Frequently Asked Questions
- Choice of Major
What should I major in to go to medical school?
- Students should choose the major that is most interesting to them, as medical schools do not care what your major is. If you choose something you truly love, you will enjoy your college experience, get better grades and be trained in a field you enjoy. Regardless of your major, you will need to take the necessary prerequisite courses, so majors outside of the sciences may require extra time to complete.
What should I major in to go to PA school?
- There is no specific major required for PA school, however many applicants are biology, chemistry, exercise science, or psychology majors. This is not because the schools prefer these majors; instead it is typically because students are interested in these areas. In addition, these majors typically include many of the prerequisites for PA school.
What should I major in to go to dental school?
- Students should choose the major that is most interesting to them, as dental schools do not care what your major is. If you choose something you truly love, you will enjoy your college experience, get better grades and be trained in a field you enjoy. Regardless of your major, you will need to take the necessary prerequisite courses, so majors outside of the sciences may require extra time to complete.
What should I major in to go to veterinary school?
- Students should choose the major that is most interesting to them, as vet schools do not care what your major is. If you choose something you truly love, you will enjoy your college experience, get better grades and be trained in a field you enjoy. Regardless of your major, you will need to take the necessary prerequisite courses, so majors outside of the sciences may require extra time to complete. Some veterinary schools require a significant number of science courses, so many applicants do major in one of the sciences.
What should I major in to go to pharmacy school?
- Students should choose a major that is most interesting to them, but many pre-pharmacy students choose to major in biology or chemistry, as these will help prepare the student for pharmacy school. However, neither of these majors is required and as long as you take the necessary prerequisite courses, you can choose a major outside of the sciences.
- AP/IB Courses
Do healthcare professional schools accept AP/IB credit?
Many high schools offer AP, IB or Co-curricular courses and these are not viewed equally by all professional schools. Some professional schools will accept AP or IB credits while others do not and some will only accept AP credit for non-science courses. If the co-curricular course was offered through a university and appears on a college transcript, then it is likely that the professional school will accept it, but this is not a guarantee. While these courses are a great way to challenge yourself and learn new material, it is important to understand that the some professional schools will not accept them as prerequisites.
- MD vs. DO
What is the difference between an MD and a DO?
There are two types of medical doctors that can practice as licensed physicians in the US today; the allopathic physician (MD) and the osteopathic physician (DO). Both types of physicians can practice in all medical fields and are required to pass the same exams. Currently allopathic medicine is the most common type of physician but the number of DO schools and physicians is increasing. More information about osteopathic medicine can be found on the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine website.
- How do I apply?
How does the application process work?
Most professional schools now utilize a centralized application service. In this way, each applicant fills out one application and then send this application to the schools of his/her choice. The individual application services are listed below
- Letters of Recommendation
How many letters of recommendation do I need?
The number of letters varies from one school to another. Many will accept up to ten letters, but it is NOT recommended that you submit this many. Most prehealth advisors suggest submitting 3-5 letters. Remember that additional letters are more work for the admissions committee, and in most cases do not provide any information that was not in the first 3-5 letters.
From whom do I ask for letters of recommendation?
It is important to read the specific requirements for each professional school. Many will require 3 letters of recommendation, two of which must be from science faculty. However, each school has its own specific requirements for letters. The key when choosing who to ask is to find someone who knows you very well and yet is not a close personal friend or member of the family. Many students attempt to get a letter from someone in a powerful position or with name recognition, but if the individual does not know you well, the letter is useless. Focus on developing relationships with faculty early in your undergraduate education so that you will have individuals who can attest to your qualifications. Beyond faculty, you want letters that show who you are outside of the classroom. if you are an athlete, then a letter from a coach would be appropriate. If you have a job with significant responsibilities, then a letter from a supervisor may be beneficial. You want you letters to paint a picture of who you are and the strengths of your application.
How do I ask for letters of recommendation?
The best approach when asking for a letter is to ask early and be specific about what you need and the deadlines involved. Understand that many individuals are quite busy and will need time to get a letter together. It is a good idea to meet with the individual in person to request the letter when possible. It can also be helpful to bring a resume and your personal statement to the meeting so that the letter writer has more information about you for the letter. For faculty members who typically only interact with you in class and office hours, it can be quite useful for them to know what activities you have been involved in outside the classroom. Additionally, your personal statement (which you will use when you apply) provides them with more information about why you have chosen this career. For those applying to medical school, the AAMC provides guidelines for letter writers that you may want to print out and give to the letter writer to help them know what to include in the letter.
How is my GPA calculated by professional schools?
Each professional school will take all of the college level classes that you have ever taken and use these to calculate your overall GPA. This includes any classes that you transferred from one institution to another, any classes that you took at a community college and any college level courses you took as part of a certification process (i.e. CNA, EMT).
What is a BCPM or Science GPA?
Many professional schools will calculate a separate GPA known as the BCPM or Science GPA. A BCPM GPA includes any courses in biology, chemistry, physics and math. This will be listed on your application as a separate GPA as a way to determine your abilities in the sciences.
Do professional schools use grade forgiveness?
Many undergraduate students allow students to retake a course and then only count the higher grade as part of the GPA from that institution. This process is called grade replacement or grade forgiveness. Most professional schools do NOT do grade forgiveness or replacement and instead will average the grades for the two courses. So, if you earned an F the first time and an A the second time you took a course, the overall grade will be a C. This is important to consider when you are calculating your GPA, as the one that appears on your transcript may be different than the GPA that the professional school calculates. This is also important to consider when you are deciding whether or not to retake a course where you earned a lower grade.
If I have a low GPA, will my MCAT/DAT/GRE score make up for it?
Some students struggle in particular courses and have a lower GPA than they might wish. Often, students then plan to earn a higher score on a standardized test to counterbalance the lower GPA. While a higher score is indicative of your ability to do well on tests, it will not completely outweigh a lower GPA. There are many applications to professional school, and many will have a high GPA as well as a high test score, so you want to ensure that yours are both as high as possible in order to remain competitive.
- Retake courses?
I got a C in organic chemistry (or other course), should I retake?
The answer to this question is yes and no. Yes, you should retake if you did not understand the information presented. Organic chemistry is on the MCAT and you will need to be able to successfully answer the questions on the topic. However, the answer is no if you are only retaking it to improve your GPA. If you retake the course, the C will not disappear from your GPA for most professional schools, but will instead be averaged with the new grade. So, if you retake and get an A, the average grade will be a B. This is not a significant improvement to your GPA in most cases and therefore is rarely worth the time and effort. The same considerations should be taken into account if you are considering retaking any of your courses.
I got a C in a course, does this mean I will never get into professional school?
Professional schools do not expect perfection, so a C in a course does NOT mean that you will not be able to get into professional school. Everyone is allowed to have a class that they found difficult. However, arises if you earn lower grades in a number of courses and if this trend continues from one semester to the next, you should definitely schedule a meeting with your prehealth advisor to discuss a plan to be more successful.
- Standardized Tests
What test do I have to take for professional school?
Many professional schools have their own standardized test that is required for admission. For each field, see below:
- MCAT = medicine (both MD and DO)
- DAT = dental
- GRE = PA, Veterinary medicine,
- OAT = optometry
- PCAT = pharmacy
If I have a low test score, will my GPA and experiences make up for it?
Some students struggle on standardized tests and have a lower test score than they might wish. Often, students then hope that a higher GPA or a wealth of other experiences will counterbalance the lower test score. While a higher GPA is indicative of your ability to do well in coursework, it will not completely outweigh a lower test score. Many of these tests indicate your ability to do well on the board and licensing exams. Therefore it is important to spend the time and effort necessary to do well on these exams.
When do I apply?
The application process varies for each type of professional school but can be quite long - in some cases you will apply more than a year before you will actually matriculate. Information for each healthcare career can be found by clicking on the career buttons on the prehealth home page.
When do I start getting clinical experience?
Clinical experience is critical for you to determine if this is the right profession for you. We recommend that you obtain clinical experience as early in your college career as possible. However, it is also important that you don't spend so much time on clinical experience that your grades suffer. It is often a good idea to wait until after your first semester to start volunteering and/or working in a clinical setting. This gives you time to acclimate to college and learn how to be a successful student before you start adding too many other obligations.
When do I start doing community service?
Community service is an important part of the process of becoming a successful applicant. This is a great way to determine if a career in serving others is a good fit for you. We recommend that you start your community service as early in your college career as possible. However, it is also important that you don't spend so much time on clinical experience that your grades suffer. It is often a good idea to wait until after your first semester to start volunteering. This gives you time to acclimate to college and learn how to be a successful student before you start adding too many other obligations.
- Clinical Experience
How much clinical experience should I get?
The amount of required clinical experience varies greatly depending on your career choice. Some PA schools require 2000 paid clinical hours, while some dental schools have no set requirement. With the exception of PA schools, we recommend that instead of focusing on the number of hours, you should instead focus on the type of experience and the benefits for both you and the patients you serve.
Why do I need clinical experience?
This type of experience will allow you to ensure that you enjoy working with patients and that you are well suited for a career in medicine. You want to learn two basic things from your clinical experience 1) how to work with patients when they are ill and 2)what your eventual career is truly like. You need to choose clinical experiences that will give you both types of knowledge.
Can I get into professional school without clinical experience?
It is highly unlikely that you will gain admission into a professional school without some type of clinical experience in the field. Because healthcare careers require a great deal of training and can be very demanding careers, the admissions committees want to be sure that you know what you are getting into before they allow you into their program. For your own personal knowledge, you want to be sure that this career is truly a good fit for you, and spending time in the clinical environment is the only way to be sure of this.
How do I pay for professional school?
Information on paying for professional school can be found on our financial information page.