Prehealth Advising FAQs

Prehealth Advising FAQs

This is not an extensive list, nor does it provide individualized guidance. Please schedule a Prehealth Advising appointment if you have specific questions. 

Prehealth Advising frequently asked questions

Do I need to major in a science?

There is no preferred major for health professions programs, and it does not affect your chance of admission. You should choose your major based on whatever interests you most.

Can I take a course PNC?

We do not recommend taking prerequisites PNC; the only exception is taking Chem 1A and Bio40 during your first/second year. Alternatively, taking a non-required course PNC is generally not an issue. It is more a question of whether or not PNC courses become a pattern on your transcript, in which case schools may become concerned. Admissions Committees understand that many universities forced the PNC choice during the Spring semester of 2020, and most medical schools will accept PNC for pre-requisites for that term only.

Will the PO 70, 71, & 72 sequence satisfy a 1 year physics requirement?*

If you take PO 70, 71 & 72 then you should satisfy a 1 year physics requirement; however, be sure to check individual program/school requirements.

Is the Keck Science Physics 30L/31L sequence equivalent to PO Physics 41/42?*

Yes. The difference with the Keck Science sequence is that preference is given to Scripps, CMC, and Pitzer students, so it is more challenging to enroll in these courses.

Do I need to take biochemistry?*

The majority of dental and veterinary programs require biochemistry. For medical schools, only a third require biochemistry (and most of those do not require lab), although many more recommend biochemistry. Even so, biochemistry constitutes 25% of the MCAT and medical schools generally consider biochemistry to be one of the most important areas of undergraduate study for future physicians. We highly recommend taking biochemistry.

Do I need to take the second semester of organic chemistry?*

Generally, health professions programs require 2-2.5 years of chemistry (to include general, organic, and biochemistry). Dental programs largely require both semesters of organic. Some medical schools that require two semesters of organic will accept biochemistry in lieu of the second semester; others require both semesters (e.g. Columbia, Baylor, UNC, Emory, Mayo, UT Southwestern, and Indiana). Whether you take the second semester of organic chemistry is dependent on your goals, interests, and the program/schools you are considering.

Do I need to take psychology and sociology?*

A number of programs require behavioral or social science courses, including dental, veterinary, and pharmacy. Less than 10% of medical schools require behavioral science courses. However, the MCAT now has the Psychological, Sociological and Biological Foundations of Behavior subtest with 70% introductory psychology and 30% sociology content. Whether or not to take these courses depends on your interests and intended program.

What math courses do I need to take?*

Across programs, the most common math requirements are college level math, calculus, and/or statistics. For medical schools, less than half require college level math, less than 10% require calculus (of those schools that require calculus, most, but not all, will accept AP/IB), and less than 10% require statistics. Due to the importance of quantitative skills for health professionals, and the increasing importance of statistics, we recommend taking one college math course at Math 29 or above and one statistics course.

If I take statistics, does it need to be within the math department?*

Generally, the course can be taken within a variety of academic departments including math, biology, economics, and psychology. However, schools may have specific requirements; therefore, it is best to check individual program/school requirements.

If English is required do I need to take the course(s) within the English department?*

Schools are most interested in students learning how to write well. Many schools also appreciate the close reading that is emphasized in English courses. At Pomona, and many other schools, writing is taught across the curriculum; therefore, our ID1 and writing intensive requirement should satisfy most programs’ English requirement.

Will schools accept AP credit to fulfill a course requirement?

Some schools accept AP credit towards a requirement. However, there is no standard with respect to AP credit; therefore, it is best to check individual program/school policies.

Will taking a gap year(s) hurt my chances of getting into medical/dental/veterinary/etc. school?

No, there is no disadvantage to taking a gap year. More and more applicants are waiting to apply. It will only advantage you to gain additional experience before entering a program. You should apply when you are ready and when you have fully prepared.

Do I need shadowing experiences?

Some schools see it as invaluable, while others are indifferent. However, all agree that applicants need to venture beyond shadowing to experiences that involve direct patient exposure. Shadowing can be a useful introduction to healthcare, but can be difficult to find given HIPPA rules.

Is research mandatory?

Research is not a requirement for a competitive application, unless your program is research intensive (e.g. MD-PhD, DO-PhD, DVM-PhD) or your career goals involve research. Gaining research experience will also be of interest to schools that have a research mission or curriculum component.

Can I study abroad as a prehealth student?

Yes. These experiences take careful planning, so it is best to consult with the Study Abroad Office and Prehealth Advising early. We also highly encourage you to attend the Study Abroad for Prehealth Students info session in the fall semester. If you decide not to study abroad, this will not disadvantage you as an applicant.

Can I take prehealth prerequisites abroad?

Some schools state that they do not accept abroad courses and others will accept or consider abroad courses if they appear on a U.S. college or university transcript. Be sure to check individual program/school policies. Overall, it is less risky to take recommended rather than required courses abroad.

How do I find information regarding pass/no pass options for specific medical schools?

The Medical School Admission Requirements™ (MSAR®) Report for Applicants and Advisors contains school-specific information regarding pass/no pass options during COVID-19.

*Note: prerequisites are generally considered matriculation requirements and not admission requirements, but this can vary based on the program or school. For any course you plan to count towards a requirement, it is best to keep the syllabus in the event you need to provide supporting evidence to a health professions program.