The real scoop on Calculus?

OK, so does anyone out there have the real scoop on calc? Is it more than just transcript padding? I’m guessing it’ll play an important role in research design and med school sometime? Please tell me there is some hidden value that I’m missing in my state of frustration?
Thanks from a hopeful future MD/PhD candidate!

Calc, at least during my application days, was required by only a few schools. Will you need or use it in med school? No. As a physician? No - need basic math & some algebra. Since I am not nor do I intend to be a bench researcher - cannot comment there…but I suspect there may be value there.
So, in my humble opinion, unless you are a math whiz & know your Calc experience will reflect high-grades or you are dead set on applying to programs that require Calc - I’d avoid it. I see much more benefit in taking logic courses for decision making processes & statistics courses to understand all the stat-mumbo-jumbo in research publications.

According to the little list I received from my undergrad premed office (long story), eight medical schools in the US absolutely require Calc, and of those, only 3 require a full year of it. So if you’re really not happy about Calculus you could probably get away without it–unless you enroll in a postbac program that requires it, like mine does. I guess I’m taking the hard route since I’ve had to start with Pre-calc first and have a full year of Calc ahead of me, but I know I would never have taken any math if I could avoid it, so in the long run it’s helping me become more disciplined in studying formulas and whatnot. Or maybe I’m just telling myself that. Either way, the pre-meds and med students I’ve spoken with say Calc isn’t necessary, but sometimes it helps. I guess it all depends on your outlook on math and its effects (or lack thereof) on your future.

Our advisors at PSU/loose post bacc explained the whole calc thing as ‘math helps you think’… They went on to say that in doing math, it helps one to think in a problem solving sort of way that is very desirable. (I would think as a MD/PHD it would have additional implications for the whole research etc component)
On the other hand, I think a full year of it might just be a bit much - more as a way to weed people out - or maybe that’s the conspiracy theory in my head.
I wonder what the math is on the MCAT - if its just with the sciences or are there pure math problems on it…


I wonder what the math is on the MCAT - if its just with the sciences or are there pure math problems on it…

There are no “math” problems as such on the MCAT. All math that is to be done is in the context of a physics or chemistry problem. Pretty easy problems at that, as you aren’t allowed to use a calculator. You need to know your basic trig values for sin and cosine, and basic log values for pH problems, maybe some basic algebra. But again, they will all be in the guise of a physics or chem problem.

I work along side researchers all day long…no Calc but plenty of statistics. You kinda get tired of hearing how the data are so many standard deviations from blah, blah, blah… I love math and can say I can see how it would help in problem solving but it’s pretty linear. I would look into more conceptual type of learning versus straight. Then again if your applying to Harvard you need a year of calc you ain’t got a choice.

I’m doing PreCalculus this year and that’s it. Then I hope to be done with math forever! I hate math. As far as I know, most med schools say “1 year of math” or “1 year of college-level math.” They usually don’t specify so check with the schools you are interested in. I am hoping that PreCalc suffices. It should. College algebra and/or Trig would also probably suffice. This is basically what PreCalc actually is–a semester of college algebra and a semester of trig. I do know that Duke requires Calculus if you’re interested in Duke. That’s the only school that I know of off the top of my head that requires Calc. I won’t be applying to Duke.

For basic science, I think calculus is probably useful. For medicine, not so much. I took calculus mostly after I knew that I got into Harvard and had to take it, so that’s always an option, although a little bit hair-raising.
Harvard is currently considering changing its requirement to head towards statistics and away from calculus but that hasn’t happened yet.
best regards

If it helps anyone in making a decision, this is the list of schools I received that specifically require calculus. As always, you should check with the med school you’re applying to if you want an answer “from the horse’s mouth”, but this list might be useful to some:
UC Davis, Irvine: 2 semesters
U Louisville: 1 semester Calc or 2 semesters math
Johns Hopkins: 1 semester
USUHS: 1 semester
Harvard: 2 semesters
U Minn–Duluth, Minneapolis: 1 semester Calc or upper level stats
Dartmouth: 1 semester
Duke: 2 semesters
Brown: 1 semester Calc; 1 semester stats
All TX schools: 1 semester
The list is three years old, but it should still be mostly accurate. Hope it helps.

Thanks everyone for the great replies- it’s great to know there are more of us out there that don’t belong to the math club!
I guess I’ll continue onward, but not this semester. I decided to drop calc and spend this semester reviewing algebra and trig with a tutor. I’ll start up the real torture next semster again- as you guys said, its an evil necessity for some schools.