Office of Pre-Health Advising

Pre-Medicine

General Information

Lehman College offers pre-medical preparation for undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate students interested in pursuing a career in medicine. Opportunities and services available to students include the following:

  • Strong academic preparation in the required pre-medical “core” of classes
  • Broad selection of recommended classes “beyond the core”
  • Pre-Medical Advising for academic and nonacademic requirements for medical school admissions
  • Assistance with the application process, including essay preparation and interview coaching
  • Lehman Pre-Professional Faculty Evaluation Committee that prepares composite recommendation letters on the student’s behalf
  • Opportunities to become involved in research
  • Student clubs that offer guest speakers, community service opportunities, and support

Planning the Program of Study

“Pre-Medicine” is not a degree, nor is it a major or a minor. It is a plan of action that is designed to prepare you to meet the requirements for admission into medical school, in addition to completing a 4-year Bachelor’s degree. The premedical course requirements must be completed before entering med school, but not necessarily before applying to med school.

When planning the program of study, it is very important to complete the majority of the subject matter that will be tested by the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) before actually taking the test. This material includes two semesters each of biology, general (inorganic) chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. It is typical to take the MCAT in the late spring/early summer following the junior year.

Selection of a Major

The majority of students accepted into medical school receive a B.S. degree in a science field (especially biology and chemistry). However, there are a large number of students that pursue the B.A. or other degrees; a science major is not a prerequisite for medical school. Medical school admissions committees have no preference for any particular undergraduate major; what they are concerned with is how well you perform in your major and that you show strong aptitude in the required basic science courses.

Choose a major that truly interests you. If you are not successful in getting accepted to medical school, you will want a degree in a subject that you enjoy and that opens other career options for you.

Pre-Med Course Requirements

The requirements for admission to medical schools are determined by each individual medical school. For specific school-by-school requirements, the primary reference is the MSAR: Medical School Admissions Requirements. This is an invaluable resource for pre-med students, and is updated annually. You may purchase a copy of the MSAR directly at www.aamc.org ; a copy is also available in the Pre-Health Advising office. You can also visit individual medical schools’ websites for a listing of their current admissions requirements.

The minimum course requirements for most of the U.S. medical schools are:

General Biology-one year  BIO 166 & 167 (with labs)
General Chemistry-one year  CHE 166/167 & 168/169 (with labs)
General Physics-one year  PHY 166 & 167 (with labs)
Organic Chemistry-one year  CHE 232/233 & 234/235 (with labs)
Calculus – one year   MAT  175/155 & 176/156 (with labs)
English – one year   ENG 110 & 120

NOTE: All science classes should be pre-professional level courses designed for science majors.

In addition to the above courses:

Biochemistry is highly recommended.

Other courses that are often recommended to help prepare for admissions tests and/or medical school include:

  • Genetics
  • Microbiology
  • Cell Biology
  • Animal or Comparative Physiology
  • Vertebrate Anatomy or Zoology
  • Immunology
  • Statistics
  • Psychology

NOTE: All science classes should be pre-professional level courses designed for science majors.

*Advanced Placement Credit: Most medical schools have policies regarding advanced placement (AP) credits. One of the problems with AP credit is that there is no grade available to evaluate the student’s performance in the class, and no grade available to compute into the GPA. For these reasons, many medical schools will not accept AP credit to fulfill the requirements for science and math, and only occasionally for English.

Usually, if a medical school requires a certain number of hours of subject X, they want you in a college classroom for that number of hours. Some medical schools have a more lenient policy on AP than others. If you have any questions about AP credit, contact the admissions office of the medical schools to which you want to apply, or contact the Pre-Health Advisor’s office.

*Withdrawals: Course withdrawals should be taken very seriously. “W”s on a transcript are red flags to admissions committees. One or two “W”s may not necessarily have an adverse impact, if they are accompanied by justifiable, reasonable explanations for withdrawing (personal illness, family crisis, etc). Students should consider the withdrawal option from any course with caution.

Admissions Process

There are 3 basic steps to the admissions process:

Step 1: Primary Application

Usually done through a centralized, web-based application service. The applicant fills out one online application and tells the service which medical schools to distribute the application to. The application must be completely filled out before it can be submitted, and includes demographic information, a listing of extracurricular activities, work experience, and the Personal Statement (aka the Essay). In addition, you must list each institution of upper education that you have attended, every college course taken, and the credit hours and grade for every course. The application service verifies official transcripts and calculates the applicant’s “official” GPAs. If a medical school participates in an application service, you must apply through that service.

There are several web-based application services for US medical schools:

Application forms are available on-line beginning in May each year; the services generally begin allowing submission of the forms on June 1; this marks the beginning of the official application season (or ‘cycle’). Medical school applications are filed a year in advance (ie, apply in 2008 for entry into med school in fall 2009). Most students begin the application process at the end of the junior year for entry into medical school in the fall of the following year. The end of the junior year is also when most students take the MCAT; MCAT scores are a required part of the formal application.

Applications are processed and acted upon as they are received. Many schools begin interviewing in the fall, and make decisions about accepting students soon after their interview. If you wait until the last minute to meet a school’s deadline (usually sometime in November or December), you will likely be competing for fewer openings than were available earlier in the year, effectively decreasing your chances for acceptance. If possible, APPLY EARLY!!!

Step 2: Secondary Application

Once the primary online application has been distributed to the medical schools designated by the applicant, the application service has completed its role, and the applicant deals directly with the medical schools for the remainder of the process. The next step is the secondary application, in which the medical school invites the applicant to submit additional information and short essays. Letters of recommendation are requested at this stage.

Step 3: Interview

Upon invitation from the medical school. This is the final step. After the interview, the medical school admissions committee makes the final decision to accept the applicant, place the applicant on a waiting list, or reject the applicant.

Factors in Applicant Selection by Medical Schools

There are several standard factors that all medical schools consider when selecting each year’s entering freshmen. Schools may vary, however, in how much weight that they give to each factor:

1. Academic Record

The academic record will be judged primarily by grades (GPA), difficulty of the courses, and the ‘strength’ of the schedule. The GPA will be assessed in 2 basic ways: 1) the Overall GPA (grade average for all undergraduate coursework) and 2) the Science/Math or ‘BCPM’ (biology/chemistry/physics/math) GPA. The BCPM GPA is one of the most significant factors for admission to medical school; it is seen as a predictor of aptitude and success in med school-level coursework.

2. Admissions Test (MCAT)

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) carries the same weight as grades (and sometimes more) when an applicant is evaluated for medical school admission. In fact, many schools use only GPA and MCAT scores for their preliminary applicant screening.

The MCAT is administered on multiple dates from January through September. The paper version of the test was phased out in 2006 and replaced with a computer-based test in 2007. The computer-based test takes approximately 4 ½ hours to complete.

The test is divided into 4 sections:

  • Biological Sciences (BS): biology & organic chemistry
  • Physical Sciences (PS): general chemistry and physics
  • Verbal Reasoning (VR): reading comprehension
  • Writing Sample

Required coursework in biology, general (inorganic) chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics should ideally be completed before taking the MCAT. Students are encouraged to plan to take the MCAT in the spring of the junior year or early summer following the junior year, rather than waiting until late summer or fall. This plan allows for a chance to repeat the test if the first test score is not competitive. Late-in-the-year testing also delays processing of your application by medical schools. Focused preparation for the MCAT usually begins in the junior year. There are several ways to prepare for the test, including books on the MCAT, preparation software packages, and commercial review courses. Taking practice MCAT tests is essential and considered perhaps the most valuable and important method of preparing for the test.

For information on the MCAT: www.aamc.org/students/mcat. Students taking the MCAT are also required to read MCAT Essentials.

3. Recommendations

Take some time to get to know your professors. You want your recommenders to speak about your motivation, integrity, communication skills, and other character items not found in a transcript or test score. A letter that says only “John came to class regularly and made good grades” is a very weak reference, and can actually have a negative impact on an individual’s chances of getting accepted.

Medical schools will ask for recommendation letters as part of the secondary application for admission. The schools will specify how they want to receive recommendations; this will usually be a choice of one of the following 2 formats:

  • Individual letters of recommendation mailed directly to the medical school: the school will usually specify how many letters and who should author them.
  • Committee Evaluation Letter: many universities have a committee of selected faculty and advisors that generates a single composite evaluation of the student. The composite is based on letters of evaluation from faculty members at the institution, chosen by the student. The evaluation committee reviews the letters, and other relevant information such as GPA and MCAT scores, and generates a summary of comments and an assessment of the student as a candidate for medical school. This composite evaluation is then sent directly to the medical school admissions committees. Most medical schools prefer a committee letter over individual letters.

4. Extracurricular Activities / Medically-related Experience

Extracurricular activities are highly desirable. The student who maintains a strong GPA in a demanding curriculum and also has time for outside interests and commitments is obviously motivated and energetic. However, extracurricular activities and medically-related experience cannot outweigh or substitute for a poor academic track record or low MCAT scores.

5. Interview

Following review of secondary applications, a select group of top applicants is invited for personal interviews. This is the final step of the admissions process. The interview is extremely important. It is the first chance for the committee to see you “off paper”, and your chance to stand out and leave a good impression of character, maturity, and motivation. The format of the interview varies from school to school. It may be one-on-one, or a personal interview in front of a panel, or a group interview where several candidates are interviewed at the same time.

What makes a “Competitive” Applicant?

Predicting which students will be accepted and which will be rejected from medical school is not a simple task, because so many factors are involved. However, one can look at average GPAs and MCAT scores for accepted students as a good indicator of initial competitive status.

It is important to note, however, that admissions committees often look beyond just GPAs and MCATs. This explains why some students with very high GPAs and MCATs don’t always get in, and conversely why some students with lower than average grades or scores do. This is where factors such as recommendation letters, clinical medically-related experience, community service, well-roundedness, communication skills, etc, come in.

Extracurriculars

Extracurricular activities include activities that the student enjoys: sports, music, drama, etc. Participation in clubs and organizations is positive only if the student actually becomes involved in the group’s activities. Leadership roles in organizations also reflect well on character.

While important to continue pursuing your personal interests, there are other types of ‘extracurriculars’ that are critical to your chances of acceptance into medical school.

Clinical

It is essential to obtain medically-related experience, especially experience where there is exposure to the doctor-patient relationship. You need to demonstrate, through actions, your motivation and dedication for a career in medicine. Many health-care settings are available: hospitals, public or free health clinics, private doctor’s offices, hospices, rehab centers, and nursing homes may have opportunities for volunteer work, shadowing/observing, mentoring, or even paid positions. Medical mission trips also offer very good opportunities to travel to underserved areas of the US or underserved regions of the world. Admissions committees are particularly concerned that applicants have a realistic view of the medical profession and what’s involved in a medical career. You should try to have a variety of experiences, and “see” medicine from different perspectives and different settings. If you are interested in osteopathic medicine, you will need to shadow/observe at least one osteopathic practitioner.

There is no minimum number of hours of clinical experience that is required by the medical schools. You must determine how much dedication and effort to put forth. It is not possible to get too much clinical experience, unless it interferes with grades and other responsibilities. Summers and holidays may be better times for some of these pursuits. Importantly, don’t put off these activities until your senior year, or you will miss the opportunity to include them on your med school application (if applying as a junior).

Research

Research experience is not a requirement for medical school, but it can be a plus. Research experience allows time to build relationships with faculty, who can be valuable sources for letters of recommendation. Research is especially important for students contemplating a medical scientist career (MD-PhD). Many faculty on campus have active research laboratories and employ undergraduates to work in them. Frequently, the area of research has medical relevance. There are also summer research programs available at other universities.

Community Service

Volunteer community service is highly recommended. It is not necessary that the community service be medically-oriented. There are countless ways to participate in either group or individual community service projects. Community service offers a chance to demonstrate concern for other human beings and a willingness to “give back” and get involved in the world around you. Medical schools are interested in how you display your humanitarian nature.

Summer Programs

Summer Enrichment Programs

There are a variety of summer enrichment programs available at medical schools and universities. These programs are designed to strengthen academic credentials and exposure to clinical medicine. Most of these programs target under-represented minority and economically-disadvantaged students. One of the better-known programs, the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), offers free 6-week summer programs at medical schools around the country.

Other programs offer research or internship opportunities. Students may find the following websites helpful for information on minority issues and to locate summer programs:

Summer Internships & Research Programs

Resources & Links

NY Medical Schools

Professional Associations

MCAT and MCAT Preparation

Applying to Medical Schools

Financial Planning

Minority Resources

Post-Baccalaureate Programs

Medical Publications

Medical Licensing

Medical Ethics

Health-related Organizations

Last modified: May 14, 2012

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