I am going into my senior year this year and I am starting to look at the common app. Many schools ask me to select a major. I used to be set on majoring in bio because I’m pre-med; the two just go together for most people. I am as sure as I can be at 17 that medicine is absolutely what I want to do. After doing 7 weeks of bio research (physiology) and reading tons of articles for it, I’ve realized that I am more interested in math than a bio laboratory-type major. Would it be bad to major in math? I got a 5 on Calc BC and a 36 in the math section of the ACT, but an A- in the class one semester. I know the A- (92) is not bad, but it was the only A- I have gotten in high school and I would not want to get a lower GPA in college just because I decided to major in math. Some schools have a mathematical/quantitative biology major or a math major with a concentration in biology, so I am considering that at schools that offer it. But if they don’t, is math still a good idea? Is biophysics a good idea if offered? I’ll take AP Physics C: Mechanics this year so I’ll see if I actually like physics. It could be a way to work in more math. Or, should I just apply as a bio major and get a math minor? It would be much harder to do biological research if I go the math route. Is that really bad? Finally, does it matter if I get a BS or a BA? I’ve read that it doesn’t, but if I change by mind about medicine I’d be more employable in a STEM field with a BS than a BA, right? But if I don’t major in biology it would probably be much easier to get my med school pre-requisites, especially in the humanities, with a BA.
I know successful med school applicants who majored in everything from biology to the classics. As long as you take the pre-med requirements you are fine. Seek out a major you are interested in and can excel at. And keep in mind that at most colleges you have the freedom to change majors.
Degree title (BS versus BA) does not really matter unless the specific college offers a choice of BS or BA in the same major that you are interested in. In that case, choose based on which version’s requirements suit you better.
A pre-med can theoretically choose any major, although those with high volumes of requirements that do not overlap with pre-med course requirements may be difficult to do. However, math is not such a major. Biology is often “convenient” due to requirement overlap with pre-med courses, but is not required to do pre-med.
Okay, so if I can choose between a BA in math or a BS in math, I should just pick whichever one is easier to fit the classes I need? I guess my fear is if I decide not to go the pre-med route my junior or senior year but I’m not on the right track for a career in math/physics because my degree wasn’t focused enough for grad school.
For math, there are various career and graduate school paths one could take, which may call for different upper level math electives. The math department at the college should have more information on that. Where a BA and BS are both offered, the differences in requirements may or may not matter for this purpose.
LSU: math is only offered as a BS major.
Tulsa: math is offered in BA or BS majors, with more depth in math for the BS major.
Vanderbilt: math is only offered as a BA major.
Wisconsin: math is offered in BA or BS majors, with differences only in general education.
Major in absolutely anything you like. Med schools like to take peopIe who majored in different things, other than all those bio majors. You dont need to decide now, and whatever you do choose, you can change your mind.
If you like math, that is a good major to take. The math courses will count toward your science GPA which is a bonus if you do well in them.
Biophysics and quantitative bio programs would probably have advantages in more overlap with some of the premed requirements than a pure math curriculum, but any degree ultimately should work as long as you get the med school prerequisites covered.
The greater quantitative training may have use in advanced work in a number of the medical specialties like radiation oncology, radiology and medical genetics among others.
Math is, in my opinion, one of the best premed majors. It strikes a balance between more pre-professional undergrad majors like CS and engineering (which make it tougher to get a sky-high GPA and which require a huge effort-investment in a field you may never work in at all if you go to med school), and majors like bio that can be tough in terms of employability if you don’t end up in med school after all.
Do you have a particular fondness for theoretical math, or would you enjoy an applied math or stats major? The latter can be very applicable to medical and public health research (where so many research teams need strong statistical analysis experts no matter the research topic) as well as opening up other career opportunities if one’s interest in health-related fields wanes.
Certainly you can pursue a blended major like biostatistics if that’s available, but there’s also nothing wrong with a traditional math or stats major, which leaves plenty of time to take the med school prereqs (potentially getting a bio minor along the way, but it doesn’t really matter whether a minor is conferred or not).
Another great math-adjacent option can be a data science, data analytics, or informatics major. Most of these programs require a secondary focus to which the data skills will be applied in an undergrad thesis/capstone, and that focus can be something biology or public health related if you so choose.
A full-blown bio major goes well beyond what you need for the MCAT and med school admissions, and all that time in the lab doesn’t buy you much if it isn’t your passion. With a non-lab-oriented major, you can reallocate all that time to patient facing volunteering/shadowing and other pursuits that can ultimately be more impactful for your med school prospects. If a bio PhD is your most-preferred alternative to med school, then by all means major in bio, but if it isn’t, and you like math better, don’t think twice about being a premed math, stats, or data science major - these are all very good choices!
I had TWO daughters who were math majors and who went to med school. Math offers great options if you decide against med school or if med school just doesn’t happen for you.
Math can take you in many directions — public health, BME or neural engineering, medical physics, bioinformatics, or away from biology and medicine altogether.
While a BA at a college that offers both BA and BS degrees is less rigorous. Because you take fewer UL classes, you’ll still have enough math to pursue tons of careers ( so long as you aren’t looking at a math PhD—though even that is possible if you’re highly motivated)
My SIL is a theoretical mathematician (PhD) and his undergrad degree wasn’t even in math.
P.S. One of my daughters said her biggest disappointment with med school was there is no math in med school.
Ok! If I don’t go to med school I would consider a Ph.D. I genuinely love learning so grad school (at least a masters) has always been my plan. But I’m also interested in learning about…almost everything including astronomy, music, economics, poly sci, literature…all of it. So maybe a BA is the way to go so I have electives and if it’s not enough for a Ph.D. maybe I can do a masters first. Cheaper than med school lol
For merit scholarships, you typically need to look at less selective colleges that use merit scholarships to lure high end (from their perspective) students. The College Transitions lists seem to emphasize highly selective colleges that are mostly not good candidates for merit scholarship seeking, although some may offer a few super-reach ones.
In my opinion you should take medical school out of your college search equation. Fact is…you can apply to medical school as a graduate of just about every college in this country (arts conservatories excluded). So…look at the other things you need or hope to find in a college.