Because of a fantastic AP biology teacher senior year of high school and my enthusiasm for science facts, I decided without hesitation that I would become a biological sciences major. However, in my third year, I learned more about my school’s young but thriving neuroscience program. Then, during my last year of undergrad, my roommate was majoring in public health, a major I didn’t know existed because it wasn’t an option when I started school. While I’m happy with my undergraduate education, I wish I had known there were other options besides biology, chemistry, and physics as a pre-med student going in to college.

Is there a best major for medical school?

At most universities, there is no “pre-med” major. Instead, it’s a list of pre-requisite classes that are crucial for mastering content on the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). The concepts you learn in these courses will provide a foundation for later concepts learned in medical school.

Medical schools do not favor a specific major, but you should choose something you enjoy and excel at. Most do major in biology, chemistry, or physics, but I’ve known accepted students to major in Neuroscience, Public Health, Psychology, Kinesiology, Biomedical Engineering, Mathematics, Business, and Music. However, as long as you take the required classes for your schools of choice, you should be set.

What are the required classes for medical school?

2 semesters of biology; with lab
2 semesters of inorganic chemistry; with lab
2 semesters of organic chemistry; with lab
2 semesters of physics; with lab
1 semester of biochemistry
1 semester of statistics or calculus
2 semesters of English

Most schools have these as a basic requirement, but many also encourage upper level biology courses such as Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Cell Cycle and Cancer, Molecular Cell Biology, Genetics, and Animal Biology.

Can AP or IB credits be used towards medical school prerequisites? 

This depends on university policies. My university accepted my AP credits for one semester of English and one semester of statistics.

Do all premedical prerequisites have to be completed before graduation?

No as long as all prerequisites before matriculation. Some applicants enroll in post baccalaureate programs to complete the required classes or retake them to boost grades.

What is the required GPA for medical school?

The minimum GPA required for most medical schools is 3.0. Keep in mind that competitive applicants usually have a 3.5+ GPA and 3.2+ science GPA. Even students with a high GPA are not guaranteed a seat, so the higher the GPA, the better. Those with a lower GPA can become a more competitive applicant by scoring well on the MCAT, but both factors are heavily considered for admission.

Science vs. Nonscience GPA?

The science GPA is comprised of grades from biology, chemistry, physics, and math courses. The overall GPA is calculated from all classes taken during your undergraduate career.

Biology (BIOL)
Anatomy and Physiology, Biology, Cell Biology, Ecology, Genetics, Immunology, Microbiology, Molecular Cell Biology, Neuroscience, Physiology, and Zoology

Chemistry (CHEM)
Biochemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry

Mathematics (MATH)
Applied Mathematics, Biostatistics, Statistics, and Calculus

Physics (PHYS)
Astronomy and Physics

Can you study abroad as a premed?

It’s recommended to take the prerequisites at your home institution to ensure they count, but studying abroad is a great opportunity expand horizons while completing electives.

Can I get accepted if I fail or withdraw from a class?

Yes, as long as the class is retaken and improvement is shown, but it shouldn’t become a habit. Ws do not count toward the GPA, but Fs do. However, while some DO schools will see every grade you’ve earned, they’ll take the most recent grade in a course.


While it’s possible to start college as “Undecided”, it is recommended to declare a major by the end of the first year. As general class requirements are completed, students begin to take major specific courses by year two. Whichever major you decide, make sure your heart is in it because ~4 years is a long time to be miserable and people tend to perform better when they enjoy what they’re doing.

Choosing a major with reliable job prospects after completing a bachelor’s degree is also something to consider in the event you decide that medical or graduate school isn’t right for you. This isn’t meant to dissuade, but I’ve had many friends decide after the first year of college that medical school wasn’t what they were interested in. Higher education is a long term investment and you don’t want to deplete your resources (time, money, and energy) early.

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