Preparing for a health profession involves many
steps, but at the core is a set of courses that health
professions schools require. Successful applicants to
medical, dental, veterinary, occupational therapy and
all other clinical health professions graduate programs
must demonstrate that they have a foundation in science.
Your professional school curriculum will build on the
biology, chemistry and physics that you learned in
college. Demonstrated ability in science is critical.
But there is much more to being a health clinician
than science, and therefore a broad-based curriculum is
highly valued by professional schools. All will expect
an applicant to read critically and write well, and most
require 2 semesters of English to demonstrate that. An
appreciation of people, their behavior, their beliefs,
their perspectives is important and can be gained
through studies in the social sciences, languages and
cultures. Quantitative skills are necessary, and skills
in statistics and informatics are very beneficial.
Lastly but importantly, an appreciation of health and
health care issues will make you a better informed and
better prepared future clinician.
Overall, a strong student with broad interests and
ability in the sciences is a competitive candidate in
terms of academic credentials. To learn about the
specific academic courses required for a given
profession, please click on the link at the left. If you
are uncertain about the field that interests you, visit
"Exploring Health Professions"
section of this site.
courses are required?
The courses required for preparation for a health
professions graduate program vary, depending on what
specific health profession you are pursuing. Typically
medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine require a
year of introductory biology (with lab), a year of
general chemistry (with lab), some organic chemistry
(with lab) followed by biochemistry and a year of
introductory physics with lab).
• Biology (Tufts
Bulletin): Biology 13 & 14, offered each fall and
• General Chemistry (Tufts
Bulletin): Chemistry 1 & 2, offered each fall and
each spring, as well as the summer. Some students with
excellent chemistry preparation may choose Chemistry 11
& 12, offered fall and spring, respectively; Chemistry
16 is another alternative for the first semester of
chemistry, offered each spring.
• Organic Chemistry:
Chemistry 51/53; Chem 52/54 is still required by most
dental schools and some vet schools.
• Physics (Tufts
Bulletin): Physics 1 & 2, offered each fall and
spring respectively as well as summer. Engineering
students , physics majors and students with excellent
physics backgrounds may choose Physics 11 & 12, offered
each fall and each spring.
Click on the profession on the left that most interests
you to get more specific information.
A full year of calculus is no longer a requirement
for health professions schools as it was many years ago.
Since some still do require a semester of calculus (16
out of 134 MD programs in 2013), students should
plan on taking Math 30 or Math 32 if they do not already
have a prematriculation credit for calculus.
Students who are seriously contemplating a major in
chemistry, geology, physics or other field that requires
a full year of calculus should not take Math 30 but
should take Math 32 and 34.
Students with a
credit in calculus should seriously consider taking a
statistics course for their second
Tufts math distribution requirement since health
professions school increasingly emphasize the importance
of a knowledge of statistics (20
out of 134 MD programs require it in 2013). The new
MCAT which will be administered beginning in 2015 will
assume basic knowledge of statistics. Statistics is
taught in a number of departments at Tufts including
Biology (Bio 132), Child Development (CD 140), Economics
(Ec 15), Math (Math 21), Political Science (PS 130),
Psychology (Psych 31) and Sociology (Soc 101). Students
with an AP credit in statistics would be well served by
an additional course.
All health professions graduate programs expect
students to be able to read critically and write
effectively. Many have a two semester English
requirement designed to measure this. Since Tufts has a
two semester Writing Requirement for all liberal arts
undergraduates, LA students fulfill that English
requirement (in one of the several ways that Tufts
allows it to be fulfilled.) Typically even AP credit is
sufficient to fulfill this health professions school
requirement. Engineering students are required to
take only one English course so those students may want
to choose another writing-intensive course in the
humanities or social sciences to use in fulfillment. All
students are encouraged to consider taking more reading
and writing courses as a way to best prepare themselves
for their future health professions education.
Should I take Biochemistry?
Biochemistry has always been highly recommended and is
increasingly a requirement for medical, dental and
veterinary schools. Currently
32 of 134 MD programs require it and this number is
increasing daily. The new MCAT which will be
administered beginning in 2015 will assume basic
knowledge of biochemistry. All
pre-health students should plan to take a biochemistry
course. The Tufts Chemistry Department has
science sequence such that much of organic chemistry
that is relevant to pre-health students is covered by
the end of Chem 51. Students can move directly to
biochemistry – either Bio 152, offered each spring and
summer by the Biology Department, or Chem 171 offered
each spring by the Chemistry Department.
take additional sciences?
Non-science majors should consider taking additional
biology beyond biochemistry to strengthen their
backgrounds for future study in the health professions (16
out of 134 MD programs in 2013 required more than 2
semesters of biology). Topics most often recommended
by medical, dental and other schools include cell
biology, molecular biology, genetics, physiology and
microbiology. Other courses that interest you may be
chosen but look for rigorous courses that build on Bio
13 and 14.
Should I use my
AP or other prematriculation credits?
Health professions schools will want to see how you
perform in college science classes. Hence if you choose
to use your AP or other prematriculation credits, you
will be taking additional courses in that subject. For
example, if you have an AP score of 5 in Biology and use
it to fulfill Bio 14, then you will be taking at least
one other biology course numbered higher than Bio 13 and
14 at some point before applying to health professions
Bio 13 OR
13 or 14 and one other intermediate Bio course
Chem 1 and
1. Keep Chem 1 credit and take Chem 2
2. Forfeit Chem 1 and 2 credits and take
Chem 11 and 12 earning three credits
3. Keep credits and take Chem 51 and 52
plus an additional chemistry course (this is an
option, but not advisable)
Physics 2 or 12
Physics 1 or 11
4 or 5 in
AB Calculus or 4 in BC
Statistics course unless you need calculus for
5 in BC
Take a Statistics course*
English 2 or Philosophy 1
another writing course
When should I take all of my required courses?
It is a good idea to spread these courses out, but you
should complete the requirements before you sit for any
standardized test that requires knowledge of these
disciplines (e.g. the MCAT or DAT.) Do not avoid
requirements; take them in due course. Medical schools
want you to have been challenged. However, it is best to
take only one laboratory science course your first
semester until you adjust to the added demands of these
courses and life at Tufts.
Summer courses may or may not be the best route to
pursue such requirements as organic chemistry or
physics. Some medical schools feel that summer session
courses are not as competitive as regular semester
courses (therefore the grade may not mean as much) or
that they are so compressed that you will not learn as
much. Also, summer is often a time for much needed
serious reflection about your chosen career as well as
important experience in the field. However, sometimes
scheduling demands a summer course. If so, look for a
quality course. Take it at Tufts or seek transfer credit
here through the on-line "Transfer of Credit" process on
When planning your schedule, do not overburden yourself
(i.e. by taking three science lab courses at once), and
keep in mind when courses are offered. For example,
Biology 13 is only offered in the fall, and certain
courses sometimes overlap in time blocks. Many first
year premeds prefer to begin college by taking general
chemistry instead of introductory biology, as a
chemistry background may be desirable for Biology 13.
Others come with excellent backgrounds in biology and
prefer to begin with biology. Less common, but still
possible, is starting with physics. In general, be
flexible, but also try to plan ahead.
Can I take a pre-health requirement in the summer?
It is possible to take one of your four pre-health
sequences in the summer. It is best not to do more than
Things to consider: what am I forfeiting (e.g.
valuable health experience, income); will this course
prepare me well for future courses, standardized tests,
and professional school; can I get transfer credit at
Tufts (use WebCenter’s Transfer of Credit process to
request this)? Avoid taking a science at a much less
rigorous institution if you need to build on it at
Tufts. In other words, a weak chemistry course elsewhere
may cause problems as you take organic chemistry at
Tufts. Also, avoid splitting courses ( e.g. taking Chem
1 at home in the summer and Chem 2 it at Tufts during
the year is a poor plan.)
What should I
There is no "premed major" at Tufts; this is true of all
selective colleges and universities. Medical and other
health professions schools look for a well-balanced
college program, and do not favor one major over
another. Statistically, biology majors comprise at least
half of the applicant pool but statistically they have a
slightly lower rate of admission than many other majors,
including many non-science majors. In fact, some
Admissions officers may find someone who has majored in
a non-science area and still done well in the premedical
requirements to be more interesting.
Major in what excites you; chances are you will do your
best and enjoy your time at Tufts more by concentrating
in an area you enjoy. If you do choose a science major,
remain well-rounded by taking a variety of courses
outside your major. If you major in a non-science, be
certain to demonstrate your science aptitude by
performing well in your premedical courses. It is
advisable to elect an additional biology course or two
if you are a non-science major to allow for a smoother
transition to your graduate studies. Most commonly
recommended courses include biochemistry (typically Bio
152), cell biology, molecular biology. Other options
include physiology, genetics, microbiology or
immunology. If you are inclined to double major, be
aware it will greatly reduce your freedom to take
electives, and not necessarily impress admissions
other courses should I take?
Health professions schools value broadly-educated
applicants. They understand the importance of
understanding other people and cultures gained by
courses such as psychology, anthropology and sociology.
Students who have studied literature, art and music have
insight into the human condition and human emotion. And
those who speak another language have an excellent
additional communication skill. Explore all that Tufts
has to offer and develop your own interests and
Tufts also has a rich array of classes aimed at
providing a broad understanding of health. Most notably,
the Community Health Program
http://ase.tufts.edu/commhealth/ , a second major
for students who choose it, offers a wonderful list of
courses that can heighten your awareness of health
What Standardized Test do I
have to take?
All health professions graduate programs require a
standardized test. Medical schools (MD and DO) and
Podiatric Medical schools require the
MCAT; dental schools require the
DAT; optometry schools require the
OCAT and most others require the
The MCAT, DAT and OCAT test the sciences that you
will learn in your pre-heatlh requirements so students
typically do not take the test until they are completing
their last requirements.
The MCAT is changing in
March of 2015. Click
to get information about the new exam and click
here to access our handout.
Students are strongly encouraged to investigate study
abroad options if they are so inclined. This experience
will enrich your education and your application. Many
students take time away from their science requirements
to study language, history, art, etc. while abroad. If
you do want to take sciences abroad, it is important to
check with the appropriate science department here to
insure that a given course is comparable and therefore
covers the material you need to know.
All Tufts students considering study abroad should
attend a General Information Session (offered by the
Programs Abroad Office throughout the year at different
times and places), and should consult the publications
Explore the World with Tufts (Tufts programs) and/or
Tufts Guidelines for Study Abroad (non-Tufts programs).
Subsequent to that, there is information on the Program
http://uss.tufts.edu/studyabroad/ and binders and
books in the Dowling Resource Library that provides
information on many programs.
What if I do
poorly in a course?
A "C" or "D" is not going to keep you out of medical
school but multiple ones may. The average successful
premed at Tufts has an overall and science GPA of at
least a 3.5. While an average reflects both higher and
lower GPAs, very few medical schools seriously consider
applicants with less than a B+ average unless there are
significant disadvantages that the applicant has
overcome. Programs leading to an MD degree are currently
the most competitive; students interested in most of the
other health professions could be competitive with a
slightly lower GPA.
You do not have to have a 4.0GPA to gain admission.
Attributes other than grades are also important.
However, if you are getting a "D" or an "F" in a course,
talk to your instructor early to find out how you can
turn around your performance. If it is clear that your
final grade is going to be that poor, talk to your
advisor (and your parents) about dropping or withdrawing
from the course. A '"W" will always be on your
transcript but it is still better than a ''D" or an "F"
in a single incident. Multiple "W"'s are not ideal
either, but again they are generally preferable to a
very low grade.
If you do earn a poor, but passing, final grade in a
course, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether
or not it is best to retake the course. At that point,
you should discuss this with one of the health
professions advisors. Students who do not perform well
in their early science courses, but still wish to pursue
a medical degree, can take additional science courses to
strengthen their academic records and become competitive
remain premed if I am unhappy?
Keep in mind that being premed is not directly related
to medical school or the practice of medicine. If you
are frustrated by the long hours of study and your
requirements are not stimulating, do not just give up.
Determine for yourself whether you really want to become
a physician. This takes more than just saying you have
always wanted to be a doctor. Speak to doctors, work in
a health care setting, and if you really have your heart
set on medicine go for it! But be prepared for
On the other hand, remember that medical students and
physicians work extremely hard (much harder than
premeds) and the first two years of medical school are
primarily very rigorous science courses. The lesson to
be learned is that if you want to be a physician, and
you can tolerate hard work, pressure and time
constraints, and can do the sciences, then you should
pursue your goal.
Remember that there are many other health professions
that may offer what you are seeking without some of the
drawbacks you are experiencing. Do yourself a favor and
seriously investigate the other health professions.
if I am not a competitive applicant?
For the student who truly wants to pursue a medical or
other health professions career, there is always
opportunity to strengthen a record and become
competitive. It is first important to do an honest
assessment of your candidacy along with one of the
health professions advisors. Then a plan can be
developed to address any gaps or weaknesses. If the
weakness is the academic record there are numerous ways
to strengthen it even after college graduation. One way
is to pursue a Special Master’s Program. Click
here to find a list of such programs.