Getting a bachelor’s degree in Math and Statistics is the latest trend among premed students. Not really. There were only 387 MCAT test-takers in 2013 that majored in Math and Statistics, which amounts to less than 1%. However, maybe getting a degree in Math should be the latest trend among premeds. For years there has been a debate among premedical students and advisors about the perfect undergraduate major as a premed. So what is the perfect major for students who wish to be competitive medical school applicants?
Why major in Biology?
Most premedical students choose to get a degree in one of the many life sciences fields – primarily, in Biology. Other common majors include genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, and psychology. It may seem apparent why students choose these fields of studying when seeking to apply to medical school. Many of these students simply pursue these fields of study because they enjoy them. Of course, there are several other factors to consider such as academic preparation, MCAT preparation, and of course, social norms.
First, there’s the prerequisite course materials the medical schools require students to complete prior to matriculation. At a minimum, most medical schools require applicants to have completed 1 year of General Chemistry, 1 year of Biology, 1 year of Organic Chemistry, and 1 year of Physics. Some medical schools require upper-level Biology and Chemistry courses such as Genetics or Biochemistry. Well, if you major in Biology or Chemistry, it is likely that you will take all of these courses as a part of your degree requirements.
Second, there’s preparing for the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT. The MCAT tests a student’s knowledge and understanding of the basic sciences required to complete medical school. The fact is, an undergraduate student completing a B.S. in one of the sciences will have much more exposure to these topics than say, a student getting a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Lastly, there’s the social norm. More than half of all medical school applicants major in the Biological Sciences. Premeds often rank themselves against other applicants using numbers and statistics. Premedical students naturally gauge their chances of admission by what is average, or the most common, of those accepted to medical school. So if the average medical student possesses a degree in Biology, it seems easily justified for an applicant to pursue the same education background.
Why major in Math?
However, students might want to consider some statistics that are a little more practical. According to the AAMC, students that major in Math and Statistics score higher than students who major in a life sciences field in nearly every section of the MCAT – including the Biological Sciences section of the MCAT! The average MCAT score for Math majors is almost 2 points higher than the average MCAT score of science majors.
This doesn’t mean premed students should major in math. It only means that Math students tend to score higher on the MCAT. There are numerous potential explanations for this, so it’s probably best not to speculate. Almost every medical school in the country suggests students pursue their own interests when choosing a degree program. If Math happens to be your choice… who knows, it may help you get a higher MCAT score.