Choice of major

It is important to realize that requirements for medical school are not the same as requirements for a Biology major. These requirements can be met within the context of any major, so long as you plan ahead and choose appropriate electives. Conversely, a Biology major does not in itself qualify you for medical school. It is true that a majority of our pre-medical students major in Biology or Chemistry, but in recent years we have sent students to medical school with majors in Religion, Philosophy, English, and Sociology. In every case, however, they had taken the required courses for medical school and had demonstrated the ability to do well in challenging science courses, usually through a minor in Biology and/or Chemistry.

Course requirements for medical school

All medical schools require the following courses:

  • One year of Biology with lab
  • One year of Organic Chemistry with lab
  • One year of General Chemistry with lab
  • One year of Physics with lab
  • One year of English

Individual medical schools may have additional course requirements, such as Calculus.

We strongly recommend that all premedical students take Biology 305-306 (Human Physiology I & II). You should also take additional Upper-division science courses, in order to demonstrate that you can succeed in medical school coursework. The following courses are good choices for premedical students:

  • Bio; 213 Organismal Diversity
  • Bio 260 Preceptorship in Health or Veterinary Sciences
  • Bio 311 General Microbiology
  • Bio 312 Pathogenic Bacteriology and Immunology
  • Bio 325 Chordate Anatomy and Embryology
  • Bio 335 Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Bio 337 Cell Biology
  • Bio 421 Developmental Biology
  • Che 307 Chemistry and Cancer
  • Che 327 Medicinal Chemistry
  • Che 341 Biochemistry

There are also appropriate electives offered through other departments, including Kinesiology & Health Sciences (KHS), Psychology, and Philosophy

The dreaded MCAT exam

All medical schools also require that you take the MCAT exam (Medical College Admissions Test). The MCAT is now in a computerized format, and administered several times throughout the year at various test locations. You should take the exam before applying to medical school or at least in the early stages of the application process. Most medical schools will not consider your application until you have taken the MCAT. You should plan on taking it during the spring of your junior year. This means you need to be prepared for the MCAT exam in three years, not four. As minimal preparation you should complete the required courses listed above, plus the Biology 305-306 sequence, by the end of your Junior year.

“Real-World” Experience

To be a viable candidate for medical school you must demonstrate that you have sufficiently firsthand experience with medical practice to make an informed career decision, not just the academic ability to succeed in the medical school classroom. “Shadowing,” in which a pre-medical students observe and assists practicing doctors, is an absolutely essential part of preparing for medical school. We offer an organized shadowing experience via Biology 260 (Preceptorship in Health or Veterinary Sciences), but we also strongly recommend that you find other opportunities to shadow doctors and obtain firsthand experience. Volunteer or paid work in a hospital, clinic, or other medical setting is an excellent way to gain experience. Other forms of community service are also very important in demonstrating your commitment to help others, even if the work is not specifically medical.

A suggested curriculum

The following sequence of courses will prepare you to take the MCAT and apply to medical school at the end of your Junior year:

First Year
Fall SemesterCompletedSpring SemesterCompleted
BIO 111 (with lab)BIO 212 (with lab)
CHE 111 (with lab)CHE 112, 113 (with lab)
Second Year
Fall SemesterCompletedSpring SemesterCompleted
CHE 201, 202 (with lab)CHE 309, 310 (with lab)
BIO 213 (with lab)
[Or start the physiology or physics sequence]
Third Year
Fall SemesterCompletedSpring SemesterCompleted
PHY 111 (with lab)PHY 112 (with lab)
BIO 305 (with lab)BIO 306 (with lab)
BIO 260
Fourth Year
Additional upper-level courses in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, KHS, or other appropriate fields.

 

You don’t have to follow this schedule exactly, so long as you complete these courses by the end of Junior year. However, you should plan ahead so that you are taking two laboratory courses per semester. For example, if you start the Chemistry sequence your sophomore year you might also take Physics sophomore year – otherwise you will be taking Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Physiology, all with labs, concurrently in your junior year. Of course, you will also have to take additional courses to meet the requirements for your major. Again, plan ahead so you don’t have too many lab courses in any one semester.

Many students choose to wait one or more years between college and medical school to pursue other interests or to further prepare for medical school. If you want to do so you can spread the courses listed above over four years. Be aware, however, that if you take the MCAT in your Senior year you will not be able to start medical school until one year after you graduate.

Pre-med curriculum with a Biology major.

For a Biology major you will need to:

  1. complete the Biology core,
  2. take the Biology junior and senior seminar courses, and
  3. take at least 15 hours of 300- or 400-level Biology courses while still meeting the requirements described above. The following plan of study will allow you to meet these requirements and be prepared for the MCAT exam at the end of your Junior year:
First Year
Fall SemesterCompletedSpring SemesterCompleted
BIO 111 (with lab)BIO 212 (with lab)
CHE 111 (with lab)CHE 112, 113 (with lab)
Second Year
Fall SemesterCompletedSpring SemesterCompleted
CHE 201, 202 (with lab)CHE 309, 310 (with lab)
BIO 213 (with lab)BIO 314 (with lab)
Third Year
Fall SemesterCompletedSpring SemesterCompleted
PHY 111 (with lab)PHY 112 (with lab)
BIO 305 (with lab)BIO 306 (with lab)
BIO 260BIO 451
BIO Elective (300/400 level)
Fourth Year
Fall SemesterCompletedSpring SemesterCompleted
BIO 4522 BIO Electives (300/400 level)
BIO Elective (300/400 level)