As an aspiring med student, you’ve no doubt spent a lot of time thinking about the best major to pursue as an undergrad. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when choosing the right pre-med major. After all, there are seemingly endless options, and selecting the right path feels critical to your future potential as a physician.
First, know that there is no single correct answer to the question “What is the best pre-med major?” However, certain undergraduate courses of study can help you get a leg up on other applicants and feel more prepared for success during your first year as a medical student.
In this post, we’ll help you determine which pre-med major might be right for you by walking through the decision-making process and exploring a variety of undergraduate options.
If you’re ready to take the first step on your journey to medical school, reach out to the admissions team at Trinity! We can help you learn more about your medical school options, including if a combined Pre-Med/MD program might be right for you.
What Makes a Good Pre-Med Major?
You’ll likely hear many college students say they are “pre-med” during their undergraduate years, but unfortunately, it’s usually not that simple. Pre-med is not a standard major or degree in and of itself. Rather, it’s a catchall term that can refer to a variety of relevant majors, minors, and focuses you can study before applying to medical school.
So, how do you decide what pre-med major is right for you? First, it’s important to focus on gaining a strong foundation of related scientific knowledge. The majority of medical schools require that applicants have taken specific courses in biology, chemistry, math, and physics. It is also important to take your time in building knowledge in these areas so that you can understand the concepts more deeply and be well-prepared for the rigors of medical school classes, as well as your MCAT exam.
In addition to course content, take into consideration your own interests and goals. Keep an eye out for opportunities beyond the classroom such as research, clinical experience, and community service activities – these are all beneficial in terms of gaining real-world experience and demonstrating your commitment to a career in medicine.
The Most Popular Pre-Med Majors
Certain majors naturally align well with medical school curriculum. By requiring classes that teach foundational scientific concepts, these majors prepare students for the type of coursework they can expect in medical school.
According to 2020 data from the American Association of Medical Colleges, the most common pre-med majors of medical school matriculants included:
- Biological sciences (such as biology, biochemistry, microbiology, neuroscience, or biomedical engineering)
- Physical sciences (such as chemistry, physics, environmental science, or geology)
- Social sciences (such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, or economics)
Even though these are the most popular pre-med majors, keep in mind that they do not represent all med school matriculants, much less practicing physicians.
Non-Traditional Pre-Med Majors
Choosing a non-traditional pre-med major may help to set your application apart from other applicants and can also be beneficial in terms of demonstrating your ability to succeed in a variety of academic areas.
Less typical, but still common, majors might include the following:
- Humanities (such as language and linguistics, gender studies, or philosophy)
- Specialized health sciences (such as nursing, healthcare administration, public health, or nutrition)
- Math and statistics (such as general mathematics, calculus, or computer science)
Bringing a unique perspective to medical school can be valuable and help you stand out in your personal statement and medical school admissions interviews. However, basic sciences can be harder to fit into non-traditional pre-med tracks, so you might need to work harder to ensure you are well-prepared upon graduation.
Med School Requirements to Keep in Mind
Most medical schools have prerequisite courses that must be completed prior to matriculation. Be sure you’re aware of any additional course requirements for the schools you’re applying to and plan ahead so that you can fulfill these requirements with enough time to spare.
For instance, at Trinity School of Medicine, we require applicants to meet the following course requirements:
- Biology with Lab
- General/Inorganic Chemistry with Lab
- Organic Chemistry with Lab
Getting an early start on pre-med planning will help you fit these courses into your schedule while staying on track with other degree requirements and electives.
5-Year MD Programs
If you’re not sure what pre-med major is right for you, consider a combined Pre-Med/MD program. These five-year programs combine undergraduate coursework with pre-med course requirements and can be an ideal route for those seeking a career as a physician.
5-year MD programs can help prepare students for the rigors of medical school while allowing them to “fast-track” their academic experience.
Depending on the school, the benefits of a 5-year program might include:
- Eliminating the need to apply to medical school after graduation
- An expedited path to residency — usually within 5 years rather than 7 or 8
- Asynchronous online format throughout basic science courses
- Early access to clinical sciences and required certifications
- Financial advantages compared to traditional undergraduate degree programs
- Additional academic resources, mentorship opportunities, and other support throughout the program
As with any MD program, 5-year hybrid programs come with prerequisites that vary based on the institution.
Choosing the Right Pre-Med Major for You
Deciding which pre-med major to pursue is a highly individualized process. Consider your academic goals, interests, and the admission requirements of the schools you’re targeting before making a decision.
At Trinity School of Medicine, we take a holistic approach to medical school admissions for our 5-year combined program and traditional MD program. We believe that excellent physicians can come from all majors and backgrounds, so we set admissions standards that seek to reflect the individual, not just their CV.
To learn more about our pre-med program or speak with an admissions team member, get in touch today!