How Hard Is Pre Med?

February 7

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re considering a career in medicine. Congratulations! As doctors ourselves, we love it when students show an interest in the discipline. The process of becoming a doctor is an incredibly rewarding experience. 

Saying that we also know just how daunting it can be as a high school student. Right now, you’re likely completely focused on nailing your college applications so that you can become pre-med at the institution of your choice. 

However, somewhere in the back of your mind, there is likely a niggling sense of doubt. What if being pre-med is too hard? Will I be able to have fun whilst being a pre-med? Will I be overwhelmed as a pre-med student? We remember these questions well. 

If this is how you’re feeling, don’t worry! We’re here to help. Below, you’ll find all of the information you need on being a pre-med. We cover everything, including test score requirements, necessary classes, extracurricular expectations, and more. 

Our intention isn’t to overwhelm you. Being pre-med can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding. To ensure that you have the most enjoyable college experience possible, we’ve also included a list of tips that will help you keep your pre-med work-life balance in check. 

Take a look!

How Hard Is Pre Med

What Is Pre-Med? 

So, if you’ve found your way here, you likely already have a good understanding of what being a pre-med student means. However, to avoid any misunderstandings, we figured it was necessary to start from the beginning. 

The term ‘pre-med’ is used to describe individuals who are taking the appropriate classes so that they can attend medical school. However, there isn’t actually a pre-med major, it is simply a label that students can use to communicate their future plans to others. 

In fact, it is a common misconception that you have to be some kind of science major to be pre-med. Whilst you can major in biology and be pre-med, you can also major in Spanish or Philosophy and still be pre-med. 

However, that isn’t to say that the label of ‘pre-med’ doesn’t mean much. When an advisor knows that you’re pre-med, they will do all they can to ensure that you are completing all of the necessary requirements for medical school. 

Similarly, the label of pre-med can help you gain the most appropriate work experience. When employers or volunteer organizations see that you’re pre-med on your application, they are more likely to offer you a position that is, in some way, related to medicine. 

What Are The Requirements For Medical School? 

Each medical school will have slightly different requirements.

As such, it will be necessary to research each school that you’re interested in attending whilst you’re pre-med to ensure that you are equipping yourself with all of the appropriate information. However, there are some general rules that will apply to all med schools. 


Generally, it will be necessary for you to take the following classes as a pre-med student: 

  • 1 year of general chemistry with lab. 
  • 1 year of organic chemistry with lab. 
  • 1 year of biology with lab. 
  • 1 year of physics with lab. 
  • 1 semester (or more) of biochemistry. 
  • 1 year of English. 
  • A mathematics requirement (the specifics of this will differ depending on the med school). 

This list consists of the minimum number of classes necessary to meet the most basic medical school requirements. It is likely that you will need to take many more depending on your preferred school’s recommendations. 

It is also worth noting that medical schools will want to see that you have a strong interest in, and commitment to, the field of medicine. As such, you will likely want to take as many related classes as you can. 

Here is a list of some related classes that you might want to take:

  • Psychology
  • Physiology 
  • Microbiology 
  • Ethics 
  • Public Health 
  • Genetics 



As a pre-med student, you will need to perform well on tests to meet the requirements of medical schools. However, the most important exam you will take is the MCAT. This is a 7.5-hour test that includes four distinct sections. These are: 

  1. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems.
  2. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems. 
  3. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behaviour. 
  4. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. 

There are a total of 528 points available on the MCAT. The average score for students that are accepted into a medical school is about 509. As such, this score is generally what you will be aiming for.


Most medical schools will expect you to have some related extracurriculars on your application. This is because they want to see that you have taken steps to obtain hands-on experience within the medical field.

Additionally, spending your spare time completing such activities also shows a strong passion for medicine. 

Here are a few different extracurricular activities that will look excellent on your application to medical school: 

Shadowing Or Clinical Experience

Shadowing a physician is an incredible opportunity as a pre-med. In doing so, you will get a unique insight into the daily life of a physician. You will also be able to get a real sense of what it is like to work with patients and other practitioners. 


If you shadow a physician, you may, in turn, build an excellent relationship with them. Following this, it is likely that they will become a mentor for you. Having a mentor as a pre-med will be particularly helpful. 

Not only will they be able to give you a real insight into the profession you are hoping to enter into, but they have been exactly where you are now. They know the challenges you will face and they are in the perfect position to offer advice. 

Volunteering Or Non-Clinical Experience 

Looking like a well-rounded student on your medical school applications is very important. The presence of volunteering or non-clinical experience on your applications will illustrate this. 

It is also important to remember that the life of anyone in the field of medicine can be very demanding. As such, it is always important to maintain healthy habits and enjoy hobbies outside of medicine.

Whether you enjoy swimming, climbing, or tight rope walking in your spare time, it is worth noting these down on your application too.

Volunteering Or Non Clinical Experience

How Hard Is Pre-Med? 

Ok. We know that all of the information above can be a little bit overwhelming. However,  just because you need high test scores and a number of extracurriculars, this doesn’t mean that you won’t have any time for yourself. 

Whilst being pre-med certainly can be challenging and tough, it can also be a very fun and rewarding experience. At the end of the day, you’ll be taking classes that you are interested in, whilst living in a fun college environment, surrounded by potential new friends. 

If you are planning on becoming pre-med, there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure that your work-life balance remains intact. We’ve collected the tips and tricks that helped us get through being a pre-med, check them out below. 

Pick A Major You Enjoy

As we discussed earlier, the label ‘pre-med’ doesn’t correspond to any particular major. However, there is a misconception that, if you are pre-med, everything you focus on should be medicine-related. 

This is not the case. As such, be sure to pick a major that you enjoy and find interesting. If you want to major in French, do it! You will be spending more than enough time studying biology and chemistry, so don’t force yourself to do any more than you need to.

Don’t Pick The Hard Classes If You Don’t Need Them 

If you’re currently applying to college, this might sound a little crazy. As a high school student, you get bonus points for taking harder courses, like AP or Honors courses. However, things are different when you actually get to college. 

All pre-med students have taken hard classes. As such, med schools don’t care whether you’ve taken an easy Calculus course or one designed for professional engineers (unless otherwise stated). 

The moral of this story is that you don’t need to put yourself through extra strife. If you don’t like math, take the easier math course. This way, you will be more likely to get a high grade and will spend less time working for it. 

Be Confident That You Want To Work In Medicine 

As a high school student, you might be completely determined to become a doctor. However, until you’ve experienced working within a profession, you will likely have a warped understanding of what it is to be a doctor. 

As such, dedicate time as a pre-med student to figuring out if being a doctor is really for you.  Gain hands-on volunteering experience, shadow a physician, or chat with professionals to make sure that you know exactly what you’re getting into. 

By doing so, you might find yourself getting even more excited about becoming a doctor. This will have a knock-on effect.

Your courses will seem more interesting, you will feel more motivated to do well, and you will be less likely to get frustrated when you need to give up your spare time to volunteer or work when your non-pre-med friends are partying. 

Get A Mentor 

Get A Mentor

Having someone who can advise you as a pre-med student is invaluable. Whether it is an older pre-med student, your favorite professor, an advisor, or a physician, having someone who knows what you’re going through, and how to best get you through it, can truly make a huge difference.

Be Organized 

If you want to be able to enjoy your free time, the best thing you can do is stay organized. Go to all of your classes, set time in your diary to complete assignments before the due date, dedicate specific time slots to looking for volunteer opportunities, etc. 

By doing this, you will be able to properly relax when you aren’t engaging in college-related work. This way, you will be able to enjoy playing a sport you love on the weekend, or going out with your roommates, without having to worry about that assignment that you haven’t finished yet. 

Limit Your Extracurriculars 

We know that we’ve emphasized the importance of extracurricular activities as a pre-med student. However, it is equally important to not go overboard. Between one and three activities will be enough for you to have a shining med school application. 

Don’t feel the need to fill every moment of your spare time with something medicine-related. Ensure that you have enough time to relax, enjoy your hobbies, and spend time with your fellow college students. 

Take A Year Off

Being a pre-med student is demanding. Being a medical student is even more demanding. As such, don’t let the pressure to always be progressing stop you from taking some time out. Time out is important. 

In fact, the average age of those starting medical school is around 24. So, once you’ve finished being a pre-med student if you think you would benefit from taking a year off to work or travel, do it! 

The opportunity to take time out doesn’t come very frequently once you begin medical school. So if there is something else that you would like to experience, we recommend doing it before you begin medical school. 

Make Friends With Other Pre-Meds 

The best thing about attending college is the opportunity to meet a range of new people who are likely studying wildly different disciplines. However, if you’re pre-med, having a few really good friends who are also pre-med is invaluable. 

Being a pre-med student can be demanding. It can also be lonely if you feel as if none of your friends understands the nature of your courses. As such, be sure to have a few pre-med friends on speed dial, whether it’s for last-minute MCAT revision or a coffee to complain about your super confusing biology class. 


If you’re considering becoming pre-med, we congratulate you! You are on the path to an interesting, engaging, and life-saving profession. We hope that this article has helped you understand the demands of being a pre-med student.


About The Author

We're a team of future doctors passionate about giving back and mentoring other future doctors! All mentors on the team are top MCAT scorers and we all are committed to seeing you succeed in achieving your physician dreams ????  To help you increase your MCAT score to the competitive mark quickly, we have collaboratively created these self-paced MCAT strategy courses and are also available for one-on-one tutoring!

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