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What is the best pre-med major?

Updated: May 22, 2019

Submission by: Cristian Medina, South Texas Medical Society Student Member


I believe the question should be “what is the best pre-med major to increase my chances of getting accepted into medical school” and to this, the answer is "it does not really matter". You see there are two major variables that are taken into account when your application is being evaluated and considered for admission. The first being your GPA, this being a steep 3.5 and above for conventional medical schools and an even steeper 3.7 and above for those universities with higher competition. The second being your MCAT score, this being 509 and above. So now the question should shift to “what pre-med major will increase both my GPA as well as my MCAT scores?”

Figure 1


Above is the official data for 2018-2019 applicants and matriculants obtained from the AAMC website. Here we can see the majors applied as well as the majors accepted. Now that we have some factual data at our disposal let’s begin to talk about what major will help you get that acceptance letter into medical school. As you can see a very large percentage of all applicants, as well as all matriculants (enrolled in medical school), belong to the major of biological sciences. This, however, does not mean that if you have a degree in biological sciences you have a better shot at getting accepted, all these means is that there are far more applicants coming from this major.


The data above shows a similar correlation between applied and accepted majors. This meaning that on average around 43% of applicants per major were accepted. Counter to popular belief, biological sciences do not, in fact, hold the highest percent acceptance relationship to those who apply. At a 40% acceptance rate, it is second to the last place from the data provided. The highest % acceptance rate on our chart is from Math and Statistics degree, trust me I was just as surprised as you are. Due to having the lowest number of acceptances, as well as applicants it surprising to see an astonishing 48% acceptance rate for this branch of science. Followed by Humanities at 47%, physical science at 46%, sociological and other both at 41%. Finally, Specialized health sciences at a concerning 36%. Seeing the data for this last one seemed odd for me at first, for I believed that an applicant with a strong background in nursing, physical therapy, or occupational therapy would do well in the application process into medical school.


After seeing the numerical data, I began to rethink what I previously thought I knew about the relationship between pre-med majors and acceptance rates. I began analyzing the numbers and asked myself “what are the reasons these majors are doing so well or not so well?”. Going back to my original statement of the two major components taken into consideration when applying to medical school being GPA and MCAT scores, I began to look at the average GPA and MCAT scores per applying major. After analyzing the data for GPA of applying and accepted applicants, it was easy to see why the data was so different from what I expected. From highest to lowest, the average GPA's are as stated, Math and Statistics, physical and biological, other, humanities and specialized health, and last are those in sociological sciences. From this, we can begin to formulate a graph similar to this one.

Figure 2

Here we can see the relationship between the majors and just how they stack up against each other in regard to the GPA. From the accepted GPA, Math and Statistical sciences take the cake on this one, followed by a tie between Physical and Biological Sciences, other, Humanities and specialized, and last, we have sociological science.

Next, I began to look at the average MCAT scores amongst the majors and began to see just how they stacked up against each other when it came to being accepted. With an average score of 511 on the MCAT, it is clear to see just how important this score really is. A pattern began to show up within the data as for Math and Statistics came out once again on top of the rest, followed by humanities and physical sciences, sociological and biological sciences, other, and last came specialized health science.

Figure 3


It was very interesting to see just how each major compared against one another, and I began to do a little bit of research on just why certain majors performed better than others. So, I asked myself why is this particular major outperforming all the other majors? I came to the conclusion that it must have to do with the type of courses that students who have chosen this major are required to take. Students with a degree in Math and Statistical sciences have taken numerous courses in which it is absolutely crucial to have incredible critical thinking skills, these students are molded semester after semester to not only absorb information but also to think of its use in the real world, where scenarios change at a moment's notice. They tend to think outside of the box and have been given an arsenal of tools in finding their way from point A to point B through rigorous course work and knowledge application. It was Also interesting to me that Humanities came in at a close second. After some research, it was evident why this major placed so high from the interpretation of the data collected. A student with a degree in Humanities has had his or her fair share of reading and interpreting countless articles, written using intricate styles, and advanced vocabulary. The theory being strengthened from their performance in the CARS section of the MCAT, they bested all the other majors by a significant gap, even Math and Statistics. This section is known to give students the most trouble, and is sometimes seen as the "make it or break it section".


In conclusion to all the number talk, and my personal take and theories on what major is best suited and what majors to avoid I leave you with this. Medical school is far more than what science degree you come from, there are far more variables taken into consideration when you are applying. All being said, there are still two major things that you have to make sure are in top shape when applying for medical school, these being your GPA and your MCAT scores. So, pick a major that you will enjoy, one that genuinely interests you. This will not only make your path through undergraduate school more interesting, but it will also ensure your GPA is well maintained. It is far easier reading countless pages when those pages you are reading are filled with information you are curious about. Once you have finished your degree study hard, for there is one more obstacle between you and that acceptance letter you so desperately want. Do some research about the MCAT, seek advisement, and research what resources to use. I hope this has brought some ease to your mind, knowing your major is pretty much irrelevant is a huge chip off of your shoulder. Now focus on what is relevant, that GPA and your performance on the MCAT.



 

Sources

“Applicants and Matriculants Data - FACTS: Applicants, Matriculants, Enrollment, Graduates, MD/PhD, and Residency Applicants Data - Data and Analysis - AAMC.” Association of American Medical Colleges, www.aamc.org/data/facts/applicantmatriculant/.


“Applied Statistics, BS.” Program: Applied Statistics, BS - University of Houston Downtown - Acalog ACMS™, catalog.uhd.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=9&poid=2348&hl=Applied Statistics&returnto=search.


“The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.” UTRGV, www.utrgv.edu/en-us/academics/undergraduate/index.htm.



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