Question of the Week: Science Credit Hours & Concentrations

March 25, 2022

Q: I’m a sophomore prospective SPIA concentrator planning my summer activities and fall classes. I hope to apply direct entry to medical school. I’ve heard that you should have a certain number of science credits before applying but I don’t know if I can fit enough in. Should I take summer classes or do science research to supplement my science coursework? Should I switch my concentration so that I have more room for science?
A: We recommend a minimum of 11-12 Princeton BCPM courses by the time of application (the equivalent of 44-48 credit hours). Medical schools are looking for evidence of readiness for the rigorous science curriculum, and the evidence they’ll seek is a solid foundation of science work (complemented by science research if it’s of interest), plus MCAT scores and letters of recommendation. Outside of our career changer postbac applicants, in the past five years, we’ve only had two applicants accepted with fewer than 40 science credits. Both of those applicants had supplementary science-based glide year work. We’ve had a handful more who were accepted with 40-50 credit hours of science, but they’re still outliers within our applicant pool, especially those who were accepted direct entry. The summer courses could help, but won’t provide the same evidence of ability as courses taken during a full-time semester. There’s also the issue of the lack of access to clinical experience during the pandemic—having adequate exposure to medicine is as important as having adequate science foundation, and trying to work on both this summer may spread you too thinly.
As for SPIA vs STEM, we’d encourage you to let your intellectual passions guide you more than trying to fit yourself into a certain application timeline. If your highest priority is to try to get to medical school as quickly as possible, then a STEM major could be an option … but we’d hate to see you sacrifice something you love when you could extend your timeline a little bit and pursue the undergraduate path you’re most interested in. We’d encourage you to talk with some of our current applicants and students who have chosen to take glide years—many of them were very set on a direct entry timeline as sophomores, made sacrifices toward that goal, but then ultimately chose to take extra time and are glad for that decision. As advisers, it would help to talk with you more about your goals, science-based activities, and other aspects of your candidacy before giving you a more definitive answer.

QOTW 2021: Medical School Stats Requirement
QOTW 2020: Summer 2020 Plans