- What kinds of extracurricular activities are helpful or appropriate if I am considering medical school or another career in the health professions?
- What concentrations are best if I am premed or looking into the health professions in general?
- Do I have to get straight A’s or mostly A’s to be a viable candidate?
- What counts in the science GPA?
- What are the best kinds of recommendations for med school?
- Is doing research really critical if I am premed?
- What is the time line for applying, including finishing the required courses, taking MCATs, and actually submitting applications?
- To how many schools does a "typical" premed apply?
- Is it ever okay for a Brown premed to take a course satisfactory/no-credit? If so, which ones and how many?
- How much Math is really required for the majority of med schools?
- Will CHEM 0330, 0350, 0360 really be sufficient for most applicants?
- If I am not a Biology concentrator, how many Biology courses should I take in order to be a viable candidate and do well on the MCATs? Any suggestions about which are the most useful ones?
- What is the best way to prepare for the MCAT?
- Is it ever okay to take required health careers courses in the summer at Brown or elsewhere?
- Where else can I get advice about premed or other health careers?
What kinds of extracurricular activities are helpful or appropriate if I am considering medical school or another career in the health professions?
Medical and other health profession schools are looking for evidence that applicants are making an informed choice and that they are altruistically oriented. You should therefore involve yourself in activities that help you learn about your intended profession while you are in college (even if you have done similar activities in high school). In addition, you should consider service-oriented activities that interest and inspire you. (It is never a good idea to involve yourself in activities that you have no interest in!) If you are considering a career in dentistry or veterinary medicine, you may be required to complete a certain number of hours interning with or shadowing a practitioner in the field. Check the requirements for each of the schools that you are considering.
What concentrations are best if I am pre-med or looking into the health professions in general?
Medical schools, as well as other health profession training programs, do not require any particular concentration. You should choose your concentration based on your academic interests. As you think of your concentration and other courses to take, consider the fact that medical schools seek candidates who possess strong communications skills and intercultural understanding. These and other capacities are developed by engaging in a broad course of study that is firmly grounded in the liberals arts.
Do I have to get straight A’s or mostly A’s to be a viable candidate?
It is true that you'll need strong grades to be a viable candidate for medical school admission. This does not mean that you must have an A in every single class you take. The best source of information about grade point averages needed for admission is Medical School Admission Requirements, the official guide from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Other health professions vary in their competitiveness for admission. Health Careers Advising has guidebooks on various fields that can help you gauge your competitiveness for admission. You are welcome to consult these in University Hall 213.
What counts in the science GPA?
Each health profession has its own online common application service which has its own method of classifying courses for the science GPA. Usually, application services count courses listed in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics toward the science GPA. Application services will often include neuroscience courses in biology, but they do not include courses in psychology, cognitive science, geology, or computer science (engineering is usually a separate classification). Mathematics generally includes courses in applied math as well as statistics courses in the social sciences (e.g., sociology and psychology). For more information on which courses count toward the science GPA, consult the instructions provided by the application service(s) you use when applying for admission.
What are the best kinds of recommendations for medical school?
Brown's Health Careers Advisory Committee requires that applicants obtain two letters of recommendation from Brown faculty, at least one of whom must be a professor in biology, chemistry, physics, or mathematics. You are also required to have a third letter and may choose to give us a fourth from individuals who know you in an academic, supervisory, or mentoring capacity. This could be another Brown faculty member, but it could also come from other individuals on or off campus. In general, letters of recommendation should be substantive evaluations of the particular qualities that you will bring to your chosen profession. Therefore, the best recommendations will come from people who know you well. Recommendations from high-ranking or well known individuals who do not show a substantive knowledge of your qualifications are less helpful than letters from individuals who are less prominent but who have a better knowledge of your abilities.
Is doing research really critical if I am pre-med?
Becoming involved in research, whether in the sciences or other disciplines, is a wonderful way to enhance your education and to build connections with faculty mentors. This can certainly help your application to medical or other health professions school. However, you should never undertake research unless you have a genuine interest in it. Faculty at Brown, as well as members of admission committees, can recognize a lack of passion for a particular activity listed in an application. Strong applicants are truly excited about the activities they have pursued, and are able to demonstrate how their activities relate to their desire to join a health profession.
What is the time line for applying, including finishing required courses, taking the MCAT, and submitting applications?
Applying to medical school, or to any other health profession training program, can take up to one and a half years. Students who wish to matriculate to a health profession school in the fall following their graduation from college must therefore have all of the required coursework completed by the end of their junior year. In such cases, the MCAT, DAT, GRE, etc. should be taken in the spring of junior year or over the summer following junior year.
As you think about your own time line, remember that the large majority of Brown applicants who gain admission to medical and other health professions schools take at least one year off before beginning their professional training. Such applicants are better able to focus on their studies in their senior year of college, which in turn leads to a higher year senior year GPA. Following graduation, these students can then focus their attention on preparing for and taking the MCATs, engaging in meaningful work or volunteer activities, and putting together strong applications that reflect their growth and development over time. An extra year or two can also help you better understand why you want to pursue a career in medicine or health. Your application will reflect this deeper understanding, and will make you more attractive to admission committees which are looking for applicants who possess the maturity and drive to succeed in medicine and other health professions.
To how many schools does a "typical" pre-med apply?
We recommend that applicants to medical school apply to between twelve and fifteen schools. Applicants to other professions generally apply to fewer than ten schools.
Is it okay for a Brown pre-med to take a course satisfactory/no-credit? If so, which ones and how many?
Courses required for admission to medical or health professions school should always be taken for a letter grade (A/B/C), unless they are required S/NC (Satisfactory/No Credit). Courses not required for admission may be taken S/NC, but you should be judicious in using this option. Schools have a difficult time evaluating applicants who have taken a significant number of S/NC courses. You should only choose the S/NC option if you believe that doing so will enhance your educational experience in a given course. Never use the S/NC option with the idea that you can devote less time to the course in order to focus on other courses that you are taking for a letter grade. The S/NC option was never intended to be a time-management tool or grade point average enhancer!
How much Math is really required for the majority of medical schools?
Health profession schools vary in their mathematics requirements. Three medical schools, Harvard, Washington University in St. Louis, and Johns Hopkins, require two semesters of calculus, but they will allow you to substitute college courses with advanced placement credit or credit from other college-level exams taken in high school. The remaining medical schools with a math requirement will look for between one and two semesters of math and often one semester of calculus.
Students without AP or other pre-college credit should take MATH 0090 and MATH 0100. If you have AP credit, you should take at least one semester of college-level mathematics, ideally a calculus course or a course that has MATH 0090 or MATH 0100 as a prerequisite (e.g., Applied Math 0330). Note that statistics courses count as mathematics courses at most medical schools. The definitive source of information on all required coursework by individual medical schools is the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR).
For all health professions, it is your responsibility to be sure that you have met all applicable admission requirements.
Will CHEM 0330, 0350, and 0360 really be sufficient for most applicants?
No. Even though the knowledge you gain in CHEM 0330, 0350, and 0360 gives you adequate preparation for the MCAT, DAT, or other standardized admission tests, you may not have enough coursework in chemistry to satisfy the requirements of the schools to which you hope to apply. Medical schools normally require four full semesters of chemistry with laboratory (one year of general chemistry followed by one year of organic chemistry). If you apply with three semesters of chemistry, most schools will require you to take an additional semester of chemistry or some equivalent course (e.g., introduction to biochemistry) before allowing you to matriculate. Medical schools generally regard biochemistry taken at Brown as an excellent substitute for a second semester of general chemistry with laboratory. We urge all students to read carefully all the requirements for schools to which they may apply.
For all health professions, it is your responsibility to be sure that you have met all applicable admission requirements.
If I am not a biology concentrator, how many biology courses should I take in order to be a viable candidate and do well on the MCAT, DAT, or other exam? Any suggestions about which courses are the most useful?
In general, two biology courses with laboratory will prepare you adequately for the MCAT, DAT, or other standardized test, though taking more than two certainly doesn’t hurt. You should begin with BIOL 0200 unless you have an AP score in biology or other equivalent preparation. Physiology (BIOL 0800) and Genetics (BIOL 0470) are both excellent courses to take in preparation for a career in the health professions. If you are considering additional course work beyond what is normally required for admission, you might consider Introduction to Biochemistry (BIOL 0280). This course is required by some medical, dental, and vet schools and is also strongly recommended by many medical schools. if you take BIOL 0280 as a second semester of general chemistry, this will not be counted twice by medical schools.
What is the best way to prepare for the MCAT?
Some students enroll in preparation courses, while others engage in self-study. Both approaches can be effective, though each has its downside. A test prep course gives you copious review materials and practice exams as well as a lot of structure. However, the price is high, sometimes over $2,000. Self-study is less expensive, but requires self-discipline. Many good review books and practice exams are available at bookstores and through on-line booksellers. If you opt for self-study, consider forming a study group with other students who are self-motivated, reliable, collaborative, and dedicated.
Is it ever okay to take required health careers courses in the summer at Brown or elsewhere?
In general, many health profession schools, and particularly medical schools, do not view summer courses as favorably as they do courses taken during the fall and spring terms at Brown. However, if you have a compelling academic rationale for taking summer courses elsewhere (e.g., to enable you to do study abroad) and if you think you will be a strong applicant, it can be fine to take a required course during the summer. If you choose to take a required course in the summer, you should either do so at Brown or at a school with a strong academic reputation (we do not recommend community college courses, which do not transfer back to Brown if taken after you matriculate). Furthermore, we do not recommend that you take more than one required class during the summer while a Brown student.
Where else can I get advice about pre-med or other health careers?
Dean Marjorie Thompson oversees Biology undergraduate programs and academic advising. Her office provides full service academic counseling and assists all undergraduate student in the biological sciences and related areas. Her office and web site also have essential information about research opportunities at Brown and elsewhere. Dean Thompson is knowledgeable about pre-med and other health careers requirements and challenges. Her office is located in 124 Arnold Lab, 97 Waterman Street.
Pre-vet students might want to talk to Dr. James Harper, a veterinarian who is the Director of the Bio Med Animal Facility. Dr. Harper is very knowledgeable about veterinary medical education.
David Targan, Associate Dean of the College, is knowledgeable about science education in general and undergraduate research in particular. His office is in the Sciences Center, on the third floor of the Sci-Li. He holds weekly office hours which are posted on the Dean of the College web site.