COVID-19 Pre-Health/Pre-Medical FAQ

Greetings from Health Careers Advising!

Here we will post links and useful, timely, information on COVID-19 topics of greatest interest to pre-health/pre-medical students. Our main tool to convey timely updates is the Health Careers Advising listserv. 



Welcome to Brown! In this paragraph we will provide suggestions about your time before you start your full-time studies in spring 2021.

1. Is it OK to take a course through Brown in Fall 2020?

While your first full-time studies will begin in Spring 2021 you have the opportunity to take a course in Fall 2020, which will be part of your academic record. Approach this as a chance to explore your interests through the Open Curriculum. There are many First-Year Seminars (FYS) and a number of courses that focus on Diversity and Inclusion (DIAP), for example. The main pre-health/pre-medical courses most fitting for first-year students that are usually taught fall-spring will now be taught spring-summer. You won't be at a disadvantage compared to first-year students from previous years and you will have plenty of time to explore the Brown curriculum, complete degree requirements and pre-health/pre-medical coursework. Any course that you take through Brown in Fall 2020 will be listed on your transcript so it will be part of your record for future applications to health professions schools. If you do decide to take a pre-health/pre-medical requirement course during the fall through Brown, plan to take it for a grade. Mandatory S/NC courses are OK.



2. Is it OK to take a course elsewhere in Fall 2020?

While it is your decision to take a course or two at another institution this Fall, we don't recommend that you take any pre-health/pre-medicine requirement courses (especially in the sciences). As your status at Brown for Fall 2020 is "special student" you have not technically yet matriculated to Brown. Courses completed at another institution prior to matriculation to Brown may transfer to Brown only if they are necessary for degree completion and only after your fifth semester. Most of you would likely concentrate in a science at Brown. When applying to health professions programs you would provide a transcript from any college where you have taken courses. However, taking courses before matriculation to Brown may complicate your science course work and appropriate course placement once you matriculate to Brown.

As stated in the Healthy Brown FAQ ( ) you should assume that courses taken elsewhere will be ineligible for transfer credit. 



3. How do I learn about Brown's developing plans?

You have been and will continue to receive important communication from a variety of campus offices, including The College. Please consult them in detail. Webistes such as Healthy Brown, and The College are great resources for all main details you need, including academic, and campus life updates.

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***April 22, 2020 Updates

The Spring 2020 semester is unprecedented. Since mid March the outlines of a consensus are emerging among health professions admission committees. They will keep academics, MCATs, and activities during this period in context. Keep in mind that students across the country who apply to health professions schools in the next few years would have gone through the spring 2020 semester under similar hardship to you. Admission committees would be mindful of this. If you are not a graduating senior you will have further opportunities to demonstrate academic accomplishment. If you are a graduating senior you would have already demonstrated this.

We are heartened to see that in the past three weeks admission committees have indicated they will be as flexible as possible when it comes to coursework, standardized test timing and activities during this challenging time. Specifically, while in early April most schools hadn’t announced policies or had indicated they would accept S/NC grades (referred to as Pass/Fail outside of Brown) only if this was a college’s universal policy, many schools have updated their policies to explicitly allow optional S/NC on a par with mandatory S/NC  or A,B,C grades. 

If you are doing well academically, take your courses for a grade. If you are experiencing significant hardship which is affecting you personally and academically, consider grade options in the context of your experience. There is no need to drop a course simply because you are not doing as well as you hoped while experiencing hardship. A course or two completed elective S/NC this semester will not hurt your admission chances in this or future applicant cycles. 


As of April 20th, 96 of 150 MD schools and all 36 DO schools have provided information about spring 2020 coursework. Practically all have indicated they would accept S/NC (Pass/Fail grades outside Brown) for spring 2020, including for requirement courses, either if students didn’t have another grade option or if they were experiencing hardship. When you apply you will have the opportunity or will be asked to provide context about hardship and academics during this semester. 

The AAMC will list individual school policies in the MSAR later this spring. To help with your decisions before May 1 we set up a list of all available individual schools’ policies for spring 2020 prepared only for Brown students' and alumni's reference. Please consult it for individual school details. We will review school information again on April 25 and 29 so you have all available input before the end of the semester.  

May 27 AAMC UPDATE: In addition to enabling medical schools to list their policies about course work and MCAT timing in the MSAR, AAMC today made a list available as a PDF. You can consult it here in conjunction with the Course Tracker we set up in April for your benefit. 


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  1. Online instruction, including labs from spring 2020 is OK

  2. Mandatory S/NC courses from spring 2020 (and in general) are OK

    • Course Performance Reports (CPR) aren’t particularly useful for admission committees. You will have letters of recommendation when you apply.

  3. Optional S/NC courses from spring 2020 will be OK (two-thirds of MD schools have already indicated this flexibility). Consider if you are experiencing hardship. School details in the Course Tracker.

  4. Concerned about a B or a C? Admission committees will keep grades from this semester in context. Bs are perfectly fine grades and there is no point selecting the S/NC option for a B. A C by itself won't keep you out of medical or other health professions schools but if you are coping with adversity you may consider the S/NC option. 

  5. Summer Courses: Few schools have indicated that they would be flexible about grading options and online instruction beyond spring 2020 yet. Generally it is best to not take requirement science courses during the summer. If you are wondering about productive things to do this summer, it would be great to look into some remote service or informal learning activities that you see as valuable and engaging. You can find a great set of Pre-Health Ideas and Opportunities During the Pandemic sourced by NAAHP. It is also OK to not be constantly engaged in formal activities and course work, especially if you are managing a challenging situation. Please consult our general guidance about Summer, Winter, Online courses for further detail.

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***July 7, 2020 Update

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present challenges throughout the US and the world colleges are adopting a range of approaches to instruction in the fall 2020 term and beyond. For the July 7 details of the Brown's 2020-2021 academic year planning visit the Healthy Brown website

The best guidance we can offer at this stage is below. 

1. Academics (mode of instruction, grade options, schools' expectations): 

Plan to take courses as you normally would. Whether some or all of your courses are offered online or in a hybrid model, we can't recommend that you take a term or more away from your studies simply because of the mode of instruction. Faculty are putting tremendous effort into adapting their curricula and you will continue to have an outstanding education. Keep in mind that students at most of the thousands of colleges throughout the country, including peer institutions, would be in the same situation as you.  Many medical and other health professions schools will also be teaching their curricula in a similar fashion.

While the transition to online learning throughout the country in Spring 2020 was unexpected, the fall term (and hopefully beyond) is planned as well as possible given the evolving public health situation. In April and May most medical and other health professions schools indicated they would be flexible about grading options for the Spring 2020 semester. Some also indicated they would be flexible about grade options for Summer and Fall 2020. Keep this in context and preferably take your courses for a grade unless you are experiencing significant hardship. Prioritize requirement science courses with labs, especially if you have taken one or more for optional S/NC already. A course or two in the coming year outside the requirements, the sciences, and your concentration taken for optional S/NC would be fine as usual. Mandatory S/NC courses have always been fine.

The only official and most up-to-date information about medical schools' policies regarding online course work and grade options was published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) on May 27. As medical schools are in the early stages of the labor-intensive application process, it is unlikely that they would be revisiting these policies soon. It is reasonable to assume that admission committees will have to be flexible about online innstruction, including labs as the pandemic continues to be a major issue nationally. We will continue to provide timely updates when they are available.  

You can consult MD schools' policies in regard to coursework during hte pandemic on this page provided by the AAMC. It is currently updated for the 2021- 2022 application process. 

2. Activities:

Safety is paramount. Understandably there would be limitations to a number of activities that you may have been or would like to be involved in during the coming months. Our best suggestions based on current information are below under Activities

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Summer 2021 will be a full-length term and the second formal term of study for first-year students. It will not be a summer session- which is shorter and presents a much smaller set of courses. Your application to health professions schools 3-4, 5, or more years from now should not be impacted adversely by your full-semester course load in summer 2021. We would advise you to follow our general guidance about summer/winter/online courses in the future, however. The details are on our FAQ page. When you apply to health professions schools it would also be important for you to indicate in your application that summer 2021 was a full-length term and your second term as a Brown student due to the conversion of the usual 2 semesters to 3 terms in 2020- 2021. 

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If you do not plan to apply to medical school in summer 2020 you do not need to take the exam this summer. The March 27 and all April and May MCAT exam dates have been canceled globally. 

AAMC will email you if your test date has been cancelled with these and other specifics. For all details consult the AAMC Coronavirus (COVID-19) and The MCAT Exam FAQ

MCAT exam dates in June are OK for the overall timing of the application process. If the public health situation does not improve through July, somewhat later MCAT test dates may be the only feasible option for thousands of Summer 2020 applicants nationally, not just for some of you. Medical school admission committees would take this into consideration. If your only option is to take the exam in July or August and you are confident in your overall application (academics, activities, letters of recommendation, personal readiness) and MCAT preparation, it would be better not to wait for your scores in August or September to submit your primary application.  All of June and early July is still the optimal time to submit your primary application.


On October 8 2020 AAMC announced that registration for test dates in January and March 2021 will open on Tuesday, November 10 at noon ET. Pre-registration will begin on November 2 at noon ET. 

There are 31 MCAT testing dates between January and September including a similar number of testing appointments as in previous years. AAMC have added an extra date in January, knowing there might be students who wish to test and are applying to the 2021 application cycle.

Beginning in January 2021, the MCAT exam will once again return to its traditional length. Each exam day will offer two full-length exam sessions: one at 7:30 a.m. and the other at 3:00 p.m. This schedule helps limit the number of people in a test center and allows for the necessary social distancing. You can learn more about the AAMC's health and safety protocols on their website.
As in a typical testing year, scores will be reported within a 30-35 day window following test dates.
You can read more about registration and the 2021 testing plans on the AAMC MCAT Registration and Scheduling website.



  • Forms 2 and 3 (on which you indicate who will write your letters of recommendation) as well as Form 4 (the summer update) are due no later than May 1 as before. Please only email your completed forms to [email protected]. If you can't add a signature to the forms, simply type in your name. 
  • Form 4 (Summer Update) now includes a text box in which you can share if and how COVID-19 may have impacted your spring and summer plans. This can help you model your narrative for the application and can help us provide some context, if appropriate and necessary in the institutional letters on your behalf. As always, the forms are on the Forms & Tip Sheets page
  • The new deadline for letters of recommendation is now May 29 instead of May 15. We receive over 600 letters of recommendation in support of 140-150 applicants. The letters of recommendation are most helpful to us as we work on the institutional letters on your behalf throughout the summer. With the unprecedented disruption in every facet of life some of your recommenders (clinicians and instructors in particular) may need a bit more time. It's preferable that we have the bulk of your letters earlier rather than later but if a recommender needs more time, May 29th will still enable us to begin work on the institutional letters in a good time frame. 






***The National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP) is collecting and continually expanding  relevant information from the application systems for different health professions. 

Health Professions COVID-19 Related Links and Information

  • ASCO- As of March 23 Optometry schools are approaching the application process individually and with guidance from state governments. 
  • AACP- As of March 23 the Association of Podiatry schools has stated that its 9 institutions would accept online and Pass/Fail grading for spring 2020 courses. 
  • ADEA- As of April 15, the American Dental Education Association has indicated that there will be a question on the AADSAS application inviting applicants to indicate if they have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The list of dental schools' supplemental application requirements is a great organizer of web links so you can check schools' policies about COVID-19 as they emerge. ADEAA Go Dental virtual fair May 19th, 2-9pm EDT with many admisiosn representatives. Register early. As of June 16 Some dental schools have provided updates about course work, grades, DAT, interviews on teh ADEA website.
  • For Veterinary School Information - AAVMC

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Our goal is simple make sure that we are as accessible to you as before and just a click away. All details on this page about teh different stages of the pandemic so far are applicable for those who plan to apply to health professions schools in summer 2021.  

Additionally, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) affirmed and updated the information they presented a year ago about the accommodations they offer to applicants because of the pandemic. You can read their statement here: Osteopathic Medical Schools Adapt Admissions Processes in Response to COVID-19

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    Our goal is simple make sure that we are as accessible to you as before and just a click away. 

    1. While we won't hold individual appointments through Zoom, we expanded our open hours. Our Zoom Open Hours are posted on the website.  Simply click on the link corresponding to the individual Open Hours session you'd like to tune in to. 
    2. The Health Careers Peer Advisors' open hours are cancelled but you are welcome to email any of them whose activities you are interested in learning about. 
    3. Events and Programs- most stay on and go live through Zoom. These include our Applicant Seminars and Medical School Admission Dean presentations.

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    Many of the activities you were involved with or were hoping to pursue between spring 2020 and summer 2021 would have been postponed. Hospitals and clinics nation-wide are likely to keep their volunteer programs on hold for some time; many research projects may be infeasible remotely; many service and leadership activities in the broader community may also have to wait. Brown's LEVEL 1 and LEVEL 2 designations do not permit off-campus travel for volunteer and service activities. Level 1 also restricts off-campus employment.

     Keep in mind that students nationally have been experiencing similar constraints. This would not only be a limitation for you. The 2020- 2021 academic year may be a great time to engage in some mentorship or other types of service remotely, so consider looking for such opportunities once you've settled into your studies for each term. All programs coordinated by the Swearer Center for Public Service are remote beginning in the fall 2020 term. Research at Brown enters Stage 2 in June 2021 (details on this page). Explore the Center's Engagement Guidelines. The excellent ideas and opportunities sourced by NAAHP are also great to explore. Admission committees would be mindful to keep all of this in context when you apply. This page on CareerLAB's website can be a useful guide about some types of activities. If you are a first-year or sophomore student, you'll have plenty of opporutnities to engage in activities in the coming years. The full-length summer 2021 term won't affect your prospects negatively.

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    Health professions school applications ask if you have taken any time away from your studies. As the curriculum at medical and other health professions schools is very rigorous, admission committees need to ensure they understand any gaps in academics or activities to gauge the applicant’s readiness for the study of health and medicine.

    What matters most for your decision is why you would take time away and what you would do with it.

    Make your decision in context and judiciously. If you have a great opportunity such as a job or service activity you couldn’t do at another time, there would be no concern about a semester away from your studies that enriches your relevant knowledge and experience. Note that generally students can't request a personal leave while they are in their first semester at Brown. 

    If you encounter serious personal or family challenges and need to address them by taking some time away from your studies, you will have the opportunity to write about this in your applications. Admission committees would look at this through the lens of your aspiration to become a clinician whose commitment is to giving good guidance to patients for their safety and well-being. If you need to take a break from your studies to care for yourself or for others at a particularly challenging time, this can show appropriate action and care.

    In making your decision consider the Health Professions Competencies as a guiding framework. They include both Resilience and Adaptability, which demonstrate the ability to manage challenging circumstances, and Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others, which is not only about your integrity but also about making appropriate decisions that matter for you and others. While students often worry that they may be scrutinized if they take time away, if you have a clear need, prioritize safety and health.

    The important details about broader considerations and the process of taking and returning from leave are posted on:

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    1. Information from various offices at Brown. Please make sure you follow the guidance you receive from various offices at Brown. You may be receiving messages from the President's and the Provost's office, as well as from a number of other offices ranging from The College, Financial Aid, the Registrar, SEAS, SSS, CAPS to a number of other offices. You would also be receiving messages from the instructors of your courses.
    2. Information from various federal, state, and local agencies. As you settle home make sure you stay up-to-date on the specific guidance you would be receiving from responsible authorities in your area so you stay safe and contribute to the community's well-being. 
    3. Do take good care of yourselves and those around you. The months ahead will bring uncertainty and concern to all. It is especially important at times like these to make sure you focus on your and others' well-being. You aim to become health professionals. What you experience and observe now can help inform your career aspirations. It also calls for compassion, care, and dedication to the well-being of all, including yourselves. Among the good guidance you may be getting from sources you trust, such as the WHO and CDC, consider Dr. Jud Brewer's regular videos on managing the stress of the current situation
    4. Consult only credible and official sources of information about any aspects of the application process. All information from our office, on our website, and in other information sources is fully reliable.  Be very careful when consulting online discussion boards or the websites of presumed experts.  There is a lot of misinformation coming from such sources even at the best of times. In uncertain times there will likely be more speculation and misinformation through such sources. 

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