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Summer School Guidelines

health professions graduate studies

Policies of Health Professions Graduate Schools

Though most health professions graduate schools accept science courses taken during summer school, the majority strongly prefer that most of your sciences be taken at your home institution during the academic year. The general consensus is that, if taken, summer science courses should be kept to a minimum (e.g., not more than one 2-semester core science course during your undergraduate career). Health professions graduate school admissions committees generally expect a summer school science course to be taken at a four-year institution, preferably at a college or university of the same selectivity as Boston College. In fact, some institutions will not accept courses taken at community colleges.

Since admissions requirements vary greatly, we strongly encourage you to research the requirements of individual health professions graduate schools and review their policies with regard to summer school. If you have questions/concerns about a particular school, you should contact that institution directly.

The Pluses and Minuses of Summer School Science Courses

Taking a science course in summer school may enable a student to better plan one’s schedule (e.g., research, study abroad), as well as potentially help raise one’s GPA. Yet there are other factors that one should consider before making a final decision. The concerns stemming from taking summer school courses during your undergraduate career are twofold:

  • Health professions graduate schools expect to see very high grades in summer school, as the student is generally taking only one course. To gain a sense of whether a candidate can handle a rigorous science curriculum, admissions committees tend to focus strongly on academic performance during the school year, when the student is taking a full course load.
  • Summer courses are taught over a very short period of time. Therefore, they may not be as in-depth as academic year courses. In addition, students may not retain the information as well as if they had taken a nine-month academic year course. This could have implications when an individual sits for his/her entrance exam (MCATS, DATs,etc.)

Due to the abbreviated nature of summer school courses, the classes are generally quite intense and meet several times per week. There is also a lab component for the core premedical science courses. Given that health professions graduate schools expect a high level of performance in summer school courses, you should plan your schedule accordingly and be sure you can devote the necessary time to studying and preparing for the exams. Any additional time commitments (e.g., job, research, etc.) should be kept to a minimum while enrolled in summer school. If you decide to take a summer school course, we recommend that you only take one summer school course at a time.

Summer School and GPA Calculations (Science and Overall)

Most health professions graduate schools (e.g., MD programs) use a centralized application service through which the student submits one application, which is then distributed to the schools to which the student is applying. These applications require students to record all college-level courses taken and to provide a transcript from every college/university attended. Therefore, most application services include any and all grades received from accredited colleges/universities when computing an applicant’s overall and science GPA. It is the GPAs that are computed by the application services that the admissions committees schools utilize — not the GPAs listed on the student’s undergraduate transcript.

Therefore, as long as the course name, credits, and grade are recorded on a college/university transcript, the course will be accepted by the application services (and health professions graduate schools) regardless of whether or not the student’s undergraduate school counted the course/credits towards graduation. In other words, all college/university level courses will be reported to health professions graduate schools, and the grades earned in these courses will be factored into the overall and science GPAs that the application services report to the schools.

Summer School — College of Arts & Sciences Policy at Boston College

With prior approval, the College of Arts and Sciences will allow students to take a summer school course at another four-year collegeuniversity. However, unless the student has a deficiency (due to underloading or withdrawing from a course), the College will consider the course only as “enrichment,” and the course/credits will not count toward the 38 courses required for graduation. Nevertheless, the course name, credits, and grade will be listed on the BC transcript. As explained above, as long as the course, credits, and grade(s) are listed on a college/university transcript (whether BC’s or another school’s), the centralized application service will accept the course and use the grade(s) and credits earned when they compute a student’s overall and science GPA.

Premedical Office Recommendations

General Guidelines

Given the above, the Premedical Programs Office feels that summer school courses, if taken, should be kept to a minimum. Yet we recognize that there are circumstances when taking a summer school course is appropriate (e.g., planning for study abroad). In these instances, the student should research course options carefully.

Required Premedical Courses

If you plan to take a core required premedical course in summer school, we recommend that you complete both semesters during summer session. Some students ask if it is advisable to take one semester of a year-long science course during summer school at another institution and then complete the remaining semester during the academic year at BC. We do not recommend this option, as this sequence may result in incomplete coverage of the topics normally covered in a traditional year-long sequence. Your future performance on entrance exams (e.g., MCATs) may suffer. If a required premedical science course is taken, we strongly suggest the student focus closely on this material when preparing for entrance exams (MCAT, DAT). Additionally, completing an appropriate elective covering similar material (e.g., Biochemistry if you took Organic Chemistry in summer school) can potentially remove any doubts about your candidacy and ensure that you have a solid grasp of the material.

Upper-Level Optional Science Electives

Some students complete their core required premedical courses during the academic year, but then choose to take selected science electives (e.g., Genetics, Biochemistry) in summer school, thus broadening their backgrounds and (potentially) raising their GPAs. From a health professions admissions perspective, this is quite acceptable, but science majors should contact their respective departments for permission. Non-science majors should consult with the Premedical Office.

Getting Approvals

Science Majors

Science majors should pick up a Course Approval Form online or from the Dean's Office (Gasson 109). You should then get permission from your major department (which requires a stamp or signature on the form). This should be followed by an approval from your Class Dean. To do this, simply drop off the course approval form with your Class Dean’s secretary. You are not required to meet with your Class Dean.

Non-Science Majors

Non-science majors should consult with a staff member in the Premedical Office (phone 552-4663; email premed@bc.edu) before taking any summer school courses. Should you take a course, you will need a Course Approval Form from the Dean's Office (Gasson 109). This will require departmental permission (the Premedical Office will direct you as to where to get this signature/stamp). This should be followed with an approval by your Class Dean. To do this, simply drop off the course approval form with your Class Dean’s secretary. You are not required to meet with your Class Dean.