Choosing a Premed Major
Congrats! It’s time to choose your major as a premed student. If you’ve decided that you want to go to medical school, how much does that affect what you can choose as a major? Does it matter what your major is if you want to go to medical school?
Does Your Choice of Major Matter as a Premed?
The answer in large part is no. Medical schools want applicants who are smart, hard-working, and well-rounded. It often helps if you have interests and competencies outside of the hard sciences. It helps to have communication skills and a broad cultural awareness of ideas and history. For these reasons, a major in the humanities or the arts could be just as valuable as a major in the hard sciences for a premed.Aside from taking the medical school prerequisites, you can study anything you want as a premed.Click To Tweet
Each medical school has a list of prerequisite courses that must be completed prior to matriculating at their school. These lists can vary, but they usually include general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, biochemistry, statistics or calculus, English, and sometimes psychology and sociology. Aside from those courses, you can major in anything you want.
About 75% of medical school matriculants major in the biological, physical, and social sciences. This leaves 25% of students accepted to medical school who have majored in other disciplines.
[Related episode: Pros and Cons of the Liberal Arts for Premeds.]
Taking a lot of Sciences Has to Help, Right?
As medical students, we always try to compare ourselves to others. You might ask, “Do students with a lot of science coursework have a leg up on students who majored in the humanities or social sciences?” The answer is probably no, overall.
Clearly, if you majored in biochemistry in college, you will likely find your biochemistry course in medical school to be easier than other students. But overall it probably doesn’t make that much of a difference.Doing well in medical school is based much more on how hard you're willing to work during medical school, not what you majored in as a premed. Click To Tweet
Doing well in medical school is based much more on how hard you’re willing to work during medical school, not whether you majored in biochemistry as a premed. Hard work will always help you overcome any obstacles you will encounter, in medical school and in life.
[Related episode: Should I Change My Major to Something More “Premed”?]
There is one additional consideration, however, if you choose a non-science major. If you read my article on premed school selection, I emphasized the importance of challenging yourself and choosing a degree program that will demand a certain level of rigor.The best way to prepare yourself for medical school is to develop good study habits, study hard, and challenge yourself as a premed. Click To Tweet
The best way to prepare yourself for medical school is to develop good study habits, study hard, and challenge yourself as a premed. Make sure that whatever degree program you choose, it will challenge you.
Remember that medical school admissions committees consider both your GPA and the courses you took to obtain that GPA. Medical schools will notice that you achieved high grades with a rigorous curriculum. They’ll take this into consideration when comparing you to students who took all easier classes.
Find Your Interests to Choose Your Premed Major
Make sure that whatever major you choose interests you! You will spend a lot of time studying the material in whichever degree program you choose. Don’t major in something you have no interest in just because you think it will impress an admissions committee or your parents.Don’t major in something you have no interest in just because you think it will impress an admissions committee or your parents.Click To Tweet
Following your interests will always give you an advantage because you will be willing to work harder and longer on something you love to do. This is why money or prestige are such bad reasons to become a doctor: If you don’t have the passion for the actual day-to-day work, you will be miserable. By the same token, you should major in something you feel interested in studying.
If you follow your interest, that will also keep your options open if you find medicine is not right for you. If you find yourself drawn to your courses in political science and hating your science prereqs, you may want to consider getting a JD. Similarly, if you find that you’re drawn to bench labwork and don’t like working with people, you might consider getting a PhD as opposed to an MD or DO.
Remember, whatever you choose, be true to yourself!
Links and Other Resources
- Check out my Premed Playbook series of books (available on Amazon), with installments on the personal statement, the medical school interview, and the MCAT.
- Related episode: Picking an Undergraduate College and a Premed Major.
- Related episode: Can You Ever Be 100% Sure You’re on the Right Path?
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!