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FAQs

General Pre-Health FAQs

How do I get a pre-health advising appointment?

We offer a variety of ways to meet with an advisor to discuss your interests in any of the health professions.

Are two English courses required for pre-health students?

  • Pre-med: The medical schools’ “English” requirement is better thought of as a writing requirement.  
    • Typically, LSA First Year Writing (FYWR) and Upper Level Writing (ULWR) courses will satisfy this requirement regardless of the department that teaches them.
    • Engineering 100, a technical writing course, is typically not accepted.
    • Other courses that teach scholarly writing but that don’t satisfy FYWR or ULWR can count (e.g. English 225, Movesci 219).
  • Other health professions: 
    • Dental schools are somewhat less likely to accept non-English writing courses than med schools, but many do. (Michigan’s dental school accepts non-English Department FYWR and ULWR writing courses.)
    • Other health professions may indeed specify English courses and may require only one.
    • When in doubt, students should contact their target schools.

Which Physics courses should I take?

  • Health professions schools will accept both versions of Physics 1 and 2 taught by LSA. If your major requires Physics 140/141 and Physics 240/241, then take the Physics courses that work best for your major.
  • Physics 135/136 and Physics 235/236 were designed with pre-health sciences like Biology and Chemistry in mind, so pre-health students who are taking Physics only to satisfy application requirements might consider taking that sequence.
  • What about courses from other schools that transferred in as Physics 125/127 and Physics 126/128?  Answer: those are courses that are equivalent to the old algebra-based versions of Physics 1 and 2 taught in LSA and work just fine for most if not all health professions programs.

Post-baccalaureate Question #1: I am about to graduate and never took pre-health science courses, but now I want to be a doctor (or dentist, or pharmacist, or…). What can I do?

First, talk with an advisor about this.  They will help you sort out some options:

  • You might be able to postpone your graduation and take the classes here at UM. Or..
  • You might also consider taking courses after graduation at UM (or another school) as a non-degree-seeking student. Or...
  • Career Changer Postbaccalaureate Programs are for people who completed an undergraduate degree without taking any (or at least only a very few) pre-health science courses and have decided they now want to prepare for a healthcare profession are potential candidates for career changer programs.
    • The great majority of Career Changer programs focus on preparing people for medical school, dental school, or (less frequently) pharmacy school. 
    • Michigan Medicine’s Postbac MEDPREP is an excellent local example of these programs.
    • There are some career changer programs out there that provide a chance to take the specialized courses required for paths like Speech Pathology and Audiology (e.g. University of Washington)

Post-baccalaureate Question #2: I am about to graduate and want to go to medical (or dental, etc.) school, but I think my grades aren’t good enough. What should I do

Talk to an advisor about this.  It’s a complicated question and pre-health advisors are happy to help you think about this.  Some basic information to help get you started:

  • Academic Record Enhancer Postbac programs are for people who took all or most of the pre-health science courses but whose undergraduate science GPA is not quite competitive might be candidates for academic record enhancer programs.  
    • Why only “might be candidates”?  Because it’s possible that the initial undergraduate GPA is low enough that med (or whatever you’re targeting) school may not be attainable, even with excellent postbac grades. That’s one of the main reasons you should talk with an advisor about this.
  • It is often the case that academic record enhancer programs are designed particularly for applicants from populations not well represented in medicine.
  • Here are some resources to look at before talking with an advisor: 
    • The National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP) has a very extensive “starter” page of information on post-baccalaureate programs.
    • University of Michigan Career Center postbac page 
    • AAMC Postbac list 
    • Wayne State’s MS in Basic Medical Sciences (a graduate level academic record enhancer not on the AAMC list)
    • UM students are frequently interested in the MS in Molecular and Integrative Physiology, an excellent graduate level academic record enhancer program offered on this campus.

Which Biochemistry course should I take?

There are three introductory biochemistry lectures that are commonly taken by pre-health students:CHEM 351, MCDB 310, and BIOLCHEM 415.  A fourth lecture, BIOLCHEM 212 also has elements of biochemistry in it but it is designed primarily for nursing students.

How do they differ?  CHEM 351, MCDB 310, and BIOLCHEM 415 are all in-depth introductions to Biochemistry of the sort needed as a foundation to upper level science courses and so provide the mastery you need for admissions tests that include biochemistry among the content they cover (e.g. MCAT, DAT).  All of CHEM 351, MCDB 310, and BIOLCHEM 415 are accepted by health professions programs that list Biochemistry as a prerequisite. That said, there are minor differences based on the respective curricula of the departments that teach them.  MCDB 310 is designed to work well with the Biology, EEB and MCDB courses that are taught through LSA.  CHEM 351 contains additional content that helps with the majors taught by the Chemistry department. BIOLCHEM 415 is taught on the medical campus and students are therefore more likely to hear specific references to human systems and medicine.  

BIOLCHEM 212 is more descriptive in nature. It includes elements of both organic chemistry and biochemistry, and it covers the material in less depth, therefore pre-health students considering using BIOLCHEM 212 for programs other than nursing should consult target schools before counting on it. 

  • Medicine: An upper level introduction to biochemistry lecture is essential to good preparation for the MCAT.  Furthermore, most--if not all--medical schools (both MD and DO) either require or strongly recommend a biochemistry lecture.  CHEM 351, MCDB 310, and BIOLCHEM 415 all cover the content tested on the MCAT and all also are accepted by medical schools that require biochemistry. 
  • Dentistry: There is some biochemistry tested on the DAT and many dental schools require a lecture.  Pre-health advisors here at UM typically recommend any one of CHEM 351, MCDB 310, or BIOLCHEM 415 for pre-dental students.
  • Pharmacy: Pharmacy schools universally (or nearly universally) require a lecture in biochemistry.  UM’s PharmD program accepts all CHEM 351, MCDB 310, or BIOLCHEM 415.
  • Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant, Optometry, and Veterinary Medicine programs all are likely to require a Biochemistry lecture.

Do I have to report a W on my application if it’s been expunged?

The requirements used to vary a bit from one application service to another, but in recent years the rules have become more standardized.

  • AMCAS: No.  (Note that AMCAS used to require reporting of a W even if had been expunged, but changed that policy beginning with the 2017-2018 application cycle.)
  • AACOMAS, AACPMAS, AADSAS, CASPA, NursingCAS, OptomCAS, OTCAS, PharmCAS, PTCAS, SOPHAS, VMCAS: No (Confirmed by a phone call to Liaison International 10/2/2018)

What will health professions schools do now that UM has decided to issue P/NRC (Pass/No Record Coronavirus) for courses taken in the Winter 2020 semester?

Health professions schools (i.e. medical, dental, etc.) are aware that these decisions are being made by colleges and universities and are working to come up with guidelines for handling pass/fail grades being issues because of the difficulties caused by the pandemic. As of 3/20/2020 we are not aware of any definitive policy statements having been made by these programs, but based on an assessment of preliminary statements it seems likely that some accommodations will be made in recognition of the prevailing, extraordinary circumstances.  However, these schools will still need to assess any applicant's capacity to succeed in their program. Therefore, our recommendations are:

  • The wisest strategy you can follow is to continue to make the best grades you can this term, in case you are required to unmask those grades by one or more health professions schools. 
  • Your entire record matters most. Even if you end up making a lower grade than you might have gotten under normal circumstances, it is likely but not certain that some understanding will be extended, provided there's sufficient evidence of strength elsewhere in your record.
  • Note that as of 3/20/2020 students can withdraw from classes as late as April 21, 2020.
  • Michigan Medicine has announced that it will accept pass/fail grades for any courses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, "whether mandated by your school or personal decision."
  • PLEASE NOTE this 3/24/2020 statement from Wayne State: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities are offering a pass/fail or credit/no credit option.  For any prerequisite coursework, Wayne State University School of Medicine strongly recommends that you do not select this option.  P/F, CR/NC can be selected for non- prerequisite coursework. 

Pre-Medical FAQs

Is calculus required for medical school?

A large portion of medical schools (perhaps half, perhaps a smaller portion) list a generic requirement for Math.  Of these, some want one course while others want two. Generic Math requirements can be filled by Statistics, Pre-calculus, Calculus, and other courses offered by Math departments.  Currently very few (perhaps 10) schools specifically mention Calculus as a requirement (none of the medical schools in Michigan require calculus). All medical schools will value a strong performance in a course like calculus and your grade in any math class will be included in the important science GPA calculated on your application.  A key point to be taken from all of this is: Medical schools’ math requirements vary widely and you should check first (on their websites) to be sure of what you need for a given school. Some more details: 

  • The number of medical schools requiring statistics (either as a prerequisite course or as a competency) is increasing.
  • A few require one calculus course and one statistics course. 
  • Many require 1-2 college-level math courses, which for our students would most likely be a combination of calculus and statistics. 
  • There are some medical schools with no math requirement, but most of those schools still recommend it or expect students to have quantitative skills. Similarly, many students find STATS 250 or 280 helpful for the MCAT.
  • AP credit is frequently accepted, but not always.  Please do check.
  • There is no math on the MCAT (except that needed for Chemistry and Physics questions), but many questions require you to evaluate statistics-based data.

So, taking calculus and/or statistics sets up a student to have a lot of options for medical school. Technically a pre-med student could take no math courses and get accepted somewhere. But, they should consider the possibility that they would be limiting their options and potentially hurting their competitiveness among schools which recommend but do not require it. 

What is tested on the MCAT?

The MCAT is comprised of four sections:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

The AAMC/MCAT site provides a detailed list of the content tested on the exam.

What UM courses cover MCAT content?

NOTE: There are actually very many courses that cover some elements of MCAT content, including some taught in UM schools and colleges other than LSA.  This is just a basic list of the most common pre-MCAT courses. For information about what else might help, please consult a pre-health advisor.

  • Biology
    • Introductory Biology (includes basic Genetics: Biology 171, 172, 173.
    • Physiology courses (e.g. Biology 225 or Physiology 201) are helpful.
    • An advanced Genetics course (e.g. Biology 305) is not really needed.
  • General/Inorganic Chemistry
    • Chem 130, 125, 126
    • Chem 230 (Chem 260, BIOMEDE 221, CHEME 331 + CHEM 261,or Biophys 370 are good substitutes, but of these Chem 230 is contains the most MCAT content)
  • Organic Chemistry
    • Chem 210, 211
    • Chem 215, 216
  • Physics 
    • Physics 135, 136 or Physics 140, 141
    • Physics 235, 236 or Physics 240, 241 (Note: students frequently ask if there is Physics II content on the MCAT.  The answer is that there usually is some, but the amount can vary.)
  • Biochemistry
    • Any of the 3 introductory lectures in Biochemistry is sufficient: MCDB 310, Chem 351, Biolchem 415.
    • Biochemistry is the most heavily tested subject on the MCAT.
  • Psychology and Sociology
    • Psych 111 covers the largest subset of the behavioral science content tested on the MCAT (students with AP credit for Psych 111 need not repeat the class).
    • Psych 280 is frequently mentioned by students as helpful, but there are also students who do well on the Behavioral Sciences section of the MCAT without it.
    • Both Soc 100 and and Soc 302 cover the content tested on the MCAT, but Soc 302 is designed to teach introductory sociology with direct reference to medicine and health.
  • Math and Statistics
    • Math is not tested directly on the MCAT.
    • A background in introductory Statistics is helpful, as many questions on the test employ statistical reasoning.

What are the most important activities for pre-medical students?

Note: This is just a basic, introductory answer to an important and complex question. It’s a very good idea to talk with your advisor about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.  It’s also very valuable to develop strong reflective practices as part of doing this work well (your First Year Writing and Upper Level Writing courses are helpful for this).

  • A significant amount (think hundreds rather than just dozens of hours) of patient interaction is a non-negotiable element in a successful med school application.  
  • Med school admissions personnel look see medicine as a service profession and so value volunteer work of all kinds as evidence of altruism.
  • Hypothesis driven research of all kinds, not just in the bench sciences, is valued.
  • Shadowing and other kinds of clinical exposure is valuable for helping students assess whether the career is right for them, but:  
    • Formal shadowing opportunities are difficult to get. While knowledge of medicine is essential and shadowing is a good way to get it, there are other ways to gain that understanding. 
    • 20-40 hours of shadowing is probably enough (and some students get into medical school without any formal shadowing).

Does Michigan Medicine dislike applicants who attended UM?

No.  In fact, the evidence indicates that they like them very much.  The University of Michigan Medical School regularly admits more applicants from UM than from any other school, usually by a very wide margin, which means that UM graduates typically are the largest population in each Michigan Medicine entering class.

When should I apply to medical school?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.  Instead, it helps to keep in mind that medical school admissions decisions are based on evidence the helps them understand:

  • Your capacity as a student and a scientist, including (but not limited to) your grades (especially in pre-medical science courses), your MCAT score, and to a certain extent your participation in research 
  • The experiences you've chosen to learn more about health, medicine, your responsibilities toward others, and yourself (and of course what you've actually learned from all of them)
  • The personal qualities they have determined as essential to being a good doctor.

Applicants that provide substantive amounts of evidence for these key areas are more likely to be successful.  It takes time to build that evidence, which is one of the main reasons that the average age of medical school matriculants hovers between 24 and 25 years old.

Regardless of how old you are, once you've determined you're ready to apply, most medical schools use some version of rolling admissions so it's best to apply early in the application cycle.  The best situation involves you submitting your primary application and your MCAT score by the end of June.  Beginning your application late in the summer can cause you problems with some--perhaps many--medical schools.

What is the medical school application timeline?

Check out our annotated description of the medical school application timeline.

Pre-Dental FAQs

What activities are most important for pre-dental students?

  • Dental schools (unlike medical schools) are more likely to require a minimum number of hours spent shadowing a dentist (e.g. UM Dental School requires at least 100 shadowing hours). 
  • Dental school admissions personnel look see dentistry as a service profession and so value volunteer work of all kinds as evidence of altruism.
  • Hypothesis driven research of all kinds, not just in the bench sciences, is valued.

What is tested on the DAT?

  • Natural sciences (biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry)
  • Perceptual ability (two- and three-dimensional problem solving)Reading comprehension (dental and basic sciences)
  • Quantitative reasoning (mathematical problems in algebra, numerical calculations, conversions, etc.)
  • Here is a complete description of the DAT.

What UM courses cover DAT content?

NOTE: There are actually very many courses that cover some elements of DAT content, including some taught in UM schools and colleges other than LSA.  This is just a basic list of the most common pre-DAT courses. Here is a video on preparing for the DAT.

  • BiologyIntroductory 
    • Biology (includes basic Genetic: Biology 171, 172, 173.
    • Physiology courses (e.g. Biology 225 or Physiology 201) are helpful.
    • An advanced Genetics course (e.g. Biology 305) is not really needed.
  • General/Inorganic Chemistry
    • Chem 130, 125, 126
    • Chem 230 (Chem 260, or Biophys 370 are acceptable substitutes, but of these Chem 230 is contains the most DAT content)
  • Organic Chemistry
    • Chem 210, 211
    • Chem 215, 216
  • Physics is not tested on the DAT (but most dental schools require Physics coursework)
  • Biochemistry
    • Any of the 3 introductory lectures in Biochemistry are sufficient: MCDB 310, Chem 351, Biolchem 415.
  • Math and Statistics
    • Pre-calculus (e.g. Math 105 or high school math) is tested on the DAT, but calculus is not tested.
    • A background in statistics is helpful, as many questions on the test employ statistical reasoning.
  • Perceptual Ability Test (PAT): There are no courses that cover this content, per se, but some students prepare for the PAT by engaging in activities that will train their ability to assess shapes, distance, and problem solving on a small scale (e.g. knitting, various kinds of visual arts, etc.).

What is the dental school application cycle like?

Pre-Pharmacy FAQs

What activities are most important for pre-pharmacy students?

  • Even though it’s not always required by pharmacy schools, it’s most important to shadow pharmacists.  Shadowing will help determine whether this is a good career path for you (and make a point of shadowing in a clinical setting as well as a retail setting).  You might also end up applying to a pharmacy school that requires a reference letter from a pharmacist, and a substantive shadowing experience might provide a basis for this.  Getting work as a pharmacy technician can serve both of these purposes, but it’s not required.
  • Pharmacy schools also value substantive community service work (volunteer work is good), research, and involvement in activities that suggest you are comfortable interacting with people under challenging circumstances. 
  • Research of all kinds (not just pharmaceutical sciences) is likely to be valued, but not required.  However, you can look at the UM College of Pharmacy research page to learn more about research in the field.

What courses should I take as a pre-pharmacy student?

It’s important to make sure you know the courses required by the PharmD programs to which you plan to apply, so do your research and then come talk with a pre-health advisor!  That said, you can find a general discussion of the courses typically required by PharmD programs and by the PCAT on our pre-pharmacy academics page.

What should I study to be ready for the PCAT?

The PCAT has four sections. You can find a detailed list of the subjects test on the PCAT site, under the “PCAT Test Blueprint and Sample Items” link.

  • Biological Processes: This includes introductory biology, microbiology, human anatomy and physiology.  
    • Genetics is tested, but at a basic level that typically doesn’t require completion of Biology 305 prior to the test.
  • Chemical Processes:  
    • General Chemistry: Atomic Theory, Chemical Bonding Reactions and Reaction Mechanisms, Kinetic Theory, Solutions, and Nuclear Chemistry: Radioisotopes
    • Organic Chemistry: Structure and Properties, Reactions of Organic Compounds  Basic Biochemistry Processes: DNA and RNA, Lipids, Proteins
  • Critical Reading (Not based on specific content)
  • Quantitative Reasoning 
    • Basic Math: Fractions, Percentages, & Decimals; Unit Conversions;  Log Base 10; Ratios
    • Algebra: Expressions, Equations, and Inequalities; Functions
    • Probability & Statistics:  Measures of Central Tendency, Variation, Graphical, Probability, Statistical Concepts

What is the pharmacy school application timeline?