Choosing Your Major

Even though it may seem like a long way off, it is a good idea to start preparing for medical school before you even enter college. Some of the things that will put you ahead of the competition in the applications race are those that most students wish they would have thought of many years ago. For many students choosing a major is one of those details. If you elect your major early and carefully plan your classes, the pathway to graduation will be much less painful than it is for others.

If you are anything like I was, you probably have a million questions in your head about what major you should elect that will best prepare you for medical school. I know that it is a big decision, especially when you may not even be 100% certain that this is the career path you want to take.Or maybe you are certain and have no clue what the best road to success will be.

Unfortunately for you, there is no definitive answer on choosing your major but hopefully I can clear up a few of the details. Let’s go through some of the questions you may have:

1) Do I need to be a biology, chemistry, or other science major in order to go to medical school?

No. While choosing a science major will help you obtain a solid background in preparation for medical school (and likely fulfill the requirements very quickly) it is not a prerequisite for medical school. In fact, it may not be the best option if you don’t have interest in those areas or don’t feel confident that you will have a GPA in those areas of study. Most osteopathic medical schools value diversity and appreciate students who come from non-traditional backgrounds.

It is important to note, however, that osteopathic medical schools have traditionally accepted approximately 70-80% of applicants who have majored in some form of science background so this is a good option if you are strong in these areas. I think its important to remember that it is likely that the high rate of acceptance for students with science backgrounds probably has more to do with the fact that a higher number of applicants chose science as a major, not necessarily that the school has a preference for science majors.

2) Great! Does that mean I can major in anything I want? Like basket weaving or racquetball?

No, unfortunately that’s not the case either. If medical schools accepted students from any background you’d likely have a doctor whose strongest subject was golf. That wouldn’t exactly be a formula for success in medical school or healthcare. Medical schools expect that applicants have a solid background in major that will contribute to their success in medical school. You will still need to fulfill medical school entrance requirements and impress an admissions committee regardless of what you major is so it is a good idea for you to make it as easy on yourself as possible.

3) Okay, that’s pretty vague. What are some examples of good majors?

Medical schools, especially osteopathic schools, have been known to accept students with majors that include many fields such as Math, Engineering, English, Psychology, and many more. Just remember that you are going to need to sell yourself during interviews and in your application based upon your educational background so you will likely want to find a major that has at least a small application toward medicine. Remember, definitely don’t rule out science majors such as Biology or Physics if you can keep your GPA high and it interests you.

4) So, basically I have a ton of options. Can you help me narrow it down?

Okay, first off, think of what interests you. You are paying for your college (or if you’re lucky, someone else is) so you might as well learn about something that you enjoy. A large majority of people who give up on their goal to attend medical school have quit because they got bored during college or couldn’t keep up. For example, if you are rotten at Physics or just plain old hate it, then it would be silly to make that your major. Your GPA probably wouldn’t end up very competitive and you might lose your drive to keep going.

Also, look for majors which will make it easy to schedule your entrance requirements for medical school. You are going to have to take Organic Chemistry whether you like it or not so it wouldn’t hurt to find a major that has a requirement fulfilled when you take that class. Of course there are always going to be a few extra classes you will have to fit in as electives but choosing the right major can minimize that significantly.

I would definitely suggest “shopping around” for majors. Read about them in your college catalog and ask students in the program what they think about it. Its amazing what a little bit of curiosity can achieve.

5) I still don’t know what I should major in. What should I do?

Complete your medical school entrance requirements. If it takes you a while to decide, at least you can rest assured that you have got the tough stuff out of the way.

Its important to keep in mind that for medical school your major only matters in-as-much as it prepared you to be successful in a D.O. program. It doesn’t hurt to make yourself stand out from the croud as long as you get great grades and can apply it to medicine. For those of you who want to follow a science major, remember that you will need to be especially studious and competitive because there will be a lot of others just like you and I.