Planning Your Undergraduate Courses

Timing is very important when planning your undergraduate courses. You need to have a goal in mind. How fast do you want to finish your degree and prerequisite courses? The undergraduate program you choose will influence the amount of time it takes for you to be ready to apply to medical school. Often people choose a biology or chemistry degree because it will shorten the time it takes to be ready to apply to school. You should take that into account, but you should not allow time to be the only factor that influences your choice for what you study. School could be long and frustrating if you are not in a program that you truly enjoy. We cannot give you a cut-and-dry plan for how your schedule will look for the 4 years or so that you are in your undergraduate studies, but what we will do is tell you all of the courses that you need (including a couple that are NOT NEEDED but are strongly recommended if you want to be one step ahead of the competition) and we will suggest a basic guide for how you could space this coursework out over that 4 years to make it reasonably do-able. This is a fairly extensive list; however, not all medical schools want the same prerequisites so we encourage you to check out the website of the schools you are most interested in applying to for their individual lists of requirements. REQUIRED COURSES:

  • Biology (8 credit hours*) – This requirement should be fulfilled by taking 2 semesters of General Biology and it’s lab. Some DO school also accept Zoology as a substitution for General Biology.
  • Chemistry (8 credit hours) – This requirement should be fulfilled by taking 2 semesters of General Chemistry or Inorganic Chemistry with their respective labs.
  • Organic Chemistry (8 credit hours) – All DO schools require this and it cannot be substituted. Lab is required as well. Most people find Organic Chemistry difficult so it is a good idea to plan on taking these courses during semester which have a lower course load.
  • Physics (8 credit hours**) – This requirement should be fulfilled with 2 semesters of General Physics or the equivalent including labs.
  • English (6 credit hours for most colleges) – This requirement varies between colleges but should generally include 3 credit hours of English Composition and 3 credit hours of a n upper division literacy course.
  • Behavioral Sciences (varies but 6 credit hours is recommended) – About half of the DO colleges require some form of behavioral science credits. It is a good idea to complete at least 6 credits in behavioral science courses even if your top choice of school does not require it. Suggestions: PSY 101, PSY 300+
  • Genetics (3 credit hours) – This requirement is only necessary if you apply to Kansas City, Michigan State, or Edward Via Virginia.

*Pikeville and University of North Texas require 12 and 14 credit hours respectively **Nova Southeastern does not require Physics HIGHLY RECOMMENDED COURSES:

  • Biochemistry (3 credit hours) – 4 colleges require Biochemistry but allow you to substitute the credit for O. Chem if necessary. It is a good idea to have Biochemistry regardless of the colleges you will apply to. No lab is necessary.
  • Math/Statistics (3 credit hours) – Most undergraduate colleges require some form of mathematics or statistics as a graduation requirement so those courses should be sufficient to fulfill this requirement.
  • Anatomy & Physiology (3 credit hours) – This course is not required by any DO schools but may be helpful in putting you ahead of the competition. Many students report that taking anatomy as a pre-med helped ease the heavy work load during their first year of medical school.

Depending on what your expectations were before, that may or may not seem like a lot, but be aware that you will also need to complete all of the coursework required for your undergraduate program. The courses listed above are only what is expected by Osteopathic Medical Schools. In order to get all your pre-osteopathic coursework taken care of in a timely manner you will need to start your prerequisite as soon as possible. Below we have provided a sample schedule for undergrad/prerequisite courses. Please remember that this is only a suggestion and that you are free to design a plan that is most conducive to your abilities and goals.

Freshman Year
Semester 1 Semester 2
General Chemistry 1 + Lab General Chemistry 2 + Lab
English 101 (or equivalent Composition course) English 102 (or equivalent Composition course)
General Biology 1 + Lab College Algebra
A lower level course required for your college major A course required for your college major
Sophomore Year
Semester 1 Semester 2
General Biology 2 + Lab Physics 1 + Lab
Organic Chemistry 1 + Lab Organic Chemistry 2 + Lab
An upper division English literacy course An upper division Behavioral Health course such as Developmental Psychology
Psychology 101 A college major course
Junior Year
Semester 1 Semester 2
Physics 2 + Lab Biochemistry (no lab)
Anatomy & Physiology 1 + Lab Upper division major requirements / elective
A college major requirement Upper division major requirements / elective
An elective that fulfills a college major requirement Upper division major requirements / elective
Senior Year
Semester 1 Semester 2
Genetics Upper division major requirements / elective
Upper division major requirements / elective Upper division major requirements / elective
Upper division major requirements / elective Upper division major requirements / elective
Upper division major requirements / elective Upper division major requirements / elective

Keep in mind that there is a lot more that goes into planning your undergraduate schedule than just filling in the blanks. You’ll notice that the first two years I pretty much filled up the schedule with science courses and classes that will be demanding on your time. There is a really good reason for that. After a while you will probably start to get burnt out and having a slower tail end of your undergraduate career will protect you from becoming like the many others who give up on their dream. Also, you will need plenty of time in your Junior and Senior years to study for the MCAT and shadow doctors. Hopefully a schedule like this will make that possible. Of course this also assumes that you plan to work hard your first two years. A lot of students have a hard time getting into the groove so make sure you can handle this type of schedule before diving in. Your GPA plays a large part in whether you will be accepted for medical school so it’d be a shame to screw it all up at the beginning… but also remember that if you do great during that time, then you can pretty much just float right through the rest of it.

Some students finish their undergrad and pre-med coursework and then decide to go back to school. When you apply to medical schools they like to see that you are actively learning and increasing you knowledge base. If you are thinking about going back to school to pursue a medical degree, or you were unsuccessful on your first attempt at applying to medical school, you may want to consider going back to school to improve your application. There are many post-bacc programs, masters, and PhD programs that can increase your resume and show schools your dedication to learning and improving. You may want to consider a PhD degree online. School’s really like to see applicants with graduate level coursework on their resume and today’s educational landscape has made it easier for students willing to put in the extra effort.