Pre med and high school AP's

My kid is a current sophomore and wants to go the pre-med route. Trying to plan junior year courses . Maybe Ap chem, Ap Phys1 (if school allows), AP stat/Calculus 3, AP Lit. Now the courses in question are Env. Sci/AP Env. Sci (which is mandatory for graduation), foreign language and social studies. I have heard that organic chemistry, 2 bio, 2 physics etc. are course requirements to be completed in pre-med track to apply further to medical colleges. I also see that undergrad colleges give credit to APUSH/AP European/AP env. science etc.

  1. Are these non-STEM related courses mandatory in pre-med track? Or rather needed for medical admissions? What does the kid do with credits like AP Env. Sci/APUSH if on pre-med track ? Because it will not replace any of the required courses for medical admissions.
  2. If not, trying to understand why do kids interested in STEM take these social studies AP’s when they can concentrate on STEM subjects?

Are you thinking they are going to skip all the required course for pre-med with AP credits? Have you looked at the recommendations for each of the schools you are interested in as well as the medical schools requirements? Not sure of any Med school that uses AP credits. Have you checked what type of credit these colleges give? Is it actual credit for a class or no credit with the ability to take a higher level course? The pre-med track is just recommended classes people should take regardless of their major that most med schools require.

This may help with respect to AP credit and applying to medical school:

Note that grades in college courses taken while in high school will be included in GPA calculations for medical school applications.

Note also that repeating a college course or AP credit will mean marking the repeat as such on the medical school application.

Definitely not all courses on pre-med track, but what I heard is that introductory courses in pre-med track can be skipped. Instead they can take intermediate level courses. Med school definitely does not use AP credits. But med school needs certain courses like two org. Chem. courses , 2 biology courses etc. to be completed in pre-med. So wondering why kids in high school focus on taking APUSH/AP Environmental science since I believe these do not help when on pre-med track.

To do pre-med, a student first needs to be accepted into a college. Few colleges are looking for specialists in HS. They want students taking challenging course in all core subjects, not just STEM.


Regarding this question:

Other AP credits may be used for subject credit or advanced placement in those subjects, if the college or department allows. Remember that pre-meds typically have to have a major (which is not necessarily a science) and have to fulfill whatever general education requirements the college has.

Note that medical schools do often require or recommend social sciences like psychology and sociology. English composition or specifically-writing-intensive courses are typically required as well. Speaking and listening skill in non-English languages commonly found in the US can also be desirable in medical practice.

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To get a well rounded education.


True! However we say kids should do what they love. It would give STEM kids more time to focus on their subjects of interest, than just taking all AP’s. My kid is running into a situation where there will be 7 or 8 AP’s by the time sophomore year is completed. What I am trying to do is wisely choose, so that all AP’s are not an overburden. However, I am not really familiar with the education system here. The wide variety of choices are good but also overwhelming so trying to seek inputs

The colleges want students who can evaluate situations in all areas of study and want to see critical thinking skills in all areas of study.
If you think your child would be wasting his/her time in these courses, then go ahead and have him skip these courses. You will see that she/he won’t get into any university.

Don’t you think that it’s important to a doctor to know if a patient has been exposed to a toxic environmental area? (Our hospital Life-Flight units transported farmers who had been exposed to pesticides)

Don’t you think it’s important for a physician to know and understand US History and Law to protect herself from frivolous lawsuits that are filed often, such that physicians HAVE to purchase MALPRACTICE insurance??? They have to DOCUMENT everything in their charting.

If your student does not do well in the humanities courses, then you need to provide a tutor or ask the school for tutoring help. You can’t bypass these courses in high school because your child wont earn a high school diploma.
Plus, your child is not guaranteed a spot in medical school. They are very selective and your child may not have decent MCAT scores, EC’s, grades, or coursework.

My daughter was accepted into her med school/professional program and she had classmates whose undergraduate degrees were in US History, Civics, and Environmental Science.

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Or even if a student’s MCAT scores, pre-med extracurriculars, college grades, and courses are decent or good (in a pre-med context), the student may still get shut out of medical school after dozens of applications (only about 40% of medical school applicants get admitted to any medical school, and most of those get only one admission).

Medical school in the US is also very expensive, so most US-educated MDs start practice with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt to work off.

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The goal in US high schools is a well-rounded education. Most colleges are looking for this when they say they want 4 credits in English, 4 in Math, etc.

Med school won’t care a hoot about which high school AP’s are taken, but they will count all college level grades in the GPA. Taking the pre-reqs in college is expected.

As others have said, med school acceptance is not guaranteed (42.3%) and it’s definitely not all academic based. One needs the academics (any major, certainly not just STEM majors) to get considered, but one also needs a lot of ECs of some sort showing who they are beyond academics. There are people with tippy top notch grades and MCAT scores each year who don’t get accepted anywhere (86.6 % acceptance rate meaning over 13% don’t get accepted). They tend to be missing that “something else.” Everyone should have a Plan B.

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Absolutely important to take other courses as well. Its just if the non-stem courses should be AP as well? Since my child took AP world history(freshman), AP macro (sophomore) and if junior and senior year we just go for honors level social studies, homors AP Env Sci and honors level Spanish (maybe spanish 5 by senior year if available )etc. is it looked upon by colleges as decreasing the rigor of courses?

Agreed , that is another topic of discussion within our family. :slight_smile: First step would be to ensure she has good enough credits, ready for STEM undergrad tracks without overburdening.

Agreed, we have a plan B to pursue non-med opportunities. Just not what my kid would like.

Med school still works out for many, so best wishes to your student. My medical lad graduates from med school this year and has done some interviews for his school. He tells me the #1 thing to be aware of is how many “other” things are needed - shadowing, volunteering, showing some sort of “devotion” in life. At least at his med school they want to know the candidate is a decent person as well as an intelligent one.

Here’s a profile they tend to put out each year:

If you read through the three, you’ll see it’s a template. They tend to look for the same thing year after year. Be someone they can write about. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something - and certain things everyone needs to do (shadowing, volunteering, etc). My lad was the juggler in the Class of 2021, but he also volunteered with Hospice, worked in research, went on medical mission trips, and shadowed a bit - along with his 2 majors/2 minors, TA/RA positions, dance, and ASL (American Sign Language) ECs. Honestly? We wondered if he slept! But he loved it all and did absolutely nothing just for the application.

Note that absolutely nothing in the profiles relates to high school. High school is just about getting that well rounded education which will prepare one for college (knowing that college level courses will count in the GPA). My lad only had 3 college level courses in high school, MicroBio, English, and Public Speaking - and just 2 AP tests (Psych, Stats). Calc and Bio were AP level, but he opted to skip the tests and take those freshman year in college. Didn’t hurt him at all. He did well in college and med school and relatively soon will likely be in a really nice residency program quite possibly one of the Top 20 (or 5) in his specialty. He’s still figuring out how to rank them and then the Match will tell in March.

Definitely don’t stress too much as a junior in high school. Get a decent education to get into college and figure out just “who” they are and want to be for the rest.

Thank you! Your kid has a fantastic profile! I was actually hoping to reduce the number of AP’s and take honors instead.


The point of high school courses is to do well so one can get accepted to undergraduate school. The courses you take in high school will not get you into medical school…but they should give you the foundation you need to do well in the college courses that are prerequisites for medical school applicants.

Re: Plan B. There are a ton of medically related jobs that are not doctor.

@WayOutWestMom could you please post the link to those other medically related jobs?

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I am not sure that it is a good idea for the introductory courses on the premed track to be skipped. As one example, I would not recommend that a student start with organic chemistry in freshman year of university if they want to maintain a “medical school worthy” GPA.

Premed classes in university are tough enough even if you do not skip the introductory courses.


Here it is–

There are literally hundreds of healthcare-related careers–most of which you and your child have never heard of.

Every pre-med needs a Plan B career.

Your child can major in anything and still go to med school. My daughters’ med school classmates had majors in ranging from agriculture to business to ethnic & gender studies to theology.

Medical school admission committees are not looking for STEM wunderkinds. They are looking for academically capable students with a strong basic science background who have strong inter-personal skills and who demonstrate the necessary traits expected of physicians–compassion, altruism, resilience, intellectual curiosity and leadership.

The majors that have the highest acceptance rates into med school are mathematics & statistics and humanities. (See AAMC Facts Table A-17.)

As everyone else has pointed out the purpose of high school coursework is to get accepted to college. Med schools don’t ask about high school courses as part of the application process.

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Medical schools all have different policies about whether they will allow applicants to substitute upper level elective classes for introductory classes. Some will; some won’t.

Some medical schools will not accept any AP credits at all. Some will accept them, but only for certain subjects. Some medical schools will accept AP/IB credits ONLY IF they are supplemented by additional upper level courses in the same department.

Thus AP Chem credits may require the student to take additional credits in inorganic, analytic or physical chemistry. AP physics credit may force the student to supplement with upper level physics major classes like modern physics, optics, E&M, quantum mechanics, etc.

There really is no rule of thumb for this.