So you climbed the mountain of prerequisites that serves as the first major weed-out system for pre-meds? If you did so with success, give yourself some credit. If you are the typical pre-med, you likely took Physics and Organic Chemistry in the same semester, with labs, with other classes to fill credit requirements, while working and/or shadowing and doing research and volunteering and making A’s. Phew! *shudders from traumatic flashbacks*
Now that that’s over with, what classes should you take? What should you be doing?
First, let’s make sure you completed the correct requirements. To apply to medical school, you must have successfully completed the following classes:
- General Biology I with Lab
- General Biology II with Lab
- General Chemistry I with Lab
- General Chemistry II with Lab
- Physics I (w/ or w/o Calculus) with Lab
- Physics II (w/ or w/o Calculus) with Lab
- Organic Chemistry I with Lab
- Organic Chemistry II with Lab
- Calculus I&II OR Calculus I and Statistics I&II
- General Biochemistry (through Chemistry or Biology department)
- Intro to Social Psychology
- General English requirements
The above listed classes are required. The classes listed below are highly recommended for success on the MCAT as well as preparation for a changing expectation of medical professionals to be proficient in psychology/social sciences as well as medicine.
- Cognitive Processes
- Intro to Biopsychology
- Medical Sociology
- Medical Anthropology
Once you have completed the classes above, you are well prepared to take your MCAT and apply to medical school. As far as classes to take after this point, you have several points that you should consider.
1. What are you majoring in? You should focus on completing the requirements of your major first and foremost. You must have a completed four-year undergraduate degree before enrolling in medical school. Many classes that Biology majors take will provide introductory level preparation for medical school content. Some of these classes may include (but are not limited to):
- Cell Biology
- Molecular Biology
- Medical Terminology
Note: If you are attempting to choose classes to help prepare you for medical school, be honest with yourself. How challenging is that professor? Is this a sleeper class/GPA booster or will this class actually challenge you intellectually? If you are choosing a class because on paper it looks good, but in reality it requires minimal to no effort, you are not doing yourself any favors in preparing for medical school.
2. When reviewing your application, medical schools take into account the rigor of your course schedule. Some schools also have recommended classes they list for applicants that are specific to each school, such as Embryology. If you have your sights set on being a competitive applicant to a specific program, look into these requirements on the MSAR. Also note that some medical schools do not accept AP or online credits for required classes. Look into these specifics when you are planning your course schedule.
3. If you have the space on your schedule to fit in some classes that you would like to take, instead of those you have to take, find something you love! Do you enjoy art? Do you like astronomy? Do you want to develop your proficiency in another language? Do it now, because you wont have the chance to take classes like “Primate Biology” while you’re in medical school. For example, I took Figure Drawing and Figure Sculpting classes in between my science classes after my prereq’s were done. I maintained my hobby of drawing while getting credit for it. It became forced relaxation time. Don’t look at this as slack time, though. If you do choose to pick fun science/non-science classes to balance out your major requirements/electives, choose classes that will still challenge you in some way.
4. Make sure that the classes you choose are benefiting you personally and intellectually. You should leave every class a better, more educated person. Not a better cheater or test bank finder. Every corner you cut in undergrad is setting you up for failure in your future. You may think that a higher grade in a class, regardless of how you get it, is worth it for the sake of your GPA. But is it? Is it worth what knowledge and skills you’re sacrificing by not putting in your full effort, or taking the “easy” professor? Think about your actions and what consequences they may have on your future. Would you trust a doctor that took all the easy professors to get into medical school?
My advice is to take advantage of your time here in undergrad. At no other time in your life will you have the opportunity to explore so many different kinds of subjects in a quality education environment. Have you ever been really curious about a certain subject, like philosophy, or cooking? Do you like to drink wine? Some universities offer wine tasting classes. It’s an ENTIRE SEMESTER of studying and tasting wine (must be 21+ to enroll). When will you have the chance to do these awesome things ever again? Don’t be afraid to branch out of your major, or really pursue something in addition to your major (such as studying another language or art form). Have some fun while you’re preparing to apply to medical school. It will help keep your head on straight and avoid burnout while making you an interesting person and applicant.
Have questions about what classes to take after your prereqs? Ask them in the comment section below!