Oberlin College provides students with a strong foundation in the sciences and liberal arts, academic backgrounds that are especially helpful for those pursuing a career in medicine.
Historically, Oberlin graduates have been extremely successful in applying to medical schools. Students who work closely with the premedical program director are even more successful. This is because students are informed about what they need to do, how to best present themselves, and what steps are required during the application process.
Students and alumni are encouraged to contact the premedical program director or one of our medical school contacts for guidance in applying to medical schools, as well as programs in allied health fields.
You also can consider your options for medical school and allied health programs through Career Exploration and Development. Attain information about undergraduate course requirements, programs, the application process, and more.
Browse Career Exploration and Development’s section on Medical Careers.
What classes are the prerequisites for medical school?
1 year of biology with lab, 1 year of physics with lab, 1 year of general (inorganic) chemistry with lab, 1 year of organic chemistry with lab, 1 semester of biochemistry, 1 year of mathematics (including statistics), 1 year of English, and 1 semester of social sciences (e.g. psychology or sociology)
What specific courses does Oberlin use to meet these requirements?
The most common premed sequence includes: CHEM 101 & 102 (or AP credit plus CHEM 103), CHEM 205, CHEM 254, BIOL 100, a second general biology course (e.g. BIOL 200 or BIOL 312), BIOL 213, PHYS 103 & 104 (or PHY 110 & 111), MTH 133, STAT 113 or 114, introductory coursework in psychology, sociology or a related course (e.g. PSYC 100 or SOCI 125), and two courses from a combination of the following disciplines ENGL, CMPL, COMP, CRWR, or RHET. Generally pre-med students find it advantageous to include CHEM 101 in their first semester. It is worth noting that prerequisites do vary by medical school and that other health professions, such as dental schools, veterinary schools, and physical therapy schools have different course requirements. Check in with the Pre-Med Program Director to make sure that you are on track for your application.
Does Oberlin have a premed major?
No. Pre-med students complete a major of their choice as well as the prerequisites listed above. Students can major in any subject that is of interest to them.
Should I be a science major? Won’t that look better to med schools?
Medical schools suggest that you major in an area that you are truly interested in learning about. Many of our premed students are science majors. However, about 1/3 complete non-science majors, including conservatory majors and dual degree students. These students are as successful in gaining acceptance into medical school as our science majors.
I don’t want to be a doctor, I want to be a vet (dentist, chiropractor, pharmacist). How will my program be different?
Most of the prerequisites for these fields are similar to, but not identical to medical school. Some health professions schools may have additional requirements and you may have to complete a few of these in the summer. Talk to the Pre-Med Program Director to find out more about these different graduate programs and how best to prepare for them.
Will Oberlin’s writing requirement meet the English requirement for medical school?
Not universally. Although some schools will accept this, many won’t and instead require courses taught by faculty trained in English language writing and literature. To meet the English pre-requisite most completely, you can take courses in English (ENGL), Comparative Literature (CMPL), Composition (COMP), Creative Writing (CRWR), or Rhetoric (RHET).
I am going to take MTH 131 instead of MTH 133. Will that count as a semester of calculus?
No. MTH 131 and 132 together count as one semester of calculus. You will also need to take an additional math class to complete a full year of math. We recommend statistics for all students, so a semester of statistics plus MTH 131 and 132 will equal one year of math. This course progression meets the highest standard for preparation in mathematics, but there is significant variability in this requirement between medical schools. If you have questions about other options for the prerequisite in mathematics, consult with the Pre-Med Program Director.
I have AP (or IB) credits for calculus (or biology, chemistry, physics, English, other). How does this fit into my premed schedule?
This is a tricky issue. Some medical schools accept AP credits and IB credits if they are listed on your Oberlin transcript. However, many will accept them only if you have advanced coursework in the same area. Most medical schools prefer that 1 year of biology with lab, 1 year of physics with lab, 1 year of general (inorganic) chemistry with lab, 1 year of organic chemistry with lab, 1 semester of biochemistry, 1 year of mathematics, 1 year of English, and 1 semester of social sciences classes to come from your undergraduate or a comparable four-year institution. Having only AP credit for the required courses is risky and could limit your options down the road.
It is also important that you have a very strong foundation in the basic science classes in order to do well on the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) and succeed in medical school. Any skimming or skipping of foundational material can cause you trouble later on in the application process.
AP credits in courses that are not required for medical school can always be used. Consult with the Pre-Med Program Director to figure out how best to use your AP credits.
I want to take some of my premed classes in the summer at my local community college. Is that OK?
This is another tricky issue. In general, medical schools want to see your pre-med prerequisite courses taken at your undergraduate institution in the context of a full time course load.
Discuss your options with the Pre-Med Program Director before signing up for a class. The class needs to be comparable in depth and rigor to one offered at Oberlin and you should limit the number of off- campus prerequisite courses you take. Ideally, you would receive transfer credit for any external course you take on your Oberlin transcript this should be addressed with the department and the Registrar’s Office before you register.
Some medical schools as well as other health professions, often accept community college credits. You should to check with the specific programs you are interested in before registering for a class.
What if things go wrong? What if I have a bad semester or I get low grades in the requirements?
Things can go wrong. It happens for any number of reasons. What you do about it depends on the specific circumstances. Very few students leave Oberlin College with a perfect GPA, so having some Bs on your transcript does not mean you won’t get into medical school. In addition, it is not uncommon for students to struggle in their first two semesters as they adjust to the demands of college classes. For example, if you earn a C in a class, the most important thing is to show an “upward trajectory” and a consistent performance by the time you apply to medical school. Demonstrating perseverance, a capacity for improvement and commitment to your goal is impressive to medical schools.
If your overall GPA is an issue you may need to consider other options, such as enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program designed for pre-med students after you graduate, or developing your own plan for completing additional coursework. You should talk with a premed advisor to think through your particular situation and determine what is best for you.
When do I apply to med school?
You will start the process about 15-18 months before you want to actually matriculate at a medical school. If you want to go directly to medical school after Oberlin, you must begin all this in your junior year. If you want to wait until your senior year, you will have a “gap year” in which you do something else, such as work or volunteer, before you start medical school. Gap years are very common. In fact, nationwide the median age of first year medical students is ~ 24. Many applicants become more competitive as a result of their gap year activities.
The Pre-Medical Program Director offers information sessions for students thinking about applying the following summer (June). The general requirements to apply include:
- Finish the prerequisite courses.
- Prepare for and take the MCAT (typically, successful MCAT prep requires 300-400 hours or more, depending on an applicant’s background and aptitude).
- Fill out the request to schedule an interview with the Oberlin Pre-Med Committee for a committee letter, Oberlin’s process of endorsement for medical school applicants.
- Get individual letters of recommendation (these would often be 4-6 letters from science faculty, faculty outside the sciences, research supervisors, volunteering supervisors and a physician with whom you have shadowed).
Does Oberlin offer an MCAT prep class?
No. Commercial companies such as Princeton Review, Kaplan and ExamKrackers often offer classes on campus or online, but we do not coordinate with them. Currently such preparation products cost ~ $2000. While the structured review and preparation materials offered by these courses is of value, students might want to begin their preparation with the free and low cost materials available from the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) and Khan Academy. The cost of preparing for the MCAT and medical school applications can be further reduced for low income individuals by applying for the AAMC’s Fee Assistance Program. If you do decide to take a commercial preparation course, be sure to plan to spend 300-400 hours on the material and check your progress using official AAMC practice tests.
Do most Oberlin applicants get into medical school?
Yes, the majority of Oberlin applicants are accepted into medical school each year. The national average for accepted applicants is around 42% while that for Oberlin students is about 70%.
How do I know if I am a qualified applicant?
As a general guideline, you are a strong candidate if your Oberlin GPA is above a 3.5, your MCAT score is over 511 and you have relevant experiences. However, it is important to note that not all Oberlin students who are accepted to medical school have such high GPAs and MCAT scores. (On the other hand, others have higher GPAs and MCAT scores, but do not get into medical school.)
It is very important to remember that in addition to grades and test scores, you need substantial volunteer and research experience, as well as excellent writing and interviewing skills. MD/PhD applicants should have multiple semesters and summers of research experience. In all cases, you need to articulate why you want to be a doctor.
You should to be able to draw on personal experiences to demonstrate to admissions committees that you are knowledgeable about the medical field and truly want to be a physician.
Oberlin students are attractive applicants because of their strong science preparation and broad liberal arts background. Oberlin students also tend to engage in multiple extracurricular activities and get involved in community service (remember that medicine is a service profession). Medical schools appreciate students who have interests beyond the science classroom and a commitment to serving others.
I have more questions. What should I do?
Schedule an appointment with the Pre-Medical/Health Program Director:
Maureen Peters, PhD
Pre-Medical/Health Program Director
Science Center, K210
The Career Development Center can assist pre-health students with CV or résumé preparation, personal statement development, interview tips and practice, internships and gap year options. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maureen Peters is the premedical/health program director for Oberlin College.
Oberlin alumni may contact Prof. Peters via email to discuss any aspect of applying to medical school and or allied health programs.
Maureen Peters, PhD
Pre-Medical/Health Program Director
Science Center, K210
119 Woodland St.
Oberlin, OH 44074
Faculty Advisors/Health Careers Committee
Students on campus may also meet with the faculty advisors who serve on the pre-medical/health advising committee. The persons serving on this committee for academic year 20-21 will be announced shortly.