The Myth of the Premed Major

Aug 18


Robert Andrew

Robert Andrew

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Medical school admission is often a matter of having information other people do not have because they never bothered to find out and were never told. Similar to being a proficient physician, medical school admission requires several skills.


Many people know early that they want to be physicians. Some have never wanted to be anything else. Others make their career choices in high school and college. And there are the few who decide on medicine after completing their college education. A sufficiently large number of students settle on medicine in high school to justify treating the choice of a college as the first order of business.

It may come as news to some that the undergraduate institution attended carries little weight with many medical schools. You can be accepted into medical school from virtually any accredited college or university,The Myth of the Premed Major Articles and your own academic credentials are vastly more important than the reputation of your school. It is true, however, that some undergraduate institutions are more successful than others at placing their graduates in medical schools. Students working the percentages and applying to colleges should ask to know the relative rather than the absolute number of graduates admitted to medical school from the institution during proceeding five years.

It is foolish to see college nearly as a stepping stone to medical school. College can be a unique experience and a great deal more fun than graduate education. So choose your college for reasons other than its premedical program, which you can get anywhere.

Attend a small school if you prefer, or a large school if you want anonymity or an active campus life. Accept a school with an outstanding English or theater arts and drama department. Go to a region of the country where you have never been before. Take your junior year abroad. Experiment. Your patients are going to care where you went to college as long as you are a competent doctor.

People don't even care where you attended medical school or ask about the grades you earned or if you graduated with honors. They will only be concerned that you understand them and their medical problems. So if you use your college years to broaden your base of experience, in the long run you'll be doing your patients a service.

Wherever you go there are, of course, the exigencies of the premedical program. First, however, let us explode once and for all the myth of the premedical major. You cannot go to college and major in premed. Following a premed curriculum means nothing more than taking the basic science courses required by most medical schools. Minimum requirements are usually one year of general biology, one year in physics, one year each of inorganic and organic chemistry - all with lab. Other required subjects vary with the medical school and may include English, mathematics, calculus, and other more specialized science courses.

Medical schools always look at an applicant's science and nonscience cumulative grade point average, with emphasis on the science GPA. This has numerous implications, for if you are a non science major, each science course you take will have a considerable affect on your science average, whereas those majoring in science can do poorly in one course without any devastating effect. On the other hand, it is true that science is a tougher major than either the humanities or social sciences, and science majors applying to medical schools have lower overall cumulative averages than their non science counterparts.

Majoring in a non science will probably raise your overall GPA and have you any more advantageous position when seeking admission to medical school. Medical school admission committees today welcome the applicant who did not major in science. However, they must be sufficiently impressed with your premedical course grades to admit you.