How to Choose a Premed Major: 5 Steps

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Getting accepted into college can be a very exciting time. You are eager to start a new phase of your life and are hungry for the opportunities that await. For someone who plans to be a premed, however, choosing a major can be a daunting task.

 

What is Premed?

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to whether “premed” is an actual major offered in the college course catalog. When I was a young freshman picking out classes for the first time, my counselor explained it to me best:

Premed is not really a major. It’s more like a curriculum or track.

In other words, the premed track is a set of core classes that must be taken to satisfy medical school admissions requirements. The following courses are part of the traditional premed track:

  • One year of Biology
  • One year of General Chemistry
  • One year of Organic Chemistry
  • One year of General Physics
  • One year of English
  • Many schools also require one quarter/semester of Biochemistry

These subjects are also tested on the MCAT, meaning you’re expected to have a solid foundation in all of them.

So if premed isn’t a major, what major should you choose as a premed student?

 

Which Major Should I Choose?

Since premed is a track rather than a major, there is flexibility when it comes to selecting a major. The overwhelming majority of students choose to do the premed track with a life science major. Years ago, the Biology major premed track, paired with a strong GPA and solid MCAT score, would have sufficed for admission into medical school.

But medical school admission has continued to grow more and more competitive, which is why some applicants choose non-traditional majors as a tool to set themselves apart from other applicants. While not required or necessarily recommended for all applicants, if you’re interested in majors beyond the classic premed life science majors, consider a major that speaks to you.

For instance, choosing to do the premed track with a Fine Arts major immediately makes a student stand out from the crowd. Imagine you’re on the admissions committee: you are stuck in your office going through thousands of applicants’ files. The vast majority of the files you’ve sorted through belong to students who are Biology or Chemistry majors. Suddenly, you see it. You pick up the file and see that it belongs to a Film Studies major who minored in Philosophy and Religion.

You see that the applicant has phenomenal grades in the premed classes and a solid MCAT score to match. Their personal statement and work and activities are impressive as well since they have a long list of interesting experiences to pull from. Intrigued, you joyously place the file in the interview pile. You pick up the next file and it’s another Biology major. You take another lifeless sip of coffee, and the monotony resumes.

While this may be an exaggerated example, the point remains that non-traditional paths can help you stand out as an applicant. Admissions officers are usually welcoming to applicants with non-traditional majors because they want to select students who are unique, well-rounded, and who will contribute to their class diversity.

Now, I’m not suggesting that majoring in Biology or Chemistry will prevent you from matriculating to medical school. In fact, if you are passionate about a specific life science major, then you should pursue it to the fullest. However, don’t shy away from pursuing other academic interests if you have other passions.

Catering to my interests, I personally majored in Biology and Psychology and minored in Religion. If I had more time, and quite frankly, more money, I would have probably taken a third major in Finance, which is another area I find fascinating.

And that is the key here: Find a major you are passionate about. If you have other interests or passions, consider supplementing with a second major or a minor. That being said, do not overload your class schedule to the point that your grades suffer—lower grades will hurt you more than double majoring or minoring will help you.

To help you choose the ideal premed major for you, follow the five steps below.

 

How to Choose a Premed Major

1 | Follow Your Passions

Pick a major that aligns with your personality and interests. This cannot be overstated.

Medical school advisors love to see unique and interesting applicants. It makes their student body more well-rounded and diverse. If you’re passionate about the life sciences, which wouldn’t be surprising considering you want to be a doctor, pursue that to the fullest! Whether biology, neuroscience, or physiology, there are several life science majors you may gravitate toward.

If you’re also passionate about another field of focus, consider pursuing those passions, even if it may end up being a non-traditional path.

2 | Complete Premed Requirements

Most medical schools require some form of the following:

  • One year of General Chemistry
  • One year of Organic Chemistry
  • One year of Biology
  • One year of Physics
  • One year of English
  • One quarter/semester of Biochemistry

Take these courses early in your college career, as they help prepare you for the MCAT. If you chose a life science major, then many of the science requirements will also fulfill your major requirements. If you are unsure about which exact classes to take, check with your school counselor for classes to fulfill medical school requirements.

If you already know you have an interest in a particular school or schools, make sure you check their prerequisite courses for medical school applicants as early as possible.

3 | Consider a Second Major or a Minor

A second major allows you to explore further interests and boost your academic application. You’ll have more diverse experiences to speak about on your application, and it also lets the admissions committee know you can handle an extensive workload.

If picking a second major is not feasible without your grades suffering, consider a minor. It can also boost your application and make you a more well-rounded candidate. Follow your other academic interests, even if they don’t align with the traditional premed path—medical school admissions committees love unique applicants.

4 | Utilize Decision Making Strategies

If you struggle with decision making, you understand how debilitating not being able to decide can be. Utilizing decision making strategies will help you make informed decisions around your premed major.

Effective decision making takes time, research, and introspection. Choosing your premed major is only one of the many important decisions you will need to make over the course of your journey to become a doctor.

These 7 Strategies for Better Decision Making will help you make decisions you can feel good about for years to come.

5 | Trust the Process

It can be daunting to choose a major at the onset of college. However, realize that this is a journey of self-discovery. Take your time and deeply consider your options—you want to choose a major you genuinely enjoy and are passionate about.

It is completely fine to be undeclared for the first one or two years of college. Use your first several semesters to get your medical school prerequisites, listed above, out of the way. Don’t be afraid to explore various courses to determine what you like and dislike.

When I started, I was undeclared. I explored various subjects, ranging from Macroeconomics to Western History, before committing to Biology, Psychology, and Religion.

Ensure you have a major determined by the end of your sophomore year.

 

A Future That Aligns With Your Vision

Don’t fret about what medical school admissions committees think. Rather, follow your academic interests, allow your passion to shine through, perform well, and the rest will fall into place. Enjoying what you’re studying will translate to a better performance in your classes too!

Take a deep breath and dive in. It is a hectic and often overwhelming process, but it can be enjoyable and incredibly rewarding as well.

Need help with your decision making process? Med School Insiders offers one-on-one advising that pairs you with a physician advisor who best fits your specific needs. It’s our goal to help you create a future that aligns with your vision.

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