What Should Pre Meds Major In?

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What major you should choose is a common concern for students, and even more of one for pre med students, due to the pressures of med school applications. Many students believe that picking the wrong major will sink their chances of medical school, or hurt their plans of becoming a doctor. 

In this article, we’ll go over possible majors for pre meds. We’ll also cover how your choice of major impacts your undergrad applications, your time in undergrad, and your application to medical school. We hope that this thorough overview helps you better understand the entire process, and eases any anxieties you may have.

Majors for Pre Meds

Many pre med students believe that their only possible major is Biology, and that nothing else will prepare them for medical school. This is not the case. Indeed, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) collects admissions data from all medical school applications in the US, and has it available on their site. Today, we’re going through this table, which covers the major and acceptance rate of med school applicants. There’s a lot of information there, so we’ve simplified it for you here:






Acceptance Rate

























Physical Sciences






Social Sciences






Health Science






*These are the averages for accepted students, the overall average for applicants is lower.

So what does this data tell us? First, that biology is by far the most popular major among pre meds, with over half of all med school applicants having majored in biology. Second, that biology is not the only route to medical school, in spite of its popularity. And finally, that GPA and MCAT scores matter more than your major.  

Why This is

Pre med is a series of courses which give you the foundation for medical school. While these complement a biology or chemistry major, they can be taken in conjunction with any other field of study. The popularity of biology is self reinforcing; new pre med students see that almost all pre meds are majoring in biology, and believe they have to as well. 

Your Major and Undergrad Admissions

We’ve written before about how your choice of major can impact your chances of undergraduate admissions, and cover this as well in our pre med guide, but it bears repeating here. 

The major you pick impacts your chances of admissions based on two factors: 

  1. How closely it matches with your perceived background and interests.
  2. The popularity of that major.

Admissions officers want to see your interests in high school, and look to see that you’re continuing them in college. If you participated in the Science Olympiad and worked in a lab doing biological research, applying to study biology makes sense. Applying to study philosophy with that background will raise some eyebrows. If your extracurriculars are non-specific to a single major (for example arts or athletics), then you can apply to major in almost anything, so long as you can support your interest in your essays.

The popularity of a major also impacts how difficult admission is for that major. Colleges don’t want their whole student body to study just business, biology, and computer science. Thus, while there aren’t hard caps on how many students are accepted to study a certain major, the more popular a major is, the more difficult it is to get accepted to study it. 

Thus, when choosing what major to apply as, you should first look at what you’ve already done in high school. What story do your extracurriculars tell about you? What sort of student do you look like? Next, you should consider how popular a given major is. By applying strategically to a less popular major which matches your background, you can greatly increase your chances of acceptance.

One of our former students was interested in pursuing pre med, but hadn’t done any science related extracurriculars in high school; instead they were a champion debater. We helped them craft a philosophy application based on their love of debate, and they were accepted to a number of top 20 schools.

Your Major in Undergrad

What you major in greatly impacts your time in undergrad, as a lot of your courses (usually around a third, but this varies by major and school) will be devoted to fulfilling the requirements of your major. Pre med coursework fills another large portion, and required courses by your university can fill a great deal more (although this also varies a lot. Brown only requires a single course, while UChicago requires 14).

This is another reason for the popularity of biology as a major. Because many of the required courses for pre med mirror the requirements for a biology major, you are able to fulfill two requirements at once, and then either take more electives, or reduce your overall course load. 

Majoring in biology or chemistry can introduce you to some of the concepts you will cover in medical school early, but is not necessary; you will still need to fully master the same concepts in med school. Overall, what you major in will greatly impact your undergraduate career. You should choose a major you are best able to perform well in, as your GPA is the most important factor when applying to medical schools. 

Major and Medical School Applications

Your major does impact medical school admissions, but not directly. What you major in is not one of the factors medical schools consider (for a full exploration of what they do consider, see our guide to medical school applications), they do care about your story as a student, and your major is a large piece of this. 

Your story is the sum total of what you’ve done and experienced on your road to medicine, and how it led you to your chosen career path. Majoring in a subject other than biology is a good way to set your story apart, and make you stand out in a field which is crowded with biology majors. 

In the table, you can see that the GPA and MCAT scores of accepted students are consistent across fields of study. The differences in acceptance rates are slight, but noticeable; while not all of this difference can be attributed to choice of major, it clearly does have an impact on admissions. 

Admissions officers use your essays to understand your story, and your interview to get to know you as a person. Your major can give you unique insights, or another window to explore why medicine is important to you. You don’t need to discuss it in your application, but it can give you unique insights in your essays.

If you are still concerned, we suggest this US News article on which medical schools admit the most students with liberal arts majors. Remember, the numbers given in the table above are collected across all medical schools in the US, and don’t necessarily reflect your chances of admission at any particular medical school.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has clarified the impact of your major choice on your path as a pre med. We understand why biology is a popular choice; it is a great fit for students interested in medicine. We want you to know it isn’t your only choice, however, and that you have options beyond biology when applying to or going through undergrad. Indeed, sometimes another option can be even better for the path you want to take. 

If you have additional questions about applying to college as a pre med, check out our guide. If you are interested in what medical school admissions are like, we have a piece on that as well. We know these are challenging, and hope our guides can help you on your way.

If you are concerned about your own admissions, or are unsure which major is the best for you to pursue, schedule a free consultation with us. We have helped many pre meds on their collegiate journey before, and are always happy to assist students in finding the major and college that are the best fit for them.

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