What is Pre-Med?
Helpful Answers to Common Questions About the Best Path to Medical School
The path to becoming a medical doctor takes students on a lengthy journey, one that will involve years of effort, commitment and study. There are many routes to becoming a licensed physician, but they all pass through medical school. Students can’t get into medical school without fulfilling certain requirements, like completing prerequisite coursework, having adequate standardized test scores and receiving letters of recommendation.
This guide will help answer some of the questions aspiring doctors have about choosing the best pre med track to achieve their dreams of making a difference in the world of medicine.
To be clear, the term “pre-med” can be applied to a wide range of educational paths, indicating that you have plans to move on to medical school at some point in the future.
However, contrary to popular belief, a pre-med education path doesn’t have to be founded on a biology major at the undergraduate level. Modern medicine is a trans-disciplinary field after all, one that involves much more than the biological sciences.
The Path To Med School Starts Early
For pre-med students, the first priority of a pre-med education should be to make sure that they fulfill all the prerequisite coursework requirements for their medical school(s) of choice.
Every medical school has slightly different requirements, but they all share some common curricula, usually in the areas of biology, math, physics and chemistry, as well as some courses in the core language of instruction.
If you have hopes of a medical career, before starting your college education, make sure that your major of choice lets you fulfill all of the academic requirements of medical schools.
What do Pre-Med Students Major in?
Although most people don’t realize it, any major can be pre-med, as long as it satisfies the prerequisite requirements for med school. There are even ways to major in other subjects and take prerequisite courses for med school in addition to the core requirements of your major.
These are the most common areas of study for pre-med students:
Human biology is sometimes called the unofficial pre-med major because it focuses on many of the subjects that students study in depth at med school.
This major is another safe choice for aspiring physicians, as biology majors also take classes in areas like ecology, evolution and microbiology, all of which factor prominently in medical studies and practice.
This major is especially pertinent for aspiring psychiatrists, but it has a great deal of application across many medical fields.
Chemistry & Biochemistry
A strong foundation in these sciences can help students prepare for many different medical specialties.
Refined critical thinking skills, and a deep understanding of ethical issues, are important to fully understand the medical issues faced by patients and how to best resolve them.
What is the Best Major for a Pre-Med Student?
For pre-med students, there is no cookie-cutter solution to the best academic path. That said, a solid understanding of science is absolutely essential for pre-med students, which is why so many academic advisors steer students towards a pre-med major like biology or chemistry. But medicine is more than the application of pure science. It takes a subtle and nuanced understanding of many different fields.
Studying biology, for example, will certainly provide the right educational foundation for medical school, but it does not guarantee outstanding standardized test scores or getting accepted into a top medical school. In short, you don’t need to take a pre-med major in biology to become a doctor.
Ultimately, the best major for a pre-med student is the major that helps best inform your view of the world and inspires your curiosity. Becoming a physician is also a commitment to life-long learning, which is also an essential component of pre-med education.
Medical School Admissions Requirements
Medical school requirements vary slightly from institution to institution, but, in general, students who apply are expected to have at least:
- One year of biology with lab
- One year of general chemistry with lab
- One year of organic chemistry with lab
- One year of physics with lab
- At least one semester of biochemistry
- A math requirement (some schools require calculus, some require statistics, some require both)
- One year of English
Remember, these are basic requirements for med schools. Because the admissions process can be so competitive, you will want to make sure that your application goes beyond the bare minimum. This could require taking more courses in these core areas, which is why it is recommended to receive an accredited undergraduate degree before applying to med school.
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) Test Scores
This standardized test is used by medical schools as a major factor in determining who gets accepted and who gets rejected. The MCAT includes four sections:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Clearly, a solid foundation in science courses will help students prepare for the MCAT, and strong MCAT scores will help your chances when you apply to medical school. But there is more to the medical school application process than your GPA and test scores.
Going Beyond Academics
Med schools look at more than academic records when they decide who gets accepted to MD programs. Successful applicants often have other kinds of experience that demonstrates their commitment and dedication to the study of medicine.
Med school admissions committees value a good MCAT score and a high GPA, and they will examine your transcript to make sure you fulfilled the necessary pre-med requirements, but it’s important to remember that the medical school admissions process evaluates candidates holistically.
Set Yourself Apart From Other Pre-Med Majors
Medical schools field many applications every semester, and they can easily see through a padded application. They want students who excel in more than their pre-med requirements.
Schools prefer students who stand out in their academic and extracurricular endeavors outside of the field of medicine. For pre-meds, finding volunteer work in an area of genuine interest is key to distinguishing yourself from other pre-med majors because your passion and dedication will shine through.
Aside from pre-requisite course requirements, pre meds should also have some sort of experience in a medical setting. Whether through volunteer work or a structured program, any experience you can gain in a medical setting will help your case with admissions committee members.
Letters of Recommendation
Medical school applicants usually need more than one letter recommendation. Quite often, applicants are expected to have two letters from professors of their science courses and one from a non-science course.
American University of Antigua (AUA) – College of Medicine
For aspiring students in the United States and Canada, choosing a Caribbean medical school is an excellent path to becoming a doctor.
The manageable tuition fees and cost of living in the Caribbean removes the economic barrier to studying medicine, and the abundance of direct flights from many North American cities make it easy to travel in between semesters and during holidays.
With its excellent accreditation status, American University of Antigua medical graduates are eligible for residency, licensure and clinical rotations throughout India, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada as soon as they pass their necessary licensure exams.
The AUA’s College of Medicine requires a minimum of 90 credit hours of college courses, including certain courses in biology, chemistry, physics, math and English, and strongly recommends that applicants earn a degree from an accredited undergraduate institution before applying. To learn more about AUA’s prerequisites, click here.
Through an articulation agreement with the American International College of Arts and Sciences – Antigua (AICASA), students who complete premedical coursework at AICASA are guaranteed acceptance into AUA College of Medicine.
American International College of Arts and Sciences (AICASA) – Antigua
AICASA believes that anyone with the talent, drive, and passion to be a qualified medical practitioner should be allowed the opportunity to realize their dream. The college provides a variety of undergraduate courses with an emphasis on pre-med and health science majors. All of which lead to an opportunity to earn an Associate of Science (AS) degree in Health Sciences and preferential admission status to an MD degree conferred by AUA College of Medicine.Students who are currently in the process of completing their high school studies can apply at AICASA to earn an AS in Health Sciences. To learn more about this pre-med track to the AUA School of Medicine, click here.