Amherst College Guide for Premedical Students
About this Guide
This Guide focuses on "allopathic" medicine (i.e. becoming a physician with an M.D. degree), because that is the most common career choice of Amherst students interested in health professions. However, the Health Professions Advisor and Committee also support and encourage students interested in other health-related careers, including dentistry, nursing, veterinary medicine, and public health. Further, for those planning to apply to allopathic medical schools, we strongly recommend also exploring osteopathic schools of medicine.
Note: This material has been prepared for students at Amherst College. Advice given here may not apply to students at other colleges and universities, although others using the Web are (obviously!) welcome to read this guide and take the advice for what it is worth. Comments and suggestions (to Professor William Loinaz and Dean Richard Aronson) are always welcome.
Pre-Health Orientation Information for Academic Advisors
ADVISING STUDENTS INTERESTED IN HEALTH PROFESSIONS
From: Prof. William Loinaz (Chair, Health Professions Committee)
Dean Richard Aronson (Health Professions Advisor)
To: Orientation Academic Advisors
This memo is for faculty advising first-year students who may be interested in becoming physicians, dentists, or veterinarians. For more information:
- Students or advisors with questions can call or write Prof. Loinaz (ext. 7968 or email firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dean Aronson (ext. 2265 or email email@example.com ). Dean Aronson and Prof. Loinaz will be in their offices (104 College Hall and 223 Merrill) to take calls from advisors during the orientation advising sessions. Students are encouraged to schedule appointments with Dean Aronson by scheduling online through Quest (they have to create a profile first) or by calling 413 542 2265.
- Students should see our online Amherst College Guide for Premedical Students, which provides a great deal of detail about preparation for and application to medical school.
For students who wish to get started right away on premedical requirements, the starting point is each student’s math and chemistry placement, which can be found in the respective placement lists included in your advising packet or on ACData. These placements are discussed in more detail in the CHEM letter to advisors and the Memorandum to Faculty on First Year Math Placements, both available in the advising packet or online. For most prospective physicians, dentists, and veterinarians (and also students interested in majoring in Biology, Chemistry, Neuroscience, or BCBP, whether or not those students are also interested in health professions) our best advice is:
- Based on the math and chemistry placements, start with first-semester math (105 or 111) and, if placed into MATH 111 or higher, first-semester chemistry (151 or 155). If a student does not wish to take both subjects together in the first semester, and indeed we caution students to be careful about taking on too much at the start of their college education, we advise they choose the math course to start, and then chemistry in the spring or later.
- Students who place into MATH 105 sometimes worry that they will be behind or “off-track” with regard to the premed requirements. It is our experience that students who start with this course will be able to complete the premed requirements on an acceptable schedule and will see better outcomes by following the placement advice than by jumping into a course for which they are underprepared.
Students are not permitted to take MATH 105 and CHEM 151 simultaneously. Experience has shown that students placed in MATH 105 have difficulty if they take CHEM 151 in their first semester at Amherst, and taking CHEM 151 without first taking MATH 105 is strongly discouraged. CHEM 151 is also offered in the spring semester, and many students who take MATH 105 in the fall enroll in CHEM 151 in their second semester.
- If a student recommended for the intensive section of MATH 111 (section 01) wishes to take chemistry in the first semester, he or she should enroll in the intensive section of CHEM 151 (CHEM-151I-01). This is in addition to enrolling in lecture (CHEM-151-01), one of the discussion sections (CHEM-151F-01, 02, 03, or 04), and a laboratory section (CHEM-151L-01, 02, 03, or 04). A student recommended for MATH 111 intensive may instead enroll in CHEM-151-02, with its associated lab and discussion, in the fall, but it is not possible to also enroll in the intensive section if one is enrolled in CHEM-151-02. CHEM 151 is also offered in the spring semester, and many students who take MATH 111 intensive in the fall enroll in CHEM 151 in their second semester.
c. Important: Note that ultimately students must complete MATH 111, MATH 105/106, or have a placement from the math department into MATH 121 or higher to register for CHEM 161 (the second semester of introductory chemistry).
- Students who place out of MATH 111 and into MATH 121 or higher have satisfied the calculus requirement for all but a very few medical schools. So for those students, taking math this first semester is optional. In fact, we find that a number of medical school applicants who place out of MATH 111, eager to challenge themselves upon arriving at Amherst, later regret that they “jumped” right to a higher level calculus course early in their Amherst career, either not anticipating the difficulty of these classes or not fully understanding that they already had satisfied the calculus requirement for the vast majority of medical schools. Medical schools, by the way, are now typically more interested in seeing a statistics course on the transcript than an advanced calculus class.
- Important: We advise every premedical student not to rush to complete the premedical requirements and go at their own pace. With regard to applying to medical school, it is more important that the student does well in the premedical courses than that he or she completes requirements quickly. Our ambitious students often want to do it all, and do it all right away, but there is real danger in overreaching, especially in the first semester. In this context, we would not advise a student to take two lab science courses in the first semester. The MCAT will change in 2015, adding two non-science sections. At this point, we aren’t recommending any particular courses to prepare other than the usual advice that Amherst students take advantage of the full breadth and depth of the liberal arts education.
- Prospective physics majors who are also premedical students should take PHYS 123 and MATH 121 or 211 this fall if their Math placement is MATH 121 or 211. Optionally those students could instead take CHEM 151/155 this semester and take PHYS 123 next fall. For more information about placement into physics courses, students can attend the physics academic orientation sessions or contact a member of the physics faculty.
- Note to prospective biology and neuroscience majors: Virtually no first-semester first-year students will be able to take biology courses. Prospective biology and neuroscience majors are best served by beginning with CHEM 151 unless they are placed in MATH 105. Prospective biology majors begin taking majors courses with BIOL 181 in the spring.
With the MCAT changing in 2015, students may ask about taking non-science courses – such as psychology and sociology - as additional pre-med requirements. At this time, we do not require pre-med students to take such courses. Medical schools do not (yet) require such courses. However, because of the new section on the MCAT, applicants to medical school will have to learn much of the content covered in Intro Psych. They could do that by either reading a textbook on their own when they prepare for the MCAT, or by taking an Introduction to Psychology course (here or perhaps elsewhere).