Read this first: The courses listed below will satisfy the basic requirements at most medical schools. However, requirements and policies do differ from school to school, so it is worth checking to see if there are any additional courses required at any schools you are likely to want to apply tothe state schools in your home state, for example. You can find the individual schools' requirements in the book Medical School Admissions Requirements, available in the Career Services Library, or you can get information directly from the schools' own admissions web sites. In planning your courses, you should consult with your academic advisor, and of course you should also feel free to contact a pre-health advisor for help. Here are a few important considerations:
Scheduling advice (there's no need to rush): A majority of Penn applicants who go on to medical school have taken time between undergrad and medical or dental school. If you take time between, you can apply after your senior year--which means you can spread out your requirements over four years rather than three. Even if you want to keep open the option of applying after your junior year to go straight to medical/dental school right after graduating, you don't need to take a lot of sciences early. For example, starting out with introductory biology and math courses in your first year keeps you on schedule, and gives you a chance to get used to science courses at Penn with less risk of overstretching yourself than if you take multiple science courses from the start.
Take requirements before you apply: Usually medical schools expect you to take your required courses before you apply. That means that if you are intending to start medical school in the fall right after your senior year (not something you have to do by any means), you should complete your required courses by the end of spring of your junior year. The exception to this rule is Chem 245, the organic chemistry lab, which generally may be taken while your application is being reviewed (although note that Temple, for example, will hold your application until they see a grade for that course).
Summer courses: It is advisable to take the required courses at Penn and during the regular year. Summer courses are not generally regarded so highly, since medical schools like to see that you can do well in the requirements whilst taking a regular course load. However, if your schedule is so full as to make taking summer courses absolutely necessary, they will fulfill requirements.
AP Credit: Many medical schools do not accept AP credit, and those that do usually prefer to see you go on to take additional, often more advanced courses. For advice on what courses to take, see our AP Credit page.
Grades: You should take all required courses for a letter grade. You must get at least a "C" in the course in order to fulfill the requirement. A "C-" or lower will not suffice.
Non-science majors: It is just fine to apply with any major to medical school; you should choose the subject that most interests you. If you do pick a non-science major, though, it is advisable to take at least one advanced science course, above and beyond the basic requirements.
Engineering majors: We have a page with advice specifically for you here.
BCPM courses: When you apply, medical schools calculate not only your overall GPA, but also your BCPM GPA, which means any Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Math courses. For guidelines as to what counts as BCPM, and what might not (for example, behavioral science or applied science courses), see the AMCAS course classification guide.
Coming MCAT changes: There are proposed changes to the MCAT that are scheduled to be introduced in 2015. Among the proposed changes would be the addition of a new section on "Behavioral and Social Science Principles," which would cover introductory-level material in Sociology, and Psychology. Also proposed is the inclusion of Biochemistry, and Cell and Molecular Biology. These changes are not yet finalized, but could affect the course preparation required for pre-medical students in the future. For details please see here
THE CORE COURSES:
- Biology (2 semesters with laboratory)
- General Chemistry (2 semesters with laboratory)
- Organic Chemistry (2 semesters with laboratory)
- Physics (2 semesters with laboratory)
- English/Writing (2 semesters)
- Mathematics (2 semesters)
Some schools also require Biochemistry, which can be fulfilled through Biol 202 (or 402), or Chem 251.
Here are further details for the core courses:
Bio 101 + 102 or Biol 121 and Biol 123 lab, with Bio 124 (lab only) + a 200-level intermediate Biology lecture or Bio 121 and 123, followed by Bio 102.
Bio 121 and the123 and 124 labs are more advanced introductory-level courses than Biol 101/102, taking a more molecular approach to teaching introductory biology.
Students with AP credit for Biology (Biol 91) may take Biol 121, Biol 123 and Biol 124 + a 200-level intermediate Biology lecture. Good options include Biol 202 and Biol 215, both useful in MCAT preparation. Some upper-division lab courses, including Biol 399 (Independent Study Research), also fulfill the lab course requirement.
Non-Biology majors with AP credit for Biology (Biol 91) may follow Biol 121 with Biol 102 to complete the requirement, if they choose.
Chem 101 + 102, and Chem 53 + 54.
Chem 241 + 242 and Chem 245.
The Department of Chemistry requires that students take Chem 245 either in the same semester as Chem 242, or in the semester immediately after completing Chem 242.
Physics 101 + 102 or Physics 150 + 151.
Students should take Math 104 (Calculus I), plus one additional mathematics course (statistics or further calculus). There is no longer any medical school that requires two semesters of calculus. Many medical schools recommend statistics (e.g. Stat 111, or Bio 446), and some actually require it. If you want to take Calculus II, to determine whether Math 114 or 115 is appropriate for you, please visit this Math Department web page. Math 103 is an introductory course and does not count toward the Calculus requirement for medical school, but it's still a good place to start if you are unsure about your background in calculus.
Two semesters of English, Comparative Literature, or Writing Seminar courses. Many medical schools like to see at least one writing course.