The study and practice of medicine is based on modern concepts in the natural sciences – biology, chemistry, and physics – and on an appreciation of and familiarity with the scientific method. To ensure that all entering medical students possess a strong foundation in the basic science principles that underlie medicine, most medical schools have established minimum undergraduate science course requirements for admission. Yet, because medicine is practiced in a social context and physicians must be able to communicate effectively with people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, a growing number of medical schools also require students to take courses in the humanities and social sciences.
Medical schools typically require successful completion of two semesters of biology, physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and English. All science courses must include a laboratory component. The table below gives an overview of the most common courses required by medical schools. Because the specific pre-med course requirements vary from school to school, you should refer to the MSAR to research the course requirements for the medical school(s) you plan on applying to.
Hamilton offers several different paths for meeting pre-med course requirements. A few paths for the most common pre-med requirements are outlined below. If you wish to seek an alternative path or would like to know about which courses satisfy some of the less common pre-med requirements, contact Leslie North. A complete description of all courses offered at Hamilton can be found via the Course Catalogue.
The biology pre-med requirement can be easily met by enrolling in the Biology Department's introductory course sequence, 101 followed by 102. Alternatively, you may be able to enroll in the Department's advanced introductory course, 115, if you did well on the AP Biology exam. If you do take 115, then you need to also enroll in an additional biology course to satisfy the pre-med requirement. Courses focusing on genetics, molecular biology, and cell biology like 248, 331, 346, and 357 are the best follow-ups to 115.
Unlike most colleges, the Chemistry Department's introductory course sequence does not offer two consecutive general chemistry courses; rather, it offers one semester of general chemistry and one semester of "advanced" general chemistry split up by two semesters of organic chemistry. Thus, there is really one path you can take toward completing your chemistry pre-med requirements (i.e. general chemistry, organic chemistry, advanced general chemistry), although you do have some choice as to which general chemistry courses you take. For your first semester of general chemistry, you can take the standard 120 or the more-advanced 125 (if you have a strong background in chemistry). For your second semester of "advanced" general chemistry, you can explore either the inorganic (265) or biological (270) side of chemistry. (Note that Chem270 is cross-listed with Bio270. Make sure you sign-up for Chem270 so that it is clear to medical schools that you took two semesters of general chemistry.)
There are three paths you can take to complete the physics pre-med requirement. The Physics Department offers two year-long sequences of introductory courses designed for pre-med students that differ only in the level of mathematics used in them: 100 and 105 are algebra-based while 200 and 205 are calculus-based. You should choose the sequence that best reflects your mathematical comfort level, but keep in mind that calculus is the "natural language" of physics and you may gain a better appreciation of the science through a calculus-based class as opposed to an algebra-based one. If you are considering concentrating in physics or pursuing more courses offered by the Department in the future, then you should take 190 and 195, the introductory sequence designed for physics majors.
Virtually any combination of classes offered by the English and Comparative Literature Departments will satisfy the English pre-med requirement. Alternatively, you can also take Writing110 to satisfy one of the two semesters.
Although only a few medical schools require applicants to complete a specific course in mathematics, all schools appreciate mathematical competence as a strong foundation for understanding the basic sciences. In addition, a working knowledge of statistics helps both medical students and physicians to become critical evaluators of the medical literature. For many students, it may be a good idea to take one semester of calculus and one semester of statistics (i.e. Math113⇒Math253), even if the schools they are applying to don't require them.