On the pre-med track? Here’s 8 colleges to consider in the Carolinas

Heidi Finley

High achievers with a natural inclination toward science and helping others may want to consider a career in health care in the Carolinas, but there’s no set undergraduate path for getting there.

A science-based major is not required for medical school admissions. However most schools require coursework that includes biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and English. Biochemistry and statistics are also recommended for success on the MCAT, or Medical College Admissions Test.

The Association of American Medical Collegespre-medical school timeline advises taking steps to prepare for the admissions process the first semester of undergraduate school. Those steps include planning out properly sequenced coursework and seeking opportunities for volunteering, shadowing and research.

With a timeline that tight, it’s essential for students to ensure they’re starting off at the right place. Here’s 8 colleges to consider in the Carolinas for a pre-medicine undergraduate degree:

UNC Chapel Hill

Like most colleges, there’s no specific pre-med track for undergraduates at UNC Chapel Hill. The Offices of Medical Education’s Office of Admissions advises students, “The undergraduate major is the foundation of your intellectual life as an adult. You should major in a subject that stimulates and challenges you. There is no preferred major for admission, nor is an effort made to select science or non-science majors over the other.”

North Carolina students who want to make sure medical school is the right place for them can apply to the UNC Schools of Medicine and Dentistry’s 9-week Medical Education Development summer program. It gives disadvantaged, fourth-year undergraduates a taste of what the first year of medical or dental school will be like. The MED program features coursework such as biochemistry, gross anatomy, histology and microbiology, along with professional development seminars and patient simulations for growth in clinical skills.

Campbell University

Campbell’s most traditional path for students considering a medical degree is its biology pre-med track. Biochemistry and exercise science are also popular for students considering health sciences careers, it says.

The private Christian college in Buies Creek, N.C., also offers undergraduates exposure to its School of Osteopathic Medicine, which is graduating its first class in 2017. Doctors of osteopathy approach treating patients as a whole instead of focusing solely on symptoms.

East Carolina University

East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., offers a degree concentration in pre-health professions, which includes an internship component for juniors and seniors with a GPA of 3.5 or above.

ECU also has a Summer Program for Future Doctors that accepts both pre-med undergraduate students and those who have already been accepted to its Brody School of Medicine for the following fall semester. For undergraduates, the program aims to improve students’ competitiveness as medical school applicants through its demanding academic curriculum, opportunities to develop clinical skills and reasoning, and shadowing relationships.

Lenoir-Rhyne University

Lenior-Rhyne, a private Christian college, offers a pre-medical major designed to cover coursework required for medical school admissions. It notes, however, that most medical school students graduate with degrees in biology or chemistry.

Pre-medical science majors at the Hickory, N.C., college are required to complete an independent research project presented to faculty and peers. Internships with area hospitals and clinics, and work-study opportunities linked to laboratory work and faculty assistance are also encouraged.

University of South Carolina

The pre-med track at USC in Columbia, S.C., includes many science courses, so most students choose to major in a science. But students can major in anything, as long as they complete the coursework required by medical schools. Eileen Korpita, the director of pre-professional advising, said, “We have dance, anthropology, public health and business majors on the pre-med track.”

Pre-med students at USC attend a boot camp the summer before their freshman year, participate in research, perform health care-related community service, observe physicians, travel to other countries for service learning and attend conferences at the USC School of Medicine, Korpita said. USC is also introducing the Galen Health Fellows initiative, a living and learning community with an interprofessional health care focus that brings together pre-med, pre-health, biomedical engineering, nursing, social work, pre-pharmacy students and others.

Anderson University

Anderson recommends that its pre-med students major in biology or biochemistry. Both majors are required to complete a research project, and a venue available for that work is the university’s Center for Cancer Research. The School of Nursing’s human cadaver laboratory provides another avenue for medical school preparation that’s not usually available to undergraduates.

The private Christian college in Anderson, S.C., has paired up with the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Spartanburg, S.C., to offer students a quicker transition into medical school. The university endorses qualifying students for automatic interviews at the school, and Edward Via guarantees acceptance for all Anderson students who pass the interview process.

Francis Marion University

Francis Marion University says its biology degree “provides a very sound foundation for meeting entrance requirements” to medical school. It also recommends that its pre-medical students minor in chemistry.

The new School of Health Sciences at the public college in Florence, S.C., just began operations in 2016. It offers a undergraduate degree in healthcare administration that prepares graduates to lead healthcare organizations and graduate education, among other things. The degree requires a clinical capstone course in which students develop a leadership project for implementation specific to the student’s healthcare interest or allied health discipline.

Clemson University

Clemson suggests its pre-med students consider philosophy as a major, noting that such students often are accepted to medical students at a higher rate than biology majors. Its website says, “a successful Philosophy major is thoroughly trained in a variety of useful skills, including critical thinking, ethical reasoning, intellectual history and both oral and written communication.”

The Office of Heath Professions Advising at the public university in Clemson, S.C., tells students, “It is not enough to excel academically. To be considered for any professional school, you will want to focus on your development as a whole person: academically through coursework, scholastically with honor societies, clubs, and organizations, socially through your community through service, missions, leadership and volunteer work, and professionally through shadowing, work, internship(s), and related field experience.”


Heidi Finley is the editor of Carolina College Bound. Send questions or suggestions to hfinley@charlotteobserver.com