Choosing your Major for Premeds: Science vs. Non-Science

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You may have heard the rumor that in order to stand out from the premed crowd, you should choose a non-science major in college. This is untrue for the following reasons. In 2012, 45,000 people applied to medical school in the US, 15,000 of which were non-science majors. That means 1 out of every 3 people who applied to medical school was a non-science major. This is hardly "standing out from the crowd". Of the 15,000 non-science majors who applied, only 5,600 matriculated. Overall more science majors matriculated into medical school than non-science majors. (For more data, check out the AAMC website.) When medical schools receive such an overwhelming number of applications each year, they are looking for the quickest way to eliminate applicants. They do this by first looking at the applicant's overall GPA, science GPA, and MCAT score. So at this stage of the application process, your college major is not a huge factor. For this reason, you should focus on choosing a major you enjoy and can perform well in so that you can get your foot in the door once you apply.

Although it is true that you can apply (and be accepted) to medical school with any major as long as you fulfill the premed requirements, we believe you will be better served with a conventional science major.

  • If you look at the statistics for science vs. non-science majors and their acceptance rates, science majors have a higher acceptance rate to medical schools.
  • Ultimately, you're pursuing a career founded on scientific principles and your ability to deeply understand these concepts will facilitate the medical science learning process.
  • Medical schools may say they accept students from any major, but the reality is they may question your knowledge base. When you are compared to your premed peers who majored in a science field, your application will appear to lack the advanced science classes that will prepare you for medical school.
  • There are several science majors which already include the premed coursework. If you choose a non-science major, you will have to complete all of your major requirements in addition to the premed coursework. This will likely be more courses in total.

So what major should you choose? We recommend choosing a science major that is geared towards premeds (meaning that the major requirements overlap heavily with the premed course requirements for medical schools). This will allow you to take advanced (upper division) science classes within the major. If you are a non-science major, you will unlikely be able to take advanced level biology courses. When choosing a science major, be careful not to choose one that is known on campus to be very competitive or that requires you to take extremely difficult courses that could destroy your GPA.

Science Major Non-Science Major
Pros Cons Pros Cons
You can learn more science concepts that you can apply to the MCAT and to medical school. The curriculum will be more difficult overall as you will be required to take several advanced level science courses. You may slightly stand out amongst the other medical school applicants because you don’t have a common major type. You won't have as much science knowledge to apply to the MCAT and to medical school.
You will have more science grades to show your strength in the sciences. You will likely have a lower GPA as a result of the increased difficulty level. You may show your humanitarian side by taking non-science classes and having a better understanding of these courses than typical premed students. You won't have as many science grades to show your strength in the sciences.
You will have more opportunities to raise your science GPA. You might blend in with the rest of the medical school applicants if you don’t have good extracurricular activities that help you stand out. You will likely have an easier course load which will allow you to have a better GPA overall. You will have fewer opportunities to raise your science GPA.
Bottom line: If you choose a hardcore science major, you should make sure you can still get mostly A's in your courses. It’s better to be a non-science major with all A's than a biochemistry major with a few C's. Bottom line: You can choose a non-science major, but you need to do extremely well since it will be viewed as an easier option. You should expect that medical schools may assume you lack the kind of science knowledge your peers have. You can combat these thoughts with a stellar science GPA and MCAT score.

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