Applying to medical school is no small task; after the ordeal, many students consider themselves an expert on the subject. Caitlin Stork, a first-year med student at the University of Michigan, offers some advice for pre-med college majors.
Medical schools accept applicants of any major, provided that they’ve completed the requisite pre-med coursework. Typically, the vast majority of accepted college students are science majors, but this tendency is changing as medical colleges seek to diversify their student bodies. “If you do well in your science courses, it’s probably to your advantage to be a non-science major because you’re contributing to the school’s diversity,” says Caitlin, who majored in religion at Harvard College.
In addition to math, science, and English requirements, take as many biochemistry classes as possible. Try to space out your pre-med coursework over the four years so that you can devote your maximum effort to each class.
Furthermore, use this time to get to know your professors outside of the classroom. “I think it’s really smart to get to know some of your professors on a personal level, so that if you do ask them for a [recommendation] letter, it’s distinct,” Caitlin says.
Joining every pre-med organization on campus won’t make you a shoo-in for medical school. Rather, focus on activities that truly will make you stand out. Caitlin didn’t join any pre-med groups but instead got experience by working at a hospital.
The Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, is given in August and April. Give yourself at least three months to study, whether you review on your own or take a prep course.
“I’ve heard that the best thing those classes do is that they force you to study. They force you to go to class; they force you to participate,” says Caitlin. “I didn’t take a course because I don’t learn well in a classroom environment.” Even if you opt to study solo, buy or borrow a course book to work through; Kaplan and The Princeton Review are popular brands.
During your undergraduate years, decide whether you’re more interested in research medicine or clinical care. Then you can focus your med-school search on institutions that excel in your desired field.
Medical school applications comprise three stages. The first is the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), a standard procedure that most candidates must complete. The sooner you finish the AMCAS, the more time you’ll have to prepare for the second and third stages of the application process.