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When you are applying to Medical School, most students choose to follow a Traditional Path through some degree in a Science-related field. Students may elect to pursue a degree in Chemistry, Biology, or Microbiology to name a few but this is not the only way to get noticed by an Admissions' Board. About 50% of candidates currently in a US Medical School have elected to pursue a degree through a Non-Traditional Path. You are able to chose a degree in English, Psychology, or Philosophy to name a few and still be eligible in order to apply to Medical School programs. The key thing to remember is that you have a list of courses that you are obligated to take and must score highly in them. In this article, I will cover the general courses that you need to take in order to become eligible for consideration as well strategies to improve your chances with a Non-Traditional Degree.
The Required Courses That You Must Take in Undergrad and a Strategy for a Scientific Degree
Although Medical Schools do have various requirements for what courses a student has to have successfully passed when they were completing their Bachelor's degree, all schools require you to have at least 1 year of Biology, 1 year of Physics, 1 year of English, and 2 years of Chemistry. These can be challenging courses at the University level so it is important that you plan out your schedule effectively in order to maximize your scores. In most cases, universities will offer these programs as semester courses of Biology 1 and 2, Physics 1 and 2, some type of English course, and then Inorganic Chemistry 1 and 2 and Organic Chemistry 1 and 2. All these Science courses also have some type of Laboratory component that can also eat away at your schedule so it is important to make sure you are not overly ambitious when designing your course load.
What most of my colleagues did as Freshmen was to start with a Biology and an Inorganic Chemistry class and then take simple courses necessary for your degree requirements afterwards. It is going to be hard to adjust to the pace of the coursework but for most students that have a passion for Science, Biology starts relatively slow until after the Mid-term when you cover DNA sequencing and amino acids. Chemistry will be the hardest hurdle to combat but if you are completing a traditional Fall and Spring semester, you will have to complete it eventually so just utilize office hours with Teaching Assistants and make sure you study as hard as you can to score well on assignments.
Another strategy would be to delay Chemistry until a later year but the longer you delay these courses, the more challenging it can be to complete your prerequisites for other classes if you are in a Science-related field. Physics is also a hard class to combat with if you are weak in Calculus or theoretical thinking so you would be wish to stagger Physics to your Sophomore year so you learn how to study effectively. You will face Organic Chemistry with Physics in this circumstance but one year is a large amount of time to develop new study habits and you will be more capable of dealing with these topics with more experience as you progress up the educational hierarchy.