Medical School Admissions: How to Be Pre-Med and Still Enjoy College

Posted by Josie Fisher on 9/19/14 10:28 AM

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You can DO it. Young Hasselhoff believes in you.

As course shopping ends for college students across the country, we asked Josie, one of our top MCAT tutors and medical school admissions coaches, for her thoughts on a common question for future doctors everywhere: Should I Take All of my Pre-Med Requirements as an Undergraduate?

As a college freshman aspiring to a career as a physician, I thought that if I was going to get into a good medical school, I needed to pursue a traditional science major and take all of the pre-medical requirements as an undergraduate. However, after taking – and loving – my first-ever economics course, I decided that I would instead pursue a double major in economics and environmental studies and postpone the organic chemistry and physics requirements until after I graduated from college. To this day, I like to take sole credit for this decision, though here’s the truth: my doctor parents strongly encouraged me to pursue a non-science major as an undergraduate (parents take note: this was strongly endorsed by two physicians trained at Harvard – so they hopefully know something, right?). In the end it was one of the best decisions I have made!

My parents knew that I could take science courses after I graduated and would spend the rest of my life studying science if I became a doctor, but I would not get the chance to take “European Art and Architecture from 1400 to 1800” in medical school. (Though please let me know if you find a medical school offering art history courses like this one; I thoroughly enjoyed it.)

I am very lucky that my parents were strong advocates of my putting off the pre-medical requirements, as it enabled me to take full advantage of the other courses and extracurricular pursuits that my college had to offer. Many of my friends did not have similar advice from their parents, thus struggled through organic chemistry and physics as undergraduates, to the detriment of their grade in the course, their science GPA when applying to medical school, their work in their other courses, and their enjoyment of their college life. Some even had to re-take the course after they graduated in order to improve their grade and GPA.

Thus, in order to be successful in your pre-medical courses, get a fully comprehensive education by taking courses in a wide range of subjects, and especially if you are a college athlete, like I was, or are involved in other time-intensive extracurricular activities, I strongly recommend that you consider other options for ways to fulfill your pre-medical requirements. Here are a few great options:

  1. Full-Time Post-Baccalaureate Programs: These programs often run for one year and enable you to take all of the courses required for medical school during that time. They also offer advising for medical school admissions and some may make your admission to the medical school with which they are affiliated more likely.
  2. Part-Time Night Courses: Harvard Extension School and other programs in other cities offer evening science courses. You can take one or more at a time several nights a week. At Harvard Extension School, for example, the pre-medical courses are taught by the same instructors as courses offered to Harvard undergraduates. This was the option I pursued and I was able to take classes at night while working a full-time job during the day. My employer even paid almost the entire cost of my courses, so I essentially got to take them for free!
  3. Summer Academics: You can take two semesters of general chemistry, biology, physics, or organic chemistry in a concentrated two-month period during the summer. You can either take these courses during one of the summers during college or a summer after college graduation.

Although you may worry that these programs may not be seen as favorably as the courses offered in your undergraduate institution, I have seen many friends go onto some of the highest ranked medical schools, including Harvard, from these programs. Plus, there are so many other fun things – interesting jobs, fun volunteering opportunities, and other activities that can make you a stronger medical school applicant – that you can do while taking courses after you graduate! If you’re wondering how you can make this system work for you, consider talking to one of Cambridge Coaching’s medical school admissions consultants in New York, Boston, or online. Call us for a free consult, and we can help you plan your application strategy!

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Tags: medical school admissions