Frequently Asked Questions

Standard Pre-Medical Requirements ~ Chem 29 ~ AISS ~ Standard Dental and Veterinary Requirements ~ Majors ~ Grades ~ Off-Campus Study ~ Summer School ~ Volunteer Work ~ Research ~ Taking the MCAT, DAT, GRE, OAT, or PCAT ~ Acceptance Rates

What are the standard pre-medical requirements and recommended courses?

  • Introductory Biology: 1 year with lab
    Upper Division Biology: It is highly recommended that you demonstrate your ability to take upper level biology courses with lab.
  • Genetics: one semester
  • Biochemistry: one semester
  • Basic Principles of Chemistry: 1 yr (or accelerated Chem 29 plus one semester of upper division chemistry with lab)
  • Organic Chemistry: 1 year with lab
  • Introductory Physics: 1 year with lab
  • Calculus and Statistics: 1 semester (Calculus I or higher) for each
  • English: 1 year
    Please note that the following courses DO satisfy 1 of the 2 semesters required for English:
  • Scripps--Writing 50
  • CMC--Literature 10
  • Pitzer--Freshman Seminar
  • In addition to the courses listed above, you need one English Literature or English Composition based course.
  • It is recommended that if students have space in their schedule, they take Introductory Sociology and Introductory Psychology courses in preparation for the MCAT exam..
    Reference: Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) 2010-2011 (see for purchase information).

What is Chem 29?

A one-semester accelerated general chemistry course as an alternative to the year-long Chemistry 14-15L sequence for students with a strong chemistry background. This includes students who have taken Advanced Placement Chemistry in High School and have earned either a 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement Exam or completed comparable honors chemistry course in high school.  Students must sign-up in the fall for the course that takes place in the spring as well as taking the accelerated chemistry placement exam.
NOTE: In order to meet the prerequisite requirement for entrance into medical school with this course you must take an additional semester of chemistry with laboratory beyond the Organic Chemistry year long sequence.  So a good idea would be to take a semester of Biochemistry with laboratory available at Pomona College or at Harvey Mudd College.  If you take a Biochemistry course please have it coded as a chemistry course on your transcript.  If you enroll in a Biochemistry course that does not have a lab you should consider taking Advanced Laboratory (JS127) to satisfy the laboratory component of Biochemistry.

What is AISS?

A one year-long introductory course. The sequence replaces the three-year long introductory biology, chemistry, and physics sequences for those planning on majoring in the sciences. AISS should be good preparation for medical school.  Medical schools require undergraduates to take one year each of Biology, Chemistry and Physics, among other courses.  AISS combines information from introductory courses in Biology, Chemistry and Physics into a "double course" that we count as meeting prerequisites for introductory courses in all three areas.  Medical schools, however, require more semester hours in the 3 standard introductory courses than AISS, as a double course, provides.  Therefore, we recommend that pre-medical students who take AISS complete two additional upper-division courses in Biology (with laboratory) at some time before you apply to medical school.  
Of 15 major medical schools around the country that have been surveyed as the course was developed, 14 said that our recommended arrangement (AISS + 2 upper-div biology) would work well, and some said that they think it is a terrific idea - just the sort of preparation they would like to see in their students.  (The outlier school was Emory University, and they prefer their students to have taken the standard intro courses in Biology, Chemistry and Physics.)  In fact, a major report recently published by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute strongly supports the contention that an interdisciplinary approach to the sciences is the best preparation for undergraduates intending to go to medical school. 
Please note we do NOT recommend AISS if you are interested in Veterinary Medicine or Dental School.

How do dental and veterinary school requirements differ?

Dental schools require the same general courses listed above, please check the Official Guide to Dental Schools Book by the American Dental Education Association.  Some specific courses required include Introductory Psychology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Anatomy, and Physiology. For a complete list of requirements by School please reference, Dental School Admissions Overview.
Those interested in a career in Veterinary Medicine will need to make sure they begin planning early to allow for the additional courses that are required by Veterinary Schools of Medicine. You will want to meet with the Pre-Health Professions Advisor early to make sure you have planned your schedule to allow for the typical coursework, and the additional science courses that are required. Also, be sure you have time to work or volunteer with animals in a veterinarian’s office, animal way station, or local shelter.  Additional courses frequently required by Veterinary Schools of Medicine include: Developmental Biology, Microbiology, Genetics, Biochemistry, Physiology, and Animal Nutrition. Please refer to Veterinary School Admissions Requirements.

What should I major in?

Medical schools value a breadth of study along with showing academic competency in the pre-medical requirements. Therefore, students are encouraged to study what they are interested in and are curious to learn as an undergraduate. Students can select their major in consultation with their faculty advisor.

What about grades?

GPA is important for Admissions. Health Professions schools vary in the average GPA of entering students. Mean GPAs vary from 3.2 to 3.9 on a 4.0 scale, but the ranges at any one institution may be wide.  The average GPA of those entering medical school is 3.7.  The average entering GPA for dental school freshman ranges from 3.40 to 3.80. 
Lower-than-desirable GPAs in the early semesters in college can be partially mitigated by consistent improvement especially if grades in upper-division science courses are high. The best way to achieve good grades is to invest the time and energy it takes for YOU to do well in your course work. Time management, organization, communication, and studying hard to show consistently strong performance are all important.

Can I do off-campus study (study abroad)?

Yes!  Most pre-medical students who study abroad do so during a summer program or their junior year. However, sometimes you must weigh out your options so it is important to consult with your campus Study Abroad Office and to discuss your plans with your faculty advisor, and lastly, the Pre-Health Advisor early in the planning stages of your academic plan.

Can I take summer school?

Yes, however it is preferred that you take the majority of the pre-health pre-requisite courses at your undergraduate institution. Normally, we don’t recommend taking key requirements in summer school at junior colleges. Courses may be interpreted as less rigorous than offered at the Claremont Colleges (justly or not). Med School Admissions Committee members may interpret it as an effort to reduce the difficulty of your Program and thus cast doubt on your ability to handle a time- and work-intensive Program. It will benefit you to take most of your science courses during the academic year to show your ability to take multiple science courses at the same time…and do well! This will be required of you in health professional school, so you want to demonstrate your ability to do this as an undergraduate student. If you plan to take summer courses and would like to ensure that they will transfer back into The Colleges for credit, you will need to be approved by appropriate faculty in each subject area, and you should check with your Registrar’s Office for appropriate approval forms. 
Note: Scripps College offers a few summer science courses as part of their Post-Bac Program that are open to undergraduates (Chemistry 14 & 15 and Physics 30 & 31)

What about volunteer work?

Getting involved and participating in volunteer work is essential. It allows you to remain involved in a variety of things, develop a variety of interests, and form a practical range of skills. It also demonstrates that you act on your humanitarian motivations, you are a multi-tasker and can handle a varied and busy schedule, you have developed your listening skills, and that you have become informed about aspects of health care careers (if you have worked in health care settings and the social and psychological aspects of the world around you.)
Please browse the local volunteer opportunities page to see how you can get involved.

Do I need to do research?

Absolutely if you plan on applying to an MD/PhD program or to MD Programs. For MD/PhD Programs you will want to become active in research as soon as possible and work toward a summer position in a large lab.
The answer is also YES if you want to go to certain research-oriented medical schools.
The answer is also YES if you want to explore this as an option for your health profession.
The answer is NO if you have no interest in research and you don't plan to make it part of your career.
The Keck Science Department offers several research opportunities and there are outside opportunities to conduct clinical based research in health care settings as well.
Note: It is important to apply EARLY for summer research positions. You should apply during the early spring semester for Keck Science Department summer positions as well as outside summer research opportunities. For more information about research opportunities, please visit the following link.

When should I take the MCAT/DAT/GRE/OAT or PCAT?

All U.S. schools of Medicine (along with Podiatry) require the MCAT which is given several times per month from January –September each year. It is best to take the MCAT at least by June if you plan to submit your medical school application the same summer.  While this can be a stressful time, it allows for you to still get your application in early enough (June/July is recommended). Many medical schools work on a rolling admissions process so the sooner they have your materials the better.  Also note that it is recommended that you have completed the following courses prior to taking your MCAT: Intro Bio, Intro Chem, Intro Physics, Organic Chemistry, and Biochemistry. However, the timing of your MCAT should be determined by how ready you are to take it. DO NOT take the MCAT exam to “test it out” to see if you are prepared. Taking the exam multiple times is frowned upon and can cause your application to be opened up to scrutiny. Take the time needed to prepare, prepare well, be strategic, and scale back on your activities during this time to focus on the exam. Discuss the timing of your MCAT and your application with the Pre-Health Advisor. You must register in advance to take the exam and you will select a testing site that is geographically convenient to your location. Testing is done through Prometric Testing Incorporated.
All U.S. schools of Dentistry require the DAT (Dental Admissions Test). You should plan to take the DAT in the spring before you plan to apply to dental school. It is possible to take the test in the summer, however, taking it in the spring allows for more time to retake the test if necessary.The DAT is also taken on the computer and can be scheduled almost any day of the year.  However you must register in advance to take the exam and the testing service will most likely make arrangements for you to take the exam at a local Sylvan Learning Center. 
The majority of Veterinary Medicine and other Pre-Health Professions (Physical Therapy, Public Health, etc.) require the general GRE (Graduate Record Exam). You should plan to take the GRE in the spring before you apply to veterinary school or another health profession. It is possible to take the test in the summer, however, taking it in the spring allows for more time to retake the test if necessary. The GRE is taken on computer and can be taken any day of the week.  However you must register in advance to take the exam and the testing service will most likely make arrangements for you to take the exam at a local Sylvan Learning Center. Applicants may also take the GRE exam earlier if they feel they are prepared.
All U.S. schools of Optometry require the OAT. The OAT is only offered by computer and can be taken any time throughout the year and may be taken an unlimited number of times. However, you must wait at least ninety days between tests. Only the four most recent tests will be reported.
All U.S. schools offering Doctor of Pharmacy Programs require the PCAT. The PCAT is only offered three times a year, so students should start planning early on when they want to take the test. Also, pharmacy school admissions are extremely competitive and admissions offices put a lot of weight on this test in accessing applicants.

What are the acceptance rates to schools?

Nationwide, for the past five years about 42% of applicants to medical school were admitted.  Approximately the same admission rates exist for dental and vterinary schools as well.
There are many more qualified applicants than positions such that admissions are often arbitrary. There is no way to guarantee admission, so don't worry excessively about what is not entirely under your control. Make sure you submit the MOST competitive application possible. You want to demonstrate readiness to continue studying rigorous Science coursework, have clinical skills, have exposed yourself to Research, and worked in the community or on a team of some kind. Medicine is a team oriented field. You also should have a contingency plan in the event you are not accepted to medical school.