|Math - the More, the Better?|
|Math Placement Advice|
|Social/Behavioral Science Prerequisites|
|What Happens if I Don't Take the Courses HPA Recommends?|
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.
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 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.
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 Group Study Hall), and don’t be afraid to approach your faculty during office hours to see if they have other suggestions for you.
Question: I was told at course registration that with a unit of AP Calculus credit, the only other math that I need to take for premed pre-requisites is Statistics. I wanted to double check that this will be okay since some older students I know have taken additional math courses for their requirements.
Answer: Over recent years, medical schools have moved away from requiring Calculus 2 (MAT 104 at Princeton) and have been encouraging statistics. Statistical reasoning skills are required for the MCAT, and we only know of one track within one MD program that requires additional math (the HST curriculum at Harvard, which also requires calculus-based physics and is quantitatively-focused; the Pathways program is the more traditional curriculum). While we recommend that students take additional advanced courses in preparation for medical school if they place out of Biology, Chemistry, and/or Physics, we have never seen a medical school that expected students to supplement AP Calculus credit beyond taking the Statistics course that we encourage. You can always check with schools individually (especially your public state schools, since we encourage you to stay eligible for those schools), but you shouldn’t have a problem with AP Calc + Stats.
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 tests 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.
Social/Behavioral Science 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 140+ 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 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.
Question: I’m thinking about classes for next semester and want to make sure I’m covering all of my requirements. I heard that more schools are requiring psychology, sociology, and even humanities courses. is this true?
Answer: We last checked prerequisites over the summer. There are 22 medical schools that focus on evaluating students’ competencies in different academic areas, including U Penn, U Michigan, and Stanford. These schools will not have specific class requirements; instead, they will ask you how you developed your understanding in each competency area. Many of them include competency in behavioral sciences (beyond the usual sciences and math). There are a few schools that require courses in the social/behavioral sciences and/or humanities, which you will most likely fulfill with your distribution requirements. Usually, schools with this requirement will ask for one or two courses in these areas; the most that we have seen required is four courses at Johns Hopkins (plus the two semesters of English that you are already taking for other schools’ requirements), and five at Emory. We recommend that you check requirements for any schools of interest, including your public state schools (use our links to prerequisite med school websites, or the list that our advising colleagues at Harvard create for their students).
What Happens if I Don't Take the Courses HPA Recommends?
Question: Hi HPA – I’ve looked at the courses that you list for med school requirements, but I’m not that interested in some of them. What would happen if I didn’t take some of the courses? Would I immediately be disqualified from applying to medical school?
Answer: First, there are some schools that no longer have specific course requirements, so no matter what courses you take at Princeton, you could be eligible for these schools (presuming you meet any other requirements they have, such as state residency, taking MCAT, etc.); we have a list of these schools on our website: https://hpa.princeton.edu/prehealth-prep/academic-preparation.
Beyond those schools, you can spend the money to apply to any school without having completed its prerequisites. Some may reject applicants who do not have a plan to complete the requirements pre-interview, but many will wait until they have decided to extend an offer of admission and make that offer contingent upon completing any remaining requirements. If you only have one or two courses left and your top choice school accepts you and requires that you take those courses, you could do so in the summer before matriculation.
That said, given how competitive it is to gain any admissions offers, we tend to recommend staying in line with requirements, especially for your state schools and any schools of specific interest to you, so that you have broad options in where you might be eligible to matriculate. Meeting the traditional course recommendations will also reduce ambiguity when you’re applying, which can make you feel more secure as an applicant during a time of ambiguity and stress.
Finally, decisions on whether or not you meet requirements are always in the hands of the admissions committees. Some are more willing to make exceptions than others. If there is a specific school that you’re particularly interested in and you’re not sure if you’d meet their requirements, you can always reach out directly to the admissions office and explain your situation and see if they can provide insight.