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Northwestern University

A First-Year's Guide to Pre-Health

Following a pre-health path in your first year means that a lot of choices about what courses to take will be already made for you, but it also means that you’ll have a lot of other decisions to make. Being pre-health can be challenging, but your first-year adviser, the Weinberg College Advisers, and Health Professions Advising pre-health advisers can all help you face these challenges.

Pre-health students can pursue any major in Weinberg. So you’ll want to spend some time during your first year looking over department websites, talking to department advisers, and, when you have space in your schedule, choosing courses that let you try out areas of interest.

In addition, pre-health students must complete coursework required by medical schools:

  • One year of General Chemistry;
  • One year of Organic Chemistry;
  • One year of Biology;
  • One year of Physics;
  • Two to three quarters of Calculus.

Some medical schools may also require English/writing classes (in Weinberg, this usually means your first-year seminars), biochemistry, behavioral and social science courses, humanities courses, and advanced biology courses.

Typical first-year schedule for pre-health students

  • Two or three quarters of Chemistry
    Students start their studies based on placement testing.  This commonly leads to enrollment in Accelerated General Chemistry (Chem 151 and 152 and the associated labs), but also frequently Advanced General Chemistry (Chem 171 and 172 and the associated labs), or Quantitative Problem Solving in Chemistry (Chem 110) followed by General Chemistry (Chem 131 and 132 and their associated labs).  Some students with high AP or IB scores can can begin with Organic Chemistry (Chem 210-1, -2, -3 plus labs).
  • Two or three quarters of Mathematics
    Most medical schools are satisfied if a student has completed Math 220 and 224 (calculus) via coursework at Northwestern or AP/IB credit; some schools require an additional quarter of calculus, satisfied with Math 230.
  • Three quarters of a foreign language
    Weinberg students are required to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language (measured by successful completion of the third quarter of the second year in a language sequence). Most students begin their language training in the first quarter of their first year. Our best advice is to continue studying the language you studied in high school. If you have completed the requirement, you can decide to continue to study that language, or even begin a new one. Please see the Placement and Credit page for more information on language placement.
  • Two First-Year Seminars
    One seminar will be in the fall unless you are in HPME, ISP, or MMSS; the other seminar will be in winter or spring.
  • Biology 215
    Most pre-med students—and all students considering a major in Biological Sciences—should also plan to take Biology 215 in their spring quarter.

Questions to consider

During your first year, there will be a number of questions for you to think about:

  • Why do I want to go to medical school?  What alternatives are interesting to me?
  • In what order should I take my science sequences, this year and going forward?
  • Should I take science courses in the summer?
  • Should I try to fit all my science sequences into my first three years, so I can apply to go straight to medical school after graduation, or should I spread the courses over all four years and take a year off prior to med school?
  • How can I get involved in research and clinical work?
  • What do I do if I’m struggling in my science classes?

These are great questions to discuss with your first-year adviser, a Weinberg Adviser, or a pre-health adviser. Don’t hesitate to make use of these valuable resources!

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