If your dream is to become a physician and you are planning on going to medical school, it makes sense to major in biology as an undergraduate. Right? After all, you’ll get most of your prerequisite courses in the department. You’ll get to know the professors. And most pre-med students major in biology. 

Over 50% of pre-med students do indeed major in biology and that may be a reason to find a totally different field. You certainly will not stand out if you’re a biology major unless you spice up your application with extracurricular activities or research. The best pre med majors are not necessarily in the sciences and very likely not biology.

Selecting a pre-med major should be a process of determining what is best for you. What subject excites you? What do you enjoy the most? This may be the only time in your life that you can indulge yourself and immerse yourself in learning about a subject you love. As long as you take the prerequisite courses, the medical school admission committee may decide your choice of English Literature or American History is excellent. 

Another point in favor of a major other than biology is that admissions committees look closely at your GPAs. If you’re not a dedicated scientist, but the Spanish language is your passion, you will do better in your major if you choose Spanish. You still have to get good grades in your prerequisites, but there won’t be as many science courses.

Let’s look at various subjects to see what the best pre med majors are.

1. Biology

  • The commonest major declared on med school admission forms. This is a definite negative for the biological sciences. Your major is just like everybody else’s.
  • Biology majors do not do better on the MCAT. In fact, those who chose humanities consistently scored higher.Another negative.
  • Biology offers the courses that will be the basis for much of your work in medical school. A definite positive. The human body is definitely biological. The bio courses you take in college will help you later.
  • If you really enjoy the biological sciences, then Biology is probably the best choice for you.

2. Mathematics and statistics

  • If, and only if, you have a passion for mathematics, and you actually understand statistics, this is the major for you.
  • Math majors tie with those in physical sciences for the highest scores on both the MCATs and GPAs.
  • This is generally considered the hardest major in the school. You have to nail your courses.
  • Very few of your med school pre-requisites will be offered in this major. You will need to use up many of your electives fulfilling those pre-requisites. A definite negative.

3. Physical sciences

  • The four main branches of the physical sciences are astronomy, physics, chemistry, and Earth science, primarily meteorology and geology.
  • Physics and chemistry are usually the fields that are chosen as majors. These two will allow you to complete most of your prerequisite courses within your major. Much of the science is directly applicable to what you will learn in medical school, especially in the technology of medicine.
  • Be careful though. You definitely want a high GPA in the courses in your major. Be sure you have an affinity and passion for the non-organic aspects of science. Like math and statistics, this is a tough major.

4. Social sciences

  • Social sciences consist of studies such as sociology, political science, economics, psychology, anthropology, archeology, geography, history, law, and linguistics.
  • Most of the course material in these disciplines will not overlap the prerequisites for medical school. You will have to use your electives to complete those. A negative.
  • But admission committees are fond of the social sciences in this age. They will probably look favorably on your application if your GPA and MCAT scores are high enough.
  • In light of the changes to the MCAT in 2015, does this make the social sciences the best pre med majors?
  • The social sciences teach the causes and results of human interactions and experiences. You are exposed to ideas that you will never see in the hard sciences and you may learn to think outside the box.
  • And sociology, economics, etc. reflect what people do when confronted with a problem. This has everything to do with health and well being.

5. Humanities

  • The humanities represent the thoughts and ideas of people for the past several thousand years. Does this make them the best pre med majors?
  • The humanities are usually thought to include modern and classical languages, literature, history, law (see social sciences), comparative religion, philosophy, ethics, and the arts.
  • Communication is key to the study of the humanities. 
  • Communication is key to the art of medicine. For medicine is not just a science. You can’t just put a patient in an MRI and come up with a diagnosis. You have to talk to them. Most especially you have to learn to listen.
  • Literature can teach you much about how the human mind works, knowledge that may be very helpful with patients.
  • Art history can teach the discipline of detail and the importance of paying attention to the little things.
  • Languages offer you the opportunity to explore other cultures, to travel abroad, and to communicate with people in a different language to get them to understand your instructions.

6. Adding a Minor

  • If you want to major in medieval poetry, and you have to take all those science prerequisites anyway, why not minor in Biology?
  • This makes a lot of sense if you’re sure to nail your poetry courses and are also good at science. You want to have a high GPA in both major and minor.
  • If, however, you are have problems with your French, do not take on the burden of a minor. You need to do well in your major and your prerequisites. That’s what you have to concentrate on.

7. Standing Out

  • There are lots of reasons to major in Biological sciences, especially if you like the subject. But that doesn’t make them the best pre med majors.
  • If Biology doesn’t turn you on, find something that does, even if it’s the Greco-Roman Wars. Look for a major that excites you, that you can actually be passionate about. You’re going to medical school, and you should be passionate about medicine when you start learning about it. Find that subject and make that your major.
  • A major from the ‘other’ category will make the admissions committee sit up and take notice. Just make sure you can defend your choice. What happened in the Greco-Roman Wars that caught your eye? Was it a person whose personality reached out over the centuries and made you want to get to know him? Learning about the complexity of this man’s mind and his interactions with his countrymen teaches you a great deal about psychology.

More than 53,000 men and women applied to medical schools in the United States in 2018. That’s a lot of competition. Your application must stand out in some way. If you major in Biology, which is perfectly fine, you have to add something to make the admissions committee remember you. Or even if you major in East Asian Studies. You will find that the best pre med majors do not exist. There is only the best for you.

A mentoring internship in a foreign country will make you memorable. You can follow a doctor around and learn a different set of protocols, different ways of approaching a case, different ways of dealing with people, a different culture. Consider investing time in such a program now because you’re unlikely to have time for it later. International Medical Aid is a not-for-profit organization that provides such internships in areas of the world where they are particularly needed. With such a program on your application, you will stand out from the rest of the crowd and improve your chances of achieving your dream. And you will have the experience of a lifetime.