Pre-Med FAQs

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Which courses do I need to take for medical school?

While some medical schools are moving away from specific requirements, most others have certain classes they want you to take to be eligible and competitive for admissions. These courses will also prepare you well for the content included on the MCAT.

For a list of required courses, visit our Medical School Prerequisite page.

Which courses should I take for the English requirement? What if I AP'ed out of Berkeley's Reading & Composition requirement?

Taking two Reading & Composition (R&C) courses is your safest bet- even if you have placed out of them with AP credit. These are our writing-intensive courses at Berkeley and will satisfy the one-year requirement that many medical schools have. If you did not (or choose not to) take any R&C courses, we recommend looking into classes from the following departments: English, Rhetoric, Comparative Literature, and the College Writing Program. If you are unsure about how to fulfill the English requirement for medical school, please contact pre-health advising.

Can I take prerequisite courses at a community college?

Yes, most medical schools accept community college coursework to satisfy prerequisites; however, we highly recommend that you take the vast majority of your required courses here at UC Berkeley (this does not apply to transfer students). Medical schools look for patterns so if you have taken one or two courses at a cc, then that is fine as long as you are doing well at Berkeley. If you consistently take courses at a cc when you could take them here, then you may be considered less competitive during the medical school admissions process. 

I hear that med schools don't like applicants who take a gap year(s)- is that true?

No! The trend, both at Berkeley and nationally, is for applicants to take at least one year off before starting medical school. Students commonly call the year they apply after they have graduated a gap year, but we would prefer it be called the application year. Some students do take a year prior to their application year to take advantage of other opportunities and apply the following year which means there would be two years between graduation from Berkeley and matriculation to medical school. The average age for new medical students is 26. Time only gives you more opportunity to strengthen your application- additional classwork, fit in MCAT, clinical experience, research, job experience, travel, and more! 

Can I take prerequisite courses P/NP?

No! All required courses for medical school need to be taken for a letter grade. Exceptions have been made for the year 2020 and some schools allow P/NP grades for Spring 2021.

I've heard that medical schools prefer biology majors, is that true?

There is absolutely no preference given to biology majors- or disadvantage to those who major in the non-sciences. You need to find the major that fits you best- and that you do the best in! Grades are extremely important for medical school admissions so make sure to find your academic niche.

Can I take required courses in the summer?

Yes! In fact, you may find that your academic schedule lightens up a bit if you incorporate summer school. Most of the lower-division science prerequisites are offered in the summer and a good selection of upper-division courses, as well. Medical schools do not place judgment on whether you took the course(s) in the regular academic year or in summer, so go ahead! 

What pre-med services does UC Berkeley offer that will help me to be a successful medical school applicant?

UC Berkeley has two dedicated Pre-Health Advisors, who provide professional advising to pre-med students. 

We provide supportive guidance and information through 1:1 advising and workshops. In addition, we share valuable information and content through our website, social media and our weekly pre-health listserv. We also routinely bring in admissions representatives from top medical schools and successful alumni to share their unique perspectives. Some common topics we discuss with pre-med students may include: 

  • medical school prerequisite planning
  • finding research and clinical opportunities on and off-campus
  • discussing appropriate timelines to maximize competitiveness
  • information on summer internship opportunities (through summer research/internship campus programs and through Handshake) and medically related volunteer experience
  • guidance in applying to professional school and taking the required exams
  • strategizing about letters of recommendation- how many, who to ask and how to send, among other questions
  • reviewing personal statements
  • interview preparation, including mock interviews and MMI discussion
  • referrals to other university resources and assistance in interpreting university and college policies and requirements

and MORE! 

All premedical students are encouraged to register for the Health & Medicine CareerMail through Handshake so that information can be passed on in a timely manner for different premedical/health programs and job, internship and volunteer opportunities.


Is research required for medical school?

While not a specific requirement, many of our students have some form of research experience before applying to medical school. UC Berkeley, as a top research institution, has many opportunities to get involved. Students also can get involved with off-campus locations, such as UCSF and CHORI (Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute). You can also look for clinical research (UCSF, Highland Hospital, etc) instead of traditional lab research. Lastly, keep in mind that research does not have to be in a science major/department. The OURS department has excellent research information, workshops, and resources. We encourage you to sign up for their newsletter to keep up-to-date on research opportunities. You can also check out the variety of campus offerings here.

How do I find clinical experience?

There are many clinical experiences that a pre-med student can have during their time at Berkeley. From hospital/clinic volunteering to being a health advocate, spending time around medical settings, patients and health professionals can be a great way to expand knowledge and skills. 

How many letters of recommendation do I need?

While schools can vary, we typically recommend that students be prepared to secure 3-5 letters. You should be prepared to secure 2 academic letters from science professors who have taught you in a course. In addition, a small number of medical schools require an academic letter from a non-science professor. Our applicants also request letters from research, clinical experiences, work experience, student activities, etc.

When do I apply to medical school?

You apply to medical school one year before you would like to start. For example, students applying in June/July 2021 will start medical school in late summer/fall 2022. 

The medical school application cycle is different than the one you are used to with college admissions. The application opens in May and the first day to submit is usually the first Tuesday of June. Medical schools use a rolling admissions process- meaning they screen and evaluate applications as they receive them. Therefore, it is imperative to apply EARLY in the cycle- we typically recommend students submit their primary application by mid-June.