Most aspiring applicants to med school will already know; a competitive application involves completing a lot of challenging prerequisite courses. Fitting these in, between busy extracurricular activities, jobs, studies, and everything else, can be seriously tough. But what about taking those classes in the summer break?
Do medical schools actually accept summer courses?
Yes. Medical schools accept summer courses and prerequisites completed outside of your normal study schedule. As long as you complete them within enough time of both applying to med school and taking the MCAT, it shouldn’t be an issue.
But there are some complexities. So hopefully this article will help answer the question more completely.
Here’s what else we’ll cover:
- What med schools think of summer (and winter) classes
- If they hurt your application
- What premed classes you might want to take during summer
- If med schools accept hybrid courses
As a med student who’s gone through the whole process myself, I know how reassuring it can be to answer questions such as this.
Ready to learn more? Let’s go.
What do medical schools think of summer classes?
Contrary to what many med school applicants think and say online, most medical schools don’t think negatively of summer classes. As long as you fit the criteria listed by each individual school, it shouldn’t impact your chances.
This also applies to classes taken at community college classes too, which many students wrongly assume makes them less competitive.
The only real complexities about taking summer classes come in terms of timing. The MCAT (a prerequisite entrance exam of most U.S. med schools), is the biggest obstacle here. Especially when it comes to deciding when to take it.
Based on my research, here are the main points you need to consider when thinking about taking summer classes to fulfil med school prereqs:
- When do you plan on taking the MCAT?
- Will taking a summer class still ensure you keep your GPA high?
- Will summer classes interfere with important extracurriculars?
This first point about taking the MCAT is critical. Planning to do it in the summer between undergrad years could tempt you into enlisting in a heavy summer course load to ensure you cover all the exam’s content. You need to allow plenty of time to study for the MCAT independently of any courses.
Another thing to consider is the distractions of summer. Being sat in class, especially while all your friends are out having fun, might not put you in the best (or most motivated) of moods.
Then there’s the added factor that many important extracurriculars (think volunteering, shadowing, etc.) ramp up in the summer. Taking classes then could weaken the strength of your extracurriculars later.
Don’t feel you need to take summer classes in order to rush an application. It’s much better to take your time to make your application as competitive as possible, rather than attempting to tick all the boxes as quickly as you can.
But also don’t be fooled into thinking that taking summer classes will look bad.
So long as you take the right classes and come out with top grades, it won’t have a negative impact.
What do medical schools think about winter classes?
Of course, it’s not just summertime when you can take extra classes. Vacation time in winter can also be a good spot to take the extra classes you need.
Med schools view classes taken in the winter just the same as they do those in summer. As long as you come out with top grades that help increase your overall GPA, it’s no issue.
In some ways, taking classes in winter might be a lot more appealing than taking them in summer.
There may be less distraction and less interference with other things in your life that can add important weight to your application.
You’ll also be sacrificing a lot of your summertime if you make it to med school too…
Can you take premed classes over the summer?
You can 100% take premed classes over the summer. So long as you find an institution that offers accreditation (and not just a meaningless certificate) for completion of a course, then you’re good.
But you might also have to pay extra for this. Especially if your own undergrad school (or local community college) doesn’t have a particular premed class available.
There’s also the matter of prestige too.
Applicants completing premed classes at reputable colleges can possibly look more competitive than an applicant picking up that premed class from a lower-tier school. But because many factors tie into how attractive an applicant can look on paper, it’s by no means a dead cert.
The main premed classes most schools ask for include:
- Biology – 2 semesters with lab
- Physics – 2 semesters with lab
- General chemistry – 2 semesters with lab
- Organic chemistry – 2 semesters with lab
- Biochemistry – 1 semester
- English – 2 semesters
- Math – 2 semesters
But make sure you check the exacts of the schools you’re interested in applying to also.
What are the best classes to take in summer?
Because courses will be more compressed or crammed into a shorter time, one drawback of taking a summer class is that can be harder to score higher grades.
You simply have more time to study and master the content of a course that’s completed in the time frame of a normal college semester.
Based on that then, here’s my general advice:
- Take any easier outstanding classes
- Take classes you feel you can do well in (factoring in the shorter time)
- Be honest with your own strengths and weaknesses
The reason there’s no definitive answer here (or name of an exact subject), is especially because of this last point.
One student may have a better affinity for biology because they read/watch things about the subject year-round due to their own interests. For another that could be more true of English or math.
The real answer is it depends.
Do medical schools accept hybrid courses?
Hybrid courses are usually those that can be part online and part in-person (or completely online).
Either way, med schools will only accept those that offer full college-level accreditation.
Thanks to what’s happened during the pandemic, and many top-tier schools going fully online, there are many courses that fit this bill.
Although they usually cost more, you can enroll with many of them from anywhere.
Some even have labs!
Is it a good idea to take physics over the summer as a pre-med?
Physics is commonly considered one of the hardest of all medical school prereqs.
Due to my own personal experiences with the subject (namely; struggles), I wouldn’t advise doing it over a summer unless you have some experience with it already and have a fairly high level of confidence that you can do well.
But for some students, especially those who aren’t on pre-med tracks at college or studying for a degree that falls outside of STEM, I appreciate it can be the only time.
If you’re in this camp I strongly suggest you find a summer physics class with great reviews, reputable teachers, and plenty of additional resources to help you succeed.
Although it’s not huge on the MCAT, you need to still do well in it to get as strong as possible GPA.
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.