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Do I Need a College Degree to Apply to Medical School?

Short answer: Yes. All US medical schools (MD and DO) require an undergraduate degree of some kind, whether that degree program included the pre-requisite coursework needed to apply to medical school.

For the vast majority of traditional medical school applicants coming out of pre-medical undergraduate programs, this isn’t even a question. But we veterans are a whole different story. Many join the military right out of high school and never get the chance to start or finish college on the “normal” timeline. Even though a lot of us take advantage of education benefits, get college coursework done, and pursue advanced certifications, an actual college diploma may not have happened yet.

So what’s a non-degree-holder to do?

First off, you can and should get an undergraduate degree! To make the process as efficient and pain-free as possible, you can figure out how to best leverage any existing coursework you do have to count toward that degree. These may be classes you took in person or online from an accredited institution. Bonus points if you happen to have taken any of the commonly required basic science and lab courses for medical school application. If you took any AP or IB courses in high school, those may also count toward college credit, too. This is when education counselors on post or at an accredited local college or community college can be really helpful.

Ideally, you can complete any remaining prerequisites while also completing your college degree and studying up for the MCAT. However, do remember that your degree doesn’t have to be in a particular field—you just need to have one. Don’t sweat it if you don’t have enough of the right courses for a degree in a scientific field. You can have a degree in literally anything to get into med school as long as you have completed courses in biology, physics, basic chemistry, organic chemistry, and English.

One tip is to see if the institution where you’re working to complete your degree has a pre-medical program. Even if your degree won’t be in pre-medicine or biological science, the advisors may be more than willing to help you out with the actual med school application process, picking out relevant science courses, and prepping for the MCAT.

One final—and possibly controversial–option if you don’t have a college degree is to look into a foreign medical schoolSome foreign medical schools, like those in the Caribbean or in Europe, may not require you to have actually graduated with a college diploma as long as you have taken the necessary scientific courses and the MCAT. Like US medical schools, though, they each have their own admission requirements, so definitely check individual programs to see what they require for application. I’m going to cover foreign options in a future post, but know that they’re a viable option for some. I’ve met several European and Caribbean grads on the residency interview trail and it is entirely possible to attend residency and practice medicine in the US with a foreign degree—just know that they come with a lot of unique difficulties and challenges and may not always be the best option.

Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay

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