Questions About Required Coursework
|The Integrated Science Curriculum (ISC)|
|ISC, Starting Sophomore Year|
AP Credit and California Medical Schools
Question: I am a California resident, and am interested in California medical schools. I received a 5 on the AP Physics B exam, and plan to take a year of Physical Chemistry. I was just wondering if I still had to take physics here.
Answer: We have, in the past, had students take CHM 306 as a supplementary course to the AP exam and had it accepted for medical schools that required advanced course work beyond the AP (see: http://www.princeton.edu/hpa/faq/coursework/#comp000050b73234000000b6317c48).
But, California schools are notoriously stingy about allowing students to use their AP credit to bypass the traditional pre-requisite courses. UCLA, for example, won’t accept AP (http:// www.medstudent.ucla.edu/offices/admiss/admreq.cfm#prereq), and UCSD only accepts one semester (http://meded.ucsd.edu/index.cfm/asa/admissions/application_process/step_by_step/). To be on the safe side, we’d recommend emailing their admissions office directly and ask if you can take a year physical chemistry with lab in place of general physics and see what they say. Also, this changes year to year! This was based on med schools' policies in 2012, but be sure to be up to date with what their policies are in your application year, in case things change.
For schools outside of California, most will accept AP Physics, or will accept AP with one semester of advanced Physics course work. Again, it never hurts to check the pre-requisites of schools that are of particular interest to you. We’re starting to keep a list of links that will take you directly to the pre-requisites for medical schools that are popular among our students. You can find it on our website here: http://www.princeton.edu/hpa/applicants/selecting-schools/pre-requisite-web-links/. ♦
2 Units of AP in Math
Question: Hi HPA, I had a question about the med school pre-reqs concerning mathematics. I have two units of AP math already, based on how I did on AP tests in high school. So I am exempt from taking any more math (at least in terms of med school requirements). If I do not take any more math at Princeton, especially calculus (like MAT 201), will that be viewed negatively when I eventually apply to medical school?
Answer: You are done with your math requirement for medical school. We do not advise most pre-health students to continue with math above 104 (to 201, for example). There is no evidence to suggest that medical schools favor applicants who have done more calculus beyond the basics (our 100-level courses), nor do they “view negatively” those who have not done so. For someone in your situation, we do recommend, however, a statistics class at some point during your college career, mainly because medical students and physicians sometimes report that a background in statistics is useful. But no 200-level calculus. The only exceptions to this would be if you had a serious interest in multivariable calculus—and perhaps are considering Math as a major, or, in some rare cases, MAT 201 might be a pre-req for something else you’re pursuing. For anyone out there who has 1 unit of AP in math, it is important to remember that you have two options—taking either a calculus class or a stats class. Many medical schools require 2 total terms of “college math,” specifying that at least one of these needs to be calculus. Your 1 unit of AP would count as this calculus. ♦
AP in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math
Question: Hey HPA, I’m a freshman who doesn’t fit into any of the plans in the handout you gave us. I’ve looked on your website too but don’t see any information about what I should take. I have AP credit in biology, chemistry, physics, math, English, and some others. What should I be taking now?
Answer: While one might think that your situation is rare, we are meeting more and more freshmen who arrive at Princeton with an abundance of AP credit. To break it down: For Biology, take MOL 214 (or 215) + an upper-level biology class later on; for Chemistry, take CHM 303-304 plus at least one upper-level chemistry class later on; for Physics, take one upper-level physics class (suggestions for which one are noted in the "preparing" handout); for Math, we would recommend a statistics class. If you are from Texas and plan to apply to Texas state med schools, you will need a second year of biology coursework. Additional science classes beyond what is outlined above, particularly in biology, are always recommended. Lastly, a basic rule of thumb: your AP credits “count” for all U.S. medical schools as long as they are supplemented by advanced coursework; when you look online, a few medical schools say that they do not accept AP, but what they mean by this with few exceptions is that they do not accept AP by itself, with no supplementary advanced coursework done in college. ♦
AP in Physics
Question: I have a course-related question for you. I know that students who have taken AP Chemistry in high school can place out of general chemistry at Princeton and go directly to Orgo, usually as a sophomore. What about AP Physics? If a student has taken the AP Physics exams and done well, can he or she simply not take Physics in college? Alternatively, would AP credit just allow a student to take an upper-level course? Thanks.
Answer: If Princeton granted you 2 units of AP based on your scores on your AP or AB exams, then you need to take only one semester of a more advanced Physics course while in college, to satisfy medical schools’ requirements. You do not need to repeat introductory Physics by taking 101-102 or 103-104. Possible course selections for your one term of more advanced Physics include AST 204 (Astronomy), CHM 305 (The Quantum World ), or CHM 306 (Physical Chemistry). While these courses are not taught through the Physics Department, their content includes sufficient Physics. Also, please note, for those students with AP in Chemistry, you’re not done after taking Orgo; we advise you to take a more advanced Chemistry course after Orgo, just one term. ♦
Forfeiting AP Credit
Question: Dear HPA: I am a freshman who is entering the University with a lot of AP credit. I have credit in Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Math. I've read through your handout from orientation and I understand what classes you recommend but I'm worried that I won't do well if I take classes that are too difficult. To be honest, I want to make sure my grades are good for medical school, so I'm going to take CHM 201-202 now and PHY 101-102 next year even though I have AP in these subjects. Is that OK?
Answer: In most cases, it is not advisable. We are so glad you asked this question! When the University granted you AP credit, it was based on your performance on a variety of AP or IB tests, or on some other high school qualification that assures us that you have the basic knowledge in these subjects. Medical schools would prefer that you do not retrace your steps and avoid the challenges of upper-level coursework. You do not need to take on too much as a freshman, true, but over the course of the next four years we expect you to move forward and learn new material in the four basic pre-medical sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math).
In some instances, after consulting with the student, we do suggest repeating ONE introductory course in ONE subject where the student has AP credit. If you're worried about preparing for the MCAT, remember that you will review the introductory material diligently in the 3-4 months prior to the test, and will probably take a professional prep course as well. If you're worried about your knowledge of general chemistry as a pre-requisite for Organic Chemistry, it is worthwhile to consult with HPA advisers and Chemistry department representatives to review your preparation and make a measured decision. Remember that all AP credit granted to you will be listed on your Princeton transcript when you send it to medical schools, even if you've gone back and done the introductory courses over again and forfeited your AP. ♦
What if a School Won't Accept AP Credit?
Question: I’m hoping to be entering med school in 2016 and I’m really worried about whether my AP credits are going to count for med school admissions. When I read the Harvard website, it seems like they won’t. Should I just take the General Chemistry and EEB 211 courses even though I have AP for Chemistry and Biology?
Answer: Harvard Med is one of many schools making a move away from discrete prerequisites and toward competencies. If you read the Harvard Med School requirements carefully, you’ll see that instead of asking you for specific prerequisites, they are now asking you instead to be able to demonstrate knowledge of key concepts. In other words, they’re looking for a level of scientific competency that can be met in a number of ways. The movement from pre-requisites to competencies is driven in part by two reports: "Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians" and "Behavioral and Social Sciences Foundations for Future Physicians" – both outline the kinds of competencies—observable abilities related to a specific activity that integrates knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes— that physicians should gain throughout their training. In turn, the medical schools seek to enroll students who already have a basic grasp of these competencies, and who are going to be interested and able to continue to develop them throughout their medical training.
For HMS specifically, they explain the kinds of information that they’d like you to gain fairly explicitly on their Course Requirements website. You’ll see that they say AP will not be accepted, but then go on to say that upper level courses should be taken if students have been granted AP credit. Further on in the page, you’ll see that they state that, “Required laboratory components of biology and chemistry are no longer defined as discretely as they were in the past. Lengthy laboratory components of the required science requirement courses are not necessarily time well and efficiently spent.” Instead, they encourage “hypothesis-driven exercises, problem solving, and hands-on demonstrations of important principles” which can be acquired through other means (such as thesis research in a science, or a summer research opportunity mentored by a faculty member.
We can tell you anecdotally that, of this year’s Princeton applicants accepted to Harvard Med, one had AP Gen Chem + Orgo + Biochem; two had AP Gen Chem + CHM 215 + Orgo + Biochem, and the rest took the traditional Gen Chem sequence. Four had AP Biology and took MOL 214 and additional advanced Biology courses that didn’t have a lab component. Based on consultation with admissions personnel at HMS, we continue to recommend the combination of AP credit, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry and an additional advanced Chemistry course moving forward for the Chemistry requirements. For Biology, we recommend AP Biology, MOL 214, and at least one additional MOL course, ideally combined with at least one summer research experience in which you can continue to refine your laboratory skills. However, if you’d like to be completely sure that you’ve met this requirement based solely on course work, we would recommend EEB 211 and MOL 214 if you are not a MOL or EEB major (MOL majors will be taking core lab and writing the thesis, and thus will be covered in terms of their laboratory experience, and EEB majors will be writing a biology-based thesis). If there are other schools that you come across where you have concerns about your prereqs and APs, please don’t hesitate to email HPA, include the link to the website you’re referencing, and we’ll check into it for you. ♦
Question: Hi. I have a question regarding chemistry requirements for medical school. I understand that if we use our 2 units of AP to place out of introductory chemistry, then we should take an upper-level course in chemistry to fulfill the requirements for med school. I was wondering how many such upper-level chemistry courses you would recommend we take, and whether they ought to include a lab. Does Biochemistry count as one of these upper-level classes, and is it sufficient (even though it doesn't have a lab at Princeton)? Also, is it all right to take the upper-level class during my senior year while I'm applying to med school, or should I take it earlier? Thank you.
Answer: Until recent years, yes! Biochemistry was a great choice. Now that so many medical schools require Biochemistry, though (click here for a list of schools requiring or suggesting Biochem as of 2013), we would recommend taking an upper-level course other than Biochemistry to fulfill upper-level course requirements. It is still fine to take it during the senior year while applying to medical school, though soon there will be more Biochemistry on MCAT, so taking it earlier may be warranted (9/2012). ♦
Question: Hi, I am a sophomore and will have completed MOL 214 and Orgo by the end of this year. I noticed that in HPA’s suggested course plans Biochemistry is listed as something people take in the junior fall (if they take it). Is there a particular reason for this? Or would it be OK to take it senior fall? The reason I ask is I will already be taking a heavy science load next fall, and one of my courses does have a timeslot conflict with Biochem.
Answer: Biochem (MOL 345) is usually done junior year, by those who do it, because of the demands of the senior thesis as well as other departmental responsibilities that come up senior year. However, some seniors do take Biochem and it is manageable with proper planning. If you’re taking Biochem because, a) it’s required by a med school in which you’re interested, or b) because many med schools recommend it – you may still take it as a senior, even if you apply to med school the summer before senior year. We should add that there aren’t any other courses (other than MOL 345) at Princeton that would be “counted” as biochemistry by medical schools or that are appropriate for undergraduate pre-medical students to take with the intent of “counting” it as their biochemistry. MOL 345 is the course to take if you’re going to do Biochem. ♦
Question: Dear Advisors, Will Biostats count as a stats class for medical school? I’m thinking of taking EEB 355 next fall. Thank you!
Answer: Yes, the Biostats course cross-listed between our two biology departments, called EEB 355/MOL 355: Introduction to Biostatistics, will certainly “count” as a Stats class for medical school. For med school, you are required to do two semesters of Math if you do not have any AP in Math. If you are looking for a second semester of Math after one term of Calculus is already completed, a Stats class is a fine option; a few medical schools now require stats, but most recommend it, and facility with statistics will be tested on the MCAT 2015. ♦
CHM 304 or 304-B?
Question: Hi, I'm a current sophomore enrolled in CHM 303 (Organic Chemistry). I noticed that there are two Orgo classes next semester - CHM 304 and CHM 304-B. Their course descriptions look very different. I was wondering if you had a recommendation between the two to take - which would fulfill the premed requirement (and assuming both do, which would be more helpful in preparing me for the MCATs).
Answer: You assume correctly – both courses fulfill the requirement for medical school and both will prepare you as well as possible for the MCAT (although to clarify, you prepare yourself for the MCAT!). Our Organic Chemistry courses have always provided students with an excellent background for doing exceptionally well on the Biological Sciences portion of the MCAT, where you are tested on your knowledge of Orgo. The course descriptions look different probably because they were written by two different professors with two different emphases in mind. 304-B will be the one with more of a biological emphasis, more similar to what you’re doing now in 303, and we are told will possibly link up more smoothly with MOL 345: Biochemistry if you plan to take that course. However, either course is a fine way to finish your Organic Chemistry. We do not recommend one course over the other. ♦
Question: Hi, I am a junior pre-med. I have yet to fulfill my biochemistry requirement for medical school, and I heard a rumor that CHM 538—Biological Chemistry which is being offered next semester is going to be adequate for medical school purposes. While it is likely that I would take CHM 538 if it fulfilled the biochem requirement, I’m contacting you not only on my own behalf but also to alert you that I heard this rumor from a friend of mine who has already enrolled in CHM 538. I thought you should know that there may be other pre-meds signed up for this class because they believe it’s sufficient biochemistry for medical school.
Answer: Good to hear from you. First off, let's clarify: Biochemistry isn't required at most medical schools. A list of schools requiring Biochem is on our website (there are 14, at last count), under "Pre-med/Coursework"; also listed there are the many schools that "suggest" Biochem. As for CHM 538, after corresponding with the professor who teaches the course as well as some other CHM faculty, it has been determined that this is not a course to take for any fundamental instruction in Biochemistry. This isn't a course desgined to fulfill medical schools' requirement or recommendation, nor is it the right course for the purpose of preparing you for more advanced Biochem in med school. I'm so glad you contacted us directly; I wish your friends did as well! MOL 345 is what you need to do if you are going to take Biochemistry at Princeton. ♦
Doubling Up on Science
Question: HPA – I’m a freshman who is thinking about taking MOL 214 in the spring. I’m also in Chemistry right now. I heard that it would be hard to take two sciences together but I also heard that you should take more than one science at a time. Should I do MOL 214?
Answer: Whether or not you’re comfortable taking MOL 214 as a freshman will depend on the strength of your background in biology and on how successful you’ve been so far in your classes. If you’re struggling in CHM 201 right now and you’re working as hard as you can—and seeking help—then it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to add MOL 214 to the mix (wait and take it with EEB 211 as a sophomore). However, if you’re doing fine in CHM as well as your other courses, and you’re up for the challenge, then go for it. What you’ve heard about taking more than one science course at a time is generally true. It is wise to “double up” on science courses at some point during your college career, if at all possible. Of course if you concentrate in a science, then you’ll certainly do that automatically, but for the humanities and social science majors out there, just remember that the 1st-year med school curriculum is vastly science-oriented, and to indicate to Admissions that you’re ready for that much science coming at you all at once, it is a good idea to demonstrate your ability to handle two hard science classes at once. Let us repeat, however, that this shouldn’t be done at the expense of strong performance. ♦
EEB: Can I Place Out?
Question: I am currently a freshman international student hoping to pursue premed with a concentration in WWS. I took the International Baccalaureate my junior and senior year and ended up with a 6 in Higher level biology, and a 710 on my SAT Ecological Biology test. I have emailed a couple of EEB professors who confirmed that I can place out of EEB. Is this okay for premed?
Answer: You will need to take EEB 211. As a non-science major, who will not have as many upper-level science courses and lab experiences as a major, and as an international student who is already going to be limited in the number of schools where you can apply, better to just have the two bio courses with labs on your transcript. Plus, no transcript notation is provided for a score of 6 on the IB Biology test, so you’ll need to have two semester of biology with lab on your transcript. You must have courses with grades (or information about placing out) on your transcript for every premed prerequisite course. I’d also recommend taking additional science courses if you can find room for them! We’re happy to sit down and work through potential graduation timelines with you, if you’d like. ♦
Question: Dear HPA, Do I really need to take EEB 211? I don’t have any AP credit in Biology but I have a very strong background in it, and I’ve done MOL 214. I know other people who have skipped 211. I also have plans to take more Biology in college. Is it really necessary to do 211 or can I skip it?
Answer: Without AP credit in Biology, you need to take EEB 211. Medical schools require one year’s worth of “introductory” or “general” biology for applicants who entered college without AP credit. At most colleges, your year would be made up of “General Bio I” followed by “General Bio II.” At Princeton, that sequence is thought of as MOL 214 and EEB 211. Perhaps those people you know who have skipped EEB 211 have had AP in Biology; such people need to do MOL 214 + an upper-level biology course. Medical schools can be very sticky about this introductory biology issue regardless of what upper-level courses you’ve done. ♦
Question: I had a question about the pre-med biology requirement. I'm in EEB 211 right now and was told that instead of just taking MOL 214 next semester, a new class--EEB 222--is being offered that would also fulfill the pre-med bio requirement. I was wondering whether or not this was true, whether it might be better to take one or the other in terms of preparation for the MCAT, and how you think taking the EEB course would reflect on my application for med schools. Thanks for your time!
Answer: MOL 214 is still necessary for anyone starting their college Biology without any AP credit. MOL 214 is a course that medical schools require, and its content will prepare you best for the MCAT. For students with 2 AP units in Biology, the basic requirement that most medical schools state is "one year of additional biology," so those with AP credit may be OK in EEB 222 (along with Biochem or an upper-level biology class), but the fact remains that MOL 214 will best prepare you for the MCAT, so we still suggest taking it even for the students with AP. And, to repeat, for those without AP, MOL 214 is required. ♦
Question: I had a question about the pre-med biology requirement. I was told that instead of taking MOL 214, a new class--EEB 222--is being offered that would also fulfill the pre-med bio requirement. I was wondering whether or not this was true, whether it might be better to take one or the other in terms of preparation for the MCAT, and how you think taking the EEB course would reflect on my application for med schools. Thanks for your time!
Answer: We're re-running a modified version of this Question of the Week from last December since the question keeps coming up... MOL 214 is still necessary for anyone wishing to fulfilled the Biology requirements for medical school. MOL 214 is a course that medical schools require, and its content will best prepare you for the MCAT. Students with 2 AP units in Biology should take MOL 214 along with Biochem or an upper-level biology class. However, students without AP in Biology should take MOL 214 and EEB 211. We do not advise you to try and replace MOL 214 with EEB 222, as the courses are quite different. ♦
EGR 191 - 194 for Engineers
Question: I am an Engineering student. Right now I'm in the integrated introduction to Engineering, Math, and Physics. I just want to make sure that what I've heard is true, that the integrated course will fulfill my requirements for Physics for medical school.
Answer: EGR 191-192 will satisfy the PHY 103 and Math requirements for medical school. For detailed information, go to the Integrated Introduction to Engineering, Mathematics, Physics (EMP) page of the Keller Center website. We have a dozen or so engineers applying to medical school each year, and they do quite well. Welcome to SEAS! ♦
Does it have to be completed before I apply?
Question: I had a question about the English requirement. I have completed a writing seminar, but still need to take one more literature class. Does this have to be completed before I apply to medical schools? I'm a junior and plan to apply to medical schools this summer. Does this mean I need to complete the English requirement this spring before applying or would taking an English class senior year be fine? Thank you for your help.
Answer: That is the one requirement you can leave until after you apply (if you’re a junior). You need to put your courses for next year down on the AMCAS application when you apply, so the schools will see you are intending to take it. ♦
Question: To whom it may concern, I was wondering if one of the Freshman Seminars could fulfill one of the two required English classes for med school. During Orientation, I was told that a Freshman Seminar could count as an English class if it specifically refers to the English language as the main focus. Thank you.
Answer: As usual with these requirements (especially the "English" requirement), it’s better to err on the safe side. We advise you only to count a freshman seminar as one of your English classes for medical school if the course has "literature" in its title. It's not quite as simple as saying that the course should focus on the English language. Some medical schools state that one of their two required terms of English must focus on literature; while there are not many schools that make this distinction, there are enough of them that we would advise you to be careful. As long as the course will appear on your transcript with "literature" in its title, you’ll be fine. And, as you know, your Freshman Writing Seminar (not to be confused with a Freshman Seminar!) counts as your other English class.
The only exception that we know of, to the above comments, is one Canadian medical school (Univ of British Columbia) which insists that "English" courses be taught only in the English Dept. Unless you're Canadian, you do not need to worry! ♦
Question: Does the freshman writing seminar fulfill the English requirement for medical schools?
Answer: Your freshman writing class fulfills half of the English requirement that some med schools have. Any other class taught through the English Dept or with "literature" in the title (taught in the English language) will fulfill the other half. Roughly two-thirds of U.S. medical schools require English, and of these they almost all require two semesters. ♦
Fulfilling the English Requirement
Question: HI HPA – I’m trying to decide between three options for my English course for premed: Creative Writing – Poetry (CWR 204); The Great Russian Novel (SLA 220); and Growing up Global: Novels and Memoirs of Transnational Childhoods (AAS 374). Would you recommend one over the others from a med school admissions point of view?
Answer: Definitely not CWR – the courses are only pdf, and do not involve analyzing literature and writing about it. Medical schools are looking for classes taken for a grade that allow you to practice your critical reading and writing skills. SLA 220 sounds good if you just look at the title, but the majority of the grading is exams and participation, so there is a chance that a school may end up scrutinizing the choice and not accepting the course (I think it’s doubtful, since the course has the word ‘novel’ in the title, but it could happen). That leaves Growing up Global, which sounds like a great course – lots of reading and writing including a book analysis, learning about other cultures, which is critically important if you want to be a culturally-sensitive health care provider, and the opportunity to write about your own experiences, which will be a nice warm-up to writing your personal statement when you apply to medical school. Of these three, that would be our recommendation! ♦
How specifically "English" does the class need to be?
Question: I’m trying to choose my classes for next semester. I’m a little curious about the English requirement for medical school. How specifically “English” does the class need to be? Does it need to be a class in English literature? Can it be literature in translation? Can it be a history or philosophy course that is writing intensive? Would any LA requirements count as an “English" class? I’ve also heard that all writing seminars count as a semester of the English requirement. Is this true? Thanks a lot.
Answer: As it is with many coursework issues, medical schools vary on this one! Yes, your freshman writing seminar would count as one of the two English classes that many medical schools require; that much is clear. For the other course, we recommend a literature class, ideally a course that begins “ENG.” This is the simplest way to go. It may also be literature in translation, or literature of another ethnicity. Comp Lit classes are fine if they are writing intensive, as are some classes taught by foreign language faculty as long as the course is taught in English. If you have another humanities course in mind outside of these guidelines, and it is writing intensive, you may send us the syllabus and we’ll look it over. ♦
Question: Dear Pre-med Advisors, I want to take the class listed as LIN 201 as my pre-med English requirement. Will this class fulfill this requirement? Thank you.
Answer: No, we’re afraid not. After your Freshman Writing Seminar, the second half of the year’s worth of English that many health professional schools require needs to be “writing intensive.” Many schools specify this. There are no essay assignments in LIN 201 and 202. ♦
Question: Dear HPA, I’m interested in taking Public Speaking next fall (ENG 230). It counts toward my LA requirement. Will it count as English for medical school, too?
Answer: Public Speaking is a course we’d certainly recommend. It will help you, no doubt, in your future presentations as a med student and doctor. However, it is not a literature course, and we would advise you to not try and count it as your second English class (after your writing seminar). The second English class for medical school needs to be literature-based. Some med schools do specify that they want you to have some expository writing and some literature. Your freshman writing seminar takes care of the writing component; your second class should take care of the literature component. We realize that this is confusing since Public Speaking is taught through the English Dept. ♦
The Integrated Science Curriculum (ISC)
Question: Hi, I just enrolled in the integrated sciences curriculum, and I was wondering how it fit into the pre-med curriculum. Will it fulfill the medical school requirements? Are there any disadvantages (or advantages) to me choosing to take the ISC instead of the normal freshmen science classes for pre-med students? Thank you.
Answer: The Integrated Science Curriculum (ISC) was designed originally for those top scientists who would probably end up in doctorate programs, earning their PhDs. However, several pre-meds have done the program and applied to medical school successfully. We would advise you to take the full Organic Chemistry sequence (CHM 303-304) in addition to the bit of orgo you're taught in ISC. Everything else - math, physics, bio, general chem. - is covered sufficiently to count for medical school requirements. It is simplest that you stick with the ISC for the full 3 years, since stopping out after one year isn't really in the spirit of the program and it also makes things a little more complicated when we explain your transcript to medical schools. But, of course, if you are struggling in the ISC, then by all means come see us and we'll talk about your options - it is possible to leave the program after one year if need be. Hope that clarifies - good luck! ♦
Integrated Science Curriculum, Starting Sophomore Year
Question: Hi, I am interested in the genomics sequence for sophomore year in place of MOL 214. It offers exposure to biology, genetics, and biochemistry. The description says that it is equivalent to credit for MOL 214 and MOL 345, both of which I had planned to take, but I was having a hard time fitting biochemistry into my schedule. The description sounds extremely interesting and is very tempting. Do you know if this sequence is much more challenging or has disadvantages to it that I should be aware of? If you could let me know any details pertaining to the program at all, I would really appreciate it.
Answer: The sequence is indeed very challenging. The integrated science program looks for those with rigorous science backgrounds and strong performance. However, the program isn't designed for the pre-med; it is designed for those interested in doing high-level science, but was not put together with the pre-medical curriculum in mind nor with the thought that future doctors would enroll. The last thing you should do is part of the program (and not all of it). It has yet to be seen how medical schools will interpret the transcripts of individuals who took the integrated program over freshman and sophomore years in place of the traditional introductory science courses. But at least they did start from the beginning, so there is consistency to their path. Jumping into the second year of the program runs the risk of leaving medical schools unable to accurately interpret what you've had and what you haven't had. Especially when it comes to Biochemistry, medical schools may very likely want more depth (the medical schools that require/recommend Biochem, that is). Yes, the program "offers exposure," but medical schools will be hard pressed to determine the depth of the exposure you've had. In sum, the second year of the sequence should not be taken merely as a means of completing Biochemistry for medical school, and should not be done only in part. ♦
Question: Hi! I’m a freshman and am in MAT 103 right now and am planning to be pre-med while I’m at Princeton. Do I need to take 104 in the spring? I ask because I have some friends who think they have to go on and do 104 for med school, but I’ve also heard that a stats class is OK. Is it better to do 104 for some reason even if it’s not officially required for med school? Thanks.
Answer: Unless MAT 104 is a prerequisite for something else you’d like to do, you do not need to proceed to 104. You may do 104, but you may choose to take a Statistics class instead as the second semester of your year of college Math that some health professional schools require. Please note: a prerequisite for majoring in Chemistry or Physics is MAT 103 and 104. However, Molecular Biology will accept 103-104 or 103 + Stats. Econ requires just 103. You should check the Undergraduate Announcement online at http://www.princeton.edu/ua/ to review any Math prerequisites for other plans you may have, including certificates. Of course, some students really enjoy 103 and have a natural affinity for Calculus, and if this is your situation (or your friends’) then it’s fine to go ahead with 104. But if you do take 104, for whatever reason, we’d still suggest taking a Stats class at some point, as a basic background in Statistics can be useful in medicine. ♦
Math — the More, the Better?
Question: Hello, I am a freshman and want to go pre-med. I took AP calc AB and AP calc BC in high school and received a 5 and 4, which I know places me out of the med school requirements for math. I enrolled in MAT 201 multivariable calculus and just wanted to know what the most prestigious med schools would think if I did not continue with math after this semester. Is it advisable to continue with math? I’m unsure of what to do . . .
Answer: You are indeed done with your Math for medical school. You were done when you arrived in September, as long as the University granted you 2 units of AP for your work in high school. No, it is not advisable to continue with Math unless you have a particular interest or talent in the subject. “Prestigious” or no, the medical schools that require some college Math (roughly 30-40% of them) do not favor applicants who have done more Math beyond what they require. Unless it was a pre-requisite for something else you intend to do or unless you have a natural interest in calculus, you did not need to be in 201 this fall and you do not need to continue. Of course, challenging yourself academically is always wise—but there are many, many ways to do that at Princeton. ♦
MOL 214 as a Freshman
Question: Hi HPA, I’m a freshman who’s in CHM 201 right now, along with a math class and some others. I’ll be in CHM 202 in the spring. Some of my friends are planning to take MOL 214 in the spring, too. On the website I was looking at the different “plans” you have. The only one that advises us to take MOL 214 this year is the one for students who are skipping general chemistry because they have AP. Is it a mistake to try this class this year?
Answer: Our usual advice on this topic is to avoid adding a second lab science, and a challenging one at that, to your freshman schedule. CHM 201-202 is challenging enough for most pre-health students. We do suggest that you “double up” on science courses at some point during your four years, but normally, this happens during sophomore year, after you’ve built a sound academic foundation from your first year on campus and adjusted to Princeton fully, or even junior year. You are not given any credit for finishing the pre-health course requirements faster than need be. Before your friends enroll in MOL 214 on top of CHM 202 as a freshman, they should come see us; we would like to make certain that your friends (and you!) are doing very well in chemistry, and we’d also like to know what their tentative plans are for next year. Otherwise, in most cases, it is difficult to see the point of adding MOL 214 to the schedule right now. ♦
MOL 214 or 215?
Question: I am a freshman, Class of ’13. I have received a 5 on the AP Chemistry, Biology, and Calculus tests so I have 2 AP units in those subjects. I would like your advice regarding MOL 214 & MOL 215. I understand that 215 is more math-oriented than 214. For this reason, I am considering taking 215 next fall. However, I am concerned that 215 might not cover the material I need for medical school. Which class, 214 or 215, better covers material for the MCAT? Which class do you think I should take?
Answer: Both MOL 214 and MOL 215 “count” as biology for medical school, as you know. MOL 215 is more quantitative in nature, and the faculty who teach 215 have made it very clear that they want only students who have strong mathematical backgrounds. A requirement for the course is AP in Calculus and Physics, and since you do not have the AP units in Physics it would appear that you do not qualify. However, both courses will prepare you very well for the molecular biology included in the Biological Sciences section of your MCAT, and will give you the foundation you need for medical study. There is no evidence to suggest that one or the other version of the course better prepares pre-med students. More pre-meds take MOL 214, surely, because of the quantitative nature of 215 and the AP prerequisites. ♦
Question: I have a quick question. If I take MOL 215 next semester, will it fulfill the pre-med requirement or am I required to take MOL 214, too? Thanks.
Answer: You may take MOL 215 instead of 214. You know that depending on whether you have AP biology credit or not, you need another biology course, with or without lab, right? If you don't have AP biology credit, you'll need to take EEB 211, too. ♦
MOL and Medical School
Question: Hi HPA, I had a quick question about molecular biology and med school. I noticed that most MOL majors are also premed. Is there any correlation between these two things? Do you have to be passionate about molecular biology in order to become a good doctor? Or is it because med school studies focus on molecular biology? I've just discovered recently that I'm not particularly passionate about molecular biology, but I am still interested in being a premed. I'm just worried that if becoming a doctor/being premed means that I will need to be passionate about MOL, I may not be cut out for med school after all.
Answer: You certainly do not have to major in MOL as a pre-health student. If you are turned off by science completely, then of course a science-based profession like medicine will make you an unhappy professional. However, you do not have to be passionate about molecular biology per se. Perhaps other fields of biology (evolution, ecology) get you excited? Perhaps chemistry, biochemistry, physics? Perhaps computer science or math or biotechnology? A scientific mind can find any number of rich fields during the undergraduate years and any number of areas of expression in the medical profession. As for your choice of a concentration, study what you love. Many pre-meds major in the humanities and social sciences, everything from French to Philosophy to Anthropology to Classics to WWS, as well as the sciences. And medical schools are increasingly interested in applicants with broad academic backgrounds. The point is to have a fulfilling academic experience, particularly in your independent work and upper-level courses in your concentration, to go off into medicine with a clear sense of what your background brings to the patient’s bedside. ♦
Question: I have a quick question regarding my course load this fall. I originally was pursuing a neuroscience certificate, but have recently found out that as a premed, I must take 2 semesters of biology and that AP credit does not count as one of those semesters; it only allows you to take a higher level class (without a lab). In light of this, I wanted to take EEB311, but as a result would probably drop my neuro class this fall (MOL408). I am DYING to take some humanities to balance out my schedule. I am leaning toward dropping my certificate in neuroscience so that I might be able to take some other classes of interest to me throughout the next two years, but I wanted to make sure that I am not missing anything, or not thinking of any reason (med-school-wise) that I should think twice about dropping the certificate. Is it something that is beneficial when applying to med schools? Or am I just as good a candidate without it?
Answer: But you are currently taking biochemistry, yes? That fulfills the MOL 214-plus-one-other-biology-course requirement if you have AP. You may take EEB 311 if you like, but in light of your desire to take more humanities courses, do so! You could always take EEB 311 next fall if you wish. No, it does not matter if you do not pursue the neuro certificate. As it turns out, you have taken a number of neuro courses, and medical schools will think that is nice. But no, you don't need to pursue the certificate for them. They'll be happy anyway with your course selection thus far, and your high GPA. ♦
Do Neuroscience Courses Count as ‘Science’?
Question: I’m interested in going for the certificate in Neuroscience. I know that medical schools will look at my science grades when I apply to med school. Will NEU courses be counted as ‘science’ or as psychology?
Answer: With the ever-growing popularity of Neuroscience courses at Princeton, this type of question is ever-increasing at HPA. Generally speaking, Neuroscience is listed among the subjects that AMCAS will count as “science” when you apply (AMCAS is the generic online application that is step 1 of the application process). AMCAS figures all courses whose content are primarily Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Math into the “science GPA.” You can see a list of which departments fall within different AMCAS categories in the AMCAS Course Classification Guide online.
It has been our experience that Neuro courses labeled “PSY” are considered on a case-by-case basis, and may be categorized as “biological science” or, possibly, “behavioral and social science.” If you feel the majority of the content of the course was biological in nature, then you should label them as such when completing your AMCAS. Whether or not these are re-classified during the AMCAS verification process is hard to predict. ♦
Pre-med Classes at Princeton vs. Elsewhere?
Question: I'm a freshman with a question regarding another medical school prerequisite--organic chemistry. I was under the impression that it is best for me to take Orgo (and for that matter, all of my pre-med classes) at Princeton. However, I've been told that several people elect to take this class over the summer at another institution. Is this advised? Thank you very much.
Answer: It is always best to take your pre-med requirements at your home institution. Medical schools prefer that you do, and some of them voice this preference quite strongly. The only exceptions might be if you intend to study abroad and can't get all of the courses in before you hope to apply, or if you came to the pre-med curriculum 'late' and are trying to catch up. If you're worried by the reputation of a particularly rigorous course such as Orgo, and want to have enough time to do well in it, our only advice would be to plan wisely, and resist as much as possible the urge to get into higher-level courses in your major (or intended major) until after you're through Orgo. Incidentally, summer coursework in general isn't frowned upon, so if you'd like to take courses OTHER than the pre-med requirements at another institution over the summer, then go for it. If your overall grades are an issue, please come talk to us. ♦
Question: Hi Advisers, I am going to take PSY 251 (Quantitative Methods) next spring, and wanted to check and see if that was the intro statistics class for the psychology department, or if there was another statistics class that you would recommend instead. Thank you for your help!
Answer: There is no one stats class at Princeton, as you probably know by now. Instead, stats is offered through a variety of departments. Any of the introductory classes is fine to take. Yes, PSY 251 is such a class—and a popular choice with pre-meds finishing up their math requirement. Other Statistics courses we recommend are EEB 355/MOL355 (Biostatistics), ECO 202 (Statistics & Data Analysis for Economics), SOC 301 (Sociological Research Methods), and ORF 245 (Fundamentals of Engineering Statistics). Some are fall courses, some spring. We always advise that you choose a version of stats offered through a department you’re interested in. Re: the pre-med math requirement, please remember: If you do not want to proceed to MAT 104 after taking 103, or if you have AP credit for 103-104 but would like to take another math-based class, stats is a good option. ♦
Taking a Pre-med Course Online
Question: Hi! I'm a sophomore and I need to take Physics next summer before I can take the MCAT or apply to med school. Can you tell me if it's OK to take Physics online? I've found several options for online courses. This would be cheaper and more convenient for me than doing the regular course. Do medical schools accept these classes?
Answer: Your medical school requirements need to be taken the old-fashioned way--in a classroom with preceptors and professors present. Most medical schools would not accept prerequisites such as Physics taken purely online. For one thing, what would you do for lab? Even if the online courses you're considering do offer some sort of "virtual" lab, medical schools would be deeply skeptical about the quality of the material you've learned. The same would apply to courses taken by a Princeton student at a community college. And lastly, as we hope you know by now, we do not recommend that you do your pre-medical requirements over the summer. Thanks for asking this one! ♦
Taking Physics This Summer
Question: Hello, I met with an adviser last week and discussed the possibility of taking the physics requirements over the summer, so that I can take the MCAT either at the end of the summer or early next year. I know that PHY 101-102 satisfies the pre-med requirement. My understanding is that these are not calculus-based, since calculus wasn't listed as a prerequisite, but I'm not positive. I looked into the course guide and it was ambiguous. When I am registering for summer courses, is it OK to choose the Physics without calculus? Secondly, is either option substantially better than the other (calc-based or not); will it make much difference?
Answer: You may take the Physics that is not calculus-based. The calculus-based Physics is not necessary for the MCAT. You could be taking Physics next year, however. People currently have pre-med requirements "in progress" when they take the MCAT, and now that the computerized MCAT is offered in April as well as several dates in May, your Physics would be almost finished at the time of the test (you're studying on your own outside of class anyway). Plus, the Physics material would be fresher in your mind at the time your did the MCAT. Medical schools prefer that the pre-med requirements, including Physics, be fulfilled on one's home campus during the regular school year, in conjunction with a full courseload. ♦
That 5th Course
Question: Hi, I am a sophomore and have not yet taken five courses in one semester, but I am scheduled to take four courses I think will be fairly difficult and time-consuming in the spring semester. Is it advisable to just take these four and then take a (non-premed) course at another college over the summer? Thanks.
Answer: Only under rare, individualized circumstances do we recommend taking courses over the summer at another school. Generally speaking, we prefer that you seek good clinical experience, service activities, and possibly even research during your summers, and recharge your intellectual batteries to prepare for the regular school year. Don't forget that you do have the PDF option for up to 4 courses. We believe that "maxing" out on 4 PDF's in college might look a little "light" to medical schools, but you're certainly welcome to use a couple of the PDF's without jeopardizing anything in terms of medical school admission. Why not do your five courses this spring, but PDF one of them? ♦
Unforeseen Medical School Requirements
Question: Hello, I have a question. I plan on attending medical school in Texas. I recently learned that the Texas schools require more than one year of biology. In fact, they want 4 semesters! This was news to me. Are there other requirements I should know about? I was under the impression that I needed a year of biology (2 semesters).
Answer: Texas is unique in this respect. You’re right, all the Texas schools (save Baylor) ask for 4 semesters, or two years’ worth, of biology. This is included in the information you were given as a freshman, in our handout “Preparing for a Career in the Health Professions” (and online). For those of you with no intention of applying to medical school in Texas, your EEB 211 and MOL 214 sequence meets the requirement, don’t worry. However, this Texan’s question does bring up a larger point: It is always wise to check the Medical School Admissions Requirements, or MSAR, available in our office. This is the most centralized and reliable source for reviewing the requirements at the medical schools you dream of attending and making certain that they do not have any unusual, school-specific requirements beyond the basic ones. Websites for individual med schools will give you that information as well, although they tend to be more confusing, in our experience, and it can get frustrating trying to navigate through various sites. As we all know, more schools every year require Biochemistry, and that number may be rising in the near future. Also, some schools have relaxed their math requirement somewhat in recent years, saying that one term of Calculus plus one of Statistics is acceptable. Most of you will be fine if you stick to the basics: one year of biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, math, and English. We’ll certainly let you know if anything changes on a grand scale. Nevertheless, when the new MSAR comes out this spring, take a look—at least at the public medical school(s) in your home state. ♦
Question: I’m from Michigan and I’m hoping to head back there for medical school. I was looking through the prerequisites at my state schools and noticed that U Mich wants “six semesters of additional non-science courses” and Michigan State wants “social science/humanities courses that focus on psychological and social theory, individual and/or group behaviors, or comparative cultures,” plus two upper-level Biology courses. Do I need to take extra social science/ humanities courses? Are there other requirements I should be aware of for schools in other places?
Answer: We’re glad to see that you’re looking ahead at prerequisites for your state schools. About 70% of medical school students nationally attend medical school in their home state. At HPA, we look through the prereqs at the schools that are most popular with our students every year to check for changes that you might want to be aware of, but we do not look through the prereqs of all 142 US allopathic medical schools, so keeping an eye on your home state schools’ prereqs is a good idea, and we welcome you to let us know if you come across something unusual that you think other students should know (like the one-semester Anatomy requirement in Ohio, or the extra year of Biology for Texas).
To answer your question, specifically, you’ll cover the U Mich and MSU course requirements with your distribution requirements (for MSU’s requirements specifically, the SA courses should cover it), and you should make room in your schedule for Biochemistry, which we recommend already, and one more upper-level Biology course (many medical schools are happy to see you take biology beyond the minimum prerequisites, so this will be useful for schools beyond MSU).
To help you double-check schools individually, we’ve compiled links to the prerequisites websites for many of the schools most popular with our students (see Selecting Schools). We also have a spreadsheet that details the prereqs of all US and Canadian MD schools (provided to prehealth advisors by the AAMC Medical School Admission Requirements publication), which you can view in our office. ♦
Question: I have AP credit in Biology. I took MOL 214 and did another Biology, 400-level, but got a C+ in it. If I take another upper-level Biology class and earn a better grade, can I use the new course as my upper-level Biology for med school or do I have to use the class I originally planned to count?
Answer: Interesting question. It would be a good idea for you to take more biology, given your grade in the 400-level course. On your secondary applications for med school some day, the schools may ask you to list which Princeton courses you’re “counting” toward their biology requirement. In your case, you could list MOL 214 + the new course. This would be a wise thing to do if you performed better in the new class. However, the positive effect of this is limited. On your AMCAS application (the first step before the secondary applications), your science GPA will be computed using ALL science courses, so the C+ will be factored in. ♦
Vet School Requirements
Question: Dear HPA, I have actually always been considering vet school because I love animals and I am interested in medicine. I think concentrating in EEB has helped me realize that I really do want to study and work with animals. I also like the fact that veterinarians are usually less specialized than doctors, so there would be more variety in my every day job and maybe longer-term relationships with “patients” and animal-owners. I think I have many of the pre-vet requirements done, but it seems I still need to take biochem, genetics, microbiology, physiology and public speaking. Is this true? Do I need to do all of these courses in addition to the standard pre-med classes?
Answer: Great question. Don’t forget to email us at HPA@princeton.edu and get yourself on the pre-vet email list for your class year, in case we have any vet schools visiting or any of your peer pre-vet students plan any related programming. As for the vet school requirements, alas, you are correct in that they only add to the headache of taking courses to fulfill admissions requirements. It sounds like you’ve been perusing the Veterinary Medical School Admissions Requirements book. If you have, then you know that the extra classes you mention are not required by all vet schools—not at all. Biochem is certainly a favorite, and should be taken. You may have had enough genetics within one of the biology courses you’ve taken already, and physiology isn’t a standard requirement (fairly rare, actually). As for microbiology and public speaking, you should probably do these. Public speaking is offered once per year at Princeton via the English Dept (ENG 230, a fall course). Microbiology is not currently offered on campus and would need to be done at another school, potentially during your application year or if possible, an earlier summer. All in all, come in to see us and we’ll discuss where you may end up applying one day. If you can get biochem, public speaking, and microbiology done before you apply, great. As for the others, we’ll tailor our advice depending on your possible list of schools. ♦