Pre-med but applying as Philosophy major

My student is a rising senior and interested in studying classics with the hope of going to medical school. It seems that SLO doesn’t have this degree and the closest degree may be philosophy. Will the school allow a student to take the standard pre-med courses such as bio, chem, math, and higher level science courses if from a different major and department? Or is impacted to the point where it’s best to just apply as a science major?

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Big fan of SLO, but if he wants to go to med school, his chances are better with a UC diploma. (med school applications from CA are brutally competitive, and every little thing helps.)

Classic/Philosophy are great for med apps. He can major in anything and go to med school as long as he takes the required science courses.

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@WayOutWestMom is this true?

This is from the SLO Pre-Health Advising center FAQ’s:

Q: Do I need to be a science major?

A: NO! Your major choice should reflect your interests, strengths and personality. Many students choose to major in the sciences because there is a lot of overlap in the course prerequisites and the graduation requirements. However, this is not a wise choice if you don’t have a genuine interest in the coursework. College is a time of personal growth and discovery, and many students change their minds about their career path throughout their time in college. Sometimes students may use their major as an alternate career path if they change their mind during this time of personal growth. Additionally, many students don’t realize that while science majors cover many of the prerequisite classes, they also require additional science classes. As a whole, your major should consist of classes that you are excited to take and that you find personally meaningful (at least most of the time). Check out the list of classes for every major at Cal Poly here.

While it’s true that many students who are pre-health select a major in science, that selection should be because they feel interested in the sciences beyond just healthcare, and want to study other areas of science, such as evolution, physical chemistry, or marine biology, which are all classes you may take as a science major. When selecting a major, think about what subjects you feel excited by and drawn to—whether it’s philosophy, chemistry, or anthropology. The prerequisites can be completed alongside all of your major requirements, and with most majors, you will still be able to graduate in 4 years.

What I would be concerned about would be the ease of getting the required sciences classes as a Non-science major. I would contact admissions and ask regarding your students situation.

There is more good information on this link: Frequently Asked Questions - Pre-Health Career Advising - Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo


RE: The UCs have a much better track record when it comes to med placements than the CSUs. Whether that’s reflective of student interests or the strength of the students relative to their university sites is pretty difficult to tease out.

My older child attended SLO for a year before transferring back to her home state’s flagship. Even then (10-11 years ago) many of science and math classes were impacted and hard to get into if you weren’t a science major. (Some were hard even for science majors.) You might ask on the SLO-specific forum if this is still true. I suspect it is.

If your child ends up applying to OOS med schools (and as aCA college grad that is almost guaranteed to happen since CA is the largest single supplier of med school applicants in country. UCB’s med applicants alone could fill every single CA med school seat --public and private-- and still have applicants leftover) the difference between UCs and CSUs diminishes. I doubt most midwestern/southern med schools will care about a SLO degree vs UC degree.

My guess would be that unless your child is science major of some type, he’s going to shut out of all or nearly all science classes and their labs. Philosophy just isn’t going to work for SLO and med school pre-reqs.


So for calpoly it’s better for my student not to apply as Philosophy major or even Spanish (she’s interested in working in central California) but as some sort of science major because it would be hard to enroll in science classes due to classes being impacted, is that’s correct?

For UCs, would that also be a problem to major in non-science and take premed courses?

Thank you, it’s one thing to claim it’s possible and another thing when it comes to reality. I’ll give them a call next week. Thank you for liking this up for us.


In most UCs*, students intending “letters and science” type of majors enter undeclared and declare their majors after one or two years. This means that the departments generally expand lower level class sizes to accommodate the undeclared students. More pre-med courses are lower level courses. However, some are upper level biology courses (biochemistry, genetics, etc.), so if the biology major is “full” at the campus (varies by campus), getting into those courses may be difficult as a non-major.

*UCR and UCI, where there are divisions (colleges / schools) for humanities and social sciences versus sciences, may be exceptions, so it is possible that lower level science courses prioritize those in the sciences division. UCD may be a similar exception, with a separate division for biological sciences versus other “letters and science” majors.

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In general for the UC’s, declared Science majors usually have first chance at the science courses but it can vary across campuses depending upon their class registration policies.

As long as your student is flexible in class times/ professors and develops a solid 4 year schedule with their advisor, they should be able to fit in the required classes. Definitely more challenging as a Non-science major.

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If your son has a strong interest in classics, he may want to research colleges with notable programs in this field:

The schools included in the site offer curricula in which students can readily choose courses across disciplines (such as in classics and the sciences expected for premed students).

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UCD does not restrict enrollment in lower division science classes based on major or college.

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If during the freshman year we find that it’s hard to take science courses by being a non-science major, could my student switch majors to a science field like chemistry? For UCI, classics is under the humanities dept and not LS. She would still minor in classics or her other favorite major, linguistics.

My student likes UCR because of the Thomas Haiger program. If it’s truly going to be difficult to take science classes at UCR, we would need to apply as a science major. But all her extracurricular activities have been focused on classics and there may be a disconnect between that and declaring on the application that she intends to major in science. She loves science but other than taking most of the science classes at school she’s not really done any science focused activities outside of school other than making presentations at a science museum.

Thank you for the link! These are all wonderful schools and my student will apply to a few. Staying in California for college would be ideal though.

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Thank you for this info! UCD would be ideal as we’re in the Bay Area. The vibe of the school community is exactly what my student would love. We visited UCM as its also relatively close but since it’s summer we didn’t have a chance to interact with anyone except the tour guide. Visiting UCM in summer with 103 degrees might have been a mistake, but it’s a beautiful campus.

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Students are not locked into any specific major at the UC’s or Cal states but depending upon which major they want to change into, it could be a competitive process. UCI admits into the University first and then into the major. They also consider an alternate major if listed.

Here is a link for UCI Change of Major to Chemistry or another Physical Science:

Each UC campus may have different registration policies for declared major students vs. non-declared major students and I am not familiar with all these policies. Some campuses have to 2 pass times when it comes to registering for classes where 1st pass allows only declared science major students to select their science classes first but the 2nd pass time opens all classes to all students.

I cannot find any specifics for UC Riverside so this might be something to discuss with the UCR Pre-health academic advisors. This is not an uncommon issue since students can major in any subject to apply to many of these Healthcare professions.

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Here is UC admission information regarding major selection. All Cal states admit by major and some consider alternate majors (ie. Cal Poly Pomona/SJSU and rarely SLO). Some campuses offer Undeclared but not an option at SLO.

Division (L&S, CNR, CoC, CED, CoE) matters for admission selectivity.
Within CoE (but not the other divisions), major matters for admission selectivity. Changing majors within the CoE after enrolling is not guaranteed, unless one is CoE undeclared.

Note that L&S admits students as undeclared; admission to capped majors (e.g. CS, economics, psychology, ORMS, statistics, art practice, and a few others) is by college GPA in prerequisite courses (and portfolio for art practice) after attending for a few semesters.

Note: CS in the College of L&S may be a direct admit for in-coming Freshman but specifics have not been finalized.

Starting Fall 2024, the HAAS Business school will offer a 4 year Undergrad program and Freshman can apply as a direct admit. UC-Berkeley and transfer students may continue to apply for acceptance to the program as sophomores or Juniors.

All students who apply to UC Berkeley and select a major within the College of Natural Resources are evaluated based on their application, not on the particular major they select.

Alternate majors not considered. Exception are GMP applicants which may be considered for an alternate major.

Admission decisions are made based upon the qualifications of the applicant pool and the number of available spaces within each academic area:
• College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences admits by college
• College of Biological Sciences admits by college
• College of Letters and Science admits by College but within specific academic departments: ie. (Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies; Mathematics and Physical Sciences; Social Sciences)
• College of Engineering admits by academic department

Students applying as “undeclared” or “undeclared/exploratory” are considered within the college/academic department to which they applied.

Applicants are encouraged to list an alternate major, but not in the
same area as the primary major (e.g., Computer Science Engineering with alternate Computer Science in the College of L&S). Occasionally, UCD admits to the alternate major.

UCI admits into the University first and then into the major. In the case that UCI is unable to accommodate all qualified applicants in their first-choice major, those students who indicate a valid alternate major may be offered admission in that major or Undeclared.

For the College of Letters and Science, the applicant’s major is not considered during the review process.

The Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science admits students by declared major, with more emphasis on science and math programs.

The School of Nursing also places more emphasis on science and math programs and requires the submission of an additional supplemental application.

The School of the Arts and Architecture; Herb Alpert School of Music; and the School of Theater, Film and Television admit students by declared major (within the school), and put more emphasis on special talents through a review of portfolios and/or auditions, which are the most significant admission factors for these schools.

UCLA only guarantees review of an applicant’s first-choice major.
UCLA typically does not admit to the alternate major

The campus does not admit students on the basis of academic major or choice of UC San Diego undergraduate college. UCSD admits into the University first then into the major. Alternate majors are considered and capped majors are highly competitive. Also note: Capped majors require additional pre-req courses and specific GPA to be able to qualify if changing majors. Also if applying to a capped major, select an non-capped major as an alternate.

College of Letters and Sciences: Choice of major is not considered in selection to the College of Letters and Science. The exceptions to this rule are dance and music performance majors. Both majors require applicants to complete an audition in late January or early February.

College of Engineering: Students are selected by major for all engineering and computer science majors. Only applicants with a solid background in advanced high school mathematics will be considered for admission to engineering. This includes high grades in all math courses through grade 11 and enrollment in pre-calculus or higher in grade 12. A student not selected for their first choice major will be reviewed for admission to an alternate major outside of the College of Engineering if one was selected.

College of Creative Studies:
Applicants to the College of Creative Studies submit a supplementary application in addition to the general UC Application, which is reviewed by Creative Studies faculty. Students are selected within Creative Studies majors only. Applicants not selected for Creative Studies will automatically be considered for admission to the College of Letters and Science.

Important Note for Prospective Engineering Students: Choice of major does not influence the selection of first-year students, except for those applicants interested in a major offered by the Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE).

Freshmen who are interested in a BSOE program should be sure to indicate a BSOE proposed major. Students who do not indicate a BSOE program or who apply as undeclared might not be able to pursue a BSOE program.

Admission by major but alternate/2nd choice major will be considered if applicant does not meet their first choice admission standards.

For Business: Freshmen students must apply to Pre-Business under the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS). The College breadth requirements and the prerequisites for a Business major are completed during the freshman and sophomore years. An application is submitted at the end of the sophomore year. Upon acceptance, students become Business majors and are then advised in the Business Department. Students from any academic major may also complete a Business minor.

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ECs do not have to align with preferred major!


Thank you for this response. You’re probably the only person who has said this finally, including those IRL. I wish more would say this instead of instilling us with a sense of dread. As one person advised us, we’re too late in the game. But I do think my student would not have much of a chance at CalPoly as a science major (we really didn’t think much of summer plans except that she needed to work). All her projects have been towards classics/philosophy which she loves, but like many kids with several interests, she loves other subjects as well like chemistry and neuroscience.

This is the gift of US 3rd level education: you does not have to choose only one or the other yet! Our physics collegekid chose an LAC specifically to be able to continue with humanities subjects, even though stem gradschool was the overall goal. Had a wonderful college experience.

CalPoly won’t work as well for your daughter b/c of the challenge of getting the pre-med courses she needs, but ime real science-y types are likely to be the kind of nerdy that will be interested in classics/philosophy discussions.

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