Question of the Week: How to Choose a Major

Feb. 3, 2023

Q: Sophomore declaration is around the corner! How should I go about choosing a concentration as a premed student?

A: Medical schools want you to study what you love–they want to see how you can find inspiration and fulfillment through your academic endeavors. Every discipline provides certain habits of mind and ways of looking at the world. So there truly is not one concentration that is superior to another–it's about what is the best fit for you, your interests, and your priorities. Here are some tips to finding a concentration that is right for you.

What are the big questions in the field? Browse through departmental web pages. What are professors researching? What kinds of methodologies are they are using? What courses are required, and what are "big players" in the field currently discussing or debating? Reflect on what fields are pursuing questions that you also are curious about or care about.

How flexible is the curriculum? There are some departments that, when combined with premed prerequisites, have more flexibility than others. Think about how much flexibility you want and need in order to thrive. Do you want enough flexibility to study abroad? Do you want to pursue a demanding certificate you care about? You can see how prehealth prerequisites can be interwoven with departmental and distribution requirements through the sample schedules on HPA's website.

Could you imagine yourself pursuing a senior thesis in the department? Junior independent work and the senior thesis are defining features of a Princeton education. What kind of thesis do you want to pursue? Do you imagine yourself interviewing hospital employees in New York City about how fulfilled they are with their work? Do you imagine doing bench research to understand how cells assemble themselves in predictable patters? Do you dream about immersing yourself in archives at a library abroad and digging into a question that's been on our mind? Your senior thesis experience can be vastly different based on what department you're in. Skim through senior theses in the departments you're curious about, paying particular attention to the Methods sections, which will give you an idea of how your time will be spent. HPA has curated links to theses written by prehealth students across departments (but it's also okay if your thesis isn't health related!).

What are current juniors and seniors saying about their experiences in their departments? Talk with juniors and seniors you know in the departments that interest you. If you don't know anyone, ask your peer academic adviser and your residential college adviser if they know anyone. You can also always reach out to HPA's peer advisers and jock docs to get perspectives from prehealth students. And check out their individual tips on choosing a concentration! More videos will be released on our website and Instagram/Facebook in the coming weeks!Good luck! HPA is here to meet with you to discuss any of your concerns as you navigate this big decision!

QOTW 2022: Glide Year Conversations with Family
QOTW 2021: Medical school outside the US for international students