Information for Pre-Health Professions Students

As you begin to prepare for a career in the health professions, whether it be medicine, dentistry, physician's assistant studies, physical therapy, etc., please know that each student’s path varies and there is no single best way to approach your studies. In many cases the average age of a student entering professional school (medicine, dentistry, etc.) is at or near 25, so taking time to do other things after completing your undergraduate degree is normal and may be a better fit for you. A competitive health professional school candidate demonstrates command of the basic sciences, a deep understanding of the profession, and a commitment to help others through the practice in a related field.

A good plan of study for someone considering a health profession includes the required courses combined with participation in co-curricular activities such as volunteering, student organizations, and undergraduate research . Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you can major in anything while completing the required prerequisite courses, so you should choose a major you enjoy and that you feel you can perform in at a high level.

Creating Your Course Schedule

When creating your first term schedule, the typical average is 14-16 credits to ensure that you are on track to complete your undergraduate degree in four years, so it is not necessary to take the maximum number of credits or enroll in three or more STEM courses. Taking a reasonable course load will leave at least some time to get involved with the co-curricular activities mentioned above, while also making sure you have time to study and practice your course material.

If you plan to take both BIOSC 0150: Foundations of Biology 1 and CHEM 0110: General Chemistry 1 during your first term, be prepared for a significant time commitment to keep up with the coursework. It is acceptable and sometimes encouraged to take only one science course in your first term depending on your previous experience in that area and which major(s) you intend to pursue. The Dietrich School also offers courses such as BIOSC 0100: Preparation for Biology and CHEM 0100: Introduction to General Chemistry to help support your transition to these challenging course sequences that are required by most health professional programs.

During your first year in the Dietrich School, you will be expected to develop the maturity and study skills necessary to succeed and excel at the collegiate level. To get a head start, consider taking the free Coursera course: Learning How to Learn

As an additional resource, the Biological Sciences department suggests these sample schedules for students interested in their majors. Please remember that these resources are a suggestion to help assist you with crafting a course schedule, and not necessarily a set of requirements you need to strictly follow.

Plan for the Future

It is important to note that each health professional school has its own set of specific requirements. While many of these are common across various schools and programs, some are unique to the specific schools that may be of interest to you.

Visit the websites for the schools you are interested in and be sure to make note of the following:

  • Do these schools accept AP credits? If so, do they require upper-level science and math courses if the student uses AP credits? 
  • Do these schools require 1 or 2 levels of English composition? Do they require specific literature or writing courses?
  • Do these schools require a statistics course? Will you need to complete calculus or another math course? 
  • Do these schools require psychology, sociology, philosophy, or other humanities and social science courses? 
  • Which additional science courses do the schools require?

One question that students often ask is if it is permissible to take required coursework at another institution over the summer. Generally speaking, that is possible, especially for humanities and social science requirements, but it may also be appropriate to take calculus and/or statistics as well. Please consult with your academic advisor to understand your options and the policies and procedures about transferring credits to your Dietrich School record.

For more information and to understand the breadth of support available to students interested in the health professions, visit the Pre-Health Resource Center.