Pre-Professional Health Programs

(Pre-med, pre-dent, pre-vet, pre-PT, pre-pharm, pre-opt, pre-PA)

The challenges of contemporary society, along with the growth of technology and scientific knowledge, have compelled professional health schools to seek candidates with considerable intellectual versatility. Applicants with a diverse set of skills, strong academic history, and a demonstrated commitment to the field are preferred. Professional schools require applicants to have completed coursework standard to a liberal arts education including classes in the basic sciences but not in areas that duplicate medical or dental school courses. Schools accept applicants from any major. Schools strongly recommend study in the social sciences, the humanities, and mathematics, in addition to requiring classes in biology, chemistry, and physics. Each student’s program is designed so that by the end of the junior or senior year he or she will have completed the pre-requisite requirements for application to professional schools. These requirements are usually stated as follows:

At least 90 credit hours (three years) of college work in an accredited institution, excluding military science and physical education courses but including 6 hours of English and one-year courses with laboratory in principles of biology, principles of chemistry, organic chemistry, and principles of physics. In addition, some schools require one year of mathematics and additional coursework in biology.

Most students pursuing entry into a professional health program have majored in one of the sciences, frequently in an area of biology or chemistry because it is convenient. Majoring in science provides some advantages because undergraduate degree requirements often coincide with courses required for admission. Intensive preparation in one of the sciences does form a strong foundation for basic professional school courses. While it is understandable that a majority of those who plan to seek careers in the science-oriented field of health will want to choose such a major field of study, any major is acceptable as long as the science prerequisites are fulfilled.

Applicants are strongly urged to confer with their pre-professional advisor concerning (1) selection of a college major and specific courses, (2) completion of required extra-curricular activities, (3) application to the professional program, and (4) the early preparation for alternate careers in the event that one either decides not to apply to professional schools or is not admitted.

All pre-professional health students are advised to plan their undergraduate programs with sufficient flexibility to allow career options if desired and/or necessary.

It is only on the rare occasion that students apply and are admitted to a professional school without completing a bachelor’s degree. The exception would be for pre-pharm students. It is advisable, therefore, to identify schools of choice early so as to ensure completion of the requirements for admission to those particular professional schools. This is usually done in conjunction with fulfilling requirements for a bachelor’s degree. Students must know the specific requirements for admission to each of the professional schools to which they plan to apply. These requirements are listed in publications available from the following sources:

Admission Requirements of the U.S. and Canadian Dental Schools, published by the American Association of Dental Schools, 1625 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036–2212.

Medical School Admission Requirements, published by the Association of American Medical Colleges, Dept. 66, Washington, D.C. 20055.

Students ordinarily take the national admissions examinations, such as the DAT (Dental Admission Test), or the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) at the end of the junior year. Applications are submitted the following summer and during the senior year, professional school admission committees review the student applications. Decisions are usually announced during the spring semester of the senior year.

Several of professional health associations provide a centralized application service, AADSAS for dental school or AMCAS for medical school, where one application can be submitted to several schools. The Westminster Pre-Professional Health Advisors, the Pre-Professional Health student club, and the Career Resource Center provide additional support and information for pre-health students.

Because of the strong sequential nature of some programs, appropriate course selections should be made in the first year of study at the college if a sound program is to be achieved. Early consultation with the Pre-Professional Health advisors within the first year is strongly recommended. Freshman students often begin coursework with BIOL 202–203, MATH 141, and CHEM 111–112.