blank'/> A LITTLE BIT OF LACQUER: What to Major in

April 7, 2014

What to Major in

Hello and happy Monday everyone!! I hope you all had wonderful weekends, the weather finally started to feel a bit like spring here so we spent lots of time outdoors. For today's Med School Monday post I wanted to quickly address a question I get from a lot of my readers who are in the early years of college or the college application process: what to major in [for medical school]. So here's a little about that!

I'll say first off - I majored in Neuroscience and minored in the History of Science and Technology. I absolutely loved neuroscience and history has always been my passion, so I didn't do these for med school, I did it because I loved studying it. {Quick super nerdy fact about me? I have a tattoo of the first time the word brain was written in human history - it's hieroglyphics from the Edwin Smith surgical papyrus and dates back to around 1500 BC}. I share this because I truly think college is a time you should study what you love and what you're curious about. I was lucky enough to go to a liberal arts college so I really did explore lots before declaring my major sophomore year - taking courses in African American Women's History, Anthropology, Archaeology, Philosophy, I loved it all.

Now for medical school, there are courses that you have to take. At most colleges there's no "pre-med" major, and if there was you probably shouldn't major it in anyway. Just get through these pre-requisites (which are slightly different for each medical school, so make sure you check the website of schools you're interested in), but they are generally something like this: 2 semesters of biology, 2 semesters of physics, 2 semesters of inorganic chemistry, 2 semesters of organic chemistry, and 2 semesters of english.

These classes are all important to do well on the MCAT, which you will have to take for admission to medical school. The grades from these classes will of course also matter, but they're meant to prepare you for the test and be a foundation of what you will later learn in medical school. Did I have friends who were physics majors and did better on the physics portion of the exam because of that? Yes, but only by a couple of points if that. The same way I had friends who did better in bio because of being bio majors - the point is that these differences are minor, and I think you'll get a lot more from majoring in what you truly are interested in rather than physics just for a point or two on an exam.

Do keep in mind that GPA matters. If you love English but are horrible at writing papers and can't get good grades in those English classes, maybe English isn't the major for you. On the other hand, if you're just majoring in Bio because it comes easily to you and because it fulfills lots of the med school prereqs, you're sort of cheating yourself out of a great education. This could be your last time to study history or government or Italian - there will be plenty of time to study science in medical school.

Some examples of undergrad majors my from my classmates here at Harvard include Philosophy, Psychology, Biology, Anthropology, Engineering (of all varieties), Neuroscience, and Economics.

I hope some of you can find this helpful, and as always, leave comments about your opinions or ideas for posts or anything! And if you've sent me a comment don't worry - I got it! I'm making my way through responding to those during the little "downtime" I have haha. 


  1. This is what I always tell people. I majored in Psychology and if I could do it again I may have also studied Journalism or more Spanish. I think it really helps you to have a background in something other than science if you have other interests.

  2. I love hearing more about your journey to this point, even though it's been years since you were in undergrad. In my med school class we have quite the mix too (obviously most schools probably do). I was a German major in addition to biology, but i have classmates who were math majors, english majors, and education besides the usual science-y ones. I agree though, I think besides getting in your pre-reqs, it's most important to enjoy what you study in undergrad. I think my favorite classes were always the non-science ones anyway ;)

  3. Hi Laura! I recently found your blog and have started reading it from the very beginning...crazy to see pictures of your beautiful daughter and then start reading from 2011 :) I love your blog, especially med school Mondays (I am starting my own med school journey this summer!). I definitely agree about the majors. I did Physiology for the prereqs, but I was so happy that I was able to squeeze in a second major in Spanish. Showing that you have other passions and talents make you a well-rounded, appealing applicant as well!

  4. Any comment on colleagues who have gone back and applied for med school after establishing a career in the said different major?

  5. I'm majoring in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science. Does that seem a little weak?

  6. Hello,

    I want to first say I love your blog and its really inspiring:). Thank you for sharing your thoughts and information. I am currently getting a masters in Child Life Specialist (I am not sure if you have heard of the field). We focus on children's cognitive, motor, and emotional development in the hospital. Our job is to make the hospital stay for the family and child the most comfortable and least scary as possible. We provide the patients with medical teachings about their disease/procedures/ or surgeries, developmental play, advocate for the patient/ family and work closely with the medical staff ( doctor, nurses, and physical therapist). I recently graduated with my MS in Child Life Specialist and was thinking on working for two to three years and then applying to medical school. The only thing is that my undergrad major was Human Development with an emphasis on health services, thus I don't have that extensive background in science. I did take 1 semester of chemistry and 2 of biology.Do you have any recommendations for me? I am 25 years old, so I am not sure if waiting another three years would be smart. I would truly appreciate hearing your feedback about any prep courses I should take or if my masters degree is even relevant for medical school.

    Thanks !

  7. Just started watching your videos as well as reading your blogs and i must say im in LOVE! I am a 19 year old student at Valdosta State University. Currently, i know i want to major in medicine but i cant seem to narrow my options down. Im curious to know what you plan on doing with your major and minor. What kind of doctor do you plan to be? Summer school ?

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