How to get into medical school without science background? Have you not taken the required prerequisites? Or are your science grades much lower than the rest of your GPA? Do you want to avoid taking the MCAT? Can you succeed as a medical school applicant without majoring in science?
Medical school acceptance rates demonstrate that there are strategies you can implement to become a medical student without deep knowledge of the hard sciences. In this blog, we’ll discuss how much science background you need to get accepted to medical school, what steps you need to take to get into medical school without a science background and give you tips that will lead to a successful medical career if you have not had the chance to gain scientific knowledge so far.
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Do You Need Scientific Background to Get into Medical School?
Although some students assume that you need to complete a science major to apply to med school, this isn’t actually the case for most schools. Medical schools in Canada and the US do not have strict requirements regarding what major you pursue in your undergrad. You can select any major you like and focus your studies on what you enjoy and excel in. Selecting a major that you are highly passionate about has many benefits, including the fact that you will excel in your courses if you find the material engaging and easy. This way, you will also be more likely to achieve an impressive GPA which will improve your chances of getting accepted to med school. Medical school acceptance rates by major demonstrate that students from all walks of life apply to and get into medical school. However, there are some stipulations to this trend.
You should keep in mind that science and medicine go hand in hand, so if you hate your science courses or find that these disciplines are extremely challenging for you, medical school will be a truly difficult journey. Firstly, you will be required to have some basic scientific knowledge to gain acceptance to med school. This is why most schools require students to complete medical school prerequisites. Typically, these courses are entry-level, so if you find them extremely hard now, keep in mind that your academic life in medical school will be much more challenging.
Why are science prerequisites important?
And then consider how much scientific knowledge you will cover in medical school – if you hate the material, all 4 years of medical school will be torture for you. Science is really the focus of academic life in medical school, especially in the first two years, but also during rotations. While you may possess many of the other core competencies and CanMEDS roles that make a great physician, you must remember that the sciences and medicine are intrinsically connected – you cannot become a competent physician if you do not possess the appropriate knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, and other natural sciences.
We want to reiterate that academics, a high GPA, and a good MCAT score are not the ultimate elements that make a great physician. You do not have to have the perfect stats or become Charles Darwin, Dmitri Mendeleev, or Albert Einstein to become a great doctor. But you do need to have a proclivity for learning and curiosity of mind that would drive you through even the most challenging parts of medical school. In today's article, we will give you some tips that will help you get into medical school with little science background, but you should be fully aware that simply getting into medical school by doing as little science as possible will not help you when you get accepted. If you choose to become a doctor, science will be your constant companion.
And if you find science difficult now, keep in mind that our attitude and inclination for academic subjects are often shaped by experiences, whether it was a personal event that prevented us from diving into a subject or an instructor whom we did not understand. Each student has a unique learning style, and some need a personalized approach to finding learning strategies and tactics that work for them. In our experience, students who struggle with MCAT prep can develop strategies to tackle even the most difficult MCAT physics equations if you help them find the right method to solving these. So, if you find science subjects difficult now, it does not mean that you are forever plagued by this challenge. It might be a good idea to hire a professional that can help you develop understanding and curiosity of scientific disciplines. A good tutor can really change your attitude towards subjects that you find intimidating.
Top 5 Tips for Getting into Medical School with Limited Science Background
Apply to Medical Schools without Strict Prerequisites
Most medical schools have a list of required and recommended prerequisites, but some do not. If you have not taken the typical science prerequisites during undergrad, look for schools that do not have strict course requirements. How can this help you? Applying to these schools will allow you to stay in the applicant pool without being eliminated in the early stages of the admissions process because they will not care whether you completed specific courses. So even if you do not have the “traditional” science background, the rest of your application will be reviewed and you can impress the admissions committee with your medical school personal statement and medical school recommendation letters.
However, remember that many of these schools may still require the completion of the MCAT, so some science prep may be inevitable.
How do you find schools that do not have strict prerequisites? You can use the MSAR database to find them. This portal will help you to go through all MD medical schools and find the ones where your academic background is fitting.
Apply to Medical Schools that Do Not Require the MCAT
Similar to schools that do not have prerequisite requirements, some schools do not require you to complete the MCAT. These are few and far between, but they exist.
How can this help you? If a medical school does not require your MCAT score, this will eliminate the need to dive deeply into science and social science prep before the exam. All you will need to do is get good grades in your prerequisites and achieve a high GPA. After you complete the science prerequisites you will no longer need to worry about science courses until you start medical school.
Apply to Schools that Are Friendly to Non-traditional Applicants
Some medical schools are more friendly to non-traditional applicants than others. This may be demonstrated in their mission statement or class profiles. You can use MSAR to investigate what kind of applicants get accepted into your chosen medical schools to get an idea if the school is friendly to non-traditional applicants. For example, there are med schools that have a large number of students with non-science majors or that accept students who went through a career change.
If you are concerned about your chances of acceptance as an applicant without a science background, these schools may be a good option as they value the diversity of the incoming class. To get a better chance of getting accepted to these schools, emphasize your unique experiences in your diversity essay for medical school or your TMDSAS personal characteristics essay.
If you're looking for more advice on applying to med school as a "non-traditional" applicant, check out this video:
Impress Admissions Committees with the Rest of Your Application
You may not have the background in science that other applicants have, but that does not mean that your background, experiences, and skills are unimpressive. In fact, your lack of scientific background is all the more reason to make sure other components of your application are superb. The rest of your application can outweigh your lack of experience in sciences, so focus on crafting a stellar application and highlighting the experiences and skills that set you apart.
Your GPA is especially valuable here, as it will be one of the first things admissions committees review. Plus, your GPA is an indicator of your academic abilities, and since you have a limited science background, your grades must indicate that you can handle challenging academic work even if it does not include traditional sciences. If your GPA blows away the admissions committee, they will be more likely to overlook the lack of science in your academic background.
Other elements of your application such as your clinical hours, volunteer and shadowing experiences, references, and your written components should be outstanding regardless of your academic history. But keep in mind that if your application is lacking in some way, it’s especially important to make the rest of your components stand out. They can be used as tools to overshadow gaps and make your candidacy especially memorable.
And if you think that the lack of scientific knowledge is a huge, obvious gap in your application and you choose to address it, you can do so in your primary application. For example, you can very briefly mention in your personal statement why you did not pursue the required coursework or why your science grades are much lower than your non-science grades. This should take no more than one sentence since your personal statement should serve the purpose of showing why you are an amazing candidate. Instead of wasting precious space in your primary application, we would strongly advise you to use your medical school secondary essays to address this knowledge gap.
Discuss Your Lack of Science Background in Your Secondary Essays
Most medical schools present students with medical school secondary essay prompts that allow them to elaborate on any setbacks or gaps in their application. It is crucial to use this opportunity to explain your lack of science background, poor grades in science prerequisites, or lack of research experience. This is the last chance you will get to speak to this! If you get no medical school interview invites after skipping this chance to address the weaknesses of your application, do not be surprised. The schools give you the chance to discuss your lack of scientific knowledge so make sure to take it.
Remember that you do not want to come across as a victim of circumstances, making excuses and blaming someone else for your setbacks, but you should definitely discuss why science has a diminished presence in your application. How have you tried to mitigate the lack of prerequisites in your transcripts? Did you hire a tutor to help you ace the MCAT? Did you re-enroll in science courses you failed? Did you take extra courses to fill in the gaps in your scientific knowledge? Did you participate in a research project that can demonstrate that you engaged in science learning? Basically, you should discuss how you tried to solve your lack of scientific knowledge, what you learned from your experiences, and whether this will hinder your success in medical school.
If a school allows you to include these details in your secondaries, you can also talk about how being an applicant without a background in science has actually pushed you to work extremely hard to gain acceptance to med school. You can also discuss how this different journey can make you an asset to their medical program.
Bonus tip: Look into DO schools. Even though some of the best osteopathic medical schools are just as competitive as MD programs, they might be more forgiving if you do not have a background in traditional sciences.
If you're looking to learn more about DO programs in comparison to MD programs, take a look at this infographic:
*****It is worth a reminder here that even if you avoid science throughout your undergrad, remember that science is a fundamental building block of medicine and medical education. So, keep this in mind as you focus on getting into medical school – getting there without science is possible, but it is impossible to succeed in and love this profession if you are hesitant or unable to study and comprehend science.
What to Do If You Have Zero Science Background
What if you simply did not have the chance to take the required prerequisites because you realized that you want to become a doctor in the 4th year of your undergrad? Or what if you had to work to support yourself throughout college and this is why you did not take the required courses or performed so poorly in your science prerequisites? Or what if you simply need more time to dedicate to studying science disciplines for the MCAT? Do not panic! You can still catch up on your science knowledge, properly prepare for medical studies, and improve your science GPA.
Your first option is enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program for medical school. These programs are traditionally taken after a student has completed an undergrad to help them fill in any gaps that prevent them from being competitive medical school applicants. A post bacc generally takes 1 or 2 years to complete. They are a popular option for students who wish to attend med school but have not completed the required prerequisites or have not achieved medical school GPA requirements, including science GPA. You will be able to take the required classes, improve your grades, prepare for the MCAT, and more. So, if you are wondering how to get into medical school without a science background, you can certainly solve this by attending a post bacc where you will gain the necessary scientific knowledge.
Another huge advantage of a post bacc for medical school is that you can really focus on improving the elements of your application and background that need your special attention. During undergrad, you are pulled in so many directions! You have to pay attention to dozens of assignments, keep up your grades in so many classes and disciplines, it can become very overwhelming. You can choose a post bacc that will address your needs without dispersing your attention between too many things. Some post baccs focus on improving your GPA, some allow you to take the required courses, some help with MCAT prep, and so on. So, search for programs that would meet your needs and focus on bridging that application gap.
The second option is to bolster your med school application by gaining scientific research experience. Since you might not have the same level of scientific knowledge or the same experience in the sciences as other applicants, getting involved in research is an excellent way to learn more about the scientific method and expand your knowledge of biology, physics, chemistry, or whatever discipline you find the most intriguing.
Sometimes hands-on learning can be even more beneficial than the traditional in-class style of learning. You might find that you love learning about science during research since it can be a lot more engaging experience than reading a textbook or solving an equation. Look for research positions in your school or neighboring colleges. Even if you have no research experience, you have a chance to join an exciting research project. Craft an honest and compelling research assistant cover letter and resume where you highlight skills that would be valuable for research, such as attention to detail, multitasking, and great communication skills.
Should I Pursue a Science Major to Increase My Acceptance Chances?
Which discipline to pursue is really up to you, but we would strongly advise pursuing a major that you enjoy and do well in. There are many disciplines and majors that can prepare you for medical school and help you gain skills valuable for a medical doctor. Science majors prepare you for the academic rigors of medical school, social sciences help you understand the environments that affect patient populations’ health, while the humanities hone your communication skills and critical analysis skills, which can be especially useful for your MCAT CARS strategy.
If biology and chemistry are not your forte, then choose to major in a discipline for which you have strong acumen. This typically results in a higher GPA and, generally, a more enjoyable experience of your 4 years in college. While how to get into medical school might be on your mind throughout undergrad, you should also remember to enjoy your time there. It will be a miserable life if all you do is study something you do not truly enjoy and participate in extracurriculars for medical school that you find no pleasure in. The dream of medical school is important, but so is your physical and mental health. Enjoy your classes, learn new skills, gain experiences in a variety of fields – all this will help cement your goal of becoming a physician.
Having a science major does not have any inherent benefits for getting into medical school. As we already mentioned, most med schools do not care what major you pursue. In fact, a high GPA is more important. Plus, to meet the required prerequisites, you only need to take intro-level courses. So, unless you absolutely love the sciences, do not feel pressured to pursue a science major.
But don’t you need to major in science to get a good MCAT score? Not at all. To get a competitive score, make sure to do well in your intro science courses and commit time and effort to MCAT prep. You can also consider hiring an MCAT tutor or enrolling in an MCAT prep course to help you in preparations for the test. You do not have to major in science to do well on the exam.
The fact is, there are many non-traditional medical school applicants who successfully get in. By non-traditional, we typically mean students who do not pursue a conventional science major. Non-traditional applicants simply complete several science courses in addition to the courses required for their major. These science courses fulfill the prerequisites required by the schools and prepare them for the MCAT. Additionally, they also participate in a variety of extracurriculars, research projects, and other extracurriculars that will look good in their AMCAS Work and Activities section.
So, should you pursue a science major? Only if you think you will enjoy it and get high enough grades to get into your chosen medical schools. The truth is many students who enter college do not know that they want to become doctors at that stage. Therefore, if you majored in a non-science discipline and decided to become a doctor during your undergrad, you do not have to switch majors. You should know that you are not alone and that there are thousands of applicants like you. Having a science major does not guarantee you acceptance, so focus on creating the ultimate application that represents you and highlights the non-traditional experiences that can make you stand out as a candidate.
Want to see a summary of some of our top tips for getting into medical school with limited science background? This infographic is for you:
If you are a med school applicant worried that your lack of a science background will be a red flag for admissions committees, you should know that there are ways you can make up for this lack in your application. As we've discussed, you should not allow your lack of scientific experience to discourage you from pursuing your dream career. If you have not majored in science in your undergrad but have clearly made up for this through gaining some science background in other ways, you still have a good chance of gaining acceptance to a medical school!
Whether you chose to apply to med schools that do not have strict science prerequisites, schools where the MCAT is not required or found MD or DO programs where your background is the perfect fit, you will learn all the necessary sciences when you begin medical school. If you and your application demonstrate that you are willing to learn, little to no science background should not prevent you from being a successful applicant.
But if you are avoiding science because you do not want to study science, we would strongly suggest reconsidering your career choice.
1. Can you get into medical school without a science background?
You can get into medical school without majoring in science. Also, there are ways to avoid taking science courses and the MCAT. However, you should keep in mind that medicine and science are closely linked, and therefore, studying science is inevitable if you want to become a doctor. Even if you can avoid science in your undergrad, you will not be able to avoid it if you get into medical school.
2. Is knowledge of science really important for getting into medical school?
Generally, yes. Taking science courses during undergrad ensures that you are ready for the academic rigors of medical school and prepares you for the MCAT. However, the courses you take and the content you are tested on in the MCAT are quite basic. You will learn the majority of the science you will need to practice medicine in medical school. This is why having a serious science background is not necessary for getting into medical school, but you should expect science to be a part of your life if you choose to pursue medicine.
3. How can I get into medical school without science background?
Firstly, you can apply to medical schools without strict science prerequisites. Secondly, try applying to schools that do not require the MCAT. And thirdly, make sure to apply to schools where you are the perfect candidate. This means meeting their GPA requirements and fitting in with the profile of students they tend to admit.
4. Which schools should I apply to if I do not have a science background?
Try applying to schools where your academic background and experiences are similar to those of previously admitted applicants. You can find this information on the official school websites and MSAR.
Additionally, try applying to the easiest medical schools to get into and osteopathic medical schools. These schools tend to be less competitive and more forgiving to gaps in medical school applications.
You can also look at attending a Caribbean medical school.
5. How can I gain more science background during my undergrad?
You can start by completing science prerequisites that are typically required by most medical schools. You can also join research projects on campus.
6. I am almost done with my undergrad. How can I make up for my lack of science experience?
You can enroll in a post bacc program for medical school which would provide opportunities to gain more scientific experience and take all the required courses.
7. Is there a way my application components can make up for a lack of science background?
Focus on getting a very high GPA. This will demonstrate your academic abilities. Your other application component like the personal statement, activities section, and so on, must also be of outstanding quality.
8. Can I address my lack of scientific knowledge in application components?
Yes, you can discuss why you lack a science background in your secondary essays. Explain why you did not have the opportunity to gain more scientific knowledge, how you worked to solve this gap, and why your experience is still a great addition to the medical school cohort.
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