Hello and welcome! This is Part 1 of my “Navigating Pre-med” series that I will be publishing on my blog.

If you are new here, be sure to check out Part 0: My Background to learn more about my motivations for publishing this series, and information that would give a LOT more context to the information that I will be discussing!

Previous Part: My Background


In general, the coursework that was required is really split into three parts: (1) Pre-med requirements, (2) Major requirements, and (3) Cornell distribution requirements (which varies from college-to-college). I was also a music minor, though I won’t be discussing too much about that here.

Because my major was pretty different from the pre-med, I did have to take several more classes than say, what a biology major would have to take. This just emphasizes the fact that you really can be any major and still be pre-med. In fact, I have no regrets for choosing my major–it was such a big part of my college application way back then, and it has opened so many doors for me. That’s an entirely different post on its own, however.

Pre-med Requirements

For those who are new to pre-med, it’s not a major but a track. What that means is that it will never show up anywhere on my diploma, but instead is a series of classes that I need to take/fulfill in order to apply for med school.

When it comes down to it, the classes you need to take really depends on what medical school you want to apply to–for example, some medical schools might require two semesters of organic chemistry while others might only require one. I ended up looking at the Cornell Health Careers Guide, which I will be referencing as I go. It covers most (if not all) of the things med schools could ask, so I felt that it was safe to follow along to cover all my bases.

An overview of the requirements listed is as follows:

  • 2 semesters of introductory biology
  • 1 semester of biology lab
  • 2 semesters of general chemistry (with lab)
  • 2 semesters of organic chemistry
  • 1 semester of organic chemistry lab
  • 2 semesters of biochemistry (though some courses at Cornell can allow you to finish it in 1 semester)
  • 2 semesters of physics
  • 2 semesters of English (some medical schools require 1, some require 2–some also allow you to go with AP test scores)
  • 1 semester of calculus
  • 1 semester of statistics
  • 1 semester of social sciences (some but not all medical schools require psychology/sociology, and many allow you to go with AP test scores)

Biometry & Statistics Major Requirements

Required coursework for my major (Following the Major Requirements for students who entered Fall 2015 or Spring 2016) is as follows:

  • Calculus 1 & 2 (2 Semesters)
  • Multivariable Calculus (1 semester)
  • Linear Algebra (1 semester)
  • Biological Statistics I & II (2 semesters)
  • Probability Models and Inference (1 semester)
  • Statistical Computing (1 semester)
  • Linear Models (1 semester)
  • Theory of Statistics (1 semester)
  • 4 Advanced Electives to go towards my concentration (I started with mathematical statistics but switched to general in my last semester)

The only “overlap” was calculus and statistics–and I end up taking way more of statistics than being pre-med actually requires.

College Distribution Requirements

Distribution requirements for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are as follows: (this changes for each college, so I won’t go into too much details or specifics here, other than outline what I actually take)

  • 2 credits of PE
  • 18 credits of physical and life sciences (easily covered by the pre-med requirements)
  • 12 credits of social sciences and humanities (covered mostly by my interest in music and AP credits)
  • 9 credits of written and oral expression (covered by AP credits and my freshman writing seminar!)

Thankfully, many of these distribution requirements were able to be “stacked” with the pre-med requirements.

What I Actually Took

Now, the exciting part! I’ve broken these up into semesters, with a short description of what requirements it actually fulfilled.

They will be tagged with either ‘M’ for ‘Major’, ‘C’ for ‘College’, or ‘P’ for ‘Pre-Med’ depending on what exactly it fulfilled. I also took several classes for fun (like orchestra!) so those classes aren’t tagged at all.

Freshman Year, Fall Semester

  • BIOG 1440: Comparative Physiology [P, C]
  • CHIN 2209: Intermediate Chinese for Heritage Students I [C]
  • MATH 1920: Multivariable Calculus for Engineers [M, P, C]
  • BTRY 3010: Biological Statistics I [M, P, C]
  • PE 1170: Swing Dance I [C]
  • MUSIC 4621: Cornell Chamber Orchestra

Freshman Year, Spring Semester

  • BIOG 1350: Cell & Developmental Biology [P]
  • BTRY 3020: Biological Statistics II [M]
  • ENGL 1111: Writing Across Cultures [C]
  • CHIN 2210: Intermediate Chinese for Heritage Students II [C]
  • MUSIC 4621: Cornell Chamber Orchestra
  • MUSIC 3501: Individual Instruction in Viola

Notes: by the end of freshman year, I was almost done with fulfilling the majority of the college distribution requirements just based on pre-med/major and AP credits alone. In addition, I was taking Chinese for fun, and was happy to find out it actually satisfied a distribution requirement. :)

Sophomore Year, Fall Semester

  • CHEM 2070: General Chemistry [P, C]
  • BIOG 1500: Investigative Biology Lab [P]
  • BTRY 3080: Probability Models and Inference [M]
  • MATH 2310: Linear Algebra with Applications [M]
  • BTRY 4990: Undergraduate Research
  • AEM 1240: Rose Scholars Program
  • CHEM 1070: General Chemistry I Workshop
  • MUSIC 4651: Chamber Music Ensemble

Sophomore Year, Spring Semester

  • AEM 1240: Rose Scholars Program
  • BTRY 3520: Statistical Computing [M]
  • BTRY 4990 Undergraduate Research
  • CHEM 1080: Intro to Critical Thinking
  • CHEM 2080: General Chemistry II [P]
  • CS 1110: Intro to Computing using Python [M]
  • MUSIC 3501: Individual Instruction in Piano
  • MUSIC 4621: Cornell Chamber Orchestra
  • MUSIC 4651: Chamber Music Ensemble

Notes: Both CHEM 1070 and CHEM 1080 were chemistry “workshops”, i.e., one-credit courses that is designed to supplement the content in the main chemistry courses (2070 and 2080). Rose Scholars Program is a residence-hall, one-credit course that I needed to add to my schedule in order to continue being able to live in my dorm :’). Moreover, even though undergraduate research was done with my major’s course code, it actually didn’t count towards any requirements.

Junior Year, Fall Semester

  • AEM 1240: Rose Scholars Program
  • BTRY 4030: Linear Models with Matrices [M]
  • BTRY 4990: Undergraduate Research
  • CHEM 3570: Organic Chemistry for the Life Sciences I [P]
  • MATH 3040: Prove It!
  • MUSIC 2224: Mozart in History, History in Mozart
  • MUSIC 3514: Individual Instruction in Piano
  • MUSIC 4621: Cornell Chamber Orchestra

Notes: Prove It! Was a course I took so I could familiarize myself with math proofs and Analysis, which I would take the following semester.

Junior Year, Spring Semester

  • AEM 1240: Rose Scholars Program
  • BTRY 4090: Theory of Statistics [M]
  • BTRY 4990: Undergraduate Research
  • CHEM 3580: Organic Chemistry for the Life Sciences II [P]
  • MATH 3110: Introduction to Analysis [M]
  • MUSIC 2208: History of Western Music II
  • MUSIC 3514: Individual Instruction in Piano
  • MUSIC 4621: Cornell Chamber Orchestra

Senior Year, Fall Semester

  • BIOMG 3300: Principles of Biochemistry [P]
  • BTRY 4270: Survival Analysis [M]
  • BTRY 4990: Undergraduate research
  • CHEM 2510: Intro to Experimental Organic Chemistry [P]
  • MUSIC 1101: Elements of Music
  • MUSIC 3514: Individual Instruction in Piano
  • MUSIC 4621: Cornell Chamber Orchestra
  • MUSIC 4651: Chamber Music Ensemble
  • PHYS 2207: Physics for the Life Sciences II [P]

Notes: The biochemisty class I took is a one-semester, 4-credit biochemistry course. If you were a bio major you would have to take an additional 1-credit course, but this course condensed two-semesters of information into one.

Senior Year, Spring Semester–What I’m currently enrolled in

  • BTRY 4110: Categorical Data [M]
  • EDUC 2200: Intro to Adult Learning [C]
  • HADM 4300: Introduction to Wines
  • PE 1272: Walking Tours[C]
  • PHYS 2208: Physics for the Life Sciences II [P]
  • BTRY 4990: Undergraduate research
  • MUSIC 3514: Individual Instruction in Piano

Notes: At this point I’m done! The Education course satisfies my final college requirement (diversity), and my last pre-med and last major course will also happen in my last semester.

Some Thoughts

I was averaging around 20-22 credits each semester (with the lowest at 17 in Freshman year, highest at 24 in Senior year), but I feel like if I were to do it over, I might not have put as much of an emphasis on music (and completing my music minor) and opted for lighter course loads each semester. It’s definitely doable as I was only knocking out one or two requirements for major/pre-med every semester.

Moreover, because I didn’t take chemistry until sophomore year, I found myself in the position of having to take at least one gap year. That’s something that I’m totally OK with now, and more and more people are doing, but if you want to avoid the gap year, then it’s probably more advisable to start chemistry freshman year (as most of my peers are doing) with biology (or deferring biology to sophomore or junior year) and thus you will be ready to take the MCAT by junior year.

Most of the courses I took do not require you to take them “in order”–for example, you can definitely take organic chemistry or biochemistry without first taking general chemistry or biology. That said, I’m glad I took them in that particular order (general, organic, then biochem) because they do get more difficult to study for, and study skills is something I only started to build up in college.

On top of the things I would do differently, I think I would have consulted with an adviser more, or asked more people about the classes I was taking. There was quite a few of mistakes in there: if I were to start over, I might not have gone with the mathematical statistics concentration in the beginning (I would have gone general to begin with), I would have taken chemistry earlier on and biology later on, and one thing I should’ve done was take advantage of course help such as office hours and tutoring in freshman year (I didn’t even know those support systems existed until sophomore year–yikes). In general, I made plenty of mistakes, but I still finished–so it’s OK!


Mistakes were made, but it’s OK!

I ended up only taking a few major courses/pre-med courses a semester, so majoring in something other than biology or chemistry and doing Pre-Med is definitely doable.

In the next installment, I will be talking about my various pre-med related experiences during the school year (including shadowing, research, TA-ing, etc.). See you guys then!

Next Part: Semester Experiences [Link to be updated next week!]