What’s the easiest premed major? Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer. If you’re looking for the most straightforward path, biological sciences, including majors like molecular biology, cell biology, and neuroscience, feature several courses that overlap with your medical school prerequisites. That’s why nearly 60% of all applicants choose this major.
But the easiest premed major for one student will be different from another. Choosing the easiest premed major depends on your individual interests and how competitive you hope to be as an applicant.
In a previous article, we examined the annual AAMC data on medical school applicants and matriculants to better understand what makes for the best premed major. We interpreted the data and debunked some common myths about which majors lead to a better likelihood of acceptance. In this post, we’ll break down the most popular premed majors to help you choose the easiest, most straightforward premed path for you.
Understanding How Premed Majors Work
Before entering medical school, you need to earn a college degree, which means you need to pick a major. You already know you want to follow whatever path leads you to medical school, but first, let’s clear up what “premed major” actually means.
Unfortunately, premed is not a major in itself. The term ‘premed’ is used to describe a student who plans to apply to medical school. If you’re reading this, it likely means you’re a premed, or pre-medical student.
As a premed, you will have to pursue another major in college while still ensuring you obtain each of the necessary prerequisites to apply to medical school. The major you choose is the one you believe will give you the best chance of acceptance to medical school, and this will then become your premed major. For example, depending on your major, you might say, “I am a premed majoring in physical therapy,” or more broadly, specialized health sciences.
Your prerequisites depend on which medical schools you’re applying to, so they vary from school to school. If you already know which schools you want to apply to, check their list of prerequisites to determine which you absolutely need to fulfil.
The shared core requirements you can expect include:
- 1 year of Biology with lab
- 1 year of General Chemistry with lab
- 1 year of Organic Chemistry with lab
- 1 year of Physics with lab
- 1 year of English
Several schools require additional courses, so we also recommend you take the following:
- Psychology and Sociology
With that in mind, what are the benefits of different common premed paths? Let’s break down what makes some premed majors easier than others.
What’s the Easiest Premed Major?
Let’s get one thing clear—There is no easy path to medical school. No matter the premed major you choose, your journey will be a long and difficult one. In addition to completing your college major, you must also ensure you have all of the prerequisites necessary for applying to each of the medical schools you choose.
Next, you’ll begin the long and tedious task of applying to medical school and, ideally, finding acceptance at one of your preferred schools. But don’t let this simplified explanation fool you.
The medical school application process includes a number of moving parts that you must juggle all at the same time. The initial application includes a personal statement, letters of recommendation, work and activities section, as well as other essays. Next, you complete secondary applications for (hopefully) all of the schools you applied to you. The final stretch is interview season, where you will travel to and interview at the schools that are interested in you.
With all of that in mind, what is the easiest premed major?
Choosing a premed major is highly personal. The easiest major for one student will be different from another. The easiest path depends on your individual interests and strengths and how competitive you hope to be as an applicant.
The premed major you choose may be easier for you because it aligns with your interests. On the other hand, a more challenging premed major may result in an easier and more straightforward path since you will acquire more specific medical knowledge. This could better prepare you for the rigors of medical school and help you stand out. A premed major in humanities may have an easier course load, but it won’t align with your medical school prerequisites thus requiring a higher number of total courses.
Let’s break this down further.
1 | The Benefits of a Popular Major (Biological Sciences)
First, let’s cover the big one.
Biological sciences is the most popular premed major category by far, with over 50% of applicants choosing this as their major. A major in the biological sciences, such as molecular biology, physiological sciences, molecular genetics, or neuroscience makes sense for many students. After all, if you want to become a doctor, there’s an extremely good chance you find an aspect of biology interesting.
Pursuing a major in biological sciences, especially one you’re passionate about, creates an exciting and straightforward path to medical school, as many of the requirements for your major overlap with and complement your medical school prerequisite courses.
That said, around 56% of medical school applicants majored in biological sciences last year, so choosing this as your major won’t help you stand out from the pack. The majority of applicants you will be up against share many of your skills and qualifications. You’ll need to take extra care considering how you will meaningfully differentiate yourself from your competition.
2 | The Benefits of an Obscure Major (Humanities, Math, etc.)
Another option is choosing a more obscure premed major, such as math or the humanities.
This creates a unique path and makes your application more interesting. After sorting through dozens upon dozens of biology majors, your English or fine arts degree is likely to catch the attention of admissions committee members.
Don’t think that choosing an obscure major makes your acceptance to medical school any less likely. In terms of acceptance rates, in 2022, only 41% of biological science majors were accepted to medical school versus 51% of humanities majors.
Passion and interest are vital aspects of selecting your premed major. If you’ve always wanted to study something beyond biological sciences, now is certainly your chance to do so. The larger challenge comes in figuring out how to also accommodate your prerequisites.
If you want to major in English, for example, you’re facing an uphill battle, as you not only need to complete your full course requirements in English, but you also need to fulfill two years of medical school prerequisites. So if you’re going to choose an obscure path, you have to really want it.
But take the statistics with a grain of salt; as we say, statistics apply to populations, not to individuals. Just because humanities majors have a higher acceptance rate than biological sciences doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better. Rather, it may point to the fact that there are additional hurdles to jump through given the lower degree of overlap with medical school prerequisites.
In other words, those who majored in humanities and applied to medical school must have been more dedicated on average, and thus been more likely to get accepted to medical school. It’s a textbook example of survivorship bias.
Do not, however, choose a unique major if you’re only trying to stand out from the pack. If you really are most interested in biological sciences, don’t force a fine arts major. If the passion isn’t there, it will definitely show in your grades, as well as how enthusiastically you speak about your major in your application and interviews.
3 | The Benefits of a Tough Major
Next, what are the benefits of a tough major and how does tough correlate to easier?
Look—if you’re looking for an “easy” path to medical school, you’re not going to find one. It’s an incredibly difficult path, and getting into medical school is only the first of many steps to becoming a practicing doctor.
Majors that will prepare you in both subject matter and rigor may be difficult at the time, but getting over that learning curve early on will help you succeed as your life as a medical student and resident continues to intensify.
For example, I chose a neuroscience major at UCLA. I was and still am very interested in the most complex human organ, and as a biological science major, there was plenty of prerequisite overlap. But the real benefit was how tough the program was. At the time, neuroscience and bioengineering were considered the two most challenging premed majors.
By choosing a difficult path, you are forced to hone your work ethic and study strategies and learn a great deal more than you might on a presumed easier path. You prepare yourself by diving deep into the subject matter—sometimes in even greater depth than you’ll cover in medical school. And in doing so, you begin to build the strong work ethic and study habits you will absolutely need in order to succeed once you enter medical school.
What may seem like a more difficult path now will make your life easier down the road. You’ll be well on your way to building the solid study habits, routines, and life skills that will serve you throughout medical school, residency, and beyond.
Plus, when the neuro block in medical school came around, it was much easier for me to perform well while putting in less effort compared to other blocks. After all, I had spent multiple years in college going in depth studying neuroscience, oftentimes in greater depth than what we covered in medical school.
4 | The Benefits of a Major That Aligns With Your Interests
Lastly, there are clear benefits to choosing a premed major that aligns with your interests. If you are pursuing medical school, there’s a high likelihood you enjoy science. If you don’t, you should probably reconsider your path and whether or not becoming a doctor is for you.
But many, many premeds have interests beyond biological sciences. Whatever your interests may be, pursuing a major you’re truly passionate about has its advantages. You’ll be enthusiastic about and engaged with the subject matter, so while it will be challenging, it will also feel immensely rewarding, and that passion will help you get through the tough times.
As a hopeful premed, you have the rest of your academic life and career to study the human body. If you’re passionate about medicine but also wildly passionate about literature, art, political science, economics, or what have you, go for it!
While it will require prerequisite coordination, it’s by no means an impossible task. Many schools prefer applicants with a unique, diverse background, and you’ll have plenty of distinctive experiences to speak about in your personal statement and during interviews.
At the same time, and we can’t emphasize this enough, do not pursue a unique major in hopes that you will stand out if you’re not passionate about that major. I’ve heard premed advisers give students terrible advice when it comes to choosing a premed major, suggesting that the biological sciences are not a good option since many premeds pursue this path.
There’s a reason so many premeds major in biological sciences, and it’s foolish to choose a unique major just to stand out. If the passion isn’t there, stick to the more straightforward path, and work to stand out through your achievements and extracurriculars.
Now, don’t blindly think something will be easier or harder based just on what you’ve heard. We all have different interests and skill sets, and what’s easy for one person may be tough for another.
Earlier I mentioned neuroscience was considered the toughest major when I was a premed. At the time, psychobio was considered the easiest since its concepts are simpler to grasp. However, succeeding in psychobio involves a lot of memorization, something I’m not as naturally skilled at.
With neuroscience, I remember one midterm I didn’t study much at all for but still managed to score the second highest grade in the class. Since the content was geared toward critical thinking, more specifically, testing our understanding of action potentials by asking how a hypothetical neuron with nonphysiologic properties would behave, I was able to lean on my critical thinking and problem solving skills to score full points—something I couldn’t have done in psychobio.
In the end, I was able to spend less time and effort studying to score a better grade in the supposedly challenging neuroscience elective, whereas I had to invest considerably more time and effort to score well on the supposedly easier psychobio elective.
There are so many factors, including your unique strengths, weaknesses, and passions, that come into play when determining what easier means for you. Your easiest path will not be the same as someone else’s.
Succeed as a Premed and Beyond
Choosing your premed major is a big decision, and like all big life decisions, they come with a lot of pressure.
Med School Insiders offers one-on-one advising that pairs you with a physician advisor who best fits your specific needs. We’re here to answer all of your questions and help you choose the path that best aligns with your interests and desired outcomes. It’s our goal to help you create a future that aligns with your vision.
We can provide advice on choosing the premed major that’s the best fit for you, help you craft an ideal medical school list, and assist in crafting a stand out medical school application that will ultimately result in acceptances at your top choice schools.
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