The Big Picture: What to Consider as you Develop your Plans

In Your First Semester

If you are just starting at Brown and are interested in the health professions, attend the health careers presentation during orientation week as well as one of the information sessions offered during the year. These meetings will help you develop a plan for your pre-health/pre-medical course of study. We often recommend starting the chemistry sequence early, though this depends on your interests and academic goals. 

One major piece of advice applies to every student: Do not take more than two science courses in your first semester of study. You are new to Brown and have no way to gauge how you will perform in college-level science courses. Pace yourself well to be successful in your course work. Consult the list of recommended pre-health/pre-med courses and sample study plans to see which courses you will need to take and when. 

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Time Management

All students, regardless of their post-college aspirations, need to balance their time commitments carefully. Allow enough time to study for classes without cutting into your non-academic interests (and time for fun!) and vice versa. Many new students at Brown quickly recognize that college-level study requires a greater commitment of time and effort than high school study. Use your first year to learn how to study and manage your time effectively as a college student. A range of Tutoring and Coaching workshops, group and individual tutoring are available and can give you a great boost not only during your adaptation to college life but also later when you manage a progressively rich and intensive course and co-curricular schedule.

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Academic Preparation

Applicants to medical and other health professions schools have to present evidence that they can succeed in a fast-paced, science-intensive curriculum. In addition, health profession schools value intellectual curiosity, breadth of study, and the potential to be an avid life-long learner. Admission committees will be interested in your overall academic record, your MCAT (or other) scores, and your letters of recommendation from faculty, mentors and supervisors.

Successful applicants to medical school generally have a science GPA of 3.5 or higher (average GPAs vary for admitted applicants to other health professions). Note that strong grade point averages and test scores alone are not enough to gain admission to any health profession training program. However, if you have experienced significant acute or systemic challenges and show continual improvement, admission committees would take these into consideration. You need to also demonstrate your interest in and knowledge of the profession, as well as strong interpersonal abilities. Develop these consistently throughout your studies at Brown to amass a strong record so you are in the best position to apply. 

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Clinical Experience

All health profession training programs require you to gain some knowledge of the profession you aspire to join before applying. In the case of medical school, there is no particular time commitment that you must make, though we recommend volunteering or working in a clinical setting at least once per week over the span of a year or more (including regular semesters and summers). Students interested in veterinary school will need extensive experience working with animals (preferably in a range of professional areas). Dental applicants need to demonstrate that they have spent a significant number of hours working or volunteering in a clinical setting (some schools require a minimum number of hours). Physician Assistant programs look for substantial clinical work experience and generally would not consider clinical volunteering to be sufficient. Other professions have similar requirements. The more involved you are with clinical activities, the stronger your application will be, and the better you will be prepared for your chosen profession. 

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Research Experience

Although research is not strictly required by the great majority of medical and other health professions schools, most applicants have one or more experiences that expose them to the practice of scholarly inquiry before they apply for admission. Think of this as an important part of your academic and career exploration. Medical schools will not prefer any particular type of research, so look for opportunities that match your  interests.

Some students prefer to participate in clinical research projects, while others are more inclined to pursue basic science research. A great way to connect with professionals who are looking for assistants on campus is the Directory of Research and Researchers at Brown. Employers, including organizations seeking reserach assistants post internships on CareerLAB's Handshake system. Our Activities Related to Health Care section also offers a wealth of useful information and links. These include great summer research opportunities for students from backgrounds under-represented in the health professions.

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Other Activities

In evaluating your application, health profession training programs look for evidence that you have challenged yourself through activities that demonstrate leadership, service to others, and the ability to communicate with others across cultures, gender, race, economic status, or affinity. Your applications will require you to list any activities that are relevant to your overall development as a student and a person, so it is never too early to think carefully about the types of activities to which you want to commit time and energy. Although breadth of experience is certainly encouraged, it is best to explore a few areas of greatest interest to you in depth. For example, a single day of volunteerism at an event or a very brief trip abroad will not give you sufficient experience, opportunity to learn, and to contribute to others' well-being. On-campus resources that will help you identify opportunities include the Swearer Center for Public Service, student organizations, and CareerLAB

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Connect with Faculty and Other Mentors

Meaningful interaction with faculty and mentors on a regular basis will not only provide you with intellectual stimulation but will also give you excellent guidance and support. Faculty may be able to direct you to a number of research, clinical, academic, or public service opportunities. Ultimately, they will be the individuals who can write letters of recommendation on your behalf. Such letters from supervisors, mentors, and members of the faculty can provide evidence of your interpersonal skills, maturity, intellectual development, and preparation to embark on professional studies in the health professions during your time at Brown.

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Support Systems on Campus

Your studies and maintaining your well-being go hand in hand. There is a wide range of offices and individuals on campus that can help support your academic as well as your wellness and other personal needs. For general academic advising, tutoring, coaching or mentorship

For broad-based advising, you can meet with a Dean of the College for general or more specific questions unrelated to your interest in the health professions. Your First-Year Advisor, Meiklejohn Peer Advisor, Faculty Advising Fellows, Randall Advisors and Sophomore Advisors in your sophomore year, can all be great resources. Your concentration advisor will be most helpful in sophomore year and beyond (you can find contacts on individual academic departments' websites or on Focal Point). CareerLAB counselors can be helpful throughout your studies as you explore a range of career options, prepare for internships or similar activities, or for interviews. Students with little or no expected parental financial contribution can reach out to the Financial Advising team in The College in addition to directly speaking with the Financial Aid or Bursar offices. 

A range of other centers and offices, such as the Writing Center, the Math Resource Center, the Tutoring office, the Academic Support Services Coaches, the Curricular Resource Center, the Undocumented, First-Generation College, and Low Income Student Center, or the Brown Center for Students of Color can be great places to explore for support and community. 

Student Support Services, Counseling and Psychological ServicesStudent Accessibility Services, and Health Services are the best offices to use for your physical and emotional wellness. 

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Selecting a Concentration

Brown students are required to declare a concentration by the middle of their fourth semester of study. It is never too early to learn about the many options you have in this regard. Start with Focal Point, a search engine that contains information on every concentration program at Brown, including course requirements. Explore departmental websites and talk to professors and well-informed peers.

Medical and other health profession schools do not require any particular concentration. Hence, you should choose your concentration based on your academic interests. You should also be aware that double concentrations do not necessarily enhance your chances of admission. Health profession schools will be most interested in what you have learned from your concentration, as well as the rationale for your academic choices. 

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