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Difficulty of Major - Fact or Fiction

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by AggieSean, Apr 12, 2007.

  1. AggieSean

    AggieSean Coffee is for closers 5+ Year Member

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    Okay, so a question that's been burning in my shriveled up little heart lately has been:

    Do ADCOM's REALLY not take into account the difficulty of your degree?

    Let me rephrase it:

    Does an ADCOM view a philosophy major with a 3.7 and 32 MCAT the same as a math or physics major with a 3.7 and a 32?

    I just have a hard time buying this idea that difficulty of major doesn't matter. I think it's just politically correct non-sense.

    Thoughts? Opinions? Any AD-commies like to comment?
     
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  3. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    Adcoms don't generally care what you major in, just how you did. So do what you are interested in, not what you think they want to see (you will always be wrong in your assumptions anyhow). Don't expect much of a break because your major is a bear. Adcoms certainly don't research what majors are hard at what schools. The only break I've heard of is that engineers can get away with a slightly lower GPAs, but even then, not a whole lot. In either case, your MCAT is an equalizer and so if you got the same score in both cases, the major is moot. Both examples you describe above are going to be perceived as having good numerical stats, and so the nonnumerical portions of the application will make the difference between them.
     
  4. AggieSean

    AggieSean Coffee is for closers 5+ Year Member

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    Yeah, no doubting that med. schools won't know about the difficulty of majors at various schools. But you just would be inclined to think that Chemical Engineering will present more of a technical challenge than Sociology. I'm not knocking or endorsing either field, and there is certainly no excuse for poor grades. After all, I didn't have to chose the major I did (physics is mine), yet it seems like you could catch a bit of a break if your major is as you said, a bear.
     
  5. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    I told you I didn't think it was the case, and that the dude with the higher GPA in sociology will be in better shape, "easier" major notwithstanding. These days, nonsci majors do extremely well in admissions.

    Not sure why you asked the question if you already have your own conclusion.
     
  6. AggieSean

    AggieSean Coffee is for closers 5+ Year Member

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    because I'm curious what other people think. and i'm not totally decided. i have my premises, but ultimately, I don't know.
     
  7. GreenShirt

    GreenShirt 10+ Year Member

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    I think if you major non-science and tank in all your science prereqs, then the school will be concerned that you're hiding your poor science skills. However, if you did well in the "weed-out" classes and got a good MCAT score, then the school won't care what your major is. You might get questions in the interview along the lines of "Why did you choose .... for your major?", which leads to interesting conversation.
     
  8. brianmartin

    brianmartin 10+ Year Member

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    non-science majors don't do any "better" than anyone else, people commonly misunderstand this, I'm not sure why.

    If 200 biology majors and 10 social science majors apply to a medical school, then 100 bio and 5 poli-sci majors will get accepted. In each case, roughly 50% get accepted, no matter what your major, all else being equal. For some reason people think that because there are fewer non-science majors applying, they have a better chance of getting in. It's not true!

    As a poli-sci major, I have good grades in all my classes, including the hard sciences. Therefore you might think that since I have proved competence in several areas, I would have an advantage. Yet according to admission stats, there is no advantage to be found.

    If anything, I am at a disadvantage because I haven't taken biochemistry, microbiology, cell biology, and all those great upper division courses that help you prepare for 1st year of med school.
     
  9. omegaxx

    omegaxx New Member 5+ Year Member

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    There's also a preselection bias. A biology major might go for medicine "just because" he/she has all the prereqs and it doesn't hurt to try. A non-science major needs to jump through all the prereq hoops and is hence not likely to go for med unless he/she is absolutely confident he/she has a decent shot in the process.
     
  10. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    I didn't say better, I said extremely well. Some decades ago, only bio/biochem majors did well getting into med school, and nonsci majors didn't get in. These days any major can get in. The percentage of the class that is a nonsci major has increased gradually over the last few decades and the percentage of bio/biochem majors has declined by the same. So yes, I would say the trend is a good one for nonsci majors.
     
  11. brianmartin

    brianmartin 10+ Year Member

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    Yet still, half of the qualified applicants from each major eventually get accepted. Let me tell you, as a non-science major I do not feel "absolutely confident" of getting in. However you are right in that I did not "fall into" the pre-med track as some biology majors likely do. I was able to make the choice only after racking up some A's in pre-reqs.

    As for the OP's question though, sometimes I wonder if my good grades in political science classes "count less." Although these types of classes are not generally as "intense" as hard sciences, they are challenging in their own way. From experience I can tell you it is *not* easy to produce well-written, coherent 10-20 page papers.
     
  12. LolaGene

    LolaGene 7+ Year Member

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    Do what youre interested in. But I will say that the caveat of not choosing a science major is that it does place you in a bit of a disadvantage on the science portions of the MCAT (I say this because I feel my bio major helped in the bio section and the intro course wouldnt have been enough). I solved the problem by double majoring in philosophy and biology and I would HIGHLY recommend it:thumbup:
     
  13. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    If you took and did well in all the prereqs, and your schools prereqs were solid (i.e. they covered a certain amount of physio and genetics in the intro bio course) you are not disadvantaged on the MCAT. I was a nonsci major and saw nothing on the MCAT that was not covered in my prereq courses.
     
  14. Eric Lindros

    Eric Lindros Guest

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    Order of Importance

    MCAT>>GPA>>>Luck>>>>>>>>>>>EC's>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>What you Majored In>Where you went to school
     
  15. Dookter

    Dookter Senior Member 5+ Year Member

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    I sort of agree with this. Sure, what you majored in might make a difference, but it is probably very small in the scheme of things. And it probably only matters is extreme comparisons [ie a guy I knew in undergrad who got a bach AND masters in nuclear engineering while having like 2 minors in 4 years vs. someone taking the minimum # of hours in leisure studies].

    Regarding the above scenario, I think where you went to school is FAR more important than what you majored in, so I would probably switch the order of those two if I was setting the order.
     
  16. midn

    midn 10+ Year Member

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    No friggin way, GPA is far more important than the MCAT. You must meet a certain threshold score for the MCAT, yes, but GPA is what shows consistency in effort.
     
  17. Dookter

    Dookter Senior Member 5+ Year Member

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    The only thing that would make me disagree is that it is supposed to be the equalizer. Since we're on the topics of majors, the kid majoring in turfgrass management at StateU and the kid majoring in physics at MIT both have to take the MCAT. It may be a one-shot deal, and standardized tests aren't perfect, but it is an objective way to judge one applicant against another.... So in that respect, I think the MCAT is pretty important.
     
  18. Funky

    Funky This space is for sale 10+ Year Member

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    again we have the age old debate of gpa vs mcat
     
  19. gotmeds?

    gotmeds? 5+ Year Member

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    Hey, douchebag, I majored in Philosphy. Didn't seem to hurt my application one bit.
     
  20. Anastasis

    Anastasis caffeinated for safety Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    I'm a liberal arts major (even from your ugrad) and I never had my major brought up in a negative light.

    In all honesty, I think my lack of research hurt me more than my choice of major.
     
  21. Flopotomist

    Flopotomist I love the Chicago USPS 7+ Year Member

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    I resent the implication that math or certain science majors are somehow much harder than Philosophy. Frankly, if a bio major with a 3.7 and 32 MCAT and a Philosophy major with the same numbers was applying, I think the Phil major guy would be more impressive because he got the SAME MCAT score as somebody that MAJORED in science.
     
  22. BigRedPremed

    BigRedPremed Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    Acceptance rates are approximately the same across majors. Major in whatever you want. Just don't whine if your GPA ends up being a lot lower because you chose engineering or whatever.
     
  23. BigRedPremed

    BigRedPremed Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    I wouldn't. The MCAT science sections test only what is taught in the intro sciences. I would expect humanities majors to perform just as well as science majors on those sections. Furthermore, humanities majors have a lot more experience analyzing writing so I would expect them to perform better on the verbal section. I think it's more impressive if the bio major somehow managed to outperform the humanities major.
     
  24. diosa428

    diosa428 SDN Angel 5+ Year Member

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    Yeah, but if you take upper level science courses, it just re-emphasizes the same concepts over and over again, so you have more retention of the knowledge. I would personally be more impressed with the humanities majors b/c I think it's a harder schedule to juggle - most premed courses overlap with science majors to at least a small extent, and with many, they overlap to a great extent. Humanities majors basically spend all of the time they would be using to explore other subjects/electives to take science courses with labs. They don't really have room for the "fluff" that everyone else can fit into their schedule.
     
  25. Kfire326

    Kfire326 7+ Year Member

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    An ADCOM member at the med school of my university told me that (hypothetically) a X gpa in a biochemistry major is valued more than the same gpa in theatre (those are the two examples he used). That's probably where extracurriculars come in...
     
  26. BigRedPremed

    BigRedPremed Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    Premed consists of four basic courses: bio, gen chem, physics, and orgo. Considering the fact that you will have taken over 30 courses by the time you graduate, I don't think it's too much of a big deal that humanities major requirements don't overlap with the premed prereqs like science majors do.

    The most important skill you can have for the MCAT is reading comprehension. This applies to the science sections as well since they are passage-based. That is where humanities majors have the advantage. That's why I'd be more impressed with a science major who has a 3.7 and a 32 than a humanities major with a 3.7 and a 32.
     
  27. Eric Lindros

    Eric Lindros Guest

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    Says who?
     
  28. lsumedgirl

    lsumedgirl Livin' the dream! 2+ Year Member

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    Good point. Way to stick up for us non-trads!
     
  29. mahasanti

    mahasanti 7+ Year Member

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    Doesn't the MSAR have the data showing the percentage of people from each major that get accepted. I don't have mine handy, but if anyone does, that might be interesting.

    My own two cents is that your major probably doesn't matter much. The adcoms want to see that you can handle the sciences, though. And I wouldn't bash philosophy majors--they are some of the smartest people in the university! If you are going to bash a major, pick elementray education or something.
     
  30. munnabhai

    munnabhai Junior Member 2+ Year Member

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    Hey! If my memory serves me right, Vince Young was majoring in K-4 education. So DONT H8!

    jk

    as to the discussion at hand, everyone has their strengths. My niche does not lie in liberal arts - I find some areas of science to be much more intellectually stimulating. However I have noticed that generally, everyone has to work pretty hard in science courses while some people manage to cruise through the arts. Finally I think lib arts has gotten a bad rap because everyone has to take some lib arts courses (govt, english, social science) thus those classes are quite elementary. Some people only take those classes and declare that lib arts is worthless and a piece of cake. I'd say that a difficult liberal arts course can be as challenging as some science courses. Its best to take a little bit of both... its very satisfying.
     
  31. ggman

    ggman 2+ Year Member

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    I don't agree with this. If you just take intro physics, for example, you will have seen all the material on the MCAT at some point during the class, but if you are a physics major you will know that stuff like it's the back of your hand because you use that knowledge all the time in upper level courses. So not being a science major does put you at a disadvantage because you have to put in more time to know the material well enough in order to perform quickly and accurately on the MCAT.

    You forgot to mention recommendations. My lab PI is on the admissions committee of a top 5 school and he said that recommendations are VERY important, because it allows them to see what other faculty think of you.

    Finally, to the OP, i know for a fact that at least one top 5 med school takes into account the difficulty of your major by adjusting your GPA (for example they might multiply it by 1.10 if it is a difficult major or 0.90 if it is an easy major). The way it works at this particular school is that the adcom is divided into 5 different sub-committees geographically. Each committee knows fairly well how difficult certain majors are at certain schools because they only work with schools from that area and as a result they weigh the GPA's accordingly.

    All this being said, I don't think that you should choose your major based on whether med schools will perceive if it as difficult or not. My advice is to major in whatever it is that you are interested in and make sure you do well in your major classes, as well as pre-med classes.
     
  32. Eric Lindros

    Eric Lindros Guest

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    Reall good point. In fact, I was told at several interviews that LOR played a huge part in my application. Agree 100% (I can't believe I missed that!)

    My revised ranking

    MCAT>>GPA>>>>Luck>>>>>LOR>>>>>EC's + Personal Statement>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>What you Majored In>Where you went to school
     
  33. TheGreatHunt

    TheGreatHunt High Performance 7+ Year Member

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    I know my Chemistry, at my school, is a top 10 program in the country, and that my Biology major is much easier. There ARE differences in strength of your program, and to say that a general biology major is equivalent to a chemistry major is... well, naive. If you don't believe me, look at the jobs you can get as a chemistry major, and the ones you can get as a bio major.

    Now Physics... those guys are hardcore too, lol.

    I will say that I've never gotten anything less than an A outside of my majors(Except Calc II, with a C, YIKES!)

    I'm not going to judge other majors though(Except the ones I'm taking)

    So: Chemistry>>>>>>>Biology
     
  34. midn

    midn 10+ Year Member

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    I'm not going to resurrect the GPA vs. MCAT debate since it has been discussed ad nauseum.

    Your major does not matter. In fact, Harvard likes it if you have a good balance between science/humanities and they even require you to have a certain amount of hours in the humanities.

    If you have a good GPA in a major that might be considered easy, you can show your strength in science by doing well on the MCAT to show that you have a capacity to learn.

    Lastly, I would be careful in trusting anything that is said on SDN unless it is from a really senior member (mods, advisers, etc.). I would be wary in even taking my advice since I'm just a pre-med like 99% of the rest of the people here and although the advice I offer you is what I genuinely believe, it may not reflect any bit of truth in the selection process. People might advise in a way that may support their circumstance. For example, I have an excellent GPA and I know the rigors of maintaining it because I've done it for the past four years so I am more inclined to believe that my GPA has more weight than an MCAT score. On the other hand, a person who has a decent GPA may have studied extremely hard for their MCAT and may come to believe that their MCAT score must be more important because of the disparity in effort required.

    SDN will make you neurotic. Pre-meds are a cesspool of stress.
     
  35. whoisthedrizzle

    whoisthedrizzle 2+ Year Member

    I'm a little biased but this isn't entirely true

    BME's get accepted at around 65%, as opposed to most other majors at 50%
     
  36. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

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    I will endorse the notion that engineering majors sometimes get a little mercy shown them. Some schools that have grade inflation in some majors, are known for lack of grade inflation in engineering. So, an adcom member may see a 3.45 in engineering a whole lot different than a 3.45 in biology or sociology or philosophy from the same top-tier school.
     
  37. bluesTank

    bluesTank Zombie 5+ Year Member

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    I completely agree that major should be taken into account to some degree (though I am not on the admissions boards so what does my opinion matter :rolleyes:).

    Anyways, heres the way I see it. I am a chemistry major, with a near 4.0 in sciences, and a 3.9 including some dumb anthropology class I got a C in freshman year. I am also getting a biochem minor... I must say that to keep that 4.0, I have had to work my ass off beyond belief. This means much less time for EC's, volunteer work, studying for the MCAT etc. Somehow (I have no life outside of gf and school) I have been able to pull out some neat EC's and all that, but I have to time manage to the extreme, and it is very difficult with upper level classes like physical chem, inorganic chem, as well as 2-3 labs a semester. Some friends that are non-trad premeds are somehow officers in multiple clubs, are on EMS and whatever else, WITH a 4.0, that is just not possible with a difficult major, it just is not (unless you came in with 40 hr's and only take 12 or less hr's a semester).

    To think that adcom's will not take that into account is pretty naive as someone already said. But again, thats just my opinion.

    Also, I don't mean to bash on the liberal arts majors etc...

     
  38. AggieSean

    AggieSean Coffee is for closers 5+ Year Member

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    Hey, gotmeds. READ my posts before you get so defensive. I said I wasn't bashing or endorsing any major, I was just curious. That being said, I'm sorry, but don't give me this nonsense that every major is equally challenging. They aren't! I just don't buy it. MY question is whether ADCOMS really don't take this into account, as is the popular view. Relax bro, I'm not hating on anyone.

    I am NOT saying that I think people who don't major in science are morons. That isn't what I'm saying at all. READ my posts.
     
  39. CTtarheel

    CTtarheel Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    I think you get props not so much for your major but for the classes you took. Doing well in hard core science classes (some interviewers made comments about me taking 2 semesters of p-chem for example) definitely demonstrates you can handle the workload of difficult classes and that you aren't afraid to challenge yourself. You can do this in ANY major though by taking classes that are known to be difficult and especially by going on to take graduate level classes in the subjects that interest you.
     
  40. Felzor

    Felzor 7+ Year Member

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    This debate is moot. What we all have to realize is that there is no rubric for measuring difficulty, period. One person's free-ride is another person's death wish. I would love to see the OP get As on the 10-15 page papers I have to write several times each semester. Unless you're very talented at this stuff, it's not easy, and many liberal arts classes curve the same way science classes do. They don't just give out As to everyone who enrolls. Similarly, I have to work extra hard (and in some cases get tutors) to perform in the hard sciences, because I recognize that's not my talent.

    This idea that the engineer works harder than me is quite interesting. Perhaps he spends more TIME--I don't know--in which case, yes, he does work harder? But you still need to be top 20% in your class/seminar to write an excellent liberal arts paper. One of my friends realized what a difficult time he had in his social science courses and he decided to take all science courses, and he's doing much better grade-wise. You can't blame him.

    Finally, as has been said, we have to recognize that each major is different, even within the liberal arts. I might be skilled with international relations theories but putting together philosophical arguments is a challenge for me. Furthermore, every school's program is different. Hell, every CLASS is different. This goes back to the point that there simply is no standard to be found, and that's the end of it.

    That's why I would be surprised if the adcoms favored one major over another--by what rule of thumb would they decide?
     
  41. Felzor

    Felzor 7+ Year Member

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    Just to continue, I think one of the dilemmas we must address is this issue of what the medical schools are exactly looking for.

    -Are they looking for the hardest workers who spend (almost) every waking moment in the library? In that case an engineer would be preferred.
    -Are they looking for people who are talented at what they do? In that case the major wouldn't matter as long as there are plenty of As and perhaps awards or recognition.
    -Are they looking for well-rounded students who challenge themselves in different subjects? In such a circumstance, a student with a variety of undergraduate courses would be preferred.
     
  42. Kraazy

    Kraazy 7+ Year Member

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    MDApps:
    Re: difficulty of majors. All majors have classes that span the range in difficulty, but the minimum amount of work required to do OK will vary. There is no denying that the minimum amount of work one would have to put in to pass as a physics major is more than the minimum amount of work required to pass as a spanish major. And math/engineering/comp sci pretty much dominate the field in terms of minimum effort required, in my opinion.

    That being said, the minimum is just the minimum. There are easy science classes and hard humanities and people who want to do well and distinguish themselves in either will have to work hard. As to whether bio majors or humanities majors have it easier, all of us have to take classes in fields outside of our specialty, so I think the point is moot.
     
  43. Anastasis

    Anastasis caffeinated for safety Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    I think this debate is always entertaining. Like I've noted before, when I was doing my first undergrad I had to work my butt off to keep only a mediocre GPA in my English classes.

    Since I came back to school and have only been taking science classes, I've had a much higher GPA (only 1 B in 3 semesters) and honestly I've had to work about 1/2 as hard in those science classes as I ever did in my English classes. (Sorry - but just from the amount of work involved, for me, I put much less time into studying for an organic final than I did writing my English term papers and do better on the organic)

    So, as was said above, there is no absolute measure of difficulty. Not to mention difficulty varies with the individual.

    (But I will say this: I roomed with an mech engr major all throughout ugrad and I've never had to work as much for school as she did constantly. Lizzy said they get a slight bump and I think they deserve every bit of it.)
     
  44. diosa428

    diosa428 SDN Angel 5+ Year Member

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    I agree that I found humanities courses to be more difficult than science courses. I think part of the reason is that they are often so subjective. In undergrad science courses, there is usually a "right" answer and a "wrong" answer. Not necessarily true with humanities. Also, your prof for one class might love your writing style, but your prof for another class might hate it.
     
  45. rich4k

    rich4k Member 2+ Year Member

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    Isn't this the reason for calculating the BCPM?

     
  46. BigRedPremed

    BigRedPremed Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    While there may be more subjectivity involved in humanities courses, I've found them to be much easier than science courses. I've taken a ton of humanities courses (3 history courses, 3 English courses, psych, sociology, Asian American Studies, anthropology, Spanish etc.) and despite my effort being extremely shoddy in some of them, have not gotten below an A in any of them. Even though I put in 2X the amount of effort and time into my science courses, every single low grade (from A- on down) has been in a bio or chem class.
     
  47. diosa428

    diosa428 SDN Angel 5+ Year Member

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    Hey, good for you! We were all dying to know your grades :rolleyes: In med school, your courses will be considerably harder than your undergrad science courses, so gl with that.
     
  48. BigRedPremed

    BigRedPremed Senior Member 7+ Year Member

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    And good luck to you too ;)
     
  49. blargh

    blargh Banned Banned

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    my take on this issue is:
    med schools say they don't care about your major. some schools offer really cool sounding majors like "human biology and physiological blah blah blah" whereas other schools only have boring ones like "general biology." they still look at your courses and the school's name. for example, if you're a bioengineering major at johns hopkins, i think they know that's one of the toughest majors at a tough school. also, if you're taking a bunch of classes like "how to watch a movie" or something like that, it's pretty obvious it's nowhere near a linear circuits lab.
     
  50. futuredoctor10

    futuredoctor10 10+ Year Member

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    does Baylor only/primarly accept instate applicants/
     
  51. Anastasis

    Anastasis caffeinated for safety Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

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    70 % of the class will be from Texas.
     

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