Pre-medical (often referred to as pre-med) is an educational track that undergraduate students in the United States and Canada pursue prior to becoming medical students. It involves activities that prepare a student for medical school, such as pre-med coursework, volunteer activities, clinical experience, research, and the application process. Some pre-med programs providing broad preparation are referred to as “pre-professional” and may simultaneously prepare students for entry into a variety of first professional degree or graduate school programs that require similar prerequisites (such as medical, veterinary, or pharmacy schools).
At most colleges and universities, students do not have the option of pre-medical academic major or minor. A student on a pre-med track may choose any undergraduate major in any field, so long as certain required courses are completed. Such courses are generally focused in the scientific fields of biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, neuroscience, and physics, which are necessary to prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and satisfy most medical school prerequisites. It is for this reason students on a pre-med track generally undertake a major associated with one of those fields; however, an increasing number of students with a background in humanities have been applying in recent years, a situation applauded by medical schools. For example, Mount Sinai School of Medicine has created a program specifically for non-science majors. The Humanities and Medicine Program admits undergraduates majoring in the humanities or social sciences without requiring the MCAT, or science coursework.
Typical pre-med students will structure their coursework in their first year in university to accommodate the required courses. After a semester, many pursue extracurricular activities that demonstrate a commitment to medicine. Once junior year arrives, students register for and take the MCAT, the required standardized exam that medical schools use to identify qualified candidates. Once the test is taken, students apply to various schools using the automated American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) system, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) system, or in some cases, the school's own application system. AMCAS primary applications are verified by AMCAS staff, a process that often takes four to six weeks. The application process consists of a review of academic records, MCAT scores, activities, work experience, and a personal statement. Applicants can expect to hear from schools within a few months, at which point they may receive "secondary applications". Different schools have different policies on sending secondary applications to students; many send secondary applications to all students, others screen applications prior to inviting an applicant to submit a secondary application. These applications are generated by each individual school. They generally contain essay questions that the applicant must answer to demonstrate that the applicant possesses qualities that the schools deem necessary to be a good medical student and physician. Qualified applicants can next expect to receive invitations to interview at schools. Upon completion of an interview and receipt of any additional application materials, the application is considered to be complete, and the student then waits for the school's decision to either accept or reject the student.
Some applicants receive admittance to medical school through a "post-baccalaureate" pre-medical program. These programs may be formal, such as the programs offered through Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic with Barrett, The Honors College, Bryn Mawr, Goucher and Scripps, or semi-formal, such as the program offered at Harvard, but often consist of a student informally enrolling in a college to complete science coursework required for admission to medical school prior to sitting for the MCAT. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) maintains a list of all formal and semi-formal post-baccalaureate pre-medical programs in the United States.
The AAMC has created a list of required courses that every pre-med student must take. Each school is allowed to place its own further requirements.
The pre-medical coursework is offered at many American colleges and universities; however, it is considered to be a "track" that follows a certain curriculum. Most pre-medical students major in the natural and applied sciences, such as agricultural science, biology, chemistry, or physics, though this is not a requirement. Some pre-professional degree programs in agriculture prepare students for direct entry into the workforce in fields in high demand, while also meeting requirements for medical or veterinary schools. The latter curriculum model is meant to enhance employability of graduates awaiting admission or choosing not to attend professional or graduate school.
The courses that must be taken to meet the pre-medical requirements from the AAMC are two years of chemistry, with one being in chemistry, one year of biology, and one year of physics. These course requirements are expected to change since the MR5 Committee, charged with revising the MCAT has created a new set of core competencies for success in medical education and practice. Those core competencies will include a greater emphasis on molecular genetics within the biology curriculum and will include biochemistry. In addition, the 2015 MCAT will test in areas related to multicultural sensitivity and in critical analysis of ethics and philosophy. Many colleges of medicine and undergraduate pre-medical advising offices have yet to formalize pre-medical curricular recommendations. Though it did not address changes in the mathematics, physics, psychosocial or humanities portion of pre-medical education, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) developed a set of pre-medical curricular recommendations. ASBMB advocated that the year of biology includes genetics; that general and organic chemistry be taught with an orientation toward the chemistry of molecules encountered in living things; that one semester of biochemistry be required and two semesters of biochemistry be recommended; and that the laboratory course requirement can be taught in biology, chemistry or biochemistry, so long as research methods and data analysis are emphasized.
Pre-medical students may be advised or required to take upper level biology and chemistry electives, such as cellular biology, physical chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics. Specific requirements for these courses vary by institution. Schools may also have requirements for non-science classes. Some require a certain number of general humanities credits, while others have specific requirements for courses in English, psychology, or other disciplines.
Volunteering and clinical experiences
Many pre-medical students volunteer in a health care setting to explore the option of a career in medicine. Past volunteer experience can increase an applicant's chances of acceptance to a medical school. Often volunteer experiences are topics of discussion during medical school interviews. Some students "shadow" a physician, where the student follows a physician, directly observing the doctor as they care for patients.
In Australia and the United Kingdom, a number of universities offer a three or four year Bachelor of Medical Science, Bachelor of Health Sciences or Biomedical Science degree, which is similar in content and aim to pre-med courses in the US. However, it is also possible to gain entry to a professional degree program in medicine (usually the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree) directly from High School if the applicant achieves high grades upon graduation and is successful in the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT), for Australian and New Zealand medicine courses, and the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) and BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) for UK medicine courses.
- ^"Preparing for the MCAT Exam". AMCAS. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
- ^ abc"Admission Requirements". AAMC. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
- ^"MCAT and GPAs for Applicants and Matriculants to U.S. Medical Schools by Primary Undergraduate Major, 2010"(PDF). AAMC. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
- ^ abcKliff, Sarah (10 September 2007), "Med Schools Seek More Nonscience Students", Newsweek
- ^Hartocollis, Anemona (10 July 2010), "Getting Into Medical School Without Hard Sciences", The New York Times
- ^"Selection Factors". Harvard Medical School. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
- ^"2011-2012 Medical School Application Timeline". prehealthadvising.com. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
- ^ ab"Medical School Applications". The Princeton Review. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
- ^"Postbaccalaureate Premedical Programs - Search". AAMC. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- ^"Pre-professional Programs | College of Agriculture and Life Sciences". Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
- ^"Pre-professional Programs NMSU". New Mexico State University.
- ^"Pre-Med". Purdue University. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
- ^"2015 MCAT preview"(PDF). AAMC. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- ^Rosenthal, Elizabeth. "Pre-Med's New Priorities: Heart and Soul and Social Science". Retrieved April 24, 2012.
- ^"ASBMB pre-medical curriculum". ASBMB. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
- ^Smith-Barrow, Delece. "Bolster a Medical School Application With Volunteer Work". US News & World Report.
- ^Franco, Kathleen. "How Volunteer Work Can Offer Lessons to Prospective Medical Students". US News & World Report. Retrieved April 22, 2014.
- ^Chang, Edward. "Shadow a Physician to Gain Insight for Medical School". US News & World Report.
Because the prospective medical student with a broad educational background profits most from the medical curriculum, preference is given to applicants with a bachelor's degree. Courses in paramedical schools (such as pharmacy, nursing, optometry, medical, etc.) do not fulfill the premedical science requirements. Courses taken in non-accredited institutions will not be accepted. Applicants who have been dismissed from other medical schools for scholastic or disciplinary reasons will not be considered. The Admissions Committee reviews all course work completed at the undergraduate, post-baccalaureate, and graduate levels.
In selecting courses, the premedical student should be aware of the broad scope of the medical profession. The biological basis for the practice of medicine is traditional and appropriate because medicine in its technical aspects is an applied biological science. Modern medical practice also requires a working knowledge of chemistry and physics to appreciate vital processes in both health and disease.
To be successful, medical students must be able to read rapidly and with understanding. They also must be able to express thoughts clearly and concisely.
Premedical students should develop a solid background in the humanities, psychology, sociology, philosophy and the arts. Understanding human relationships and human nature is vital to the practice of medicine. Students are encouraged to take courses, which would be difficult to acquire after the college experience is completed. The School of Medicine seeks to admit well-rounded students with broad and diverse experiences.
Each applicant must complete the following courses prior to matriculation:
|Course Requirements||Minimum Semester Hours|
BIOLOGY: is fulfilled by one semester of cellular biology with lab and one semester of organismic biology with lab. Survey courses (an introductory course of study that provides a general view of an academic subject) in anatomy an physiology cannot be substituted for this requirement. AP Biology is not accepted. If your undergraduate institution accepted AP Biology, two upper level Biology courses with labs will be acceptable.
|GENERAL CHEMISTRY: requirement is met by a one-year course in general inorganic chemistry with labs.||8|
|ORGANIC CHEMISTRY: requirement is met by a one-year course in organic chemistry with labs. The course in organic chemistry should cover all of the major categories of organic compounds. A biochemistry lecture course may substitute for the second semester organic chemistry lab requirement.||8|
|PHYSICS: requirement is met by a one-year course in general physics with labs, including mechanics, electricity, heat, light and sound. Specialized courses in sub-disciplines cannot be substituted for any part of this requirement.||8|
|ENGLISH: requirement is met by 2 semesters of writing and/or literature courses in English. One semester may be substituted with a writing intensive course. AP credit is acceptable for 1 semester of English with an AP test score of 4 or 5. We will not accept 2 semesters of AP English credit to meet this requirement.||6|
|MATHEMATICS: is met by one year of college level math (statistics is included as a math course) or one semester of Calculus (Calculus is recommended).||6 Math or 3 Calculus|
A year is defined as a minimum of 32 weeks. All science courses applied to the premedical requirements must include laboratory work. Applicants must receive a letter grade of C or higher for all courses required; reporting pass/fail is not acceptable. ULSOM will not accept CLEP credit for any prerequisite course work.
Review the Transfer, Community College, On-line and AP credit information to confirm your previous course work is acceptable.
In addition to the required courses above, a biochemistry course is strongly encouraged to further strengthen the premedical academic foundation. A biochemistry lecture course may substitute for the second semester organic chemistry lab requirement. Since the Admissions Committee reviews the complete academic portfolio of applicants being considered, advanced course work which strengthens the premedical academic foundation will be favorably viewed during the evaluation process.