Becoming a physician requires a lot of planning. You have to plan which college to attend, plan your extra-curricular activities, plan the MCAT, and perhaps most complex is planning your courses. Every medical school has an expectation on what courses you should have completed before attending their school, but if you are able to take a subset of courses, you will most likely satisfy each school’s specific requirements. Let’s learn a little more about these courses and how you can plan them throughout your undergraduate education.
Some schools say required courses, and some say recommended, so which is it?
Most medical schools provide explicit instructions on what they expect of applicants. If a course says that it is required, then it is something that you must take before matriculating at their school. There are very few exceptions to this, therefore you should plan on meeting their requirements. Some medical schools will have recommended prerequisite course work where they would like you to have had taken a particular class but if did not complete it, this should not preclude your matriculation.
Regardless if some courses are recommended or required, since you will likely be applying to 25-45 schools, you should try to have met every course requirement in order to be considered at every school you apply to.
So what are the required courses?
The American Association of Medical Colleges recommends the following courses to satisfy most medical school requirements:
-One year of biology
-One year of physics
-One year of English
-Two years of chemistry, including organic chemistry
These courses (with the exception of English) should be accompanied by a lab as well. As mentioned, since each school has their own specific requirements, other commonly required courses include:
-One year of math (including calculus)
-One semester of biostatistics
-One semester of biochemistry
-One semester of sociology
-One semester of psychology
How do I satisfy all of those requirements?
When you are planning your college courses, it can seem quite overwhelming to consider all of the prerequisite courses you need to have for medical school. In order to complete these courses, a lot of people will opt for a science major like biology, chemistry or biochemistry. Not only do most premeds have an interest in science, the courses to satisfy your science major requirements usually will cross-over to the medical school prerequisites.
However, majoring in science is not necessary to apply to medical school and some people actually think being a non-science major can give you a unique edge when applying to medical school. If you choose a non-science major, satisfying the medical school pre-requisite course requirements will just take more planning. This may involve a science minor, having a heavier course load, or possibly graduating a year later.
When should these course be completed?
Ideally you should have the prerequisite courses completed when applying to medical school. This allows the medical school to confirm the completion of the courses as an applicant, and your grades are a very significant part in the evaluation of your application.
If you don’t have these courses completed when you apply, you can indicate planned courses on your AMCAS application, and you will likely have to show medical schools that you have satisfied their requirements prior to matriculation.
Will medical schools accept advanced placement (AP) credit for these courses?
Unfortunately most medical schools will not accept AP credit in place of completing the actual course in college. If you have AP credit for any of the prerequisite courses, you should plan on retaking them in undergrad.
Your path to medical school will require some significant planning, but starting early and understanding what is expected of you will allow you much more flexibility when organizing your schedule. Talk to your college advisor, reach out to other premeds at your school, and start researching medical schools and their individual requirements early. And, while you’re taking your classes, remember to do well and enjoy the material, and remember that everything you are learning is forming the foundation to one day become a great physician!