MSHQ 085 : Pros and Cons of the Liberal Arts for Premeds

Session 85

The Premed Years

In today's episode, Ryan and Allison tackle the article on called Why Premedical Students Need Liberal Arts written by Armaan Rowther who also runs a blog called Medical Madrasa. Rowther wrote this article based on a commencement speech given by Fareed Zakaria at Sarah Lawrence College. is a great website which could offer great insights featuring a broad range of articles from various professions – physicians, medical students, nurses, physical therapists, patients, healthcare advocates, and more.

You actually don't have to be a “premed” major. In fact, you can major in anything and still go to medical school as long as you get the premed requirements. Listen in as Ryan and Allison weigh out the pros and cons of being a liberal arts major which are also listed below..

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Ryan and Allison:


  1. Skills gained

Writing skills are critical especially in writing your personal statement during medical school application. Moreover, there is so much paperwork in medicine so having this skill set is essential.

  1. Better relationship with patients with better patient outcome

A ton of research shows that the communication between a physician and a patient drastically affects the patient's outcome. Hence, being able to bond and relate with them, makes it more beneficial to both your patient and your satisfaction. Non-traditional students have this bonus.

  1. Social skills and understanding moral ethics

Several liberal arts classes talk about what it means to be human as well as tackle issues with your peers concerning different cultures and people. Having good exposure to this helps foster your social and communication skills. Communication is really huge when dealing with patients. In fact, MCAT is now adding the social sciences as part of their holistic medical school admissions requirements to try to understand applicants better.

  1. The ability to have intellectual discussions with others

In liberal arts, it allows you to have better intellectual discussions where you're able to discuss your point of view with other's point of view and have the ability to listen to other's point of view.

  1. Better environment

Being a premed student exposes you to a cutthroat environment for which a number of students stop being premeds because of the environment and the “negativity” around being a premed. And being in liberal arts saves you from being exposed to this.

  1. The ability to tackle the more complex questions facing physicians.

As a non-science person, you get to learn more about how the world works on a personal level unlike those of the hard sciences who are more likely to learn about life on the molecular level.


  1. Lack of exposure to the hard sciences.

The MCAT is supposed to answer the question whether you're able to handle the hard sciences. Check out Episode 16 about Mt. Sinai's FlexMed program. You have to be prepared for the amount of culture shock. the cutthroat environment in medical school may be lessened but it's still there.

  1. Writing skills are not really used in medical school.

You can just use these skills that you've learned for years and worked hard for to obtain. Allison recalls only to have written just one paper in her medical school years.

  1. Lack of exposure to a collaborative environment with other premed students

Since you're only one of the very few premeds in the liberal arts world, you could be missing out on that collaborative environment to be around other premed students who are on the same path as you.

  1. A different test-taking environment in medical school

Liberal arts tests generally involve writing and your thoughts where you're evaluated based on your thought process while in medical school, it's more constant and more on multiple choice tests. In medical school, you become a professional test taker.

Links and Other Resources:

Join the Academy – The Best Premed Advising Community Article: Why premedical students need the liberal arts

Armaan Rowther's blog: Medical Madrasa | Reflections as a Muslim Medical Student

MCAT 2015 – Everything you Need to Know about the New MCAT | The Medical School Headquarters

Holistic Review – Initiatives – AAMC

MSHQ 016 : Interview with Mount Sinai – All About FlexMed | The Medical School Headquarters

Are you a nontraditional student? Go check out

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  • Berber

    I don’t have time to say much, but I wanted to say that the cut-throat scenario happens at liberal arts schools as well. So don’t attend a liberal arts school if you think there will be no competition. Honestly, I think different media sources or professors have a greater influence on now cut throat a group of students will be.
    I could say more ;).
    Great show.
    I’ve found little else that compares.

    • Thanks for the info Berber. I agree – cut throat can be anywhere there are premeds, the Liberal Arts side just has fewer!



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