If you’ve decided to explore a career in medicine, Western Michigan University has a four-year pre-medicine study plan and medical sciences advisors available to help you create an individual program that will position you to apply to medical schools of your choice. Pre-medical students are committed to a rigorous academic schedule and must carefully plan and do well in both coursework and extracurricular activities. Preparation for medical school requires dedication, resourcefulness, vigilance and motivation.
Medical schools increasingly want students with diverse backgrounds and a variety of skills and interests. A science major is not a prerequisite for medical school, although good training in chemistry, biological sciences and physics is expected. Medical schools are most concerned with the overall quality and scope of undergraduate work and want students to have well-developed communication skills and interests in the humanities and social sciences.
Nearly every medical school requires two semesters each of English, physics, biological sciences, inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry. Many medical schools also require additional courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, humanities, and social and behavioral sciences. You should consult individual medical schools and read the AAMC Official Guide to Medical School Admissions for specific requirements. Reading the specific bulletins of the medical schools in which you are interested is also important.
When choosing a major, carefully consider your interests, aptitude and alternate career goals. Remember: Not everyone who applies is accepted into medical school. It is wise to have a degree in a major you can be comfortable with and one you can fall back on for a career.
Majoring in one of the natural sciences may provide some advantages in terms of the pre-medical course requirements fitting more easily into degree requirements, but admission statistics show no clear preferences toward science majors. Most pre-medical students at WMU take a major-minor combination of biology or biomedical sciences and chemistry. Many pursue a second minor in a non-science area, which provides a broader base for personal and intellectual development
Although GPA and MCAT scores are very important, admissions committees carefully review all facets of the applicant’s background before making a final decision. Such facets may include the nature and extent of extracurricular activities, life experiences, and demonstrated motivation for wanting to become a physician. Such activities as sports, politics, the arts or community service can build skills in leadership, responsibility and cooperation. Other representative activities include debate, gymnastics, tutoring, yoga, canoeing, music and hospital volunteer service.
In addition to the above activities, experience in a medical office is strongly recommended. Such experience allows you the opportunity to interact with patients in a supportive role, to observe the day-to-day activities of a physician, and to participate in a health care delivery system. They also allow you to assess your interest in a medical career, and to develop your skills in interpersonal relationships.
Working in a research laboratory may also be a valuable opportunity to you. Many students with strong science interests find stimulating experiences assisting in research projects with professors in their departments.
Involvement in extracurricular activities shows that you are a well-rounded individual concerned with your personal and academic development. Be careful, however, not to take on more activities than you can manage. You should not let your grades slip to take on outside activities. Aim for a well-balanced schedule of classes and outside activities.
While career opportunities for graduates of WMU's pre-medicine program include allopathic medicine, osteopathic medicine and other health-related careers, all students contemplating a career in the medical field should develop alternative career goals for two reasons. First, competition for entrance into medical school makes an alternative career choice a reality for some people. Secondly, as part of wise career planning, it is important to examine many fields to make sure that potentially rewarding occupations have not been overlooked.
Talents and skills can be used in many settings. For example, someone who enjoys working with people, a good salary, some travel and management responsibility might look into the fields of public relations, management, sales, law and engineering.
For those who want to stay in a health care setting, the opportunities are still excellent. Various health care careers require a range of education and training, from certificate programs to graduate work. The following is a small sample of alternate health care professions.
Sample health care professions
- Allopathic medicine
- Anesthesiologist's assistant
- Biomedical engineering
- Chiropractic medicine
- Clinical psychology
- Dental hygienist
- Dental assistant
- Dietetic-nutritional services
- Environmental health
- Health care administration
- Holistic/naturopathic medicine
- Medical assistant
- Medical economics
- Medical records administration
- Medical technology
- Occupational therapy
- Osteopathic medicine
- Physical therapy
- Physician’s assistant
- Public health
- Rehabilitation counseling
- Social work
- Speech and hearing therapy
- Veterinary medicine