Planning and Preparation
Planning for a Career in the Health Professions
Course Recommendations | When do I take the MCAT? | Course Scenarios | What should I major in? | Public Health Cooperative Degree Program | Top Criteria for Admission
First Semester Recommendations
It is of utmost importance that you get started your first year by taking both BIO 150 and CHM 129 (or possibly CHM 210 if you have an AP chemistry score of 4 or 5). These are the pre-requisites for CHM 222 (Organic Chemistry) and BIO 251 (Molecules, Cells, and Organisms), which are required by most health professional schools.
Required or recommended courses for most health related programs
- 1 year Biology (Biology 251, 252) (Note: Bio 150 is a prerequisite for Bio 251)
- 2 years Chemistry (Chemistry 129, 210, 221, 222)
- 1 year Physics (Physics 131, 132)
- Calculus (as required for physics at Grinnell)
- 1 year English
- Tutorial counts for one semester
- The second semester should stress literature
You may also need:
- 1 semester of biological chemistry (BCM 262) (some medical schools require this, and its important for MCAT preparation)
- Statistics (some medical schools are starting to require this)
- Introductory Psychology and Sociology (helps with MCAT preparation)
You might consider these courses as electives:
- Animal Development
- Animal Physiology
Take courses other than science, too!
Some schools specify a minimum number of courses outside the sciences. Be sure to check the requirements carefully for the schools to which you want to apply. The AAMC website links to most U.S. medical schools' requirements.
For admission to medical school in the Fall following college graduation, the medical college admissions test (MCAT) should be taken in the spring of your third year so you can apply to schools the summer before your fourth year. All of the material covered in required courses is subject to examination on the MCAT. Therefore, all of the requirements must be completed by the end of the junior year. It is important to note that for incoming students without any advanced placement, this averages two courses in the science division per semester. See potential course scenarios below.
- Each year about half the Grinnell applicants to medical school are just entering their fourth year of undergraduate study. They took the MCAT as a junior and hope to matriculate to medical school in the Fall following graduation.
- That means the other half of our applicants each year have already graduated from Grinnell. Most of them spread the required coursework over 8 semesters and took the MCAT as a senior. Many of them participated in off-campus study.
- Our course scenarios are only examples. Grinnell College students should consult regularly with their academic advisors regarding their course selections.
A major in science is not required for admission to medical school. With careful planning, pre-health students can pursue a non-science major. Nationally, just over half of entering medical students majored in biological sciences, 12% majored in physical sciences, 14% majored in humanities or social science fields, and 20% were categorized with an "Other" major. (AAMC Table 18, 2014)
Are you interested in a public health field? Check out the public health cooperative degree (4:1) program between Grinnell College and the University of Iowa, which allows completion of a baccalaureate and master's degree in five years. Admission to the program occurs during spring semester of the third year at Grinnell.
According to Dr. Jim Phillips, Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Pediatrics of Baylor Medical School, admissions boards consider many criteria, GPA and MCAT scores being the most influential. In addition to completion of required courses, the following criteria (in descending order of importance) influence admission to medical school.
- MCAT score
- letters of recommendation
- extra curricular activities (e.g. shadow a physician multiple times)
- health related experiences
- other life experiences
- academic progression (e.g. have you shown improvement during your career as a student?)