Here’s some information that might surprise you: You don’t have to be a science major to apply to medical school. In fact, most medical schools don’t actually have a preference on what you studied. However, there are some important things to take into consideration if you choose a major outside of the natural sciences or do not participate in a program that is combined with the sciences. If you’re interested in applying to medical school as a nonscience major, here are three tips to keep in mind.
One: Understand Scientific Language
The medical school curriculum is science-based. Successful students not only understand scientific terms but are also able to use them in a sophisticated manner. This means that the curriculum expects you to use these terms in papers and projects, and you should be prepared to see them on exams and hear them in lectures.
So what should you do as a nonscience major if you’re applying to schools with no prerequisites? First, remember that most medical schools require applicants to take the MCAT® exam, which measures the preparedness of a student for their curriculum. This test mostly covers topics related to the sciences, so at the very least, nonscience majors should complete courses that contain the material that is tested on the MCAT exam, even if they are applying to a program that does not have prerequisites. Programs that don’t have prerequisites generally have expectations that students can exhibit an “an understanding of...” the sciences, which you can prove through your coursework or other endeavors such as research. Second, always consult with your prehealth advisor, since they will be able to provide guidance around where past students from your program have matriculated. And finally, make sure that you refer to the websites of individual schools to understand what courses are recommended for different programs.
Two: Do Your Best in the Science Courses You Do Take
The traditional academic measures of a student’s potential for success in medical school are the MCAT exam and grade point average. When a nonscience major applies with only basic science courses, they have less data available to predict medical school performance compared to a science major. Your strength in science is much more evident with strong performance in many courses compared to strong performance in a smaller number of courses. At the very least, you should complete a year of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry, because these are the courses that contain information that medical schools have determined is necessary for medical students. A postbaccalaureate option is also a helpful way to show your science aptitude.
Third: Fully Immerse Yourself in Your Nonscience Major
There are typical experiences that most medical school applicants demonstrate – such as shadowing a doctor, volunteering at a clinic, etc., and you should aim to have those as well. However, as a nonscience major, there may be activities available to you that are unique to your field. For example, a political science major may be given the chance to advocate on Capitol Hill. These unique experiences, combined with healthcare-related experiences, can distinguish you from other candidates and make your application standout. The admissions process is holistic, so in addition to your MCAT score and GPA, your background, perspectives and experiences matter in the decision-making process. Medical schools want students who are authentic with genuine interests, so it’s best to major in what you want, not what you think they want. Just make sure you fulfill the prerequisite coursework for the schools you want to apply to. You can find a breakdown of each medical school’s requirements and recommendations on the school’s website and in the Medical School Admission Requirements™ (MSAR®).
According to data collected by the AAMC, more than half of all applicants reported undergraduate biological science majors over the past five years, while the rest reported a variety of majors including in mathematics, statistics, social sciences, health sciences, and the humanities.