Majors & Pre-Health
Choosing a Major for Medical School May Not Be As Straightforward As You Think
Many students who are interested in attending medical school think that they should come to UNO and major in Pre-Medicine. However at most colleges and universities, including UNO, Pre-Medicine isn't a major or minor. It is only a group of prerequisite courses you can take to be eligible to apply for medical school. A student on a pre-med track is permitted to choose any undergraduate major in any field of study, as long as certain required courses are completed.
The Association of American Medical Colleges has data to suggest that your major simply doesn't matter when it comes to getting accepted to medical school. According to their data, only 51 percent of students who enrolled in medical school in 2012 majored in biological sciences. That means the remaining medical school students majored in humanities, math or statistics, physical sciences, social sciences, specialized health sciences, business or any of the other majors across campus.
When they broke down the MCAT and GPAs of these students by major, all the categories have essentially the same GPA, science GPA and MCAT score. Students who majored in biological sciences had an average MCAT of 31 and GPA of 3.69. Humanities majors had an average MCAT of 31.8 and GPA of 3.66. The numbers for math and statistics, physical sciences, social sciences and specialized health sciences majors were similar.
In a sense, medical schools do not really care what major you choose, as long as you finish your prerequisites and do well in school overall.
No matter what major you study in college, everyone will learn the same material in medical school, and the majority of the material will be new for everyone. In looking at your GPA and MCAT, admissions committees simply want to know that you can handle the intellectual rigors of medical school.
Although majors don't matter to medical schools, your major does matter on a personal level.
Majoring in the biological sciences has its advantages - not only are they interesting and engaging for many people interested in medicine, they are also very convenient since some biological science majors have already incorporated a lot of the medical school prerequisites into their major coursework. But before majoring in one of the sciences, there are some important questions to ask yourself:
- Do you enjoy studying the sciences? If not, doing well in your courses will be more difficult, and medical school may not be for you, given the amount of academic work you'll have to do to get through medical school.
- What if you don't get into medical school? Statistically speaking, most of the people interested in going to medical school don't get in. So, if you don't get into medical school, do you still want to be a chemistry or biology major? If so, those majors are great choices for you. If not, you may need to reconsider your major.
- Can you earn a high GPA as a science major? Remember that you'll need a very high GPA to be a strong candidate for medical school - a 3.5 or higher. When you look at the list of coursework required of a major, can you envision yourself getting mostly A's in the courses?
There are two common mistakes that you should avoid when choosing a major:
- No matter how interesting or convenient a major is, do not choose it if it is too difficult for you. You may be fascinated with molecular & biomedical biology, but if you are getting B's in all your classes, it may not be the best choice for you. You still need a GPA high enough to get into medical school and admissions committees will not cut you slack just because you majored in something difficult. This is a good time to remind you that there is a connection between choosing a major you love and higher GPA's.
- The other mistake to avoid in choosing a major is doing so simply because it is easy or convenient. College is a unique time in your life where you can explore various academic interests. It is a time to challenge yourself and figure out what you really enjoy learning. Be sure to choose a major you love, regardless of whether you get into medical school; you might not.
Lastly, keep in mind that as a medical student, you will be studying anywhere from 15 to 40 hours a week, not including lectures. Your undergraduate years are a good testing ground to see if you could not only handle those rigors but also enjoy them.
When choosing a major, remember that there is no one right choice for everyone. Another applicant may need to be a humanities major in order to reach his or her potential.
In the end, the right major for you truly depends on the balance of what you are passionate about, what you can intellectually handle and what is practical for you and your goals.