To be "pre-med" means you are embarking on a course of study aimed at preparing you for to apply to a medical school (or other post-graduate health profession). It means you are taking the classes and gaining the experiences that these schools look for in qualified applicants.
What type of education is required?A plan to prepare for a graduate health professional program.
Coursework required for most medical schools
- 1 year general chemistry with labs
- 1 year organic chemistry with labs
- 1 year introductory biology with labs
- 1 year general physics with labs
- 1 year English
- 2 quarters calculus
Although this coursework will meet the requirements for many schools, students should research the prerequisites of the schools to which they hope to apply.
Note: Schools have differing policies for accepting AP, IB or CLEP credits to meet program prerequisites. Students should contact the schools to which they would like to apply to find out that school's policy. Since most students will not know what schools they will apply to when they are planning their schedules, many students choose to retake the science prerequisites or take the honors version of the course. The decision should be made on an individual basis and it is recommended that students speak to an adviser when making this choice.
Additional course work to prepare for MCAT in 2015 and beyond
- 2 quarters biochemistry (no lab required)
- courses (no specific minimum number) that focus on human behavior, including biological, psychological and socio-cultural influences on behavior
- knowledge of statistics either through a variety of biological science and behavioral science courses that have included statistics, or by taking a statistics course
Types of medical practice
The system of medical practice which treats disease by the use of remedies which produce effects different from those produced by the disease under treatment. MDs practice allopathic medicine.
Osteopathic medicine provides all of the benefits of modern medicine including prescription drugs, surgery, and the use of technology to diagnose disease and evaluate injury. It also offers the added benefit of hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system of therapy known as osteopathic manipulative medicine. Osteopathic medicine emphasizes helping each person achieve a high level of wellness by focusing on health promotion and disease prevention.
Naturopathic Medicine is a system of medicine that focuses on prevention and use of nontoxic, natural therapies." These natural therapies refer to, but are not limited to, proper diet and nutrition, exercise, nutritional supplements, herbology, homeopathy, and lifestyle modification and counseling.
Recommended undergraduate coursework
Most medical schools require that you complete 1 year of English. This can be a combination of literature and writing requirements. Some schools will not consider writing across the curriculum to meet this requirement. To be on the safe side we suggest you plan on completing three English courses prior to taking the MCAT
The amount of math needed depends upon your choice of major and selection of medical schools. We recommend MATH 124, 144, or Q SCI 291 as a beginning course. We also recommend that students complete a statistics course in addition to calculus.
Because of high demand, some students are not able to enroll in BIOL 180 in Autumn quarter. The BIOL 180 sequence can be started in Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Students doing a physical science or non-science major may prefer to take physics in Year 2 and biology in Year 3, as juniors should be able to register in BIOL 180 even in Autumn quarter. Students applying to medical schools requiring additional cell and molecular biology should consider BIOL 355 and/or BIOL 401.
The UW offers two biochemistry sequences, both starting in Autumn quarter: BIOC 405, 406, and BIOC 440, 441, 442.
Courses in ethics, diversity, language
Medical schools are not just looking for students who are strong in the sciences. It is imperative that future doctors understand how society functions and are well-rounded academically. In addition, the University of Washington School of Medicine has a humanities and social sciences requirement. For more advice on how to think about meeting this requirement and on being a well-rounded student, click here.
Medical schools vary in specific number of credits required outside of science. Starting in 2015, the MCAT exam will include a section called Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior. For detailed information about the current and future MCAT exam, see the MCAT website.
Important course topics are:
- how humans sense and respond to their surroundings
- individual and social processes that influence behavior and attitude
- self-identity and social interactions
- social structure
- social inequality
UW course recommendation
Psych 101 (or other Psych courses) and a variety of courses that will expand and deepen your awareness, knowledge and understanding of yourself and others, especially those from different backgrounds. Some examples are: American Ethnic Studies 150, Gender Women and Sexuality Studies 200, and many more!
Example four-year schedule (in advance of entering a professional program)
Medical schools do not care what major you choose; they care that you do well in your major and your pre-requisite courses. You should be thinking of alternate future careers in the event that you change your mind, or are not admitted to medical school.
Actively participating in student groups can be an invaluable experience. The student groups not only offer services that premedical students find helpful, such as hosting medical student panels, informational interviews and group volunteering events, but they also provide a community of students who have similar interests and goals. By taking on an active role, students can also develop their leadership skills.
- Alpha Epsilon Delta
- The American Medical Student Association
- Minority Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS)
- Student Health Consortium
- Unite for Sight
Websites to visit
Here are some helpful websites to learn about the medical field, the application process and more:
- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
- Association of American Medical Colleges
- The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
- UW School of Medicine: Advice for Prospective Students
- Osteopathic Medical College Information (book)
- Medical School Admission Requirements (book)
- MD-PhD Dual Degree Training
- MD/PhD: Is it for YOU? (podcast)
- MedEd Portal: Pre-health competencies
Applying to medical school
We have prepared several online information presentations to help you understand and prepare for this process. Applying to medical school is a year-long process. The actual application steps are:
- Take the MCAT
- Submit the AAMCAS or AACOMAS Primary Application
- Submit secondary applications
- Accept your admissions
However, before you begin you must complete pre-requisite coursework; obtain letters of recommendations and actively engage in healthcare experience. For more information on the application process, visit the AAMC and AACOM websites and read the Medical School Admission Requirements book.
Preparing for the gap year(s)
Consider other schooling, or volunteering with the following organizations: