Questions About Other Pre-health Requirements

MAT 104?
Math - the More, the Better?
Math Placement Advice
Psychology Requirement?
Unexpected Prerequisites


MAT 104?

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. You should check the Undergraduate Announcement online at 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. 

Math Placement Advice

Question: Hi HPA – I was placed in MAT 104 based on my AP credit, but I’m not sure that my high school prepared me well enough for the course and I’d like to take MAT 103. Will this look bad for medical schools?

Answer: It’s really important during the next few days to think critically about all of your courses, especially those based on placement recommendations, and be sure that you’re comfortable with them before the add/drop deadline on Tuesday. If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to check in with your Director of Studies or any of your other advisers (including HPA advisers)! If you have AP credit for MAT 103, there’s really no need to take MAT 104 unless you know that you’ll need more calculus for other courses you plan to take or for potential concentrations. At most, medical schools will require a combination of calculus and statistics, so we’d recommend that you stick with your AP Calc credit plus a semester of statistics later on. If there are math concepts that you’d like to review because they apply to other classes, like Chemistry or Physics, be sure to check out the options offered through the McGraw Center (especially Study Hall), and don’t be afraid to approach your faculty during office hours to see if they have other suggestions for you.  

Psychology Requirement?

Question: I’ll be taking the MCAT2015 and I’m trying to choose classes. Will PSY 101 meet the prereq for a psychology class for med school?

Answer: Okay – let’s unpack this a bit. First, there is only one school that we know of, the University of Nevada , that specifically requires psychology as an entrance requirement – double check your state schools to be sure, but as far as we know, there is no requirement that you take psychology for entrance into any other medical school. There will be a section on the MCAT beginning in 2015 called Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior, in recognition of the importance of socio-cultural and behavioral determinants of health and health outcomes, which will test your knowledge of psychology and sociology concepts. No specific class is likely to cover all of the topics that will be tested in this section, nor are you required to take a class or classes to prepare for this section of the test. Some students will take classes, others will learn via an MCAT prep course or self-studying prep materials. In addition to the many commercial test prep companies, the AAMC has teamed with Khan Academy to create free test materials, which will grow to include psyc/soc topics.

So, the short answer to your question is: any psychology or sociology course is likely to give you familiarity with some of the concepts that will be tested on the new MCAT, and if you’re interested in the course topics, they are fine courses to take. But, you could also study on your own to be ready for this section, and there will be many resources coming available over the next year to help you do so, which we will share on our standardized exams page of the HPA website. 


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 ECO 202 (Statistics & Data Analysis for Economics), SOC 301 (Sociological Research Methods), SML 201, ORF 245 (Fundamentals of Engineering Statistics), and WWS 200.  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. 

Unexpected Prerequisites

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 Prerequisite Websites). 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.