How to Know if Pre-Med is Right for You

Student thinking
August 28, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

Are you considering taking pre-med in college? Read on to learn how to know if pre-med is right for you.

Pre-med, otherwise known as a pre-medicine track, is a natural choice for those that wish to pursue medical school after their undergraduate degree. Completing the track is the first step towards being a medical doctor, however, it does not come easy. To be successful, it will take a lot of hard work and dedication. 

If you're wondering if pre-med is right for you, there are some things that you should know before you commit to the program. Read on to learn more!

Deciding if Pre-Med Is Right for You: What to Consider

The end goal for a pre-med student is to get accepted to medical school. As a result, you should always be thinking about the steps you will eventually need to fulfill in order to have a strong application.

This is where you will determine if you can meet the medical school prerequisites. Since a pre-med track is an intensive course load, consider these factors before applying.

What Major to Choose

Here's a fact that may be surprising to some: pre-med is not a designated major. Most pre-med students choose to major in a science-related program, as it normally consists of the prerequisites you’ll need to apply to medical school. 

In fact, 68% of those that have been accepted to and completed medical school have a previous degree in the biological sciences or another health-related field, bioengineering, or psychology.

When it comes to pre-med studies, you can choose any major you would like, as long as you fulfill these requirements

  • Biology (one year-long sequence with labs)
  • Chemistry (two academic years of study, three of which classes should be organic chemistry and biochemistry)
  • English (one full year)
  • Genetics (at least one course)
  • Math (ideally taking courses in calculus and statistics)
  • Physics (one full year with labs)
  • Psychology (at least one course)
  • Sociology (at least one course)

Remember that certain medical schools may have different course requirements, so always check beforehand.

The Curriculum

Being a pre-med major means that you will have to take a boatload of math and science courses. Even if math and science come easy to you, and you can master them quickly, these courses will demand a lot of critical thinking and brain power. 

In other words, don't think you can skate by and do the bare minimum to get a high grade. If you're not comfortable taking science and math courses, or putting in the time and effort they require, consider another program in college

The Time Commitment

As we previously mentioned, many of the courses you will take during your pre-med track demand a lot of time and energy. This will result in a heavy course load and a heavier schedule. 

To be successful as a pre-med student, you will have to become a master at time management to give all of your classes, assignments, projects, and exams the studying time needed to succeed. 

Extracurricular Activities

When it comes to having a strong application for medical school, you will want to include something that will separate you from others. One of the best ways to do this is to participate in an extracurricular related to science and medicine—such as volunteering in a clinic, completing research or starting a passion project

As an incoming pre-med student, this will add another layer to your already busy schedule, but it is a tactic you should definitely consider. If you pursue pre-med and are looking for an extracurricular, make sure to choose an activity that you enjoy, so it won't feel like work!

Relationships With Your Professors

When applying to medical school, you will need to include letters of recommendation. This bears a lot of weight when the admissions committee is reviewing your application for medical school. Usually, this will have to come from professors who can vouch for your expertise and potential.

As a result, it's important to start building strong relationships with your professors as soon as possible, so that they will be willing to provide you with strong letters of recommendation when it’s time to apply. This should be something to keep in mind as soon as you start your pre-med track.

Is Being a Pre-Med Student Worth It?

After learning what you will need to be successful, you may be asking yourself, “Is pre-med worth it?” There's no denying that being a pre-med student is challenging. However, there are many advantages to taking a pre-med track through college tenure. 

For starters, by completing the program’s curriculum, you will gain valuable hard skills and knowledge that will prepare you for the path to medical school. 

However, through enduring the program, you will also gain a variety of soft skills. Here are a few examples of the skills that you can learn: 

  • Time management skills: through coordinating and managing your busy student schedule and allocating time for homework, assignments, studying, and more
  • Communication skills: learning to work with others through group assignments and working with other subject-matter experts such as professors or teachers assistants
  • Receiving and learning from constructive feedback: getting assignments and exams evaluated and using feedback to improve.

These skills can benefit not only you in your academic and professional career but also in your everyday life. So despite the initial challenges of the curriculum, looking at everything a student can gain from a pre-med track, one could say that pre-med is worth it.

FAQs: How to Know if Pre-Med Is Right for You

Still wondering how to know if pre-med is right for you? We've listed some answers to frequently asked questions so that you can evaluate whether pre-med is worth it.

1. Is Pre-Med as Hard as They Say?

Taking a pre-med track can definitely be challenging. However, it's possible, with the proper time management skills and dedication, you can succeed and be well on your way to getting accepted into medical school.

2. What Percentage of Pre-Med Students Drop Out?

Unfortunately, pre-med students tend to have a high dropout rate. According to a recent study, only 16.5% of college students intending to complete a pre-med track actually fulfill the course requirements by graduation. 

However, by following the tips outlined in this article, you can be a part of that coveted 16.5%.

3. How Do You Survive Pre-Med?

Pre-med will take a lot of time, energy, and dedication. You can survive pre-med by staying on top of your course schedule. Be sure to manage your time wisely, put in the effort that the curriculum requires, and take study breaks to prevent burnout. 

4. How Many Hours a Day Do Pre-Med Students Study?

While everyone may have different study habits and needs, all pre-med students spend a significant amount of time studying due to the track’s demanding nature.

You can generally expect to study around two to four hours per day (not including any time spent in class). Study time may increase during heavy review periods, like exam preparation.

Final Thoughts

Pre-med is a wonderful choice for those looking to fulfill their dreams of becoming a doctor. It's a route to medical school that will take a lot of dedication, sacrifice, and commitment to complete.

If pre-med is right for you, the skills that you will gain as a result make pre-med worth it. Remember to stay organized, devote yourself to your studies, and take breaks to get a good grasp of the material. You've got this!

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