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Advising

Pre-health advising is individualized. The information provided here is only meant to be a brief introduction. Whether you aim to pursue an MS/MD/PhD, join Doctors Without Borders, become a large animal veterinarian, or serve your community as a specialty or primary care provider, we will work with you to help you achieve your goal.

Majors and Minors

While many pre-health students have a natural interest in the sciences, a major in the sciences is not required for admission to medical, dental or veterinary school. Professional schools welcome diverse academic backgrounds and select applicants who are passionate about what they study. Regardless of your major, you need to do well in prerequisite courses, and should complete all prerequisite courses before beginning the graduate application process and taking standardized entrance exams such as the MCAT or DAT.

Similarly, your choice of minor should follow from your interests. Minors in foreign languages, public policy, women’s or men’s studies, international relations, child advocacy, and a host of others serve pre-health students well. The Health Professions Minor is a popular option, but is not required.

Your faculty adviser and pre-health adviser are here to help you fashion an academic program that fits your interests and abilities while satisfying the prerequisites for admission to professional or graduate programs.

Course Suggestions

Below are some general suggestions and advice for students preparing for medical, dental, and veterinary school. Individual schools set their own prerequisites, and there is some variation between schools.

For extensive and up-to-date information about the prerequisites for specific schools and programs, see the health professions adviser.

BIOLOGY COURSES
BIOL 167 – Introductory Topics in Biology – is a prerequisite for other courses in biology and will be counted as one semester of biology by professional schools.

Pre-medical, pre-dental and pre-veterinary students should take at least two other lab courses in biology. Any two of the three courses listed below would be good choices, as concepts covered in these courses often appear on the DAT and MCAT.

  • BIOL 232 – Cell Biology
  • BIOL 220 – Genetics
  • BIOL 233 – General Physiology

BIOL 212 – Biostatistics will help HWS students satisfy their quantitative goal (Goal #3). BIOL 212 will also satisfy any statistics requirement or recommendation for health professional programs.

CHEMISTRY COURSES
Medical, Dental, and Veterinary schools require a significant amount of chemistry courses. There are two options for completing the general chemistry requirement. Students may complete either a single, accelerated course:

  • CHEM 190 – Accelerated General Chemistry

or both of:

  • CHEM 110 – Introductory General Chemistry
  • CHEM 120 – Intermediate General Chemistry

Students should then continue with the organic chemistry sequence:

  • CHEM 240 – Organic Chemistry I
  • CHEM 241 – Organic Chemistry II

Medical, veterinary, and most dental schools require students to take biochemistry. Students preparing for careers in these fields should plan on taking:

  • CHEM 348 – Biochemistry I

PHYSICS COURSES
Students preparing for medical, dental, or veterinary school should take:

  • PHYS 150 – Introductory Physics I
  • PHYS 160 – Introductory Physics II

Introductory physics courses for non-majors such as PHYS 112, PHYS 120 or PHYS 140 will not satisfy prerequisite requirements for most health professional programs.

MATH COURSES
Some veterinary and dental schools require two semesters of calculus. Most medical schools require knowledge of calculus and statistics but do not set specific course prerequisites.

MATH 130 – Calculus I is a prerequisite for PHYS 150
MATH 131 – Calculus II is a prerequisite for PHYS 160

Pre-medical students who earn credit for MATH 131 need not take any additional calculus courses. Pre-medical students should take BIOL 212 – Biostatistics, or another statistics course.

Pre-dental and pre-veterinary students should complete two courses at the level of MATH 130 or above. It is also recommended they complete a statistics course.

Students who do not score high enough on the math placement exam to place into Calculus I or II will need to complete a pre-calculus course, MATH 100 (offered only in the fall), before enrolling in calculus.

MATH 100 prepares for success in the calculus courses, but does not satisfy any calculus prerequisite.

ENGLISH COURSES
Most health professional programs require two semesters of English or writing. Many different English or Writing and Rhetoric courses may be used to satisfy this requirement.

SOCIAL SCIENCE COURSES
Successful clinical careers require understanding not only the science of disease and health, but also the psychological, social, and cultural factors that shape human behavior. For this reason, many programs require courses in the social sciences. One of the four sections of the MCAT tests knowledge of the psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior. It is strongly recommended that pre-medical students take:

  • PSY 100 – Introduction to Psychology

Mid Level Provider Careers

NURSING (ACCELERATED BSN PROGRAMS)
Nursing is a very diverse occupation, with possibilities for a great variety of kinds and levels of patient care. For students who complete a degree at HWS, accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs allow them to sit for the national licensure exam (NCLEX-RN) and gain entry into the profession. The programs build on your prior undergraduate training, and are typically completed in one calendar year. Some programs allow applicants to apply for the BSN with a guarantee of direct entry into masters (nurse practitioner) programs.

Many of the following courses are commonly required for admission to BSN accelerated programs. Since each nursing program’s criteria is unique, students are advised to refer to the individual schools to determine specific course admission requirements.

Biology – General
Chemistry – General (2 semesters)
Statistics
Psychology – Developmental
Anatomy
Physiology
Microbiology
Nutrition
All science courses must be accompanied by a lab.

The Health Professions Office in Career Services has more detailed information about the prerequisites for specific degree programs.

In addition to completing individual school course requirements, students should plan to participate in health related experience. Many programs also require the GRE or other entrance exam.

Note that Hobart and William Smith Colleges has an agreement with the University of Rochester School of Nursing that allows students to secure early admission to the U of R. Students begin the application process for this program toward the end of their sophomore year.

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY (OT)
An Occupational Therapist (OT) works with patients who suffer from mental, physical, developmental or other disabling conditions. The OT works with patients to help them better perform the tasks of daily living as well as tasks necessary to be productive in the workplace. The OT helps patients recover lost function as well as compensate for permanent disabilities. As much as possible, the goal of occupational therapy is to enable patients to live independent, useful, and satisfying lives.

Some institutions offer entry-level master’s programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).

Many of the following courses are commonly required for admission to OT accredited Master of Science degree programs. Since each OT program’s criteria is unique, students are advised to refer to the individual schools to determine specific course admission requirements.

Biology – General
Anatomy
Physiology
Psychology: Abnormal, Developmental
Sociology
Statistics
All science courses must be accompanied by a lab.

Some programs also require standardized test scores such as the GRE.

OPTOMETRY
Optometrists are the primary care providers for all things associated with vision. Most Optometrists are generalists, but specialization is possible by completing a one year residency program after the four year Doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree.

Note that optometrists should be distinguished from opticians, who fit people for eyeglasses or contacts, and from ophthalmologists, who are specialized physicians (MD) who perform eye surgery and treat a variety of diseases associated with the eye.

The following courses are prerequisites for admission to most optometry programs. Since each program’s criteria is unique, students are advised to refer to the individual schools to determine specific course admission requirements.

Chemistry – General (2 semesters)
Organic Chemistry (2 semesters)
Biology – General
Microbiology
Calculus
Physics (2 semesters)
Psychology
Writing
Anatomy
Physiology
Biochemistry
Statistics

Students interested in applying to optometry programs are encouraged to begin planning early. Admission to optometry schools also requires that you take the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT). More information on the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT) and programs.

PHYSICAL THERAPY (PT)
Physical Therapists work with patients to improve, restore and maintain physical mobility. They often work in close consultation with physicians as they help patients recover from a wide range of illnesses, accidents, and conditions. Physical therapists work with patients of all ages, and the work can often be physically demanding.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is the credential that enables the practice of physical therapy. Many states also require passage of a licensing exam. The length and curriculum of DPT programs vary, but a typical program takes three years of full-time study after college to complete.

Many of the following courses are commonly required for DPT admission. Since each DPT program’s criteria is unique, students are advised to refer to individual schools to determine specific course admission requirements.

Biology – General (2 semesters)
Chemistry – General (2 semesters)
Physics – General (2 semesters)
Anatomy
Physiology
Social Sciences: Psychology or Sociology
Physical Movement (1 Semester)
Statistics
English: Writing
All science courses must be accompanied by a lab.

The Health Professions Office in Career Services has more detailed information about the prerequisites for specific degree programs.

Students interested in applying to DPT programs are encouraged to begin planning early. Many PT schools require a specific number of hours spent in clinical settings. Many also require the GRE.

PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT (PA)
Physician Assistants are licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of a doctor. They diagnose and treat patients, and may work with part of a large team in a hospital setting or act as primary care providers in small clinics. Many specialize. For additional information on the profession of physician assistant, click here.

PA programs typically last between two and three years and award a PA accredited Master of Science degree upon completion. Since each PA program’s criteria is unique, students are advised to refer to the individual schools to determine specific course admission requirements.

Chemistry – General (2 semesters)
Organic Chemistry (1 semester) or Biochemistry (1 semester)
Biology – General (2 semesters)
Anatomy
Physiology
Microbiology and/or Genetics
Statistics
Behavioral Health: Sociology and/or Psychology (developmental)
English: Writing
All science courses must be accompanied by a lab.

The Health Professions Office in Career Services has more detailed information about the prerequisites for specific degree programs.

Most PA programs require significant experience in clinical settings, often in direct patient care. The hourly requirement can be up to 1000 hours.

Additionally, applicants should refer to each school’s GPA criteria and verify if an admission test is required (GRE or MCAT).

PHARMACY
Pharmacy college programs generally last four years. Some schools accept transfer applications from students who have completed the college course prerequisites. The most common route for HWS students, however, is to apply at the end of the junior year and complete undergraduate training at HWS before matriculating at pharmacy school. Many of the following courses are commonly required for admission to Doctor of Pharmacy programs, however, course requirements vary from school to school. For more information on the profession, educational preparation and specific admission requirements including admission testing (PCAT), refer to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) website.

English: writing
Social/Behavioral Sciences: Psychology or sociology
Some programs ask for additional social science courses such as economics
Calculus (1 or 2 semesters)
Statistics
General Chemistry – (2 semesters)
Organic Chemistry – (2 semesters)
Physics – (1 or 2 semesters)
Biology – (4 or more semesters)

Students interested in a career in pharmacy should plan to participate in health related experience. The entrance exam for pharmacy programs is the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). Click here for more information about the PCAT.

AP OR IB CREDIT

Health professional programs treat AP and IB in different ways. It is the prospective applicant’s responsibility to investigate and meet the specific requirements and policies of individual programs. Some programs may require or prefer students who earn AP or IB credit to complete more advanced coursework to satisfy prerequisites.

STANDARDIZED EXAMS

The best first preparation for the MCAT, DAT, OAT and PCAT are the prerequisite courses. In addition to the relevant coursework, you will also want to commit to additional review and study time to produce the best result on your exam. Timing is important. You must have exam scores when you submit your application to medical, dental, or other health professional programs. The most competitive applications to medical and dental programs are submitted 13 or 14 months before you hope to begin medical or dental school.

Consider a schedule that allows you to do well on the exam and to submit polished applications in a timely manner. Individual advice on preparation and timing is provided.