What is the best major for med school?
The answer is: there isnít one best major that will prepare you for medical school. Actually,
medical schools donít really care what you choose to major in, as long as you demonstrate that
youíre able to perform well in the sciences.
Having said that, most pre-med students do choose to major in one of the natural sciences because
they like those fields and tend to do well in them (hence the interest in attending medical school).
At Pitt, biology and neuroscience are the most popular choices; chemistry is also a common major
for pre-meds. However, if you have a very strong interest in one of the arts, humanities or social
sciences, feel free to pursue that field as a major. Just be sure to work closely with your academic
advisor to integrate the needed science courses into your plan of study.
If you are unsure about your interests and having a hard time deciding on a major, please contact a
career counselor in Career Services. There are many ways a counselor can help you to define your
interests and to choose the major that will work best for you.
What if I donít decide until later in college that I want to go to medical school? Is it too
No, it is not too late for you to pursue a career in medicine. However, you will still need to do all of
the things listed above before you will be ready to apply. Be sure to schedule an appointment with
your academic advisor to discuss the science and math courses you will need to take and how those
courses will fit into your curriculum. Also schedule an appointment with the Health Professions
Counselor to talk about the application process, and how you can become the best candidate that
you can be. Youíll also need to decide Ė realisticallyówhen you should apply. Trying to cram a lot of
courses, volunteer work, research experience and studying for the MCAT into a few months, just so
youíll be able to meet deadlines, doesnít make too much sense if you could wait for a year, get
better grades, experiences and scores and be a much more attractive candidate.
After working for a few years after graduation, Iíve decided that I want to be a doctor. Am
I too old to go to medical school?
NO!!! Actually, the average age of medical students has increased slightly over the past few years,
so youíre certainly not alone in your decision to wait for a couple of years. Again, youíll need to
assess your credentials (coursework, grades, volunteer and research experience) to see what you
need to do to make yourself a good candidate. Many schools accept people in their 30ís and 40ís
every year; if you are older than 50, however, you may have a more difficult time gaining entrance Ė
not that itís impossible, mind you, but older candidates do sometimes have more difficulty getting
admitted than those in the younger age brackets. Again, focusing on the quality of your candidacy
is what will be most important.
How many times can I take the MCAT?
You can take the MCAT up to 3 times before you will have to provide documentation (either a
completed AMCAS or AACOMAS application, a letter of rejection from a medical school or a letter
from the Health Professions Counselor) indicating why itís necessary for you to take the test a
fourth time. If you are taking the MCAT, it is expected that you do intend to apply to medical
school and pursue a career as a physician. Keep in mind, though, that MCAT scores rarely change by
more than a point or two, and thereís always the possibility of earning a lower score, as well as a
higher one; also, most medical schools are very wary of candidates who have taken the MCAT more
I know my grades are too low to get accepted to medical school. How can I improve my
There are several ways to improve your grades and prove to admissions committees that you can
handle the advanced level science coursework required of a medical student. You may choose to
only repeat a few courses, if most of your science grades were good, but you struggled with a few
classes. You could also consider enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program or a Masterís Program in
one of the hard sciences (other Masterís programs will probably not help your application much).
I keep hearing about post-baccalaureate programs. What are they and should I enroll in one?
Post-baccalaureate (or post-bacc, for short) programs seem to come in two varieties: programs for
career changers, who have little or no science background; and programs for application improvers,
who have a background in the sciences, but need to strengthen their credentials before applying (or
re-applying) to medical school. These programs are offered by a number of colleges, universities
and medical schools, and usually offer enrollees an opportunity to take courses in both the required
and upper-level sciences. Some schools integrate preparation for the MCAT into their programs
and some programs actually lead to a Masterís degree (usually in a subject like ďmedical studiesĒ).
Many applicants do not enroll in a post-bacc program until they have gone through an application
cycle and have been rejected by all the schools to which they applied. However, you may want to
consider a post-bacc program before you ever apply if you know your grades will be an issue.
Obviously, people who have little or no coursework in the sciences should complete a post-bacc
program before applying or taking the MCAT. The AAMC maintains a list of post-bacc programs on
their website at www.aamc.org.
What is osteopathic medicine, and how is it different from allopathic medicine?
Osteopathic medicine is a branch of medicine that differs somewhat in philosophy and practice
from allopathic medicine, although the training and licensure procedures are very similar.
Osteopathic physicians earn the D.O. degree, instead of the M.D., and tend to have a focus on
preventative and primary care, as opposed to specializing in a branch of medicine (not to say that
osteopathic doctors donít specialize, but itís not as common). Also, osteopathic physicians learn and
are able to practice Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy (OMT), a method of adjusting the
musculoskeletal system and the spine. The requirements to enter an osteopathic medical school are
the same as those required for allopathic schools, although some osteopathic schools ask for a
letter of recommendation from an osteopathic physician, in addition to letters from faculty. There
are 20 schools of osteopathic medicine in the United States Ė all of them are outlined in the
Osteopathic Medical College Information Book.