Top College Courses to take to Ready yourself for Medical School

Having experienced this process personally, I would be delighted to provide some advice.

For starters, I think it is useful to divide the so called pre-medical curriculum into mandatory courses and optional courses.

Most medical schools consider the following undergraduate courses mandatory: English/Composition, Inorganic chemistry, Organic chemistry, Physics, Biology (more on that shortly), as well as their respective lab courses. In my mind, it is no coincidence that these courses correspond to the sections of the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).

With the wisdom of hindsight, I believe the purpose of these courses is more to boost one’s MCAT score than to provide a foundation for one’s medical education. Nevertheless, the MCAT will be part of the medical school application for the foreseeable future; hence, any college course that helps one achieve a high score on this test is arguably worthwhile. 

The mandatory courses are largely self explanatory with the exception of Biology. Virtually any undergraduate biology course will satisfy this requirement, including biochemistry, cell biology, anatomy, physiology, genetics, and zoology. Since most medical school applicants tend to be biology or life sciences major anyway, satisfying this requirement is generally a minor concern.

A more important consideration is which undergraduate biology courses will help one gain an edge in medical school itself. In my opinion, the most relevant courses are biochemistry, cell biology, human physiology, genetics, immunology, microbiology, neuroscience, and pharmacology. Had my alma mater offered human anatomy with cadaveric dissections, I would have taken it. That said, medical school anatomy is conceptually simple but tends to be overly focused on memorization. Other than studying human anatomy atlases and anatomy review books consistently, I am at a loss for suggesting other ways to gain an edge in medical school anatomy.

Now I’d like to discuss the other biology courses in more depth.

Taking a solid undergraduate course in biochemistry will make medical school biochemistry more of a review and less of a nightmare. After all, there are only so many ways to present information about the Krebs’ Cycle, the Electron Transport Chain, or enzyme kinetics. Going through this ordeal before medical school eases the suffering immensely. Cell biology and immunology are extremely pertinent in understanding the pathogenesis and treatment of cancer and autoimmune disorders. In regards to human physiology, a solid background in this subject will make its medical school counterpart much less of a hassle. The same logic applies to human genetics. Like it or not, medical schools tend to hire professors enthralled with the Human Genome Project, even though its clinical applicability outside of specialties like Medical Genetics remains limited.  

Beyond the realm of biology, most other undergraduate courses should serve as GPA boosters when applying to medical school. These include Anthropology, Art, Astronomy, Botany, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, as well as most History and Literature courses. Although these courses may be interesting and even necessary to fulfill one’s humanities requirements, they are generally not relevant to the medical school curriculum in and of themselves. If a politcal science or history course improves one’s analytical or writing skills, so much the better; nonetheless, the bulk of a premed student’s undergraduate career should be devoted to relevant science courses.