How to Choose a Pre-Med Major

Aspiring doctors must consider several factors to be successful on their medical journey. Those who are just beginning this journey are quickly faced with a hard decision: What major is best for pre-med? With an allopathic medical school (MD) acceptance rate of 41% in 2018-2019, students often wonder how to increase their chances of acceptance into medical school. They look into majors that will benefit them the most for the MCAT and medical school preparation. The first major that pops into most pre-med students’ heads is biology. Since medicine revolves heavily around biology, it seems like the most obvious choice. However, this is not always the case. Biology is not the best pre-med major. In fact, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), in 2018-2019, biology majors were among some of the least accepted majors.

If biology majors aren’t that beneficial, what major should you consider? There are so many factors to consider while choosing a major. Let’s go through a couple of factors:

  1. Requirements for Medical School

It is crucial to know the prerequisites for medical school, otherwise, your chances of being admitted are very low. Recognize that every school is different- check the specific requirements of each medical school you are interested in! Albeit a bit different, most schools have similar requirements. The AAMC lists the following courses as general prerequisites:

  • Introduction to Biology I and II with labs

  • General Chemistry I and II with labs

  • Organic Chemistry I and II with labs

  • General Physics I and II with labs

  • English I

It is recommended to take courses in statistics, which will increase your chances of admission. The AAMC also provides a list of most medical schools and their specific requirements- the page is linked here.

Whatever major you choose, you should make sure that these courses fall somewhere in your course load.

2. Interest

Maybe you’ve always been an aspiring neurologist, or perhaps pediatrics is your passion. Wherever your interests may lie, some majors lean towards teaching ideas in those fields. Here are some popular majors for medical specialties, if that’s something you’re interested in:

  • Neuroscience: This major is increasingly popular. It focuses on the many aspects of the brain, including cognitive and behavioral neuroscience.

  • Child Development: This major is less common, but is still offered in many colleges. This major focuses on studying children and infants and their growth, as well as the way their environments impact them.

  • Optometry: This major focuses on studying the eyes and preparation for optometry school.

  • Psychology: As a popular major, many colleges offer this major. A psychology major explores human behavior and interactions.

  • Chiropractic: Focusing on the spine and posture, this major, although not very common, explores the various aspects of chiropractic practices.

Biology, chemistry, and biochemistry majors are also very common among pre-med students, as they are focused on those respective subjects, which are also main subjects tested on the MCAT. However, by completing the required courses, students can take other courses and still be prepared for the MCAT! These majors are often more competitive as well due to increased academic rigor.

These are just some examples of medically focused majors, but not all aspiring med students need to pursue medical-related majors! Literature and social studies majors are also very common among pre-med students, as well as math and physics. Ultimately, you can pursue any major and still be prepared for the MCAT as long as you fulfill the medical school requirements. It’s up to you and your interests!

3. Consider pursuing a minor or a double major

Minors or double majors allow one to pursue multiple subjects while in college. If you want to have the medical exposure of a biology major but also want to pursue an aspect of humanities, you can do so! It would also show medical schools that you are well-rounded. However, it’s important to remember that pursuing a double major can increase the difficulty of maintaining a high GPA. Having a high GPA is beyond important for medical school admissions. That is what you want to concentrate on! If you want to take a double major or minor, you need to have a genuine interest in those subjects- pursuing them just to show medical schools that you are well-rounded can make it difficult for you to remain academically competitive. Therefore, only consider a minor or a double major if you are interested in it.

4. Read advice from medical students

Do a Google search for the major(s) of your interest and see what pre-med students say about it. This way, you can get further insight into your potential major; this will help you decide whether you’re interested in it based on others’ testaments about workload and benefits for medical school.

Remember, it is also okay to be undecided for your first years. You do not need to immediately choose a major (unless the undergraduate college you’re applying to requires it). Spend some time exploring the options provided to you by your college. Ultimately, your major is up to you and your interests! Just make sure you’re fulfilling the medical school requirements and you will be all set for pre-med.

Good luck!

Thank you for reading,

Sejal Kaushik

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