Thousands of college students across the country consider themselves to be “pre-med,” all the while fulfilling different majors like biology, chemistry, physiology, psychology, physics, and biochemistry.
Because pre-med students are able to select from such a wide range of majors, it can be confusing for incoming students to know exactly what it means to be a pre-med student.
Our guide will walk you through what it means to be pre-med as well as the requirements and career options that pre-med students need to consider.
What does it mean to be a “pre-med” student?
There are many misconceptions surrounding the term “pre-med.”
Some people believe that pre-med students are ones that have been pre-accepted into medical school. Others believe that all pre-med students want to become doctors.
While some pre-med students do go on to attend medical school and become doctors, these are not requirements for pre-med students.
Being pre-med simply means that these students plan to attend medical school in the future, so they are completing the coursework that will prepare them to take this step.
That’s why pre-med students can major in biology or physiology or biochemistry among other majors. Being a pre-med student does not limit their major, it just shows they are on an academic track that will prepare them for medical school.
What are the requirements for pre-med majors?
While their requirements will vary depending on the school they wish to attend, pre-med students need to take classes and pursue opportunities that will increase their chances of admission into medical school and prepare them for the courses they will have to take once they start medical school.
This means they need to consider their courses, GPA, MCAT scores, and their co-curricular activities.
Courses for pre-med students
Nearly every medical school in the country requires students to have completed one year of the following courses:
- Biology with a lab
- General Chemistry with a lab
- Organic Chemistry with a lab
- Physics with a lab
In addition to completing this course work, students are encouraged to take a variety of elective courses within the sciences, math, humanities, and public health spheres.
Students who are not taking these courses are not pre-med students because they are not taking the steps necessary to get into medical school post-graduation.
Pre-med students who want to be accepted into a top medical school need to have a GPA of at least 3.8.
When considering the average GPA for students accepted into medical schools across the nation, top ranked schools like Harvard Medical School, Yale School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Duke University School of Medicine all have average GPAs of 3.9 and above.
Many reputable state medical schools like The Ohio State University College of Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine, and the Washington University School of Medicine have average GPAs of 3.8 and above.
While some schools, like Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Tulane University School of Medicine, have average GPAs of around 3.5, these are not the norm.
To have the best chance of getting into a great medical school, pre-med students need to have an undergraduate GPA of 3.8 or above. Medical school admission is competitive, and if a student’s GPA is below average, they are not going to get into their top schools.
Most medical schools require applicants to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
The MCAT is a seven and a half hour long test that has sections dedicated to the following topics: Physical Sciences, CARS (Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills), Biological Sciences, Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior.
Because the test is long, costs $315, and is only offered 15 times per year, pre-med students need to make sure they are thoroughly prepared for the MCAT so that they only have to take it once.
When students take the MCAT, they receive a score out of 528. Medical school admissions officers use this score to determine whether an applicant will be a good fit for their school and able to handle the rigorous nature of medical school.
Many of the top medical schools in the nation receive applicants who score 520 and above. Some medical schools also have minimum MCAT scores cutoffs, requiring applicants to have scored at least 490 to be considered for admission.
Co-curricular activities for pre-med students
Medical schools want well-rounded students who do more than just take the required classes for their major.
They want students who participate in co-curricular activities and experiences that offer hands-on experience and additional learning opportunities that can’t be found in the traditional classroom setting.
Pre-med students who want to attend medical school need to find internships at medical facilities, work in research labs, study abroad, or pursue leadership roles in academic clubs and organizations.
What careers can pre-med students pursue?
While there are several pre-med students who go on to become doctors, there are so many more career options for pre-med students to pursue, including jobs in research, technology, and therapy.
Here are some careers available for pre-med students:
- Hospital administrator
- Medical device sales representative
- Occupational therapist
- Physical therapist
- Pharmaceutical representative
- Medical scribe
- Medical researcher
- Medical administrative assistant
- Psychiatric Aide
- Biomedical equipment technician
- EMT (emergency medical technician)
- Forensic scientist
- Medical receptionist
- Medical transcriptionist
- Personal care assistant
- Speech language pathologist
While this is not an exhaustive list (and some of these careers may require additional certification), it demonstrates that there are a variety of positions available for pre-med students.
Preparing for medical school
If you are interested in pursuing one of the careers above or in becoming a pre-med student, here are some steps you need to keep in mind:
Even if you’re still in high school, it is not too early to start preparing for medical school.
While you’re in high school, you can set yourself up for medical school by:
- Earning a high GPA and SAT/ACT score to get into a good undergraduate program
- Learning effective study habits that will help you in undergrad and beyond
- Considering which pre-med related major you want to pursue during your undergraduate career
- Taking challenging courses that will prepare you for academic success in college
Once you’re in undergraduate school, you can begin preparing for medical school from day one by:
- Meeting with your academic advisor and mapping out the best courses for you to take during undergrad
- Scheduling required courses for undergrad early so that you aren’t trying to squeeze them in your junior and senior year
- Attending call out meetings for co-curricular organizations and opportunities on campus
- Learn about opportunities to study abroad or earn internship credit
Mind your GPA
If you want to attend medical school, you need to get good grades, and not just in your science and math courses.
Medical schools will look over the entirety of your undergraduate transcript. Your grades in those women’s studies, English, geology, and humanities courses that you may not find interesting or important will matter.
Learn strong study habits, attend study sessions and private tutoring, and take advantage of every resource available to you on campus that will help you maintain a great GPA.
Take courses related to your desired field of study
While your pre-med pre-requisite courses are of utmost importance, you should also consider taking courses that will help you prepare for your desired field of study in medical school.
For instance, if you want to be a pediatrician or a pediatric surgeon, you should consider taking early childhood development courses through your college’s school of education in addition to your science and psychology courses.
While taking courses through the school of education might not seem important for those who aren’t seeking to become teachers, these courses can help you if you want to pursue a medical career related to children.
Your university’s school of public policy or communication likely has public relations and public speaking courses that will help improve your bedside manner and foster the communication skills you’ll need to do well as a medical professional.
English and intensive writing courses will help you craft better personal statements and essays for your medical school applications.
Don’t knock courses just because they aren’t related to biology, chemistry, or other medicine related fields. There are many courses that will come in handy for your specific field of study.
Study for the MCAT
Having a great GPA and a variety of co-curricular activities on your resume will not help you if you do poorly on the MCAT.
According to the Princeton Review, the average MCAT score of students accepted into medical schools in 2021-2022 was 511.9.
The MCAT is a challenging test that requires months of dedicated preparation, and earning a 511 or above will not be easy. To do well on this test, you need to consider:
- Learning and utilizing effective study methods
- Working with a MCAT tutor
- Taking a MCAT prep course
With the right tools and study habits, you can earn an impressive MCAT score and open the door to attend the medical school of your dreams.
Learn more about how Prep Expert can help you start preparing for medical school before you even finish high school when you visit our website.