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Pre-med Course of Study! (feat. an NYU Med Student)



Buckle up because this is going to be a long article. But if you are pre-med, you must read it :). For context about me, I am a pre-med student who studied biomedical engineering (BME) and neuroscience during undergrad. In this piece, I had the privilege to invite a dear friend of mine who studied Duke BME and went on to become a medical student at New York University Grossman School of Medicine (Google it to learn how crazy of an achievement that is). From here on out, I will refer to them as NYU Med School friend. I may include opinions of more close friends when things are less stressful as they’re applying to medical school literally right now.


I wanted to address a main question/concern that students have about what they should major in in college as a pre-med student. I will first clarify that no, there is no such thing as a “pre-med” major (at the majority of top schools). Instead, being pre-med means that you fulfill pre-med requirements in college. It involves taking college-level coursework in biology, chemistry, and physics. I know what you’re thinking, does AP credit count? We will address this later.


First, I want to show you a chart that generally includes a list of most pre-med requirements. Note, the optional category is genuinely, truly optional. Courses listed under optional include buzzwords I saw on some medical school’s pre-req suggestion lists but aren’t real requirements, they’re just ideas of classes that you may take to make your pre-med experience more fulfilling.


Pre-med Pre-reqs (pre-requisites)

Required

2 semesters of biology + lab
2 semesters of gen chem + lab
2 semesters of physics + lab
2 semesters of English/writing
1 semester of organic chemistry I + lab
1 semester of organic chemistry II + lab
1 semester of calculus

Recommended

1 semester of ethics
1 semester of statistics
1 semester of anatomy/physiology
1 semester of psychology 
1 semester of sociology 
1 semester of genetics 
Baylor recommends Spanish and Stanford recommends Spanish or an Asian Language (but these are the only ones we know of off the top of our heads that strongly recommend a foreign language. note that this recommendation is most relevant to the geographies of these schools)

Optional

Anthropology, cellular biology, biostatistics, foreign language competency

**Disclaimer, Texas medical schools have their own application portal independent of the national medical school application portal. Texas medical schools also have a requirement that at least 90% of their medical students have to be Texas residents. NYU Med School friend was a Texas resident, so they also applied to schools in Texas.


NYU Med School Friend's Advice

The pre-med requirements will vary from school to school. A lot of Texas schools are really strict about their required pre-reqs. For example, UT Medical Branch not only requires two semesters of English/Writing – they require that the courses HAVE to be taught in the English department, which is problematic when you try to get composition credits to count for this, as they do at most schools. On the other hand, many schools like Duke, Penn, or NYU don’t actually have any required pre-reqs – they only recommend certain courses that they think would be helpful (bio, chem, orgo, etc.).


On your application, you’re asked to code your courses based on what requirements they satisfy. Your prehealth office might provide a handout like this one which outlines what courses have been successfully classed under each of the requirements. Usually, even if you classify a course a certain way and the application processor disputes the classification, you can go through an appeal process to get the credit counted.


A complicating factor is AP credit – a lot of medical schools will actually accept these credits, allowing you to reduce the number of classes that you need to take to satisfy the premed requirements. Usually, schools will require that your university actually lists the AP credits that they are transferring on your transcript for it to count. Additionally, for the more core requirements, like biology or chemistry, medical schools might require you to take upper-level courses to replace any courses that you used AP credits to get out of. Keeping track of all the different schools’ requirements can be quite annoying, but this is where spreadsheets can come in handy. My approach was really just to take enough courses in each area to be fine regardless of whether or not a school took AP credit (which is why I ended up taking courses like modern physics and physical chemistry). I actually think this worked out pretty well for me, because I got to skip classes like introductory chemistry, which are often 100+ person lectures that the professors tend to make more challenging than needed. Instead, I got to take upper-level courses, where there are much smaller class sizes (making it easier to get to know the professor) and where the content tends to be much more interesting (quantum mechanics is really mind-boggling y’all).


Should I retake classes I have AP credit for already?

No. As stated above, generally, medical schools will request you take an upper-level course if you've tested out of the intro equivalent. The majority of upper-level courses from my college experience will review any of the critical fundamentals that will be applied in the upper-level course. There's also no benefit in re-learning a topic at an unreasonably difficult level when standardized tests like the MCAT are going to test you on the basics, which you can review/self-study on your own in preparation for the test. Also, the way the MCAT is structured, it generally tests you on applying the basic concepts, usually in a medical context, which you wouldn't do in an intro course anyways and would have to self-study to prepare for those types of questions. If anything, I would recommend taking interdisciplinary courses that will apply the concepts that you tested out of and feel you need to strengthen to prep for the MCAT like biophysics, biomechanics, biostatistics, mathematical modeling of biological systems, biochemistry and other such courses. That will allow you to review concepts in a context that's more relevant to the MCAT.

One difference is obtaining lab credit. Because of COVID, it's likely AP and dual enrollment classes were online, so you may not fulfill the in-person lab component requirement for pre-med pre-reqs. However, a lot of universities now allow students to enroll in the lab component of the course, without having to take the course that same semester or at all if you already have credit for the course. Additionally, you can usually fulfill the lab component by taking an upper-level lab course like biomaterials, cellular/molecular bio, and other such courses. The same ideas mentioned above about upper-level coursework applies to upper-level lab classes.


College Talya's Math Proof

At most universities, for most majors, there are around 10 courses required in order to obtain the major. This may seem oddly low, but there is still a minimum course requirement necessary to graduate with a degree (usually the equivalent of 4 years of full-time study, unless you have transfer credits). Additionally, the major requirements usually don’t factor in the general education requirements or the pre-/co-requirements for the major.


However, I want to use this information in a short mathematical proof for why your major doesn’t matter for applying to medical school. The recommended course load for students each semester is 4 classes. There are 10 classes required for a major. Hence, you can get your major in a little over a year assuming you take no other classes for 3 semesters in a row. This is not totally realistic, because often courses at a university are seasonal and sequential, so you can’t take quantum physics or any physics class for that matter until you’ve taken physics 101. So, one semester for pursuing your major will generally just be dedicated to the intro coursework. Semesters after, you can go crazy.


This is to say that for whatever reason, if you chose a major that somehow had ZERO classes that counted as a STEM or humanities course to fulfill pre-med requirements (I think maybe this could happen with Music or a Foreign Language if you were trying to not fulfill pre-med reqs) you’d still have tons of free time to take non-major requirement courses. Usually your gen-ed requirements will fulfill some of the pre-med pre-reqs. For example, Duke Engineering students have gen-ed requirements to study 5 humanities courses, so basically all my humanities gen-ed requirements counted toward pre-med requirements. Needless to say, the main point here is that it is not imperative (nor feasible) to exclusively fulfill all pre-med requirements with any given major. So, there is no inherent benefit for one major over another in terms of pre-med requirement coursework fulfillment.


Because of this, medical schools often say, and it is true, that they do not care what students major in, as long as they fulfill the pre-med requirements. If you know you want to go to medical school, that does not mean you have to major in biology if you don’t want to and it doesn’t mean that you would have an advantage of finishing pre-med coursework by taking biology. Yes, you will fulfill pre-med requirements through the bio major requirements for perhaps half of the STEM classes (because generally most biology majors don’t require multiple semesters of physics, orgo, math, nor chemistry, but medical school does). So, even as a biology major or a biomedical engineering major, you will still be taking STEM course requirements that aren’t required for your degree, but are required for medical school. I think that a major where this may not be true is biochemistry, where the major requirements would coincide with the pre-med requirements a lot more.


I just want to bring it back to the math equation.

4 classes + 4 classes + 2 classes = 10 classes. 1 semester = 4 classes
1 semester + 1 semester + 1/2 semester = 10 classes. 1 major = 10 classes
1 semester + 1 semester + 1/2 semester = 1 major. 1/2 year = 1 semester
1 year + 1/2 years = 1 major
4 years = College graduation requirements 

No matter the major, you have 4 - 1.5 = 2.5 years of coursework/electives to do whatever you want to fulfill the pre-med requirements, assuming that absolutely none of your major pre-reqs overlap with anything on the above-mentioned medical school pre-requisite list.

Is it possible to fulfill ALL pre-med requirements ignoring your major, gen-ed requirements? Not necessarily, that's assuming none of your major/gen-ed requirements include STEM or humanities coursework and you have no AP, transfer, or summer course credits.

Total pre-med requirements from adding up everything in the chart
17 classes + labs (1/2 credit) = 5 1/2 semesters = 3.5 years

What major includes the most pre-med pre-reqs?

Let’s say you’re a biology or chemistry major, those major requirements generally don’t include the medical humanities pre-med requirements of: 2 semesters of English/Writing, Psychology, Sociology, Ethics (maybe). I’m also going to stand by my previous claim that you’ll only fulfill a little over half of the STEM requirements with your STEM major requirements. On the flip-side, with an English major who strategically takes English classes that are cross-listed as sociology, ethics, and psychology courses (which there are surprisingly/unsurprisingly(?) a lot of), they would fulfill all of the humanities pre-med requirements with their degree. The STEM major requirements gives you an advantage of at most double the courses over the humanities major requirements.


Here is the math I did. Assuming a non-interdisciplinary STEM major, i.e. biology, chemistry, or physics. In this case, I will use biology, but you can change biology with chemistry/physics and the math would still be about the same.


Biology Major Requirements that double-count as Pre-med Requirements
2 intro bio + 
1 gen chem + 
1 orgo + 
1 physics + 
1 calc + 
1 stats + 
1 anat/physio + 
1 psychology + 
1 sociology + 
1 ethics + 
1 genetics 
_______________________________________________
12 pre-med reqs fulfilled
English Major Requirements that double-count as Pre-med Requirements
2 english/writing +
1 stats (linguistics) + 
1 psychology + 
1 sociology + 
1 ethics + 
1 genetics 
_______________________________________________
7 pre-med reqs fulfilled

This is assuming you do maximum efficiency with courses that count towards your major and are also cross-listed in another department. This also assumes that you somehow find that class, get a spot into the class, and that the class isn’t only available once every 5 years (as some niche classes in college are one-time opportunities). In other words, assuming maximum luck and/or you found a school with the best fit for you that reliably provides these interdisciplinary courses (schools generally publish which classes are continuously available).


Realistically, based on classes you’re guaranteed to take in your major, the math would be:

Biology Major Requirements that double-count as Pre-med Requirements
2 intro bio + 
1 gen chem + 
1 orgo + 
1 physics + 
1 calc
_______________________________________________
9 pre-med reqs fulfilled
English Major Requirements that double-count as Pre-med Requirements
2 english/writing +
1 psychology + 
1 sociology + 
1 ethics 
_______________________________________________
5 pre-med reqs fulfilled

The biology major still numerically fulfills more of the pre-med requirements than the English major, but by a smaller margin. Both majors will still have to fulfill around 10 classes outside of their major to fulfill the major requirements.


Realistic Course-of-study Breakdowns

Below, I did an exercise where I did a four-year plan for a Duke Biology major and a Duke Gender, Sexuality & Feminist studies major. The biology major had 9 pre-med classes that they needed to take in addition to their major requirements. The gender, sexuality & feminist studies major had 12 pre-med classes that they needed to take in addition to their major requirements. That is only a difference of 3 additional pre-med classes for a humanities major versus a STEM major.


I included my pre-med schedule and my NYU Med School friend’s schedules. However, we were both engineering majors, which already breaks the scale mentioned above because generally engineering major requirements alone is about 20 classes, at Duke it’s like 27. I still wanted to include what real people did who pursued any major they wanted and still fulfilled pre-med requirements at the same time, but note that engineering majors might fulfill more pre-med coursework by being mandated to take more coursework by default.


For prospective majors that have little to no overlap in relevant pre-med disciplines potentially like Art, Music, and Foreign Language, I don’t want you to be discouraged. You will be surprised at the level of overlap there still is even for these majors. For foreign language majors, a lot of foreign language classes are also Global Health classes so, yay, there’s an obvious connection for how that can help you out there, and examples exist in many of the mock 4-year-plans below. The same goes for an art studies student if you take classes that are cross-listed in the Art History department for fulfilling the humanities pre-med pre-reqs. For music majors, I have a pre-med friend that took a Neuroscience of Music course. I also know there are tons of physics of music courses and likely other intersections of music with other fields that will help you fulfill pre-med requirements (english, sociology, psychology, etc.). Also, for music majors, I would definitely go down the rabbit hole of watching Violin, MD’s YouTube channel (she majored in violin performance before going to medical school).


I think the biggest challenge for majors that are project-based (music, art, engineering) is that you’ll have less out-of-class time, but it’s definitely not impossible and so worth it if you know that that area of study is fulfilling for you.

When in doubt, take the class with the course code that you want the class to fulfill credit for (if possible). For example, many classes are cross-listed in departments. For example, A LOT of neuroscience classes and psychology courses overlap, and so the class will have course codes for both areas of study like NEURO221 and PSY334 are both theoretical course codes for a "Brain, Behavior, and Human Communication" course. One of those codes will show up on your transcript, so for me, to avoid casting doubt in med school’s minds to show that I took at least one psychology course, I enrolled in the PSY code equivalent of my course because regardless, it would still fulfill my neuro major requirements, and it would be easier for me to explain to med schools “hey I took a PSY course”. For example, in the courses below, Global Health Data Science would have a GLHLTH code and a STAT code, the title of the class makes it really easy and apparent to know it’s statistics, so it doesn’t matter which course code you choose to enroll in for your transcript. But, for Sex/Gender - Nature/Nurture, I might enroll in the PSY code because it’s not intuitive by the course name that it’s a psychology course.


Sample Courses of Study


Below are both fake and real 4-year-plans for pre-med students in a given major.


Formatting Definitions:

  • Bold - a major requirement

  • * - pre-med requirement

  • () - specifies which requirement it fulfills if it’s not obvious or serves as a general clarification


Duke Biology Major (w/concentration in Anatomy, Physiology & Biomechanics), minor in psychology

Freshman

Semester 1

  1. Molecular Biology + lab*

  2. Gen Chem I + lab*

  3. Intro Calc

  4. Chinese I

Semester 2

  1. Writing 101- Digital Communities & Genres,

  2. Genetics and Evolution + lab* (Genetics)

  3. Gen Chem II + lab*

  4. Chinese II

Sophomore

Semester 1

  1. Physics/Mechanics + lab*

  2. Orgo I + lab*

  3. Modern Chinese Media

  4. Biology of Mammals* (Anat/Physio)

Semester 2

  1. Orgo II + lab*

  2. Physics E&M + lab*

  3. Global Health Data Science* (Statistics)

  4. Cellular and Molecular Neurobio

Junior

Semester 1

  1. Biochemistry*

  2. Independent Study (Research)

  3. Intro to Psychology*

  4. Weil, Beauvoir, Murdoch* (English)

Semester 2

  1. Regenerative Biology and Medicine

  2. General Microbiology

  3. Medical Sociology*

  4. Breakdown: Madness & Lit (English, Psychology)*

Senior

Semester 1

  1. Sensory Physiology and Behavior of Marine Animals

  2. Patient Activism & Advocacy

  3. Sex/Gender -Nature/Nurture

  4. Digital Feminism

Semester 2

  1. Race, Genomics and Society* (Ethics + Genetics)

  2. How Organisms Move

  3. Forensic Psychology

  4. Race, Gender, Class & Computing

This fake Biology major schedule meets all the pre-med requirements, major requirements, and the student still had space in their schedule to explore new topics for their personal interests. This student also got a minor in Psychology to help fulfill other pre-med requirements and learn more about something that they were interested in. In addition, the student received class credit for doing an independent study project, which is usually research with a professor. This student was able to do all major, minor & pre-med requirements and still take just-for-fun classes including computer science (Digital Feminism + Race/Gender/Class & Computing), Chinese, and digital media courses just by taking the minimum recommended course load.


Duke Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies, minor in Global Health (potential co-major)

Freshman

Semester 1

  1. Thinking Gender: An Introduction to Feminist Theory

  2. Molecular Biology + lab*

  3. Gen Chem I + lab*

  4. Global Health 101

Semester 2

  1. Writing 101- Writing Reproductive Justice (English/Writing)

  2. Genetics and Evolution + lab* (Genetics)

  3. Gen Chem II + lab*

  4. French II

Sophomore

Semester 1

  1. Feminist Ethics*

  2. Physics/Mechanics + lab*

  3. Global Displacement: Voix Franc

  4. Global Health Data Science* (Statistics)

Semester 2

  1. Race, Gender, Class & Computing

  2. US Women’s Health Post Roe* (Ethics)

  3. Orgo I + lab*

  4. Physics E&M + lab*

Junior

Semester 1

  1. Representing Breast Cancer* (English),

  2. Feminist Art from the 1960’s

  3. Orgo II + lab*

  4. Econ 101

Semester 2

  1. Brains, Everywhere* (English + Ethics)

  2. Race, Gender, Sexuality* (Sociology)

  3. Biochemistry*

  4. Intro to Calculus*

Senior

Semester 1

  1. Senior Research Seminar

  2. Global Reproductive Health

  3. Human Evolutionary Physiology* (Anat/Physio)

  4. Shakespeare & Financial Markets

Semester 2

  1. Sex/Gender- Nature/Nurture* (Psychology)

  2. Independent Study (Research)

  3. History of Art Markets

  4. Women in Visual Arts 1400-1800

This fake Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies major schedule meets all the pre-med requirements, major requirements, and the student still had space in their schedule to explore new topics for their personal interests. The student also got a Global Health minor to help fulfill other pre-med requirements and learn more about something that they were interested in. If they were slightly more efficient about making their schedule (I was just being lazy), they could have even double-majored in Global Health if they wanted to. The student received class credit for doing an independent study project, which is usually research with a professor. This student was able to do all major, minor & pre-med requirements and still take just-for-fun classes in French, Art History, Economics with taking the minimum recommended course load.


Talya’s real schedule. Duke BME major, Neuroscience BS2, minor in African & African American studies, minor in chemistry

Freshman

Semester 1

  1. Honors Chemistry*

  2. Intro to Engineering Design

  3. Computational Methods in Engineering

  4. Linear Algebra

Semester 2

  1. Accelerated Molecular Bio, Genetics & Evolution*

  2. Optional Continuation of Engineering Design (0.5 credit)

  3. Multivariable Calculus*

  4. Intro to Neuroscience

  5. Physics Intro to Mechanics*

  6. Writing 101, Cultural Anthropology of Enchantment* (English)

Summer

  1. Orgo I*

Sophomore

Semester 1

  1. Quantitative Physiology & Applied Biostatistics*

  2. Intro to Electrical Engineering

  3. Physics Electricity & Magnetism*

  4. Advanced Intermediate Spanish

  5. Improving Girl’s Math Identity in STEM (Research)

Semester 2

  1. Mechanics of Solids

  2. Cellular and Molecular Neurobio

  3. Orgo II*

  4. Modeling of Cellular and Molecular Systems

  5. Improving Girl’s Math Identity in STEM (Research)

Summer

  1. Medical Neuroscience

  2. Intro to Statistics*

Junior

Semester 1

  1. Biomaterials and Biomechanics

  2. Signals and Systems

  3. Biochemistry

  4. Differential Equations

  5. Brain and Behavior* (Psychology)

  6. Improving Girl’s Math Identity in STEM (Research)

Semester 2

  1. Bioelectricity

  2. Modern Diagnostic Imaging Systems

  3. Intro to Cognitive Neuroscience

  4. African Diaspora Literature* (English)

  5. Improving Girl’s Math Identity in STEM (Research)

Summer

  1. Intro to African Studies

  2. Neuroscience of Pain

Senior


Semester 1

  1. Intro to African & African American Studies

  2. Intro to Medical Instrumentation

  3. Computational Neuroengineering

  4. Connectomic Neuromodulation

  5. BME Independent Study (Computationally Visualizing Mitochondria for PD)

Semester 2

  1. Race, Genomics & Society (Ethics + Genetics)

  2. Biophotonic Instrumentation - Senior Design

  3. Medical Software Design

  4. Neuronal Control of Movement

  5. Black Popular Culture: Black Comedians (English)

  6. Independent Study (Computationally Visualizing Mitochondria for PD)

I will do another article breaking down the logic of my college schedule for those who might be interested. The point here though is I studied what I wanted to learn more about and what I was curious about, not what I thought medical schools wanted from me (although maybe those overlap). For example, I knew I needed to take another English/writing class junior year, so I chose an English class that was in a discipline that I was genuinely passionate about, which is African & African American studies. After taking that class, I loved it so much, that I realized I could continue fulfilling my other pre-med requirements (like Ethics/Sociology/Genetics) by taking more classes in the AAAS department. A big passion of mine is neuroscience, which is why I chose to get a secondary major in it. My independent study was able to merge both my interests in image processing and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's Disease, while getting to do research for class credit. That was an opportunity I sought out on my own by building a relationship with an amazing professor who I'm now so fortunate I get to work with. ALSO, when I continue research for my master' degree, I will be closely working with other ream professors I had talked about in my original "Why Duke" essay, which is pretty awesome.


A lot of the decision-making for classes I was interested in was based on what classes were available, interesting to me, and did not have scheduling conflicts. Because I had such a specific course of study that I wanted to get degrees for, I did make my four-year-plan freshman year of college (which is easy enough to do because schools generally provide sample ones). And I just wrote generally what area of study I needed to take when. Every semester, there are "special topics" classes, so new, interdisciplinary classes that will pop up a-new and go away each semester. It's helpful to generally know "hey, I want to take a psychology + ethics class", but it's difficult to anticipate a specific class that you're going to take until course registration actually happens. (I was not anticipating taking the Black Comedy class, it was a last-minute decision like a week into the semester. But again, it's so cool and I'm so glad I did take the class. It also brings things together that I forgot initially captivated my interest about Duke which is the stand-up comedy/comedy scene that I also wrote about in my Why Duke essay).



NYU Med School friend’s schedule. Duke BME major, minor in Global Health, minor in chemistry

Freshman

Semester 1

  1. Orgo I*

  2. Intro to Engineering Design

  3. Computational Methods in Engineering

  4. Multivariable Calculus*

Semester 2

  1. Accelerated Molecular Bio, Genetics & Evolution*

  2. Linear Algebra

  3. Orgo II*

  4. Mechanics of Solids (might count as a physics credit, but I didn’t use it for this)

  5. Writing 101, Farming, Gardening, and Anthropology* (English/Writing)

Summer

  1. Differential Equations

Sophomore

Semester 1

  1. Biochemistry*

  2. Biomaterials

  3. Quantitative Physiology & Applied Biostatistics*

  4. Introduction to Electrical Engineering

  5. Intro to Psych*

Semester 2

  1. Biomaterials and Biomechanics

  2. Modern Applications of Chemical Principles*

  3. Applications of Physics: A Modern Perspective*

  4. Introduction to Sociology*

  5. Advanced Spanish Writing

Junior

Semester 1

  1. Modeling of Cellular and Molecular Systems* (Biology)

  2. Signals and Systems

  3. Optics and Modern Physics*

  4. Computational Modeling of Soft Matter

  5. Great Poems of the English Language*

Semester 2

  1. Transport Phenomena in Biological Systems* (Biology)

  2. Introduction to Medical Instrumentation

  3. BME Independent Study (Computational Modeling of DNA Translocating Motors)

  4. Introduction to Global Health

  5. Global Health Ethics* (Ethics)

Senior

Semester 1

  1. Biotechnology Design I

  2. BME Independent Study (Computational Modeling of DNA Translocating Motors)

  3. US Health Disparities

  4. Introduction to Statistics*

  5. Physical Chemistry*

Semester 2

  1. Biotechnology Design II

  2. Drug Delivery

  3. Health, Culture, and the Latino Community

  4. Research Methods in Global Health

  5. Physical Chemistry Lab (0.5 Credits)*

The classes that I chose also were mostly based on what topics I found interesting! Having the minors definitely helped a lot in terms of this process. College can be daunting because of how many different class choices you have, but the minor provides a nice structure that can keep your exploration of a field of interest structured and intentional. I knew that I was interested in exploring global health in college, but this field is definitely really interdisciplinary and expansive – having the structure of the minor and listing of available courses helped me finalize what classes I wanted to take.


Pragmatically speaking, scheduling conflicts definitely will end up impacting what classes you take to some extent. This isn’t as relevant in your first few years, when the courses that you have to take are mostly locked in place, but it definitely becomes something to think about in your later years, when you generally are taking electives that you get to choose yourself. Taking one class over another might mean having no class on Monday or Friday (this was something that happened to me), so this is definitely something to consider. You might also find that the classes that you planned to take get filled up before you get to register for them – flexibility is definitely really important throughout the entire process! It might feel like your plans are falling apart, but just take a deep breath, adjust, and carry on.


“Don’t let people discourage you from pursuing a certain course of study just because they think that it’ll make your premed experience harder! You’re committing to studying a field for four years, so it should be in something that you’re passionate about.” - Your NYU Med School friendo


Reflection

Oh, boy, can I tell you, after making the mock schedules for a Duke Bio major versus a Duke Gender, Sexuality & Feminist studies major, I know that I personally would not have been happy studying either. I genuinely wouldn’t have enjoyed my Duke academic experience so much as to stay for a master’s degree. So, I have to agree with NYU Med School friendo that you should please choose what most compels you. But even if, for whatever reason you don’t, or you chose something that you didn’t realize you wouldn’t like (as one of my other friends did do), there’s so much freedom to switch around and study new things in college before you even declare a major. For example, my friend who is a biology major ended up taking so many cultural anthropology and linguistics courses (and they didn’t realize how much they loved them??) that now they’re definitely minoring in both. They also gravitated toward biology classes that had more to do with communication and ethics, which is contrary to their original belief that they would just do “hard sciences” all day, every day. I’ll likely discuss more about what it means to apply for a given major in college and explore said major in a future post.


You can find the major requirements, courses, recommended course sequences and everything you can think of to get a sense of what studying a given major would look like on the university’s website, for free, public-to-all (not just students). Some schools will even have sample four-year plans for students in that major with a specific career goal or desire to double major. That’s genuinely how I knew that Duke was the right school for me when I found out I had to a) specialize in a subfield of BME and b) one of those specializations was bioelectricity.


Does having a quirkier major help?

Not necessarily. Any major can be helpful if they accurately reflect areas of study that you’re genuinely passionate about. You may be able to more easily see how you’ll add diversity to a medical school if your major is inherently diverse compared to the rest of the applicant pool. However, you will still be held to the expectations for YOUR major. So, if your major is colloquially considered easier, then you may be scrutinized and need to have a higher overall GPA, while the inverse is true for colloquially extremely difficult majors where you can get away with a *slightly* lower GPA. This is true for a major like engineering where you can get away with a lower overall GPA, however, it doesn’t excuse you from having low pre-med requirement grades (like orgo and biochemistry). A difficult course load can impact your ability to perform well in those courses. For me, I will probably have to retake orgo 2 and biochemistry before applying to med schools, because my semesters were really really rough when I was taking those classes and hence my performance was not at the standard level most schools require for a pre-med requirement to be satisfied. My NYU Med school friend didn’t have that problem because they have better time management skills, haha. But this is all to bring me to the point that your grades do matter for med schools and the grades that you get in pre-med requirements matter heavily, so you’ll want to take that into consideration early on when you’re designing your curriculum. How can you strike a balance between classes that will be difficult for you, ones that genuinely excite you, and ones that you need to fulfill pre-med requirements?


I had a lot of fun doing this deep dive and hopefully, it demystified a lot of what it means to “be pre-med” in college. I plan to collab on future pre-med articles with my NYU Med School friend, so please let me know if there's anything that you all specifically want to hear about.

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