The absolute minimum of required science courses for nearly all medical, dental, and veterinary schools is:
Biology (8 credits) Biology 111, 113, 220, 221
General Chemistry (8 credits) Chemistry 111, 112
Organic Chemistry (8 credits) Chemistry 241 or 241S, 242
Physics (8 credits) Physics 111/111A & 113, 112 & 114
With this bare minimum, it is possible to major in any department in the university while including required science courses. Individual professional schools may have additional requirements in the sciences, and many of the schools retain math (6 credits), English (6 credits), social sciences, and/or humanities courses in their list of specific requirements - particularly English.
Most professional schools proclaim an interest in a well-rounded education, yet in the long run it is the performance in science courses that seems to weigh most strongly in admissions decisions. Additionally, many prospective health career students are interested in science and elect more than the minimum required courses. Data compiled by the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that more than half of the successful applicants to medical schools have undergraduate science majors; and although majors in nearly all fields have gained admission, all must have had strong records in their science courses.
Since many likely candidates fail to gain acceptance to professional schools, a strong major field provides a maximum of career opportunities for employment and graduate work. Often a career in an alternate health-related profession may arise from such a major. Such a major is often in a field of science, but because of Washington and Lee's dedication to the liberal arts philosophy, graduation requirements assure that all students include a breadth of courses (from general education requirements and electives) leading to a well-rounded education, regardless of major. In most cases it is possible to complete a major in the traditional four years of undergraduate study provided the first course in the department of the major is taken no later than fall of the sophomore year.
The science courses required for medical, dental and veterinary school admission are also those required for minimum preparation for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test), DAT (Dental Admission Testing Program), and the GRE (Graduate Record Examination, for veterinary medical school admission). The MCAT is normally taken in April of the junior year, so it is important to schedule these courses prior to this time. The DAT is now taken on computer and should be taken before August 1 of the year that you apply to dental school. The GRE should be taken in August prior to the senior year.
The present MCAT format emphasizes problem solving and reading comprehension. Many who have taken the test suggest that courses beyond the minimum required for admission can be very useful in preparing for the MCAT. In particular, ONE of the following three courses should be taken prior to the first attempt at the MCAT:
Chemistry 341 Biochemistry (fall)
Biology 215 Biochemistry of the Cell (winter)
Biology 310 Microbiology (winter)
The sequence in which these courses are taken is strongly dependent upon choice of major. All majors should be planned by careful consultation with an advisor from that field and a health professions advisor.
Regardless of major, some of the courses required for medical school admission are electives or cognate courses rather than specific degree requirements. This means that they may be taken in summer school and the credits transferred to Washington and Lee for degree credit. The wisdom of doing this is a matter of some debate. Some medical school admissions officers have indicated that students presenting summer school credit for a required course will be asked to justify why they took it away from their home institution. Some students have reported being asked about summer school credits during medical school interviews. Different medical schools treat this issue differently. It would seem wise, if there is a need to do summer school work, not to take required courses: if this becomes a necessity, one should choose a strong institution.