Out of all the graduate programs students may pursue, medical school is considered one of the most competitive. Many top schools report acceptance rates in the single digits. If your goal is to attend medical school, the key to success lies in planning and researching. Researching your top schools and their specific programs will help you plan your path and figure out what prerequisites you’ll need to check off during your Undergraduate Pre-Med Timeline years. It’s never too early to work out a solid academic plan.
Your freshman year will play a massive role in shaping your overall GPA and class rank, which are both factors considered by medical school admissions boards. Even when you’re just starting, there are already steps you can take to build the foundation for your medical school applications, including:
- Carefully Considering Your Major: The first thing you should do is pick your major (and possible minor) according to your interests and strengths. Although you can apply to medical school with any undergraduate major, this decision can impact your grades and, therefore, that all-important GPA.
- Taking Part in Extracurriculars: Extracurriculars are an excellent way for you to demonstrate important non-academic personality traits like leadership. As a pre-med student, you may want to try volunteering and community service, music and dance, and athletics.
- Meeting Your Pre-Med Advisor: Your advisor will help to ensure that you meet all your med school prerequisites and remain on track with your program so you can graduate on time.
- Joining a Pre-Med Club: Many schools have pre-med clubs, which allow prospective medical school students to connect. These clubs can provide great early networking opportunities and will give you a support system when it comes time for applications.
Since most pre-med students take the MCAT in junior year, sophomore year is the time to prepare for the test and strengthen your foundations. This can be done by:
- Getting Research Experience: Especially important if you want to apply for a doctorate of medicine program down the road, having research experience will help you stand out in your med school application.
- Obtaining Clinical Experience: Clinical experience can demonstrate to the admissions committee that you are familiar with the needs and duties of both physicians and patients. The best way to obtain clinical experience is by shadowing a physician. Other options include volunteering at hospice centers, with EMTs, or as a nurse’s assistant.
- Defining Your Med School Application Timeline: Working out an application timeline that you can stick to will ensure that you don’t miss out on the best chances of acceptance and that you have all your prerequisites completed on schedule.
The most academically intense year of your pre-med life will require you to do the following:
- Take the MCAT: Your MCAT score will be crucial to landing interviews with your top schools. To stay on track to take the MCAT in the spring of your junior year, you should start your preparation as early as possible. Make sure to use online resources, participate in study classes on the MCAT, and communicate with your advisor during this time.
- Continue to Research Specific Schools: Many medical schools require candidates to complete additional courses or volunteer experiences to be considered for admission. Identify these other requirements during your research, and make a mental note of how you can complete them during your remaining time as an undergraduate.
- Complete Primary Med School Applications: Primary medical school applications will include basic information about you, a personal statement, your undergraduate transcripts, and MCAT score, and details about your extracurricular activities. The latest you should apply is June or July before your senior year.
You should not lose your focus during the final lap of your pre-med journey. Here is a basic overview of what you’ll be doing in your senior year:
- Complete Secondary Med School Applications: Schools interested in admitting you will ask you to complete a secondary application, which will require elaboration on your interest in medicine, and in their particular program.
- Interviews: While your med school application will serve as a screening test, your personality and demonstrated dedication are also essential to an admissions committee’s decision. Your interview is where you will show these traits. Use plenty of resources to prepare for possible questions, and make sure that you don’t deviate from what you’ve written in your personal statement.
- Determine How You’ll Fund Your Studies: At an average of $40,000-$60,000 per year, medical school education is costly. To avoid financial struggles and debt issues, you will need to have a realistic plan for funding your studies through scholarships, loans, work grants, or other avenues.
Undergraduate Prerequisite Courses to Take
These prerequisites are likely to be necessary for your applications. The timing of these courses during your pre-med journey will depend on when and if your particular school offers them:
Standard Prerequisite Course Requirements for Undergraduates
Less Common Prerequisites
- Psychology and Sociology
Recommended Non-required Courses for Pre-med
- Medical Anthropology
- Foreign languages
A class may not be strictly required, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard it as an option. Many less common or even non-required courses can make you stand out in your med school applications. Remember to double-check the specific requirements of the programs you’re interested in.
Discipline is Key
The sheer amount of coursework and extracurricular hours required for a pre-med education can be quite overwhelming for students, and medical school admissions are notoriously competitive.
That’s why it’s essential that you draft, and stick to, a timeline for your medical school application process. Your hard work and intelligence are vital factors, but it will be your discipline and diligence as a pre-med student that gets you across the finish line.