PreHealth

Pre-Medical

Admission to medical school is a highly competitive process. Approximately half or more of those who apply to medical school each year do not get accepted because of limited enrollment space. Students who want to pursue a medical degree must thoroughly prepare themselves to be competitive applicants during the pre-medical years.

Prerequisite Courses

NOTE: Medical schools determine their own individual requirements.  The courses listed below are a general guide.  It is your responsibility to research the specific requirements for each school you are interested in applying to.  Refer to the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) or the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book and individual schools’ websites to determine the specific requirements for individual institutions.  If you have questions about individual requirements, contact the school directly.

IMPORTANT!  Significant changes will be made to pre-medical prerequisite coursework over the next few years.  Stay in touch with your Pre-Health Counselor to keep update on these changes and to find out if they will affect you.

The following courses are required by most medical schools with a grade of C or better*:

  • Introduction to Writing: ENGL 1010
  • Intermediate Writing: ENGL 2010 or 2020
  • College Biology I and II with labs: BIOL 1610/1615 and 1620/1625
  • Principles of Chemistry I and II with labs: CHEM 1210/1215 and 1220/1225
  • Organic Chemistry I and II with labs: CHEM 2310/2315 and 2320/2325
  • Biochemistry: BIOL 3600 (2605 lab optional)
  • College Physics I and II with labs: PHYS 2010/2015 and 2020/2025
  • Principles of Statistics: MATH 2040
  • General Psychology: PSY 1010
  • Introduction to Sociology: SOC 1010

* Many schools do not accept prerequisite courses taken online.

In addition, some schools require or recommend the following courses:

  • Calculus I: MATH 1210 and/or Calculus II: MATH 1220
  • Human Anatomy with lab: ZOOL 2320/2325
  • Human Physiology with lab: ZOOL 2420/2425
  • Microbiology with lab: MICR 2060/2065 or MICR 3450/3455
  • Genetics with tutorial: BIOL 3500/3505
  • Cell Biology: BIOL 3400
  • Molecular Biology: BIOL 3550
  • Other Upper Division Biology Courses
    • e.g. Advanced Anatomy, Pathophysiology, Histology, Neuroscience, Comparative Vertebrate Zoology, Pharmacology, Immunology, etc.

GPA

GPA is a vital part of your application to medical school.  Medical schools will consider your science, non-science, and cumulative/overall GPA as well as the trend of grades.

  • Allopathic (MD) medical schools, include Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math in the science GPA.  For more information, see the AMCAS Course Classification Guide.
  • Osteopathic (DO) medical schools, include Biology/Zoology, Biochemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Other Science, and Physics in the science GPA.  For more information, see the classification guide in the AACOMAS Application Instructions.

NOTE: All grades received for college credit will be calculated into your GPA even if you have retaken courses.  If you have taken any courses at a different school or if you have retaken courses, your UVU GPA will not likely reflect the accurate GPA calculation for medical schools.  Check with individual schools regarding their policy on retakes. 

  • Minimum GPA considered by most medical schools: 3.0
  • Minimum GPA for the University of Utah School of Medicine: 3.2
  • Average accepted GPA: 3.5-3.7

GPA Calculator

To get a general idea of your science (BCPM), non-science (all other), and overall GPA, use the GPA calculator.  Be sure to follow the guidelines below for the most accurate calculation.

Guidelines:

  • Be sure to press 'Enable Macros' or ‘Enable Content’ for the file to function properly.
  • Include every course you have taken for college credit even if you have retaken the course.
    • Include transfer credit from other schools you have attended.
    • DO medical schools will only use the most recent grade if a course has been retaken.
    • Pass/Fail courses are not included in the GPA.
GPA Calculator Download

Medical College Admission Test

The MCAT is a standardized examination required as part of your application to medical school.  It is a very challenging exam that requires extensive preparation in the form of review and practice.  Your preparation for the MCAT will actually begin with the first day of your first premed prerequisite course.

In April 2015, the AAMC launched an updated version of the MCAT exam.  The exam consists of the following 4 sections:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

Section Scores: Each of the four sections is scored from a low of 118 to a high of 132, with a midpoint of 125.

Total Score: Scores for the four sections are combined to create a total score. The total score ranges from 472 to 528. The midpoint is 500.

It is recommended that you take the exam in the spring of the year of application so scores can be available for early application to medical schools.

Preparing for the MCAT

You should begin studying for the MCAT at least 6 months prior to taking the test.  Consider your study time to be equivalent to the time commitment of a 3-4 credit hour class.  Some students choose to study on their own or with other students who are also preparing to take the exam.  For students who choose to study on their own, there are various books designed to help guide you through the preparation process.  Books have been published by Exam Krackers, Kaplan, and Princeton Review to name a few. These books can be purchased online or at various bookstores. 

Other students choose to take a prep course. There are several private companies that offer MCAT prep courses, each with their own individual promises.  These courses may range in price from about $800-$3000.  UVU does not recommend one company over another.  Visit the companies' websites listed below and talk to fellow classmates before choosing a prep course.

KaplanPrinceton ReviewAce Test PrepAltius Test PrepTest ClubBYU Test Prep  Gold Standard MCAT

Official MCAT2015 Preparation Resources

What's on the MCAT2015 Exam? Interactive Tool – Learn all about what is on the MCAT2015 exam with this free online tool.

The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam + Online Practice Questions – The first and only official comprehensive overview about the MCAT exam.  Includes 120 practice questions and solutions.

Official MCAT Question Packs -- Official MCAT Question Packs cover targeted subject areas, including Biology, Physics, Chemistry, as well as Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.

Official MCAT2015 Sample Test – The first full-length test time to simulate the actual exam. 

Khan Academy MCAT Video Tutorials – Over 500 free videos and review questions are available and the collection continues to grow.

Psychology and Sociology Textbook ResourceProvides a "roadmap" to help you focus your studies as you prepare to take the MCAT exam.

Pre-health Collection in iCollaborative -- Free, open access repository of instructional resources.  The collection includes more than 400 video tutorials and hundreds of questions and more are being added.

Extracurricular Activities

It is extremely important to be involved in activities outside of the classroom in order to be competitive for admission into medical school.  Extracurricular activities are a chance for you to set yourself apart and display your motivation for pursuing medicine and dedication to serving the community. 

Preparing to apply to medical school is NOT about checking off boxes.  Medical schools care more about what you learned from your experiences than what you actually did.  It is strongly recommended that you participate in activities that push you outside of your comfort zone, lending to a greater learning experience.

Minimum Recommended Extracurricular Activities

  • Community/Volunteer Service: 75-100 hours during each of the premedical years, including the year of application.
  • Leadership: 3+ positions, each lasting 3 months or longer during the premedical years
  • Patient Contact: 100 hours or more during the premedical years
  • Research: 50 hours or more during the premedical years
  • Physician Shadowing: 3+ different physicians; 40 hours or more during the premedical years

Volunteering

Volunteer service can be done with any group or organization and does not have to be healthcare related, but it can be helpful to look for opportunities that will take you out of your comfort zone and show a diversity of experience.  Being involved in 2-3 service opportunities will benefit you more than having several brief experiences.  We typically see from students who get accepted to medical programs have 75-100 hours each year.

 

Shadowing

Professional schools want to know you have had enough experience with professionals in the field to know that it is something you really want to do and that you have a good understanding of what your life will be like.  In addition, it is a great opportunity to ask questions and develop rapport with professionals.  You will likely need at least one letter of recommendation from someone in the field you have chosen.  You will get a better letter if you spend some time getting to know the people you shadow.

You are expected to demonstrate dependability and professionalism, while discovering skills that will benefit you as a healthcare professional.  Some programs look for separate shadowing and patient contact experience, while others will consider them combined.  Plan to shadow each professional for a minimum of 9-12 hours.  The number of overall shadowing hours we typically see from students who get accepted to medical programs are 40-50 hours of shadowing.

 

 

Research

What is it?

Research is more than just reviewing what others have already done and summarizing it in a long research paper for class.  Research revolves around a specific hypothesis and follows the scientific method.  Most research is experiment, survey, or observationally based.  Research does not have to be limited to healthcare or science fields and instead, may cover diverse subject matters. 

Examples of research:

  • Working in a genetics lab to determine how gene therapy influences deafness in mice
  • Collecting sea snails and observing how quickly they reproduce and in what conditions
  • Conducting interviews with women about how religion influences their self-efficacy
  • Experimenting with how fire-fighters get dressed to increase response rates in emergencies
  • Surveying teens about their views of sexuality

 

Why should I do it?

Many health professions programs will require you to assist in research, understand how to interpret research, or even run your own research projects.  Moreover, you will likely have opportunities to participate in research as a way of receiving financial compensation or to improve your attractiveness to residency programs.  Completing research in your undergraduate coursework shows your potential to be successful in graduate level research you are proving that your learning curve will not be too steep because you have done this before.

Research experience is required by most medical schools.

What are the expectations?

Many students wait to start working on research until their sophomore or junior year because research often requires enough coursework to provide a strong academic background and an introduction to research principles.  Regardless, research should typically be completed prior to the application in order to qualify for credit on the application.  Research may be in any subject, as long as it is hypothesis-based.

  • Research must be hypothesis-based
  • Research must be supervised or mentored by someone familiar with research processes
  • Research must follow scientific processes and is not simply reading about research that is already completed
  • Your hypothesis may be your own or you may assist in another person's research
  • Research is typically completed outside of class and not as part of your major
  • Plan on at least 50 hours to be competitive

 

How do I do it?

There are a few different ways to participate in research.

  1. Create your own project
    1. Develop a hypothesis for a subject of your choice
    2. Approach a professional who knows how to conduct research and ask for his or her help as a mentor
    3. Work with the professional to complete the research following sound scientific principles
  1. Help a professor with his or her own project
    1. Approach a professor to see if he or she is participating in research
    2. If YES, ask if you might be able to participate/assist.
      1. Follow the professor's expectations to complete the research
    3. If NO, ask if he or she knows 2-3 people that might be able to help
      1. Use that reference to approach the referral
      2. Repeat steps until you find a professor who will accept your assistance
  2. Find a professional (healthcare professionals, research organizations, other universities, etc.) to help with an existing project
    1. Approach a professional to see if they might accept your assistance OR
    2. Apply for a research position/internship like you would apply for a job
    3. Follow the professional's expectations to complete the research

Healthcare Experience

What is it?

Healthcare experience outside of shadowing usually includes volunteering or finding employment in a healthcare setting, usually with direct patient contact (i.e. offering clinical care and not just working in a healthcare environment).  Many students will consider getting a basic certification or may find opportunities that offer on-the-job training.

Examples of healthcare experience:

  • Volunteering with hospice
  • Working full-time as a paramedic
  • Taking a C.N.A. certification course and finding a position at a local hospital
  • Receiving on-the-job training to work as a Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy Tech
  • Getting an internship with the 30-Day Heart Challenge

 

Why should I do it?

Health professions programs will have greater confidence in your ability to interact positively with patients and withstand the rigor of a career in healthcare if they know you have already been part of the industry.  As you work in healthcare, you will develop concrete examples of yourself showing compassion to patients, working with a team of healthcare providers, and solving problems.  These experiences will likely assist you in your application, personal statement, letters of recommendation, and interviews.  Additionally, many health professions programs actually REQUIRE healthcare experience or patient contact.

What are the expectations?

Research the requirements for your health professions program to ensure you are meeting their expectations for healthcare experience. Some programs will specify the hours required and may require the experience to be paid. The recommendations for pre-medical healthcare experience is 100 hours of patient contact in at least two different settings.

How do I do it?

How you choose to get healthcare experience will depend on the qualifications of the jobs or volunteer opportunities you are seeking.  Many positions in healthcare require a certification (e.g. C.N.A., medical assistant, paramedic) while others are more flexible and require on-the-job training.  Sometimes approaching organizations directly is more effective than simply responding to job ads online.  Many students will also offer to volunteer for free, which sometimes leads to paid employment.

For assistance looking for and applying to healthcare jobs, contact the UVU Career Development Center.

Choosing a Medical School

Medical schools determine their own individual requirements.  It is highly recommended that students choose 5-10 medical schools they would be most interested in attending and make note of the admission requirements of those schools.

Students should be familiar with both allopathic and osteopathic medicine.  Many students apply to both MD and DO schools, and there is a good chance that you will work with physicians from both backgrounds.

Most students apply to an average of 15-20 medical schools.

Refer to the resources below and individual schools’ websites to determine the specific requirements for individual programs.

Allopathic (MD) Schools – Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR)

Osteopathic (DO) Schools – Osteopathic Medical College Information Book (CIB)

Letters of Recommendation