Q: What constitutes a pre-med or pre-dental major?
A: There is no single "pre-med" or “pre-dental” major. Professional schools are looking for students who have completed specific course work and who have performed at a high academic level. In general, the prerequisite courses for health professions schools are one year of English composition and one year of each of the following with labs: general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, calculus and physics. Some schools require biochemistry.
All schools value strong communication skills. Cell biology, genetics, developmental biology and other specific courses might also be recommended. It is recommended that students' interests dictate their choice of major as long as the prerequisites for the desired profession are met. Most applicants to healthcare professional schools have completed their Bachelor's of Science degrees in biological sciences.
Q: Should I double major?
A: Admissions personnel unequivocally say the undergraduate major is not a consideration in the admissions process.
They are interested in the courses applicants have completed and the grades they have earned. Students interested in pursuing course work in other areas might consider second majors, provided they can do so without overextending themselves academically, lowering their grades and jeopardizing their chances of acceptance into professional schools. Common sense should prevail in making this decision.
Q: What academic record do I need to get into my desired professional school?
A: On average, successful applicants have a grade point average of 3.6 or better, a composite MCAT score of 30, strong letters of recommendation and significant patient-care experience.
Q: What can I do to strengthen my application?
A: Most successful applicants, in addition to strong academic records, have had experience working in hospitals or in the healthcare community. Many have held responsible positions outside of college: employment, service, volunteerism and so forth.
Q: What other factors are considered in admissions?
A: Admissions committees often consider employment, the number of hours students are employed during the school year, extracurricular involvement including sports and community service.
Q: Can I reapply if I have been rejected?
A: Yes! A very high percentage of applicants who reapply are accepted.
There are a lot of ways to improve an application. Traditionally, students apply after completion of their junior year in college. However, many students wait until their senior year; some complete post-baccalaureate preparation for medical school; some complete master's degrees; some do not apply until later in their lives and careers.
Q: When should I take the admissions tests and when should I apply to medical school?
A: You should take the MCAT/DAT/OAT at least one year before you plan to enter professional school, but earlier is better.
At the earliest, this will be in your third (junior) year, though many students take the tests in their fourth year or later. As a general guideline, you should take these tests when you are ready rather than at a pre-conceived time. You should have completed all general prerequisites, and you might also want to complete courses in genetics (BIO 140) and biochemistry (BIO 101) before taking the MCAT.
Current admission policies have led to the development of a number of pathways to application:
- Application after the junior year for students with a 3.5-4.0 average and strong MCAT scores;
- Application after the senior year;
- Application after a year or several years of "life experience" (There definitely appears to be preference for applicants with some "life experience")
Students should carefully consider which pathway is best for them.