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What is Pre-Med and How Do You Get Ready for It?

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Doctor or nurse wearing stethoscope with folded arms.

Are you interested in becoming a doctor? If so, you should be thinking about which college or pre-med program best fits that career path. It’s a long road from college to medical school to residency and you will need to research the education you need and find the best college to reach that goal.

What is Pre-Med?

When students say they are pre-med, what does that mean? If you are planning to attend medical school and become a doctor, you need to understand the definition of pre-med and what pre-med students study.

“Pre-med” is just a description people use to focus their college courses when they want to attend medical school. Students say they are pre-med to let others and advisors understand their career goals and to plan a course sequence while in college. You can be a biology major and be pre-med, or an English or music major and still take the proper courses for pre-med.

Majoring in science isn’t necessarily required or encouraged by many medical schools. You might find that hard to believe, but the Harvard Medical School admissions web page explicitly states:

“We adhere to the important principle that the college years are not, and should not be, designed primarily to prepare students for professional schools. Instead, the college years should be devoted to a creative engagement in the elements of a broad, intellectually expansive liberal arts education.”

Just a little over half of all students applying to med school major in the biological sciences, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The others majored in a variety of areas including the humanities, math, social sciences, physical sciences and the arts.

What is needed to prepare for medical school?

Even though you do not have to major in a specific subject to be admitted to medical school, you do need to take the right prerequisite courses during college. Do some research before you make a college list. Look for colleges that offer the required courses and are strong in the areas of science.

When visiting a college, ask an admissions officer or advisor what percentage of graduates go on to medical school? If it’s a high percentage, it’s a good indicator the college will prepare you well.

While many students enter medical school with basic liberal arts or science degrees, some colleges offer programs designed to funnel students directly into medical school. And while colleges don’t typically offer a program specifically designated as “pre-med” but some do offer programs that are a medical track.

For instance, Boston University has a Seven Year Liberal Arts/Medical Education program designed for the student who wants to enter the medical field. Once they complete the first three years and comply with the program’s minimum GPA requirements, students automatically enter the medical school their fourth year of college. At the completion of the seventh year, they receive their medical degree after taking the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and achieving an acceptable score.

Baylor University has a similar program. The Baylor2 Medical Track Program is a combined eight-year baccalaureate/MD program for high-achieving students. Baylor University and Baylor College of Medicine grant six outstanding high school students provisional acceptance to Baylor College of Medicine upon matriculation to Baylor University.

As you can imagine, acceptance into these types of programs requires top grades and top SAT scores. Students who participate are also required to adhere to all the program guidelines and maintain an above-average GPA.

Preparing for pre-med in high school

There’s lots you can do in high school to prepare for a pre-med track. For example, you’ll want to explore STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses and volunteer or work in a health-care setting to find out if it’s really a good career for you. Consider enrolling in a summer pre-med program to find out if you really like the medical field and if you can handle the coursework.

If you are really interested in a pre-med course program, work hard. Grades and test scores are important, especially if choosing a program offered at colleges like Baylor or Boston University.



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