How to Succeed as a Cornell Pre-med

April 1, 2024
6 min read


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 4/1/24

Each and every year, Cornell pre-med students move onto medical school. And just last year, an impressive 402 Cornell students made that dream a reality. 

From meeting Cornell's strict academic requirements to actively engaging in extracurricular activities, these aspiring physicians demonstrate commitment and resilience on their path to success.

In this blog, we'll take a look at the specifics of Cornell's pre-med program, its rigorous academic curriculum, unique extracurricular opportunities, and the support systems in place to help students get ahead. 

Whether you're a current Cornell pre-med student or considering joining the program, this blog aims to provide insights and guidance to help you succeed on your journey to medical school. Let’s get into it. 

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Cornell Requirements 

If you’re eyeing the pre-med program at Cornell, its a good idea to get familiar with the Cornell pre-med requirements. 

Medical School Requirement Required Courses Optional Courses
Biology One year with lab Molecular Biology and Genetics 1350
Biology 1440 or 1445*
Biology 1500
Molecular Biology and Genetics 4320
Nutritional Sciences 3420
General Chemistry One year with lab Chemistry 2070 and 2080
Chemistry 2090 and 2080 (engineering students only)
Organic Chemistry One year with lab Chemistry 3570, 3580, and 2510
Chemistry 3590, 3600, and 2510
Biochemistry One course Molecular Biology and Genetics 3310 or 3320
Nutritional Sciences 3200

Sticking to Cornell's requirements is key for your medical school path. So, do your best to ace these classes.

Cornell Two-Year Course Plan

Planning your academic trajectory as a Cornell pre-med is key to reaching your goal of medical school acceptance. A well-crafted two-year course plan ensures you meet prerequisites while maximizing your academic and extracurricular opportunities.

Semester Courses
Freshman Fall Chemistry 2070
Math 1106
Biology 1350
First-Year Writing Seminar
Freshman Spring Chemistry 2080
Biology 1440 and 1500
Psychology 1101
Sophomore Fall Physics 2207
Chemistry 3570 and 2510
English/writing course
Sophomore Spring Physics 2208
Chemistry 3580
Math 2150
Sophomore–Junior Summer Molecular Biology and Genetics 3310

By strategically choosing courses, balancing your workload, and seeking guidance from advisors, you can enhance your academic journey and increase your chances of achieving your goal of becoming a physician.

Strategies for Maintaining a High GPA 

To keep your GPA high at Cornell, make use of campus resources, plan your courses well, think about taking summer classes, prioritize self-care, and ask for academic help when needed. Stay engaged in class, seek feedback, and balance academics with extracurriculars for long-term success. Let’s take a closer look at each of these tips. 

  • Embrace the Challenge: Cornell University is renowned for its rigorous academics, but it's also a place where students support each other through tough times.
  • Use Campus Resources: Make the most of what Cornell offers. The Learning Strategies Center and department-specific support programs are there to help you succeed.
  • Plan Your Courses Wisely: Take the time to plan your course schedule carefully. Get advice from older students and use online tools to pick the right classes and professors.
  • Consider Summer Classes: If you want to lighten your load during the semester, think about taking summer courses. They can spread out your workload and maybe even be a bit easier.
  • Prep Ahead: Take advantage of breaks to get a head start on upcoming classes. Whether it's reading textbooks or watching lectures online, a little prep can go a long way.
  • Stay Organized: Maintain a well-organized system for keeping track of assignments, deadlines, and exams. Whether it's using a planner, digital calendar, or task management app, staying organized will help you stay on top of your academic responsibilities.
  • Seek Academic Support: Don't hesitate to reach out for help when needed. Whether it's scheduling regular meetings with professors during office hours, forming study groups with classmates, or seeking tutoring assistance, there are many resources available to support your academic success.
  • Prioritize Self-Care: Maintaining a high GPA requires not only academic diligence but also taking care of your physical and mental well-being. Make sure to prioritize adequate sleep, healthy eating habits, regular exercise, and stress-management techniques to ensure optimal performance.
  • Stay Engaged in Class: Active participation in class discussions, asking questions, and engaging with course material can deepen your understanding and retention of key concepts. Being actively involved in your education can also make learning more enjoyable and rewarding.
  • Seek Feedback: Regularly seek feedback on your academic performance from professors, advisors, or TAs. Understanding areas of strength and areas needing improvement can guide your study efforts and help you make necessary adjustments to maintain a high GPA.
  • Balance Academics and Extracurriculars: While academics are important, don't forget to engage in extracurricular activities that interest you. Balancing academics with involvement in clubs, organizations, or community service can enhance your college experience and provide opportunities for personal growth and development.
    Succeeding at Cornell takes hard work and planning, but it's worth it. By using these strategies, you can maintain a high GPA and set yourself up for success beyond the university.

Finding Academic Resources 

As a Cornell pre-med student, finding academic resources is crucial for navigating your journey toward a career in healthcare. Cornell's Arts & Sciences Student Services offers valuable guidance on exploring health careers, designing academic plans, and managing mental health during your studies. 

Plus, the Health Professions Advising Center (HPAC) serves as a central hub for pre-health advising and support. Alongside these, various student services partners provide resources for career development, identity support, writing assistance, and academic diversity initiatives, ensuring you have the tools you need to succeed on your path.

Selecting the Ideal Major for Cornell Students

Cornell pre-med students have a range of majors to choose from that match their interests and career aspirations. While majors like biology and biochemistry are popular due to their alignment with medical school prerequisites, students can also explore diverse fields such as psychology, sociology, or public health. 

Don't feel limited to traditional science majors—interdisciplinary programs or minors can offer valuable perspectives on healthcare. Ultimately, the best major is one that reflects your passions and strengths while preparing you for a successful career in medicine.

MCAT Considerations

When deciding when to take the MCAT at Cornell, consider your course progression, study time, and application timeline. For students not planning a gap year and starting pre-med courses early, aiming for late fall or early winter of junior year is often best. 

This allows ample time for course completion and dedicated study during winter break, with the option for a retake if needed.

Before the MCAT, completing specific courses covering tested material is recommended, including chemistry, biology, physics, and biochemistry. While biochemistry is important, subjects like sociology and psychology are also tested and can be self-studied alongside coursework for thorough preparation.


Cornell Extracurriculars

Cornell students can engage in various extracurricular activities, including tutoring, serving as teaching assistants, participating in service projects, and networking with healthcare professionals for shadowing opportunities. Let’s take a closer look at each of these opportunities. 

Cornell Clinical And Community Volunteering

At Cornell University, they stress the significance of both clinical and community volunteering in shaping a well-rounded pre-medical education. These experiences demonstrate a student's dedication to helping others and offer valuable insights into healthcare and patient interactions.

For community involvement, students have various options to show their commitment to service. They can serve as teaching assistants, tutors, or student advisors in academic departments or support programs like the Learning Strategies Center (LSC) and the Knight Writing Institute. 

Additionally, volunteering with local organizations or participating in service projects through the Public Service Center allows students to connect with diverse communities and address societal needs.

In terms of clinical experiences, networking is key. Students are encouraged to utilize their connections with healthcare professionals, including family physicians, and take advantage of resources like Cornell's Career Development services to explore shadowing opportunities. 

Platforms like Handshake offer an easy way to find available positions in clinical settings while reaching out directly to local practitioners through email or phone, demonstrating proactive initiative.

For hands-on clinical exposure, students can explore roles such as medical scribes, certified nursing assistants, or emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Working in these capacities provides valuable direct patient care experience, helping students develop essential skills in communication, empathy, and teamwork within healthcare environments.

Overall, Cornell's emphasis on clinical and community volunteering highlights the institution's dedication to fostering well-rounded and compassionate future healthcare professionals. 

By actively participating in these experiences, students not only enhance their medical school applications but also gain a deeper understanding of healthcare disparities and the significance of service in the field of medicine.

Cornell Shadowing

Cornell's affiliation with Weill Cornell School of Medicine offers great shadowing opportunities.

To find shadowing opportunities, students can:

  • Apply for Cornell's Community Health Professionals Mentorship Program, offering two half-day shadowing opportunities with local medical providers.
  • Explore shadowing at hospitals like Cayuga Medical Center, Planned Parenthood of Ithaca, and Tompkins County VA.
  • Shadow at Weill Cornell or in your hometown during your breaks from school. 
  • Reach out to private practice physicians for shadowing chances.

While it may take a bit more effort compared to universities with medical schools on-campus or in larger cities, Cornell students can still access valuable shadowing experiences to support their pre-med journey.

Cornell Research

Cornell pre-medical students can find research opportunities through CURB and other programs, especially during the summer or by working with Weill Cornell School of Medicine. Let’s take a look at each of these resources. 

Cornell Undergraduate Research Board (CURB)

CURB plays a central role in guiding students through their research journey. They organize events and initiatives that showcase student research achievements, fostering a vibrant research culture on campus. Whether through symposiums or mentorship programs, CURB provides a platform for students to explore their academic interests.

Cross-Institutional Initiatives

Cornell offers a wide range of research opportunities across colleges, departments, and institutes. These initiatives provide students with diverse research projects and opportunities to collaborate across disciplines, enriching their experiences and broadening their horizons.

Summer Opportunities

Summer is an ideal time for pre-medical students to dive into research. There are numerous summer research programs available in the US and abroad, allowing students to explore cutting-edge topics and develop valuable skills under experienced mentors.

For instance, the Travelers Summer Research Fellowship Program 2024 focuses on addressing the health needs of underserved populations. Similarly, the Gateways to the Laboratory Summer Program aims to increase diversity in medicine and science, preparing students for successful careers in biomedical research and academic medicine.

Weill Medical Opportunities

Weill Cornell School of Medicine offers exceptional opportunities for hands-on research experience. Through summer programs and collaborations with faculty, students gain insight into biomedical research and clinical practice, contributing to advancements in medical science.

In short, Cornell supports pre-medical students in their research. Through resources like CURB, cross-institutional initiatives, summer opportunities, and collaboration with Weill Medical School, students can prepare for success in medicine.

As you plan your extracurricular activities, it's essential to consider why they matter to you, what you aim to gain from them, and how they align with the Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students outlined by the American Association of Medical Colleges. 

Remember, health professional schools don't prioritize activities—they want to understand why you find them meaningful. So, rather than viewing your activity list as a checklist, focus on the significance behind each one. 

Take advantage of resources like the Pre-Health Activities guide for assistance in designing your activities, and don't hesitate to seek advice from Career Development if you need help planning.

Getting Into Pre-Medical School From Cornell

Cornell's pre-med program is known for its high acceptance rate, reflecting the university's commitment to fostering successful medical professionals. Students receive support and guidance throughout the medical school application process, ensuring they are well-prepared for their future careers in medicine.

Cornell Acceptance Rate and Admissions Statistics

The Cornell pre-med acceptance rate is 76%. Over the years, the Berry Career Institute has diligently tracked this rate, demonstrating Cornell's effectiveness in preparing aspiring medical professionals. 

This number, which includes reapplicants, demonstrates Cornell's dedication to assisting students throughout the medical school application process. As a result, Cornell achieves a higher acceptance rate, surpassing the national average of 40%.

Despite the competitive nature of medical school admissions, Cornell pre-med students stand out among applicants. For instance, Weill Cornell Medical College receives a staggering 7,000 applications for just 106 positions in the entering class. 

However, Cornell's pre-med students demonstrate their readiness and qualifications by earning a significant number of interview invitations for both the M.D. and M.D.-Ph.D. programs.

Cornell's impressive pre-med acceptance rate highlights the university's commitment to top-notch medical education and student readiness. With thorough support and resources, Cornell ensures its pre-med students are fully prepared to navigate the demanding medical school admissions process, paving the way for rewarding careers in medicine.

Getting Into Cornell as a Pre-med Student

Getting into Cornell as a pre-med student involves using the resources available at the Cornell Career Services office, especially the Cornell Health Careers Advising Program. This program helps students with the medical school application process by providing useful advice and debunking common myths.

As you approach the application year, working closely with the Career Services office becomes important, especially when it comes to drafting the committee letter—a summary of your achievements and recommendations. 

Many medical schools require this letter, so it's crucial to follow the Health Careers Advising Application Preparation Process (HCA-APP), which includes completing modules, quizzes, an application, and submitting your personal statement for review. Following this process will help you navigate the medical school application journey effectively.

Final Thoughts

To sum it up, succeeding as a Cornell pre-med boils down to hard work, smart choices, and resilience. By staying focused on academics, getting involved in meaningful extracurricular activities, building relationships with mentors, and maintaining a balanced life, you can set yourself up for success on the path to medical school. 

It won't always be easy, but with determination and a positive attitude, you can overcome challenges and reach your goal of becoming a successful physician. Keep pushing forward, and remember that your efforts today will pay off tomorrow.

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