What major should I select?
Pre-medicine is NOT a major and there is no "correct" major for pre-medicine. While most students major in a science area like biology, chemistry, or math, a major in science is not required. Because medical schools seek candidates with diverse interests who are capable of handling rigorous science courses, students with backgrounds in liberal arts and business are also successful. So the best advice is to select a major in an area in which you are interested and in which you can do well.
What courses are required?
All medical schools in the U.S. and off-shore have similar requirements for acceptance into their programs. Those required courses are:
2 semesters of biology with laboratory
2 semesters of general chemistry with laboratory
2 semesters of organic chemistry with laboratory
2 semesters of physics with laboratory
These requirements are subject to change and in fact, a few schools have changed their requirements by adding specific biology courses and increasing the number of semester hours (15 hours that must include cell biology and genetics). The current trend is to require or strongly recommend biochemistry; this may become a requirement in the next several years.
In addition to the required courses above, there are several courses to consider which will prepare you for the coursework you will encounter in medical school. Courses to consider include cell biology, genetics, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, immunology, histology, and neurobiology. None of these are required for admission to medical school.
Do I need a grade point average of 4.0?
The grade point average (GPA) is an important component of the requirements for admission to medical school. It is not necessary to have a 4.0. Instead, it is probably better to have a solid GPA in the 3.60-4.00 range (on a 4 point scale) and participation in extracurricular activities to demonstrate interests beyond academics. If you have a poor first year but steadily improve in the following semesters, you still have a good chance of admission to medical school. However, if you start strong and then fade, your chances for admission could be diminished.
How do I apply to medical schools?
You should begin the formal application to medical school during the summer before you graduate because it takes about a year to complete the entire process.
Almost all medical schools in the U.S. participate in the centralized application service, American Medical College Application Service, (AMCAS). This is a computerized application process requiring students to designate the school(s) to which they are applying. Students will complete the application forms online. AMCAS verifies all the information and forwards the completed applications to the designated school(s). The school(s) review the application and determine if the student is qualified to receive a secondary application. The secondary application may be as simple as a request for letters of evaluation or as complex as another application. Once the secondary application is complete, the student will be invited for an interview.
Things to remember with this process:
What else do I have to do?
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required by almost every medical college. The MCAT is a standardized exam composed of 4 sections: verbal reasoning, physical sciences (general chemistry and physics), biological sciences (biology and organic chemistry), and timed writing. The maximum score is 15 for each of the sections with the writing sample receiving an alphabetic rating. The mean scores for the exam (all examinees) is usually 8.0 – 8.5. It is a rigorous test!
This is a very important component of your application. Many schools will use the MCAT as the first cut for applicants. The average MCAT score for entry at IU School of Medicine is around 30. This has been steadily rising for the past several years. If you have a score below 8 in any one section, you should plan to retake the exam.
The MCAT is computer based and given multiple times during the year. If you have completed or have almost completed the coursework and are prepared to take the exam, it is best to take the exam in April of your junior year. The exam must be completed before applying to medical school.
When preparing for the MCAT, prepare as you would for any other course. There are good materials available from various sources to guide you in your preparation. An excellent source is AAMC who sponsors the MCAT. They have practice tests available at a reasonable cost. In addition, the biology department at USI usually gives a full length practice exam once or twice a year.
For verbal reasoning, the best preparation is practice reading. Read the newspaper, popular press, or anything in print. Practice reading for speed and comprehension.
The science sections are based on the required courses. Reviewing that material should be helpful.
Although not required, some type of medical or clinical experience is strongly recommended. Spend time researching all you can find about the profession and consider how the demands of the career fit with your lifestyle. Occasional volunteer activities or summer work is another meaningful way to learn about the profession. If you have the opportunity, shadow a physician. While the importance of these types of activities varies with different medical schools, the experience you gain cannot be measured.
Knowing the specific requirements of the medical school (s) to which you plan to apply is also very important. Medical schools profess that they want well-rounded individuals, not just one-dimensional students. That means get involved, balance school with other activities, because it is true that all work and no play makes you a dull individual!
Where do I find more information?