The USC Upstate Pre-Medical program is an advisement track within the biology degree program, though some pre-medical students prefer to major in chemistry. Although medical schools do not require a bachelor’s degree, very few students enter medical school without completing one. Students already having a degree and aiming for medical school should concentrate on taking the specific courses that will best prepare them for taking the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).
Medical school admission is on a competitive basis. Important factors considered by admission committees are grade point averages (GPA), MCAT scores, letters of recommendation, service activities and health-related experiences.
Applications to most medical schools (including USC and MUSC) are coordinated through a central service (American Medical College Application Service or AMCAS). Students should complete their applications to medical schools no later than October of the year before they expect to enter medical school. Completion of the application earlier is highly desirable. Early decision programs are available at both USC and MUSC.
The Medical College Admission Test exam tests reading comprehension and analytical skills. The test consists of four parts: verbal, physical science, biology and a writing sample. The first three sections are scored on a 1-15 scale, while the writing sample is given a "letter grade." A student needs to have at least a 27 (out of 45 maximum) on the exam and a GPA of 3.0 in order to be competitive. Recent entering classes at the USC School of Medicine and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) averaged 30 on the MCAT (10 in each of three areas) and a 3.6 GPA.
The MCAT is a standardized exam designed to test the skills and knowledge that medical educators and physicians have identified as key prerequisites for success in medical school and the practice of medicine.
The MCAT exam consists of four sections:
1) Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems,
2) Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems,
3) Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior
4) Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.
The minimum core of courses that are needed before the MCAT is taken is:
Mathematics 126+127 (Precalculus I & II; with Mathematics 141 (Calculus) recommended)
Biology 581 / Chemistry 581 (Biochemistry)
Chemistry 111+112 (General Chemistry)
Chemistry 331+332 (Organic Chemistry)
Physics 201+202 or Physics 211+212
Additional coursework in biology, biochemistry, psychology and sociology are strongly recommended prior to taking the MCAT.
Pre-medical students must start their math and chemistry sequences as soon as possible in order to take the MCAT exam at the appropriate time. Students should have organic chemistry and physics completed by the fall of their junior year, as the MCAT exam should be taken the spring semester of the junior year (preferred) or the fall semester of the senior year.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics has more information on physicians and surgeons.