Choosing a major is difficult for any college student during their undergraduate career. This is much more true for premedical students that are seeking to attend medical school in the future. Some of these concerns include the what, how, and why behind choosing an undergraduate major.
The “Premedical Major” or “Majoring in Premed”
First, there are very few universities in the United States that offer an undergraduate degree in pre-medicine. Part of the reason for this is a lack of practicality of the degree. For example, there are few, if any professions – other than medicine – would be well suited for a person with a degree in premedicine.
Instead, try to consider a major that balances your interests and the courses required for admission. Pay special attention to the individual course prerequisites of the schools to which you apply, as they vary from program to program.
Major in Sciences
Most students believe that they have to major in biology to get into medical school. According to the American Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), 52% of medical school applicants majored in biological sciences. Also, 51% of those accepted to medical school majored in biological sciences. However, medical schools generally do not require a student to major in biological sciences to be accepted. In essence, correlation does not imply causation. The fact that most students who choose to apply to medical school also major in the sciences does not indicate the likelihood of acceptance.
On the contrary, many medical schools encourage students to pursue a degree in any subject that interests them. Why? Research in healthcare education has shown that diversity in the medical school learning environment results in a higher quality health and healthcare and helps to eliminate health disparities. Diversity, in this sense, means diversity of education and background as opposed to the traditional use of the term which includes only ethnic diversity.
The most common reason students choose to major in a biological science is to meet the prerequisites required for medical school. It is possible, however, to complete these courses in addition to completing the requirements for an unrelated degree. The only drawback is that it may take more semesters to graduate while completing both.
The Back-Up Plan
Before you decide to pursue a B.S. in Biology or Chemistry, think to yourself, “Would I be happy working as a biologist or chemist?” The fact is that about 40% of students that apply to medical school actually get accepted. As a result, you may want to consider your alternative career possibilities in the even that your application lacks the strength to get you an acceptance letter.
Also, choosing a non-science major could provide you with added benefits, such as enjoyment of your undergraduate education. Actually, many medical students chose to major in seemingly unrelated fields while meeting all the requirements of medical school admission. Such fields include English, Math, Business, or Engineering. These students take advantage of the opportunity that results from their interest in several academic fields while maintaining a passion for medicine and science.
Preparation for Medical School
Most medical schools only require the basic science courses to be considered for admission. Of course, there are some schools that require additional science courses such as Biochemistry or Genetics. Often, medical schools state additional recommended courses a student should take prior to matriculation. The majority, however, believe that the basic sciences provide the fundamental knowledge of the sciences that will allow a student to succeed in medical school.