Information for Pre-Health Students
Many biology majors and minors intend to pursue careers in the health professions, such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary, nursing and physical therapy. This page contains information regarding how students can prepare for applying to and gaining admission into these programs. Please note that the information below is meant to provide an idea about a "typical" path.
Also, students who have already completed a bachelor's degree but who do not have the prerequisite courses for medical, dental or veterinary school can enroll in the post-baccalaureate pre-health certificate program.
- Inform your academic advisor that you are interested in the health professions. This will help your advisor work with you in deciding upon appropriate course selections. Also, let him or her know if you are in any special program such as PACE.
- Begin (or continue) paid or volunteer work in a health care setting related to what you think you would like to do. In other words, if you are interested in dentistry, get a position working in a dentist’s office, or shadow a dentist. Keep in mind that some programs require a great deal of paid or volunteer experience BEFORE you apply (for example, veterinary schools require 500 hours as a minimum). More importantly, the more experience you have, the better able you will be to decide which area to pursue.
- Attend the information session for freshmen held by Ms. O’Hara, the health professions advisor. She will provide general information regarding the process of preparing for and applying to schools of the health professions.
- Check out the information available from professional societies like:
- The American Academy of Optometry
- The American Academy of Physician Assistants
- The American Association of Medical Colleges
- The American Nurses Association.
- The American Osteopathic Association
- The American Physical Therapy Association
- The American Veterinary Medicine Association
- The National Society of Genetic Counselors
- Talk with both your academic advisor and Ms. O’Hara about your career plans, especially before registration. Students planning to enter nursing, physician assistant, physical therapy and other programs will need to begin taking specific courses to fulfill admissions requirements.
- Attend career panels, the “Dinner with a Doc," health professions advisor meetings and other activities where you can meet professionals working in health care to talk about their jobs. Get involved in one or more of the shadowing opportunities.
- Continue volunteer/paid work in health care. It is important that you get in a position where you see ongoing health care. In this regard, hospitals, doctor’s, dentist’s, vet’s offices, are preferable to hospices, rest homes, shelters. While all types of service are good, be sure you are getting to see and talk with health professionals so you can decide what career you want to pursue.
- Beginning at the end of your sophomore year and continuing throughout your junior year, spend 10 hours per week reviewing material for the professional exam you will have to take, such as:
- Make decisions about what programs you will apply to. You should definitely visit schools whenever possible and talk with the students enrolled in the program you are considering. Be sure to check with SJU professors and Ms. O’Hara as there are probably SJU alums in those programs who would be glad to talk with you.
- Thoroughly familiarize yourself with the details of the profession you are considering. Be sure to be able to address questions like: “What is the difference between Osteopathic and Allopathic philosophies?", “What are typical duties of a BS-RN?" and What has motivated you to want to enter health care?"
- Talk with your academic advisor about your career plans. You may want to consider taking four courses one or both semesters junior year to provide more time for preparing for the admissions test and review process. Be sure that doing this will not prevent you from graduating on time.
- Students planning on entering fields (MD/DO, dental, vet) requiring review by HPAC Health Professions Advisory Committee should begin the HPAC application process in the fall of their junior year. Letters of recommendation are required from science and non-science faculty. These should be requested well in advance and from teachers who know you well. Make a point of visiting all of the members of HPAC early in the spring semester to introduce yourself and answer any questions they might have. Prepare your personal statement and have it reviewed by both your academic advisor and Ms. O’Hara.
- Apply for and take the appropriate admissions test. Many students find a review/preparation course helpful as a part of their preparation, but not all students do.
- Continue volunteer/paid work in health care. It is important that you get in a position where you see ongoing health care.
- Work on your interview skills. Attend the mock interview sessions and visit the Career Development Center for help.
- Most students will begin the application process for professional school in the junior year. Continue with this through the Summer. Make sure that schools have received completed applications.
- Students will typically hear from schools starting in the fall of senior year. Schedule interviews as quickly a possible since schools will often use a rolling admissions process. Review information about each program before going to the interview. Have questions about the program prepared ahead of time
- Inform your academic advisor and Ms. O’Hara of the decisions of the programs you have applied to.
- If need be, consider alternative post-graduation plans. Pre-professional M.A. programs, research-based M.S. programs and jobs in science/biotech are good ways to improve your chances the next round. Talk with your advisor and Ms. O’Hara to identify weaknesses that need to be addressed.