Preparing for Medical School

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Most schools of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and veterinary medicine have similar prerequisites for admission. However, individual schools vary in details, so consult the admissions requirements for the schools and profession of interest to you. You can meet the requirements for most health career professions by taking the following sequences for each subject.

Courses Available at Oberlin:

  • Two semesters of Biology with laboratories (BIO 100 and BIO 213)
  • Two semesters of General Chemistry with laboratories (CHM 101, CHM 102 or CHM 103).
  • Two semesters of Organic Chemistry with laboratories (CHM 205, CHM 254).  Also, many schools require or recommend a semester of Biochemistry (CHM 374). BIO 213 and CHM 254 TOGETHER provide the content of an introductory biochemistry class.  Student interested in advanced biochemistry can take CHM 374.
  • Two semesters of General Physics with laboratory (usually PHY 103, PHY 104, or PHY 110, PHY 111).

    Note: Always take the lab connected with a science course if it is listed separately, schools will not accept “lecture only” courses for the core requirements.

  • Two semesters of Mathematics  (Calculus I: MTH 131 and 132 OR MTH 133 and STAT 113 or 114) Note: a full year of college level math is usually recommended, but not always required. However, it is best to complete the year to ensure you are eligible for any school you may choose to apply.  Schools now expect students to come in with knowledge of statistics and beginning in 2015 statistical knowledge will be tested on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).
  • Two semesters of English (Any two courses in the English, Rhetoric and Composition, or Creative Writing Department)
  • Introductory level course(s) in psychology, sociology or anthropology.

Many Oberlin students enter the college with AP or IB credits and want to enter the science and math sequences at an advanced level. In some cases, especially if you are contemplating a major in the area where you have advanced placement, using the credits and entering in upper level classes makes very good sense. In other cases, however, it is good to start the Oberlin course sequence at the beginning, since the rigor of these classes exceeds that of most AP classes, and you can be in for a difficult time entering the upper level class. Some medical schools will not accept AP or IB credit in place of the required courses.  It is very important to talk with a health career committee advisor and with professors teaching the classes in question before you make a final decision on your schedule.

Also, be careful not to overload yourself with science and math classes in your first semester.  Although it may not appear that way on paper, three classes in science and math is too many for the first semester.  If you are a really strong science student, you may be fine taking both BIO and CHEM in the first semester, but some students start with a single science class.  At some later point you will need two, possibly three, science courses in a semester.  Always consult with a health career committee advisor to make sure you are on track, but not overloaded. 

Work outside of the classroom

Because medical schools are seeking people who know what they are getting into, it is also essential that you have approximately a year's worth of medically-related volunteer experience during your college career. To gain this important experience you may combine several different experiences such as multiple winter term projects, a summer hospital volunteer stint, and a few hours a week at a local clinic or nursing home during the academic year. Medical schools also look favorably on a strong background in research as it is important to understand where information comes from and how scientists make the discoveries that impact the medical field. There are several opportunities for research with Oberlin faculty as well as summer research programs off campus for undergraduates.  Because there are limited slots available in all of these settings it is important to make contact with faculty and programs early, and to apply to more than one off-campus program at a time.  Remember, the point of engaging in volunteer work and research is to help you better understand issues related to health care and help you decide what you want to do.  It is not simply a process used to add a new line on your resume.  It is a chance for you to grow and develop into a stronger candidate for medical school and ultimately a better physician.