA always matters.
It’s not just a matter of taking the required science classes. You must earn high grades in these classes.  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.

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