overview for prospective students
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 and outlines ways in which the pre-health program at BC can help guide you through the process.
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 strongly recommended and is required at some schools. Some medical schools require calculus. Increasing number of health profession graduate schools have additional requirments e.g. Statistics and Biochemistry. The Veterinary schools are notorious for having unusual and varied additional requirments (e.g. Microbiology, Anataomy and Physiology). 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.
The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) includse topics in Psychology, Sociology, Biochemistry and Statistics. Medical Schools are increasingly interested in students who can communicate clearly and who have some sophistication in areas such as medical ethics, and the economics, politics, and culture of healthcare.
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, 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 of these students take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) or the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) in the spring of their junior year.
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.
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 more freedom to pursue other interests and/or opportunities (e.g. study abroad, completing a thesis, minoring in a nonscience discipline, volunteer work, research) 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). 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.
Pre-Health students at Boston College have a number of individuals from whom they can seek advice. The Director and Assistant Directors of the program as well as members of our Premedical/Predental Committee, which is composed of fauculty members from various academic departments are all 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.).
Should a student/alumni/ae have questions about the pre-health program at Boston College he/she is more than welcome to stop by our office located in Higgins 648 or make an appointment by calling 617-552-4663.
Premedical students take all the course work required for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)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
A strong, consistent academic record and a solid performance on the entrance exams are important for health professions graduate school applicants, but extracurricular activities and evidence of service work are also very important attributes to strengthen one's candidacy.
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 region (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 Eaglelink, which includes a database that lists opportunities here in Boston, and across the country, and the Boston College Career Community LinkedIn group. The latter provides a space for alumni, students, alumni, faculty, and permanent staff to connect, share advice, and build professional relationships. The group currently has over 13,000 members. As a Boston College student, you have the option to meet with an internship counselor. Call the Career Center at 617-552-3430, to schedule an appointment.
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 250 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 the following 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 Pre-Health Office, has developed a program to help students refine their communication and interviewing skills for the required health professions graduate school interviews. The Center Center offers a interview webinar 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 Pre- Health 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 pre-health 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.