Navigating Majors: Pre-Health
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
"التدبير نصف العيش"
“Planning is half of life.”
-Prophet Mohammad Rasulullah S.A.W.
Welcome to our series in Pre-Health Careers! In this series we will outline the stories and different ways in which you can pursue pre-health (dental, medical, PT) careers and shine as a unique student in a pool of hundreds of thousands. Each post will follow a theme from our Hudaat Kiraam’s proclamations, and aptly, this first post centered around Rasullulah’s hadith, “planning is half of life”. We’ll go through declaring majors, courses to take, study habits for the MCAT and DAT, extracurriculars, shadowing professionals, how to get a coveted research position/internship, working abroad, writing application essays and personal statements, and balancing a healthy lifestyle. If you think you have something to contribute to this, or a story you’d like to tell, feel free to reach out to us!
The long journey towards a career in medicine/dentistry can seem initially daunting, however is incredibly rewarding and certainly achievable through proactive planning and hard work. In light of Rasulullah SAW’s Hadith, it is imperative for students of all fields to plan out their degree and coursework early on. For pre-medical students, this requires balancing pre-medical courses, degree requirements and general college requirements along with extracurriculars and leisure time. A separate post regarding extracurriculars is coming soon!
There is a long standing myth that pre-medical students need to major in the biological sciences, however I can assure you that this assumption is false. Medical/Dental Schools value passionate and motivated students, rather than those that just “check the boxes”. Successful pre-medical students can major in anything, from the biological sciences to engineering, music, philosophy, or Spanish. Medical/Dental schools will not penalize you for choosing non-traditional majors, rather it can allow an opportunity for the applicant to stand out and highlight their uniqueness. That being said, if you have an interest in biology or biochemistry, that is a perfectly viable option as well. Important above all is extensive course planning, seeking out mentorship, and figuring out what interests you.
Course planning for pre-medical students includes planning out the basic biological science courses that are necessary for the MCAT/DAT and medical/dental school requirements, major based courses, and general college requirements which vary by state. Contact your school or local advisor for your State’s core coursework requirement. The traditional courses required by most health schools include:
Intro Biology 1 and 2 with lab (AP Biology can satisfy this requirement except for the lab)
Intro Chemistry 1 and 2 with lab (AP chemistry can satisfy the Chem 1 requirement)
Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 with lab
Physics 1 and 2 with lab
An Upper level biology (Physiology is a great choice to prepare for the MCAT)
An Upper level biology lab
1 or 2 semesters of English**
Statistics (Statistics for the Sciences is another great choice)**
Microbiology (required for Dental School only, however recommended for medical school as well)
(**vary by school)
Schools have varying requirements, thus it is crucial to create a tentative schedule based on the schools you are interested in. The introductory biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and biochemistry courses are highly recommended courses for the MCAT/DAT, so the earlier one takes these courses, the better. If you are interested in a non-traditional major, it is especially important to make a schedule early, as you will have to learn to balance your major requirements with these STEM classes. Having a tentative outline of courses you will take every semester and when you will take the MCAT/DAT will both help balance your workload and bring organization to your life. When planning your semesters, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Have a nice balance of science courses with humanities/major courses. Science courses are rather demanding so having a few courses to take your mind off of them can really be a great way to get a breath of fresh air.
Try to finish as much of the Pre-med coursework before taking your MCAT/DAT. This will reduce the amount of information you have to teach yourself and will make studying for the test much easier.
Note: This is just one example of a schedule. Your schedule will ultimately reflect your interests, school aspirations, major, AP credits etc.
For high schoolers considering medicine, I highly recommend taking AP biology and AP chemistry. This can free up around 10 credits of space, adding flexibility to your schedule and allowing yourself to take the MCAT/DAT earlier. Taking these courses allowed me to take the MCAT during my sophomore year summer, which created a less hectic junior year with more time to pursue extracurriculars and research, and provided me ample time to prepare for applying to medical school at the end of my junior year. Classes like AP Psychology, AP Calculus and AP Physics are also very useful, if your high school schedule permits.
Finally, actively seek out mentorship from physicians, medical students, advisors and other undergraduates, so that you can learn from the experiences of others and make the best decisions for your future. If you need help and mentorship, feel free to reach out to any of us here at Mahad Alumni, we can provide you with lots of resources and guidance from our members so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Ultimately, before choosing a major or a career path, obtaining Moula TUS’s raza mubarak will ensure the brightest and most successful future.
Authored By: Husain Rasheed
Edited By: Taher Hamid