Timing of Required Pre-Medical Coursework

Pre-meds face many decisions—including when to apply for med school. If you plan to attend med school and become a physician, you will be required to take certain pre-med coursework during college. The timing of these courses will impact whether you can apply at the end of junior year and attend med school directly after college, or whether you will need to take one or two gap years between college and med school. Developing a thoughtful plan for your curriculum throughout college will have many benefits.

Applying after Junior Year

If you wish to apply to medical school at the end of junior year, we advise that you complete your pre-med requirements by spring semester of junior year because the content of the MCAT, the standardized test for med school, draws heavily from the required pre-med coursework. This course schedule would enable you to take the MCAT by June of junior year. In our own experience, other courses that are extremely helpful for the MCAT include advanced biology courses (such as cell bio), physiology, genetics, and neurobiology.

The AMCAS (MD) application for med school opens in early May and you can submit by late May or early June, depending on the schedule set by the AAMC for each cycle. We strongly recommend that you submit your application the day that submissions open, so that your transcript can be verified more quickly, which will enable you to receive secondary applications and interviews as early as possible. While you can submit your application without an MCAT score (and provide the score in July or even August), your score will help determine your medical school list; in addition many med schools will not schedule interviews until they receive your score.

As a result, developing a thoughtful curriculum plan will position you to apply to medical school at the end of junior year, should you desire to do so. Otherwise, you may find yourself needing to scramble to take required courses over the summer, or unexpectedly having to take a gap year.

Applying after Senior Year

If you have not been able to complete your pre-med requirements and take your MCAT by the end of junior year, it may be necessary for you to apply at the end of senior year and therefore take at least one gap year before you matriculate. It may also be advantageous to wait to apply until the end of senior year if you expect that your academic performance will improve significantly during senior year.

Benefits of Curriculum Planning

We recommend that you develop a preliminary curriculum plan for your four years of college at the outset of freshman year and re-evaluate every semester. Re-assessing your plan throughout your college years will have many advantages:

  • Ensure that you fulfill all your pre-med requirements
  • Satisfy pre-requisites for upper-level courses in your areas of interest
  • Position you to apply to medical school at the optimal time for you
  • Enable you to include opportunities for electives of your choosing

In addition to required pre-med coursework, students need to meet requirements for general education courses as well as for your major(s) and minor(s). Mapping out an optimal curriculum plan for your interests and goals can be challenging. If you would like assistance in identifying the best majors or minors for you or the best curriculum plan, or in guiding you with any other aspect of your pre-med preparation, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help!