Premedical Curriculum at Columbia College and Columbia Engineering
It is very important to note that medical schools in the United States and Canada each individually determine their own entrance requirements, including prerequisite coursework or competencies. Each medical school also sets its own rules about acceptable courses or course equivalents. Therefore, it is essential that you check the premedical requirements both for your state school(s) and any other medical school where you think you may apply when planning your curriculum. Click here to see a document with the current prerequisites at accredited medical schools in the U.S.
In addition to medical school course requirements, all medical schools currently require that you sit for the MCAT exam. A new format of this exam will be introduced in the spring of 2015 (for more information about the new MCAT see below). In preparation for MCAT 2015 we recommend:
1 year of General Chemistry and General Chemistry Lab
1 year of Cell and Molecular Biology and Biology Lab
1 year of Organic Chemistry and Organic Chemistry Lab
1 year of General Physics and Physics Lab
1 semester of Introductory Psychology
While these courses are those recommended to prepare you for the MCAT, there are indeed additional requirements set by individual schools.
Additional Information on Requirements:
- Most medical schools require a year of English – emphasizing skill acquisition in writing.
- Many medical schools currently require mathematical competency focused in areas covered in calculus and statistics. We therefore recommend that all students complete a semester of calculus and one of statistics.
- A number of medical schools require a semester of biochemistry and an increasing number will likely add it as a requirement in the future. Although our introductory biology sequence covers many of the foundational concepts of biochemistry, we cannot at this time guarantee that all medical schools will accept this in fulfillment of a prerequisite requirement. We will be continuing to engage in conversations with individual schools to assess this and will keep you updated regarding these conversations.
- A smaller subset of schools require more than one year of introductory biology. Many recommend specific advanced level classes. If you are a Texas or California resident, you should pay particular attention to your state school requirements as they are among the schools that require the additional biology.
- A few schools have also begun to add social and behavioral science courses into their requirements including, but not limited to, psychology and sociology.
PLEASE NOTE: It is your responsibility to keep up to date with prerequisite requirements for the schools to which you intend to apply. These are subject to change from year to year. Check the current edition of the MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements), which is updated annually and released in April, for the most up-to-date information. Most medical schools also list their requirements in greater detail on their individual websites. For links to these pages please go here: https://services.aamc.org/30/msar/home .
SPECIAL NOTES RELATED TO CURRICULUM
Policies regarding the acceptance of AP credit in fulfillment of premedical requirements varies from medical school to medical school, and sometimes from course to course. Most medical schools will require applicants to take at least one additional college level course in the subject area should they receive AP credit for the course requirement.
Additionally, the AP policies at Columbia vary from department to department as they are the purview of the faculty in each field of study. Some departments do not grant credit until an advanced course has been completed successfully. Additionally, even though you may receive AP credit for an introductory level course, this does not necessarily mean a department will exempt you from a requirement for the major. In any case, AP credits are not awarded until the conclusion of the first year at Columbia.
The most common question surrounding AP credit and premedical requirements relates to Chemistry. Students who begin in either CHEM C3045- C3046 Intensive Organic Chemistry for First Year Students or CHEM C1604 Second Semester General Chemistry (Intensive) will receive 6 and 3 credits of AP respectively (should they have 4 or 5 on AP test, and earn a C or better in the sequence). These students are however still encouraged to go forward and take additional chemistry at the advanced level (biochemistry and/or other upper level chemistry) so that they may strengthen skills and background and meet requirements for schools that are less open to accepting AP credit (including some of the state schools in California).
It is generally desirable to complete the labs before senior year; however, this is not critical. Biology and biochemistry majors often will not take the major lab until senior year, and this presents no problem. Others may put off either the biology or the organic chemistry lab until senior year if necessary. However the biology lab may be useful for MCAT preparation and, therefore, it would help to do it by the end of junior year.
It is permissible to take premed requirements at Barnard. It should be noted, however, that the Biology and Chemistry Departments in the College may not accept the courses towards the major. You should discuss this decision with your Advising Dean before making a decision. (You can always look up the name of your Advising Dean in SSOL.
You should have good reasons for taking courses at Barnard and if you elect a sequence there you should try to take the entire sequence for consistency.
Note: some Barnard sequences begin in the spring and end in the fall. Thus, before choosing a Barnard sequence, please discuss the pros and cons with your Advising Dean or pre-health adviser.
Summer courses at other institutions are not transferable to Columbia (CC ONLY) except in a few clearly outlined circumstances. Summer work at Columbia is, of course, acceptable. It is however, not desirable to take premedical sciences over the summer, except in unusual circumstances. Occasionally, a student’s schedule will require taking summer courses, but the reason should not be to lighten your load during the academic year. Medical schools want to be assured of an applicant’s capacity to handle heavy science loads and therefore may question your decision to take summer courses, if you have not demonstrated the ability to take on high volumes during the regular academic year. Additionally, the summer is a great time to pursue other types of experiences like research or clinical exposure.
Again, please consult an adviser before taking required premedical courses during summer session. If it is decided that summer is the best route, you need not take the course at Columbia in order for it to fulfill prerequisites for medical school – just as long as you don’t need this course for your major or to fulfill other requirements.
School of Engineering and Applied Science:
The curriculum at SEAS can be very full and demanding, thereby requiring you to take one of the required premedical courses during a summer. Because SEAS students typically take four science courses a semester, a course taken over the summer won’t raise the same concerns as it might for students enrolled at the College. However, taking courses over the summer might lead you to miss out on other important opportunities, including summer research and clinical experiences.
Premedical courses should not be taken during study abroad programs. Unfortunately, many medical schools will not accept coursework taken outside of the United States in fulfillment of requirements and therefore we do not recommend taking these required courses while abroad. However, we do absolutely encourage study and work abroad opportunities, for they offer many other benefits including cultural immersion. If you are interested in studying abroad, you should consult a premedical advisor so that you may carefully plan for this endeavor.
Not all Columbia students will know from the very start that medicine is where they want to end up. Some discover this part way through their undergraduate years or even after graduating. As a result, some students will finish their premedical coursework after graduating or enroll in a post-baccalaureate program that is specifically designed to allow one to complete the preparatory courses before application. These students may still take advantage of all of the advising services and the committee evaluation offered through Preprofessional Advising.