One of the most common questions we get from new students is regarding choosing a major. The University of Michigan has a huge selection, and while we couldn’t possibly cover each one, we reached out to peer advisors and guest bloggers to help review some of the most popular majors for pre-meds here. Some of the questions we tried to answer include: when and why students choose each major, favorite classes in the majors, and a few possible disadvantages to choosing each major. Similarly, we have also covered some of the minors that students may choose to elect.

 

For more information on all of our university’s majors, visit this link. Above all, we would like to emphasize that there is no “best” or “correct” major for every pre-med or pre-health student. You should study any subject that you are passionate about! Additionally, there is no rush to choose a major as soon as you start college—most of us waited until our sophomore or junior year until we declared majors or minors. As always, for help making an individualized decision or four-year course plan, drop into our peer advising hours.

 

  • Chemistry

    • Biomolecular Science (BMS)

      • Pooja: I declared fall of my sophomore year. I chose this major because it provided a lot of flexibility with courses and allowed us to add minors and majors without overloading on courses and credits. My favorite class in the major has actually been a foreign course. I was able to travel with the UM Chemistry department to China for one month and take courses in the Zhiyuan College of Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU): “Biology for Chemists and Biophysical Measurements” taught by Professor James Penner-Hahn and “Bio-Organic and Chem-Biology” taught by Professors Brian Coppola and Jean-Paul Desaulniers. This was a great experience because I only had to pay for my room and flight, not tuition, and received 4 credits, equivalent to one full elective course, for my one month of coursework. Drop into my advising hours for more information on applying! Additionally, I was able to take an ARC (authentic research connection) version of CHEM 125/126 so I got to learn a lot about Arctic and Snow Chemistry in a small course setting with a ton of instruction instead of taking the regular lab with 1000+ students.
      • Brooke: I declared BMS fall of my sophomore year. I chose this major because I really enjoyed Orgo 1 and Orgo 2, which I took my Freshman year, and I realized I wanted to take more chemistry based classes. I am also majoring in BCN as well, and I did not want to just take psychology courses the rest of my college career. Additionally, I realized that the major covers most of the required pre-med courses  that you need to take, so I basically thought if i have to take these classes anyway, I should just major in BMS too. My favorite class in this major thus far has been CHEM 420, which is considered ORGO 3. The class was really laid back, and I really appreciated how the professor emphasized learning the material as opposed to the grades in the class. Also, a lot of the material was an add-on to what was learned in ORGO 2, which was probably my favorite required pre-med course. A drawback to this major is that a lot of people major in BMS. This results in the upper level classes, which are usually smaller in other majors, still being around 100 people. With the classes still being so big, it is hard to get to know the professor. For example, I am in an upper level MCDB course now, which is about 150 students. I went to office hours, and the office was crowded with students asking questions.  
      • Pragathi: I declared BMS during the winter semester of my sophomore year. I ended up choosing this major because while I originally wanted to major in CMB (now called MCDB), the electives for BMS sounded a little more appealing to me. Additionally, I happened to have already taken classes that fulfilled the BMS major so by the time I declared, I was almost two-thirds of the way done with the major. My favorite class in this major was CHEM 352, a biochemistry lab that was actually pretty interesting and easy. This class also had an upper-level writing option (that I didn’t end up taking since I already did my ULWR). One downside of majoring in BMS is that you aren’t able to use your chemistry credit (if you came in with IB/AP credit) to fulfill prerequisites. If you didn’t take Gen Chem, you’ll have to take the CHEM 245/246/247 sequence. This wasn’t my favorite class mostly because it was focused on the more technical or mechanical side of chemistry which wasn’t really of interest to me.
      • Liam: I declared for BMS at the end of the second semester of my sophomore year. I chose this major because while I originally wanted to major in Biochemistry, I had no intention of taking any additional math courses in college (besides statistics), so I settled for BMS. From my understanding its essentially the same major as biochemistry, but does not require CALC 2. My favorite class in this course was intro to biochem because, as I said before, my primary interest is in biochemistry. A lot of what I learned in the course helped my understanding of my current research and gave me a great foundation to build off of in upper level electives. I didn’t really experience any cons to this major because it was pretty much everything I was looking for (biochem minus calculus).
  • Biology

    • Biology 

      • Haniyeh: I declared biology the winter semester of my junior year. I always knew that I was interested in biological sciences, but since UM has so many majors in this field, I had to search deeper to find out which one would better suit my needs. After I transferred to UM from a community college, I compared different majors’ requirements and talked to the advisors in the department of chemistry and biology. I realized that biology is a great major for me since there were fewer restrictions on the number of credits you can take outside the department and this gave me more opportunities to take classes from a wide variety of topics that I was curious about. My favorite class was BIO 207: Microbiology. I really enjoyed the class because I learned about microbial and viral genetics, medical microbiology, and basic epidemiology. Also, the course had a lab component and I learned new techniques that are applicable in many biological labs. Since there is a wide variety of courses that you will take and the class sizes are usually large, the chance of taking classes with the same classmates are low. This can make it hard to develop a good connection with your professors and build a sense of community among your classmates. 
    • Biology, Health, and Society (BHS)

      • Judy; I declared BHS during the fall semester of my junior year. I chose this major because I knew I wanted a science major that covered most of my pre-med requirements while still having classes that I would find interesting to take. I really like BHS because it am interested in the public health/sociology side of the medical field which I feel that the Health and Society section covers well. My favorite classes so far for this major have been BIO 225 and WOMENSTD 220. BIO 225 is human and animal physiology which was interesting because there was a lot of applications to the basic biology that we’ve learned for so long. Women’s Studies 220 was also really interesting because I learned a lot about the social construction of women’s sexuality and health care. There aren’t really any cons I can think of unless you think you would dread the classes in the health and society category of this major (since a lot of you pre-meds are huge natural science people). These HU and SS classes tend to have more essays and be a tad bit more reading based. 
    • Neuroscience

      • Ruchira: I declared my major the winter semester of my sophomore year. I was initially interested in majoring in Neuroscience because it overlapped with the research lab that I’ve been involved in for the past two years. My favorite major relevant class so far has been PSYCH 230 because in the Neuroscience major, the classes BIO 222 and PSYCH 230 cover a lot of the same material. When I took PSYCH 230 after taking BIO 222, I found that I had a better understanding of the core topics of the major and was able to truly enjoy learning the new material that was covered covered. 
      • Owen: I declared my neuroscience major the fall semester of my sophomore year. As a freshman, I knew I wanted to major in MCDB. I took PSYCH 111 with Schreier the winter semester of my freshman year and really enjoyed the neuroscience unit. After I took some time to reflect on my interests, I ultimately decided to go with Neuroscience as my major. My favorite class so far in this major has been PSYCH 230, Intro to Behavioral Neuroscience. This class explored in depth the topics that sparked my interest during PSYCH 111. We got to dissect sheep brains too which was pretty cool! Neuroscience is a pretty common major, so there aren’t too many opportunities to enroll in smaller sized classes. Reaching out to professors individually is a must if you want to develop a relationship with them.
      • Anni: I declared neuroscience during the winter semester of my freshman year. Although I enjoyed biology, I always saw myself as a pretty poor science student. The program was really eye-opening for me because it exposed me to the interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience and showed me that there was a way to choose how much of one classical science subject you want to study and research (the spectrum of behavioral neuroscience to computational, plus everything in between). During this program I also became really interested in movement disorders, which, in conjunction with the interdisciplinary aspect, convinced me that neuroscience was what I wanted to study in college. My favorite class has been Neurology 455: Neuroscience of Parkinson’s Disease. This class isn’t through LSA and is taught by Dr. Levanthal, who is a neurologist at the VA hospital. This class is capped at 20 students and Dr. Levanthal makes an effort to learn everyone’s names and facilitate lively discussion among students. He starts the course with a “clinic visit” with one of his actual patients. During this time, he interviewed his patient as if they were in a hospital exam room and then occasionally provided commentary as to his methodology and observations. The core classes and prerequisites can take a while to get through, so for me at least, I found that neuroscience was a major where there’s a delayed gratification aspect—it was only going into my senior year when I felt that saying I was a neuroscience major actually held weight in terms of my knowledge of the subject. Participating in neuroscience-based outreach programs, research, and/or tutoring can help reinforce that sense of “belonging,” per se. 
      • Karan: While I haven’t yet declared my major (I will this semester), I chose neuroscience because I liked the blend between psychology and biology. I am very interested in understanding the processes behind our behavior. Additionally, the brain has many relevant analogies to circuits which is another field of study I am interested in. My favorite class has been PSYCH 230. This class really bridged the gap between brain and behavior and taught me a lot of important concepts. It was really interesting to see behavior on the level of the organism and how this could be simplified to brain processes. As others have mentioned, the major is fairly large, so it’s hard to find smaller classes where you can build a relationship with the professors. While not the most difficult major here, there are a few difficult core classes that must be completed and this can do some damage to your GPA if you don’t have proper study skills. 
      • Sydney: I declared my neuroscience major during the winter semester of my freshman year. I chose the neuroscience major because I really like the interdisciplinary nature of the program. The classes offered for the neuroscience major are relevant to psychology, biology, chemistry, physics, etc. I really enjoy psychology and have had the opportunity to take psych-related courses that fulfill my major requirements while also allowing my pre-medical and hard science interests to intersect and harmonize with the social science material. The major requirements also overlap almost perfectly with pre-med requirements. My favorite class in this major has been PSYCH 345: Introduction to Human Neuropsychology. This class explored brain injury and neural dysfunction, and I am very interested in neuropathology. Neuroscience is a common major, and classes are generally large. This major also has tough core classes which should be taken relatively early in your college career in order to do well in the elective courses. Although I struggled in the core classes, these classes do enable you to do well in upper level courses.
  • Physics

    • Biophysics

      • Lindsay: I declared Biophysics in the fall of my sophomore year. The biophysics department is very small, and the small class sizes were a major reason why I decided on biophysics. Other than that, I knew I wanted to study physics and needed to fulfill all my pre-medical courses, so I chose Biophysics since it made both possible. I really enjoyed BIOPHYS 420 (MCDB 420) because the class was all about reading scientific papers, synthesizing them, and discussing them. Because biophysics is such a small major, students are sometimes limited to the order in which they take classes. What I mean is that some required courses are only offered in the fall, and others in the winter. Several of these courses have prerequisites within our major, so you have to do a bit of planning ahead of time to make sure you can fit all your classes into to a schedule you like. The process of ordering my classes was infinitely easier because I regularly met with our biophysics advisor (Sara Grosky).
  • Psych

    • Biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience (BCN)

      • Brooke: I declared BCN the summer going into my sophomore year. Ever since taking a psychology class in high school, I have been super interested in the field. However, when I came to college, I realized I was more interested in the biological aspect of psychology, and that is why I chose BCN over a regular psych major. Also, with BCN, there was some cross over with classes I needed to take for BMS, so I could knock out two requirements with one class. My favorite class I have taken for BCN has been either PSYCH 270 or PSYCH 355. PSYCH 270 is intro to psychopathology, and PSYCH 355 is cognitive development. Each class teaches a lot of interesting information that I have, surprisingly, not forgotten. This major is also one that a lot of people choose to major in. Therefore, a lot of the core courses have a ton of people in them. However, as you get to the upper level courses, there are a lot of options, and the classes are much smaller.
      • Johnson: I declared my sophomore year. I chose this major as it combined both the natural sciences as well as the interesting social science classes (psych). I’m also interested in how the mind can affect our behavior. PSYCH 280 was probably the best class I’ve taken in this major because I love the professor and the class was super interesting. 
  • Music

    • Music (LSA)

      • Owen: I declared my music major winter semester of my sophomore year. I initially planned to pursue a music minor through LSA, but ultimately decided to add it as a second major so it could hold a larger presence in my college career. I chose to add my music major because I always knew I wanted music to play a role in my life and during my time spent as an undergrad. I actually almost dual enrolled in LSA/SMTD, but decided against that given the heavy workload and time requirements. Majoring in music through LSA still encourages me to participate in groups and play my instrument (trombone), but leaves much more time for me to focus on other aspects of my college life. The best class I’ve taken was Musicology 307: Music and Community. The course was offered for the first time in the winter of 2019, and it required students to partner with local arts groups in Ann Arbor. I worked with the Michigan Taiwanese American Organization to help them organize events and promote their music and art. It was a really valuable experience, unlike anything I had ever experienced in college. The only things to watch out for with this major concerns thinking ahead to your future. The LSA Music advisor often tells his students to add this major as a second major to an already established primary major, which is neuroscience for me. Make sure you can handle the course load before deciding to add it as a double major.
  • MINORS

    • Gender and Health

      • Pooja: I really love my gender and health minor because it was super interdisciplinary: I was able to take courses in nursing, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and literature. I also feel like I was able to learn material that I could directly apply to my career in medicine—topics in reproductive anatomy/physiology, disparities in healthcare, and issues specific to LGBTQ populations. My favorite class was actually called WOMENSTD 400. The course was taught by two OB-GYNs at the hospital, but most of our lectures were actually given by guest lecturers. We got to hear from people in law, public policy, nursing, psychology, sex therapy, etc. We also wrote a 20 page paper on any gender and health topic for our final project and this fulfilled the ULWR LSA requirement, which honestly wasn’t as bad as it sounds and a pretty cool way to get that requirement out of the way.
    • Asian Studies

      • Johnson: I chose this minor at the end of my sophomore year, because it allows me to get away from the science courses with my major. For me, it serves as a balance each semester when choosing my classes. But more importantly, it is also super interesting if you are into learning about the different cultures throughout Asia.The people running the department are super friendly and accommodating so that’s a plus. My favorite class so far definitely has to be ASIAN 377. It mostly a Korean entertainment and KPop class where you learn the history but also the music and the artist in general. Highly recommend if you are a Kpop stan XD. The only disadvantage of the minor I can think of is that certain classes are only offered once a year, so it can be challenging when planning your classes out for each semester.
    • African Studies

      • Anni: I declared my African Studies minor in the winter semester of junior year. I’ve been interested in African affairs since high school when I did a research project on Post-Apartheid South Africa. I took three AAS classes before I declared (260, 290, 662), which helped me identify my main interest, health structures and institutions in sub-saharan Africa, and confirm that this was something I was passionate enough to minor in. I was actually a big humanities kid in high school, so I was able to rekindle my love of history, english, and political science through this minor, in addition to expanding my knowledge and understanding of public health. AAS 662- “Health and Socioeconomic Development” is a graduate level class taught through the school of public health. It’s cross-listed as an epidemiology course, and a majority of the students are MPH-global health epidemiology students (you need a professor override to enroll in the class). The workload for this class is pretty intense (~300 pages a week and two presentations: 1 hour and 3 hours) but it’s so worth it. This course covers public health in multiple countries and teaches you the basics of colonialism, development, and political economy. I had 8 people in my class and we all became very close. I love this minor. The professors are insightful, wickedly funny, and tell the best stories. The classes are always small (about 15-20 people) which makes for great discussions and class energy.
  • NON LSA MAJORS

     

    • Engineering

       

      • Biomedical Engineering (BME)

        • Nick: I always knew that BME was something I would be interested. Therefore, I spent the first couple of years confirming that I wanted to do it. It also really helped that I took ENGR 110, a course that helped to describe all of the engineering majors and what it means to be an engineer. I chose this major because not only did I really love robotics, but I also wanted to go into medicine. BME was the perfect combo and 4 years later, I still feel it is! One thing I would say is that my love for robotics eventually transformed more into an interest in engineering/research skills. I have a several classes that I really enjoyed in this major, specifically BME 458 and Physiol 404. Both courses are really awesome ways to combine engineering design with medically relevant topics. I can say that I am very happy in this major. It gives me a very good education in a broad span of topics. The con is that it is a lot of work. Any engineering major will lead to long hours of homework. To be pre-med and BME also means a lot of semesters spent taking about 16-18 credits in order to be able to fit all of the necessary courses before graduation. 
    • Kinesiology 

      • Movement Science

        • Michael: I decided to study movement science the fall of my sophomore year. I chose this major because the School of Kinesiology offers smaller class sizes that coincide well with the field of medicine that I hope to pursue. Since I hope to pursue a career in sports medicine, Movement Science offers me a vast range of courses that will only contribute to my growing passion for helping athletes prevent, treat, and diagnose sports injuries. My favorite class is Movesci 330, the Biomechanics of Human Movement. In the class, I get to analyze how the body moves, calculate to what extent the body moves, and describe the motion of the human body through qualitative and quantitative measures. The class is very hands-on and offers many opportunities to actively engage with the material, fellow classmates, and the professor. One con about this major is that typically, students in the School of Kinesiology are not often pre-med. There might not be much overlap with the students you see in your Movesci classes and your pre-med classes.
  • Guest posts

    • Spanish

      • Cindy: I decided on my double major sophomore year (Spanish and BMS). I enjoyed Spanish in high school because language learning challenges you to think differently — it’s not rote-memorization like a lot of the pre-med classes I would be taking in my other major — so I enrolled in a few Spanish classes in college. I mainly chose the Spanish major because the minor requires upper-level literature classes, which I knew I didn’t want to do. I enjoyed the more linguistics-focused classes I was in at the time and wanted to shift away from literature. My favorite class was SPANISH 333; I took it abroad in Salamanca, Spain with Nick Henriksen. It was my first sampling of the linguistics course. I also enjoyed it because it was immediately applicable since I was in a heavy spanish speaking setting. A con of pursuing a language study is that it does require constant practice to keep up the skills. Especially as someone who didn’t grow up learning or using this language and only having limited time with it in class, you really have to make the most of it to get out of it what you want (most people say conversational fluency is the goal). For that reason, a study abroad program is probably the best way to get at least a couple of language classes done because immersion is the best way to learn it, and UM is a lot more flexible with finances and scholarships for abroad trips than many students realize.
    • Public Health Sciences

      • Ravi: I applied to the school of public health winter semester of sophomore year, got accepted that spring break, then committed before the end of the semester. I took PUBHLTH 200 and realized that there’s a lot of correlation between public health and medicine. Since medicine needs more public health initiatives to create a more personalized treatment for patients, public health is a hugely relevant and important field of study. PUBHLTH 370, Biology and Pathophysiology were my favorite classes. In these classes, you get to learn about the biology behind viruses, chronic diseases, and these topics are very applicable to medicine. One downside to this major is that you only get two years to complete all your requirements and almost all your classes have to be in the department for your junior and senior years, which doesn’t create a lot of space for a minor in any other school. Within the degree, though, there’s a wide variety of classes. If you’re a B.S. student, you can still take classes that the B.A. students are taking.

4 thoughts on “How to Chose a Major

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    • Avatar

      Hi Amira,
      The Biochem major is a couple courses off from the BMS major (Math prerequisite, some different elective options) if you want to see a comparable experience. Also, everyone’s experience with a major is different depending on what previous coursework they come to U of M with, the upper level electives they choose, and the semester they take the specific courses, so each experience on our website is purely anecdotal. Please tell us if you need to know anything else or make a stop in at our weekly dropin office hours in Shapiro 🙂

  2. Avatar

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