Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

  1. What major should I choose?
  2. Does it look better to have a double major or to have minors?
  3. What are the prerequisite courses required by professional schools?
  4. When do I need to complete my prerequisites?
  5. Will schools accept AP/IB credits or online coursework towards prerequisites?
  6. How many credits should I take each year/does it matter?
  7. What is a gap year?  Should I take one?
  8. How do I ask for a letter of recommendation?
  9. Where can I get help with my application essays?

What major should I choose?

Health professions schools do not consider your undergraduate major in admissions decisions, choosing instead to look at completion of specific prerequisite courses.  The most important criteria in choosing a major are: 

What are your interests?

How will this major function if you do not get in to medical school?

For more help on this topic, please visit the choosing a major page on our website.

 

Should I do a double major or a minor?

You should worry about pursuing your interests and meeting requirements instead of "looking good."  That being said, admissions committees do often look at the breadth of your coursework to help determine how well-rounded you are, but you don't have to complete a second major or minor in order to take a variety of coursework.  If your interests are split between multiple fields, a second major or minor may suit you well. 

 

What are the prerequisite courses required by professional schools?

The prerequisite requirements vary widely between types of professional schools (medical, dental, PA, etc.) and between individual schools in each discipline.  You should visit the page for the professional school you are interested in to get the most accurate information.

In general, most professional schools require one year of Biology (1610 and 1620), one year of general chemistry (1210, 1215, 1220, and 1225), one year of organic chemistry (2310, 2315, 2320, and 2325), and one year of physics (2110 and 2120).  This is just the basic framework, most schools will have additional requirements.  You should research any specific schools you are interested in.

 

Do I need to complete my prerequisites before I apply or before I start school?

You should complete your prerequisite courses before you start your education at a professional school.  You do NOT need to complete all prerequisites before applying.  When you fill out applications, you will be able to list courses in progress as well. Please note that the content of some common prerequisites is included in admissions exams.  You should complete those courses prior to taking the admissions exam. 

 

Will schools accept AP credits or online coursework towards prerequisites?

That varies widely from school to school.  You will have to research the schools you are interested in to find the answer. It is generally a good idea to avoid using AP or online coursework to fulfill prerequisite requirements.

 

How many credits should I take each semester/does it matter?

It does matter!  Schools, especially medical and dental schools, want to see that you can handle a full course load, including several science classes in a semester.  You will be more competitive if you take 15-18 credits each semester, but keep in mind that keeping up a good GPA is also important.  Take enough classes to keep you busy, but not so many that your GPA suffers.  

 

What is a gap year?  Should I take one?

A gap year is a year off between undergraduate and professional school.  You should consider taking one if you need additional time to build your application.  This can mean participating in extracurricular activities, including research, volunteering, shadowing, working in a health care field, or taking additional classes (some students even choose to do masters programs).  What you do with your gap year depends entirely on what you most need to do to strengthen your application.

 

How do I ask for a letter of recommendation?

Nicely.  For tips, please view our Letters of Recommendation page.

 

Where can I get help with my application essays?

You should have 5-10 people read through your application.  Some of these should be people close to you who can comment on the content, others should be more distant.  You are welcome to bring your application materials to the prehealth peer advisors to get help. We have gone through the process before and can proofread and give you advice. The USU Writing Center is also a good resource to help you develop your personal statements and application essays. Visit their website to make a tutoring appointment.  Be prepared for potentially painful feedback, but know that all of these people want to help make your essays as powerful as possible.

Extracurricular Activities

If you have questions about how to get involved in extracurricular activities, like shadowing, research, or volunteering, please visit our extracurricular activities page. Please note that different types of schools have different areas of emphasis.  For all schools, exposure to the profession (shadowing or work experience) is important, but it is more emphasized by PA, OT, and PT programs.  Research is important for medical or dental schools, but isn't a strong factor influencing admission to chiropractic or OT programs.  Do your research to know what your schools are looking for.  If you have additional lingering questions, please set an appointment and come see us!

Medical school questions

  1. When should I take the MCAT?
  2. How do I prepare for the MCAT?
  3. I heard the MCAT is changing in 2015.  What will be different?
  4. How many schools should I apply to?

 

When should I take the MCAT?

You should take the MCAT once you have completed all of the courses it tests.  For most students, this means after their junior year of college.  If you are planning on applying to medical school the same summer you take the MCAT, you should sit for the test in May or early June.

 

How do I prepare for the MCAT?

Students prepare in a variety of ways.  Some study on their own, others take USU's MCAT prep course (Biol 1030), and others take a course through a private test prep company (Kaplan, Altius, etc.).  Whatever your chosen method of study, it is important that you begin early and stick to a comprehensive study plan.

 

I heard the MCAT is changing in 2015.  What will be different?

The new MCAT will have four sections, compared to three sections on the old MCAT.  These sections are: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.

The MCAT always has and will continue to test students on a knowledge of introductory biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry (BIOL 1610 and 1620; CHEM 1210, 1220, 2310, and 2320).  The material on the new MCAT also draws material from biochemistry, psychology, and sociology (CHEM 3700, PSY 1010, SOC 1010).  For more information, please view the MCAT 2015 preview guide.

 

How many schools should I apply to?

The average applicant applies to around 14 medical schools.  You can apply to more or less, depending on your preferences.  Most students apply to a range of schools - some for which they are well qualified, some for which they are average, and some for which they are slightly below average.  For help picking schools, please view our choosing schools page.  Please keep in mind that the application is an expensive process - you can plan to spend around $150 per school to submit the primary and secondary applications.  On top of that, you will have to pay travel expenses for interviews.  Make sure you are financially set for the application process.

Committee Process

  1. When does the Committee Process start?
  2. What are the due dates for packet material and letters?
  3. Can I still go through the Committee Process if I'm not a student?
  4. If I didn't get in last year, do I have to do the Committee again?

 

When does the Committee Process start?

The Committee Packet Meeting is typically held in October each year.  Please keep an eye on the Canvas site or the prehealth email list for a specific date.

 

What are the due dates for packet materials and letters of recommendation?

The packet materials are due the week after fall semester finals end.  There is no specific due date for letters.  The committee process interviews usually begin in the third week of January, and you must have your letters in to schedule an interview.  It is in your best interests to get letters in earlier than later. 

 

Can I still go through the Committee Process if I am not a current student?

Yes, the Committee Process is for students and alum.

 

If I didn't get in last year, do I have to go through the Committee again?

No.  If you plan to reapply and need an updated Committee letter, just e-mail Yvonne an update.  In this update, write about all of the activities you have done during the last year and how you are a stronger applicant now.  She will update your committee letter with this additional information.