One of the biggest decisions you have to make as an undergrad student is choosing a major. If you are a pre-med student or planning on being a premed student, you will need to choose a major in addition to your pre-med prerequisites. So, what’s the best pre-med major?
The most COMMON major for pre-med students is biology. There is no surprise there. Most college students would agree that pre-med students tend to be biology majors.
The reason why the biology major is the most common is largely due to convenience. The pre-med prerequisites tend to align nicely with a biology degree. In other words, the classes that you have to take in order to be qualified for medical school are usually also required for every biology major.
Pre-med students are always pressed for time, so it would make sense why most students would want to kill two birds with one stone by becoming a biology major.
However, just because the biology major is the most COMMON major for pre-med students does not mean it is the BEST. Keep reading for key points to consider when choosing the BEST pre-med major.
A Biology Major Does Not Automatically Help Your Medical School Application
Right off the bat, we can see that GPA and MCAT are only marginally different for each major. There is no one major which gives you a considerable advantage to getting into medical school.
Also, below are the calculated percentages of applicants who get accepted into medical school by major.
- 40.7% Biology
- 46.4% Humanities
- 47.4% Math and Statistics
- 38.5% Other
- 47.7% Physical sciences
- 39.9% Social Sciences
- 36.7% Specialized Health Sciences
- 41.0% Overall
Based on these percentages, we can see that being a biology major does not give you a statistical advantage of getting into medical school. In fact, it seems to be the most average. Humanities and Math/Statistics, however, seem to offer an advantage.
This doesn’t mean that Humanities, Math, or Statistics are the best majors for a pre-med student. There are other variables at play. For instance, there is a possibility that students who take on the extra workload of being a non-biology major also tend to be students who are overachievers with a packed medical school application.
The point I’m trying to make is that just because you choose the most popular pre-med major doesn’t mean it is the BEST major.
Medical School Like Well Rounded Individuals
Medical schools are liking well-rounded students more and more. This is why everyone tells you to make sure you are doing plenty of volunteering, joining clubs, doing research, and engaged in other extracurriculars.
Whether it is medically relevant or not, there are hardly any extracurriculars that are not valuable on a medical school application.
The same can be speculated about your pre-med major.
Picture this, there are two identical students being considered for a seat at a medical school. They both did the exact same amount of extracurriculars, they both go to the same school, they both have the exact same MCAT score on every section, they both have the same GPA, they both aced their premed courses, and they both applied on the same date (meaning they applied early!).
However, there is one difference, one student is a biology major while the other is a philosophy major.
Chances are, the medical school is going to take the philosophy major. Simply because this major is less common and will ultimately bring more diversity to the school. Not to mention, in their minds the philosophy student chose the harder route. He or she had to master two highly different fields of academics while the biology major only had to focus on one.
Study What You Are Passionate About
Whatever you do, don’t pick your major because you think it’s the “correct” major for getting into medical school.
Find what you are passionate about and study that. Obviously, if you are wanting to become a medical student you should be passionate about the sciences. Otherwise getting through college-level chemistry and biology would be much more difficult. However, there is a very good chance you will be passionate about another subject as well.
This kind of passion for learning really helps motivate you for getting into medical school!
Don’t rob yourself of studying something else that truly interests you. You are spending good money to be in college!
Having a Back Up Degree Doesn’t Hurt
Now before I keep going, I understand that tunnel vision is important, if not essential, for getting into medical school. I’m not saying you should be thinking about other careers while being a pre-med. Losing focus on the end goal will make your overall application suffer.
However, nobody can predict the future. Worst case scenario, having that backup degree in another subject that interests you will not hurt.
Not to mention, the “back up degree” can lead to additional opportunities in the field of medicine!
For example, there are physicians that run businesses on the side. A lot of the time these doctors obtained a business degree.
Do Not Underestimate The Pre-med Curriculum
If you don’t pick a science major, be careful to not underestimate the pre-med curriculum. There is A LOT of work to be done for those prerequisites. Below is a list to show you how much extra work you will have to do:
- Biology: Lecture: two semesters or three-quarters | Lab: one term
- General chemistry: Lecture: one semester or two-quarters | Lab: one term
- Organic chemistry: Lecture: two semesters or two-quarters | Lab: one term
- Biochemistry: Lecture: one term | Lab: not required
- Physics: Lecture: two semesters or three-quarters | Lab: one term
- Math: Lecture: two semesters or three-quarters (must include calculus and statistics)
- English: Lecture: two semesters or three-quarters (must include writing)
There are some variations depending on medical school, but these are the standard medical school prerequisites.
Your workload will be increased by doing a non-science major. Most of those classes above overlap with a biology major but not a non-science major.
Is There a Major That Will Better Prepare You For The MCAT?
The short answer is no. The above prerequisites for medical school are also essentially the prerequisites for the MCAT. So, as long as you are studying to get into medical school, you should be taking the courses you need to do well on the MCAT.
I know I make it sound like being a biology major is the wrong choice. It’s not. Heck, I was a biology major myself.
The point I’m trying to make is to not get fixated on becoming a biology major because it seems like that’s what everyone who wants to get into medical school is doing.
The reality is, there is no BEST major.
In the end, your chances of getting into medical school are dependent on maintaining good grades and developing a well-rounded application with lots of extracurriculars. If there is a subject you are passionate about, study it!
Having that extra skill set will only help you with your medical school application because the admissions committees will see that you have other interests.
Diversity is key. If you have the opportunity to study a different subject while doing your pre-requisites, I recommend doing that.