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Health Sciences (Pre-Med, Pre-Dentistry, Pre-Pt, etc.)

If you are interested in entering a health science program or field (medicine, veterinary, dentistry, physical therapy, physician assistant, etc.), you may have some questions about what courses you need to start out with in order to satisfy program prerequisites and prepare for qualifying examinations. There is a complete and up-to-date Web site related to health sciences advising, Health Sciences at DePauw:

The site covers prerequisites for various programs and provides sample schedules that show you how to fit courses into a variety of majors.

Members of DePauw's health science advisory committee participate actively in the National Association of Advisors to the Health Professions and the Central Association of Advisors to the Health Professions. These organizations work closely with the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) and other associations for education in the health professions to keep abreast of changes in the fields, particularly as they relate to the preparation of applicants.

There are many myths about 'getting into med school.' Many students think they need to have a pre-med major in order to get in. In actuality, few schools offer such a major any more. In 2000, there were more English majors than pre-med majors accepted to medical school. Many students think that they have to major in biology or chemistry to be accepted. That isn't true. Medical schools encourage applications from a wide variety of majors. Here's what the American Association of Medical Colleges says about majors in its guide for students applying to medical school, Medical School Admission Requirements:

Choice of Major. Medical schools recognize the importance of a strong foundation in the natural sciences -- biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics -- and most schools have established minimum course requirements for admission. These courses usually represent about one-third of the credit hours needed for graduation. This approach deliberately leaves room for applicants from a broad spectrum of college majors, including those in the humanities and social sciences. No medical school requires a specific major of its applicants or matriculants. Admission committee members know that medical students can develop the essential skills of acquiring, synthesizing, applying, and communicating information through a wide variety of academic disciplines.

Nevertheless, many premedical students choose to major in science. Ideally, they do so because they are fascinated by science and perceive that such a major can be the foundation for a variety of career options. Choosing science based primarily on enhancing one's chances for admission to medical school is not in a student's long-term best interest. Medical school admissions committees seek students whose intellectual curiosity leads them to a variety of disciplines and whose intellectual maturity assures that their efforts are persistent and disciplined. (MSAR 11)


No matter what you major in, most of professional health science programs require a broad background in the sciences. Although prerequisites vary somewhat by program and by individual schools, the basic core of science and social science courses generally includes the following:

2 semesters of biology
2 semesters of physics
2 semesters of general chemistry
1 semester of college mathematics (usually calculus or statistics)
1 semester of organic chemistry
1 semester advanced organic chemistry or biochemistry
1 semester introductory psychology
1 semester introductory sociology 

Many schools stipulate that these courses should be appropriate for majors in the field and, with the exception of calculus, should be lab courses. In biology, we recommend that students take the full sequence of introductory courses (BIO 101 & 102) plus an additional upper-level lab course. In chemistry, students can start out either with CHEM 120 or CHEM 130. If you want to take a beginning chemistry course in your first semester, be sure to select both CHEM 120 and CHEM 130 on your course request form.

Some good courses to choose from:

Chemistry 120: Structure and Principles of Organic Molecules (with lab)
Chemistry 130: Structure and Principles of Inorganic Compounds (with lab)
Biology 101: Molecules, Genes and Cells (with lab)
Biology 102: Evolution, Organisms and Ecology (with lab)
Physics 120: Principles of Physics I (with lab)
Math 151: Calculus I
Psychology 100: Introductory Psychology
Sociology 100: Contemporary Society 

Be sure to list a variety of these courses on your course request form. This increases your chances of getting into one or two to start out with. We recommend that students begin with one or two of the health science prerequisites, rather than attempting too many at once.

The American Association of Medical Colleges is revising the MCAT, the test used for application to medical school, for 2015. It will have a new section on behavioral science, which will include passages based on concepts drawn from psychology, sociology and behavioral biology. Also current sections are being refocused to include biochemistry, statistical reasoning, and ethical reasoning. These changes to the MCAT fit in very well with the DePauw curriculum.

Be sure to list a variety of these courses on your course request form. This increases your chances of getting into one or two to start out with. We recommend that students begin with one or two of the health science prerequisites, rather than attempting too many at once. Feel free to contact Ken Kirkpatrick, Chair of the Health Sciences Advisory Committee, if you have any questions (765-658-4141,

More information about pre-medical and health science advising can be found here