Before I got to Penn, I never really knew what pre-med entailed. Was it an extra major or minor? Was it a concrete department within the University? Getting into med school felt like such an insurmountable feat. I learned the stats: only 50% of applicants nationwide get into med school. Well, that doesn’t sound great.
Then I got to Penn and I started learning how to maneuver my way around what being pre-med really means. There is no actual department designated to the pre-med program nor is there a pre-med major; instead, pre-med essentially means that you have to take certain classes that med schools look for. Those can be found here: https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices//gradprof/healthprof/premdcourses.php. You could potentially major in whatever you want (I have a friend who is pre-med and a theatre major and just got into med school), you just have to fulfill the requirements. Most people gravitate toward a science major because 1. most pre-meds are naturally interested in science and 2. most science major requirements overlap with a lot of pre-med requirements. My major, the biological basis of behavior, is a very popular pre-med major, as are biology and chemistry.
Most pre-med requirements inherently tend to lean toward the more difficult side; the organic chemistry components are generally considered to be the most difficult amongst students. However, I can’t stress enough that pre-med is going to be difficult no matter where you go. Think about it, should becoming a doctor really be an easy process? Probably not. The most important part of crafting a schedule for the upcoming semester is planning and balancing! Everyone has their own methods of doing this. Personally, I made myself a spreadsheet to keep track of what classes I need to take while I’m at Penn and when. This allows me to figure out a balance for each semester so I’m not taking too many difficult classes.
Here’s the bright side:
While pre-med at Penn (and everywhere) certainly is very challenging, 80% of applicants from Penn get accepted to med school; this is fantastic considering the national average of 50%. Outside of academics, Career Services is an amazing resource that can offer a lot of information and assistance to pre-meds. It can help find opportunities in research or volunteering and is a great place to find information on the process of applying to med school. And, since there are a lot of pre-meds at Penn, there is always someone who understands both the struggle and the dream.
-Grace M, C'20