Deciding on a Major for Med School

Student, Bayyinah Dream Program

Nov   2015



When it comes time to pick a major, many of us incoming freshmen are left scratching our heads: What do I want to do for the next four years of my life? After scrutinizing a list of hundreds of majors, I finally decided on biochemistry.

As an aspiring pre-med student, my primary goal was to make sure whatever major I chose prepared me for med school with its notoriously rigorous admission process. Medical schools have little preference in their applicants’ majors. You could major in history or music and still get accepted. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), in 2012, just 51% of students enrolled in med school were biological science majors. Much like undergrad admissions, medical school committees are more concerned about whether you’re taking challenging courses and have the potential to be successful in their rigorous curricula. You could certainly take more grueling courses outside of a humanities major if that’s what you’re interested in.

I wanted to choose a major that would cover most of the courses required for med school, including biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, etc. To also minimize the amount of preparation I would have to do on my own for the MCAT, a major like biology or biochemistry seemed more practical to me since it would cover most of the material tested on the exam. It doesn’t come as a surprise then why these particular majors are so popular for pre-meds.

If you want to stand out from the typical pre-med student, though, you could consider majoring in something out of the norm, like those humanities majors I mentioned earlier. Somewhere in the decision-making process I considered pursuing biomedical engineering (BME) for this very purpose. While it’s still science related, it’s varied enough from biology and chemistry that I reasoned it would be an asset. However, after talking to several BME students, I heard the courses are quite difficult, with many students even switching majors in favor of something less demanding a year in. Although I’m always up for a challenge, I didn’t want to put my GPA in jeopardy, as engineering majors end up with some of the lowest GPAs at graduation. This is important to note since GPA is one of the most important factors med schools consider, so I ultimately decided majoring in BME wasn’t worth it.

Another thing to keep in mind when choosing a major other than biology or biochemistry is that you will still need to take all of the med school prerequisites in addition to the 30 to 60 credit hours required for a major at most universities. In other words, the more the med school prerequisites and your major overlap, the lighter your course load.

Above all, remember to choose a major you are passionate about. Don’t just pick something because it sounds impressive or looks good on a med school application. It may be challenging to pursue a passion outside of the sciences as a pre-med, but if that’s what you’re interested in, go for it! Remember, this is what you’ll be doing the next four years of your life.

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About Fathima Haseefa

Fathima Haseefa graduated from BASIS Chandler, where she was editor of her school newspaper and received the Pulitzer Kirk Award for her contributions. She is also a recipient of the Schoneman Award for Outstanding Scholarship, Leadership, and Service. While in high school, she completed a journalism internship with AdmitSee, a peer-to-peer college prep company, and founded PeerAspire, a one-on-one tutoring program aimed to help students achieve their full potential. During her gap year, Fathima will be attending the Bayyinah Dream program, a nine-month Arabic intensive program in Dallas, Texas, and subsequently hopes to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering.