overview for prospective students
Thank you for your interest in our program. We strongly recommend that all prospective students read this entire page, as it gives an excellent overview of the requirements of most medical, dental and veterinary schools.
Medical, dental and veterinary schools welcome all good students, not just science majors. Thus, the student planning to pursue one of these careers may choose for his or her major field any one of the humanities, natural sciences, or social sciences. Two main components of a health professions school application include 1) academic performance and 2) clinical experience. In the academic arena, graduate schools want applicants to be well grounded in the basic sciences and to be familiar, through practical experience, with laboratory techniques. In terms of clinical experience, schools expect that students will have gained significant experience in their intended field before they apply.
In terms of coursework, most medical, dental, or veterinary schools require one year of:
- General Chemistry with lab
- Organic Chemistry with lab
- Biology with lab
- Physics with lab
In addition, one year of mathematics is usually strongly recommended. Some medical schools require calculus. A few schools (particularly veterinary medical schools) have additional required courses, such as biochemistry. Therefore, during your undergraduate career you should carefully research the specific requirements of the schools to which you wish to apply. Course areas also useful in helping prepare for the entrance exams (as well as health professions graduate school), although not required, are biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, and physiology.
We should note that the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) includes two graded essays. This is an indication that medical schools are increasingly interested in students who can communicate clearly and who also have some sophistication in areas such as medical ethics, and the economics, politics, and culture of health care.
Health professions graduate schools vary in their attitudes toward advanced placement. We will present some general guidelines here, but suggest that you contact individual schools if you have questions concerning the policy at specific institutions.
If you have received advanced placement in a science (biology, chemistry, physics), most health professions graduate schools will accept this as long as you take an equivalent number of courses (and laboratories) at a more advanced level within that discipline. Please keep in mind that premedical/predental requirements may or may not coincide with the requirements of your college major. Regardless of whether or not you receive advanced placement in English, we strongly recommend that you take two English courses while in college. Most health professions graduate schools prefer that students complete two college-level English courses.
There are clearly pluses and minuses to taking advantage of advanced placement opportunities. On the plus side, it allows you to get more quickly involved in intellectually challenging upper level courses. On the negative side, one's freshman year is often a significant period of adjustment. This, combined with the highly competitive nature of health professions graduate school admissions, may argue for extra careful course planning during one's freshman year.
Course Sequences/Timing of the Application
Undergraduates who plan to enter a medical/dental/veterinary school the fall after they graduate should attempt to complete the required science/math courses by the end of their junior year. Most students take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) or the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) in the spring of their junior year. The basic science courses are covered in these exams. Course areas also useful in helping prepare for the entrance exams, although not required, are biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, and physiology.
Also, students who plan to enter medical/dental/veterinary school the fall after they graduate, should ideally file their application during the summer after they complete their junior year. If a student is a competitive candidate, he/she would then be invited for interviews during the fall or early winter of his/her senior year. If accepted, a student would begin graduate school in August/September after graduating from college.
We note that increasing numbers of students at BC and other institutions are applying to health professions graduate schools at the end of their senior year — or even later. Students who delay their applications have the opportunity to pursue other interests and/or opportunities (e.g. study abroad, completing a thesis, minoring in a nonscience discipline, volunteer work, research) in a more leisurely fashion, thus potentially making them more attractive candidates. This is an especially good option if you have had a modest performance during your freshman year, as it may allow you to bring your grades into a more competitive range.
This four-year option also allows for more flexibility in terms of deciding when to take the entrance exams (MCAT, DAT). We note that the average age for students beginning health professions graduate school is approximately 25, and therefore the majority of students do not enroll directly after graduating from college.
Premedical/Predental/Preveterinary students at Boston College have a number of individuals from whom they can seek advice. Both the Director and Assistant Director of the program are available to meet with students on an individual basis. Group meetings are also held for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors and seniors. During these meetings, students are updated regarding current admissions trends and appropriate advising packets (e.g. Freshman Packet, Sophomore Packet, etc.) are distributed.
Also available to students are the members of our Premedical/Predental Committee, which is composed of faculty members from various academic departments. These members advise students who are considering one or more of the health professions graduate schools. Should a student have questions about the premedical/predental program at Boston College, he/she is more than welcome to stop by and speak with any of our Committee members, as well as the Assistant Director, and Director. We also have a number of books on reserve in O’Neill Library, as well as a comprehensive list of web-based resources.
Premedical students take all the course work required for the Medical College Admissions Test as part of their required premedical program. To help our students further prepare for this exam, we have placed MCAT Student Manuals on reserve in O’Neill Library. An MCAT preparation course, coordinated through the Office of Continuing Education, is also offered here on campus.
Gaining Health-Related Experience
Strong, consistent classroom performance and a solid performance on the entrance exams are important characteristics for health professions graduate school applicants, but there are additional ways to strengthen one’s candidacy. Sufficient extracurricular activities and evidence of service work are also very important attributes.
Given the competition for admission, experience in a hospital or health care environment (e.g., doctor's, dentist's, or veterinarian's office) is critical. Since the University is located so close to the city of Boston, our students are able to work/volunteer in some of the finest hospitals in the metropolitan Boston area (e.g., Massachusetts General Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital).
Students have attained these positions through several avenues, including utilizing the resources offered through our Career Center. Two particularly popular resources are the Internship Network, which includes a database that lists opportunities here in Boston and across the country; and the Career Advisory Network. This later program consists of a network of over 750 alumni, employed in the medical professions, who have volunteered to share their career insights with students. Network members may be amenable to providing a one day clinical experience or longer.
A subset of the Career Advisory Network is our EagleDocs Program. This program allows Boston College students to gain valuable clinical exposure by shadowing alumni who currently work as physicians, dentists, veterinarians, optometrists, podiatrists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and psychologists. The EagleDocs database contains the names, email addresses, phone numbers, etc. of over 200 alumni who work in various capacities within the medical field and who have agreed to provide clinical experiences to our students. The database can be searched by various criteria, including specialty, health school alma mater, and state/city where mentoring will occur.
Our office also maintains an “electronic bulletin board” and sends out email announcements listing various internship and volunteer opportunities. In addition, we maintain a notebook listing health related positions that students have held in the past.
Application Preparation/Boston College Committee Process
During the fall semester, a meeting is held for all students planning to apply to health professions graduate schools during the upcoming summer. For example, if you plan to enter graduate school the fall after you graduate, you would attend this meeting during the fall of your junior year.
At this meeting, we distribute our Application Packet (an inclusive handout that details the application process), a Checklist Calendar (which outlines important dates/deadlines), and forms that elicit information about undergraduate activities. Students are asked to turn the forms in by specific dates, and soon thereafter students are assigned to work one on one with individual members of the Premedical/Predental Committee. During the spring, students work closely with their assigned premedical/predental advisors, thus enabling them to be well prepared to file their applications in June.
To further prepare our students for the application process, we offer workshops on a) how to approach the essay writing component of medical/dental/veterinary applications, b) choosing which schools to apply to, and c) how to fill out health professions graduate school applications.
At the end of the Spring semester, the Committee prepares a comprehensive letter for each Boston College applicant. This (5–7 page) letter reviews the students’ academic, extracurricular, and personal characteristics. When a health professions school requests a letter, the BC student simply requests that his/her Committee letter be sent to a particular school.
The Career Center, in cooperation with the Premedical/Predental Office, has developed a program to help prehealth students refine their communication and interviewing skills for the required health professions graduate school interviews. The Center offers interview workshops and the opportunity to videotape and critique a simulated interview.
Other interview preparation materials include the Boston College Interviewing Packet, which contains numerous suggestions on how to prepare for health professions school interviews. We also maintain a catalogue of “Interview Sheets.” These are questionnaires that have been completed by Boston College students after they have interviewed at specific schools.
Finally, the Premedical/Predental Office offers a listing (including names, email addresses, and phone numbers) of alumni/alumnae who are currently attending health professions graduate schools. Students are free to contact these individuals in order to gain more information about specific schools or to make arrangements to stay with these alumni during interviews.
The Mendel Society
The Mendel Society is the undergraduate premedical/predental club which is open to all students interested in careers in the health professions. Along with a variety of preprofessional and social activities, the Mendel Society organizes the annual Medical School Admissions Night, in which Admissions Directors from various medical schools come to campus to discuss their programs with interested students.
A similar program is offered for predental students, whereby local alumni, who are practicing dentists, come to Boston College to discuss their careers and offer advice to students. Examples of other programming events sponsored by the Mendel Society include the annual Bioethics Conference. This event, which draws participants and attendees from all over the Northeast, allows students and professionals to present and discuss papers on a wide variety of ethical issues in health care.