Students interested in becoming physicians have numerous obligations, including the development of a strong science foundation and involvement in diverse extracurricular activities such as shadowing, patient exposure, service, leadership, and research. It can be a bit daunting, but it is possible to do everything you need to do by starting now and working consistently throughout your undergraduate years.
Please read the basic information we have provided while recognizing that the majority of support the Prehealth Advising Office provides students is through face-to-face advising appointments and our Canvas Pre-Medical Advising pages. As always, we would encourage you to make an appointment with us to discuss any questions you may have.
Medical graduate programs do not require or favor ANY specific major. We encourage you to consider a major that interests you and one that will provide you an alternate pathway if you change your mind about medicine as a career. There are many facets to medicine and ideally your undergraduate degree will prove functional with whatever career you pursue. For example, there are numerous physicians running clinics or acting as health administrators; a degree in business administration could prove beneficial in this scenario. No matter what you choose to major in, you will be most prepared if you counsel with both your major academic advisor and your prehealth advisor on a regular basis.Find a Degree Major Exploration
The most common question we get asked is "what classes do I need to take to prepare for medical school?" This question is complicated to answer because each school varies slightly in their prerequisite requirements. Below are some of the most common requirements. They are either required by the majority of medical schools or they are preparatory for the MCAT.
Biology – BIOL 1610/1620 with labs 1615/1625
General or Inorganic Chemistry – CHEM 1210/1220 with labs 1215/1225
Organic Chemistry – CHEM 2310/2320 with labs 2315/2325
Biochemistry – CHEM 3700 with lab 3710
Physics – PHYS 2110/2120 (includes labs) or PHYS 2210/2220 plus labs 2215/2225
Human Physiology – BIOL 2420 or 4600
English – ENGL 1010/2010
Below are additional classes that might be required or recommended as prerequisites, but will depend heavily upon specific schools. Make sure to thoroughly do your research on specific schools that you are interested in!
BIOL 5210 – Cell Biology
BIOL 3300 – Microbiology
BIOL 3060 – Genetics
BIOL 2320 - Human Anatomy
BIOL 1060 – Prehealth Orientation
BIOL 3100 – Bioethics
BIOL 1030 – MCAT Prep
BIOL 5800 – Undergraduate Research
A common misconception students have is that medical schools focus only on your GPA and MCAT score. While those metrics are certainly an important part of your application, they are not enough on their own to get you into medical school. Your extracurricular preparation is a vitally important aspect of your application. To help you best prepare, we have broken down extracurricular activities into the five areas listed below.
Do you know how much paperwork is involved in the daily life of a physician? Can you handle the sights/sounds/smells associated with practicing medicine? Do you know what kind of problems medical professionals face? Shadowing provides you with important and realistic exposure to the medical profession and can help you answer some of the important questions listed above. Most schools recommend that students shadow and many require it.
Many students ask, “How do I get started with shadowing?” Start with people you know. Do you have any family members or friends who are doctors? Use your connections. If you do not know any physicians, do not worry! Many students call medical offices directly to find shadowing opportunities, and generally physicians are happy to support the up-and-coming healthcare workforce by allowing students to shadow them.
In order to be adequately prepared for medical school, you will need some experience interacting with patients during the years leading up to your application. You can obtain patient exposure many different ways (CNA, EMT, Hospice, medical assisting, etc.), and your exposure can be paid or volunteer experience. We highly encourage you to explore diverse settings of medicine.
Becoming a successful physician includes developing a service-oriented outlook. Because of this, medical schools are looking for how you have developed this character trait through various activities. Many health professionals will tell you that service plays an important role in their influence on the community and their ability to help their patients.
Your service and volunteer repertoire need not be limited to clinical exposure; rather, find things that you are passionate about and be mindful of volunteer and service opportunities that arise.
Oh no—the “R” word! Undergraduate research is important in your application because it demonstrates that you have an intimate understanding of the scientific method. Being involved in research will help you develop critical thinking skills and will allow you to be an informed consumer of new research studies that will be presented to you as a physician. Plus, there's no better way to solidify concepts you learn in class than actively applying them in the lab.
All health professionals are leaders to some degree, and professional schools appreciate students with these skills. There is no one way to gain leadership experience, but some common ways are getting involved in a club and participating in club administration, student government, working as a tutor, TA, or SI, etc. Remember, demonstrating leadership doesn’t always come with a “title”! You can demonstrate leadership many different ways and through a variety of activities.