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.
All medical schools in the U.S. and off-shore have similar requirements for acceptance into their programs. The minimum set of required courses typically includes:
- 2 semesters of biology with laboratory (Biol 141 & Biol 334)
- 2 semesters of general chemistry with laboratory (Chem 261 & Chem 262)
- 2 semesters of organic chemistry with laboratory (Chem 353 & Chem 354)
- 2 semesters of physics with laboratory (Phys 175 & Phys 176 OR Phys 205 & Phys 206)
- 1 semester of biochemistry (Biol 434 OR Chem 431)
- 1 course in the social sciences (Soc 121)
- 1 course in psychology (Psy 201)
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 animal physiology, genetics, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, immunology, and histology. None of these are required for admission to medical school.
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 3.80-4.00 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.
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.
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required by almost every medical college. 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 entering students at IU School of Medicine is around 509. This has been steadily rising for the past several years.
The MCAT is a computer-based exam. It is best to take the exam in April or May of your junior year. When preparing for the MCAT, you should plan to to study for 6-12 months prior to your exam. The AAMC provides excellent preparation materials. Additionally, USI offers a Mock MCAT exam each semester. The exam is 7.5 hours long and covers four content areas:
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior
Shadowing experiences are an important part of your pre-medical training. Not all medical schools require shadowing, but all highly suggest it. Indiana University School of Medicine requires a minimum of 3 significant shadowing experiences. You should choose experiences in a variety of specialties that last a least one full day each. Spend time researching all you can find about the medical 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. While the importance of these types of activities varies with different medical schools, the experience you gain cannot be measured.
- Be sure all of the information you enter on your AMCAS application is accurate. This includes the grades of every course taken at the college level and any courses in which you plan to enroll within the year.
- Request a transcript from all of your academic institutions and allow plenty of time for the institutions to process your request. All transcripts must be sent to AMCAS.
- The personal statement on the AMCAS is important. This is your chance to begin to portray who you are and to distinguish yourself from the thousands of applications each institution will review.
- Be sure to designate AMCAS as a recipient of MCAT scores.
- Begin the process early! Most schools have rolling admission policies, which means slots are filled beginning in October, until the slots are filled. If you wait until October or November to complete your application, you have missed opportunities for several slots. Applications are accepted beginning June 1, but you should wait until you receive your MCAT scores to send the application.
- Give careful consideration before asking individuals to write letters of evaluation. Then allow plenty of time for them to write the letters so you aren't waiting until the deadline to receive them. When you ask for letters of recommendation, provide a mini c.v. so the person writing the letter can reference what you have done outside of their contact with you.
- 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!