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I started my first year of college very sure of my post-grad plans; I was going to be on the pre-med track for all of college and would eventually pursue medical schools. These days I find myself a little bit less sure of my pre-med ambitions now that I am slowly being exposed to other possibilities. However no matter what I ultimately pursue there are things I wish I had known when I started on the pre-med track. Here are some of things that I wish the uneducated freshman version of myself had known.

1. You need surprisingly little biology

I had expected pre-med to be lots of biology (something that thrilled me since biology is one of my favorite subjects). While it seems logical to require a lot of biology most medical schools only require one year (two courses) of biology with lab. That being said there you actually need twice as much chemistry as biology and there are other courses you might not expect you need.

2. You need to take English and math

I kind of just assumed that pre-med was all science with maybe a psychology course thrown in. In reality you need two classes in English and two classes in math. I am actually thrilled that these requirements exist because it has pushed me to pursue classes I wouldn’t have pursued otherwise (such as an introductory composition course).

3. Double majoring can be hard

I am now a proud double major in neuroscience and art history. While I love both of my majors the reality is that I could have never double majored in such unrelated fields and completed all of my pre-med coursework before graduating unless I had either gone substantially beyond the recommended semester course load and/or take summer classes. Of course this also depends on your majors and some double major combinations will make it easier to finish you pre-med courses than others.

4. You don’t have to major in biology/chemistry/biochemistry/anything science

All of these majors can make finishing pre-med coursework easier as there will often be a decent bit of overlap however you don’t actually need to even major in a science. You could be a studio art major or an economics major or even an underwater basket weaving major and still be on the pre-med, it is just a matter of finishing your pre-med track. This also applies to minors and any other programs that your college offers (such as certificates). Don’t think that just because you are pre-med you can’t explore your other interests.

5. There is more to pre-med than just classes

Beyond taking the necessary classes there are lots of other aspects to being pre-med to make you a strong applicant. These include things like conducting scientific research and getting clinical experience (this often involves volunteering in a hospital).

6. You can study abroad

It certainly takes careful planning on your part but studying abroad is certainly an option. If you think you may want to study abroad while being pre-med I recommend speaking to your adviser early on regarding potentially pursuing study abroad.

7. You don’t have to finish your pre-med courses while in college

While it is often easier to try and finish all pre-med coursework while you are still in college you don’t actually have to. You can always finish your courses after college by enrolling somewhere part-time.

8. Relax

There are certainly stressful times (like when you are studying for your first organic exam) but the reality is that no matter what happens you will get through it!

Hopefully the information above will help people to tackle the challenges and misconceptions about being pre-med. Good luck!

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the author

Samantha Linder is a sophomore at Smith College where she is double majoring in neuroscience and art history. Samantha's favorite words include hippocampus, logorrhea, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

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