1. What are the most common pre-requisite courses required for those intending to apply to medical, dental, veterinary medical and other health professional schools?
Students may participate in the University of Puget Sound's Health Professions Advising Program as a first-year student, beginning with new student orientation. We help you decide which future career may be best for you and how to meet the academic and other requirements for medical and other health professional schools. Regular meetings take place throughout the year for potential applicants to all health professions. We offer interview workshops, practice interviews, writing workshops, and guidance through the application process. When you are ready to apply, you may choose to set up a confidential file of letters, which becomes part of the summary committee letter--preferred by many medical and dental professional schools. Mock interviews are offered as part of the committee letter process. HPA also hosts representatives from different health professions programs to visit with students about the admissions process and their schools.
Become a self-directed learner. Set goals. Become increasingly responsible. Exercise self-discipline. Diagnose, prescribe and evaluate your own learning, and use learning resources (Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching, for instance). Recognize your own limitations. Gain experience working with diverse populations who have identities different from your own. As part of the learning process, volunteer or paid work experience in the health fields is very important*. Engage in community service opportunities in which you have great passion, and demonstrate a sustained commitment to the activity over an extended period of time (activities do not need to be limited to the healthcare field). You must know what a typical day is like in the life of the professional you wish to become. While grades and admissions test scores are important, they aren't the whole picture.
*Professional health programs look favorably upon remote/virtual opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic if in-person experiences are limited. Students can visit the HPA Gaining Experience webpage to explore opportunities that include both remote and in-person experiences.
4. Does the committee chair write letters for every student who applies to medical or dental school?
The University of Puget Sound does not have an internal screening process to qualify for a committee letter. Any student, current or alum, may request a committee letter, and one will be written for all who participate in the Health Professions Advising Program. Participation includes: a Health Professions Advising interview, requesting confidential letters to be sent to the HPA office, and turning in a committee letter request form and waiver. Students whose credentials—admissions test scores and GPA—fall below those which are considered to be competitive, are counseled to discuss the weaknesses. Those students are encouraged to strengthen their application before they apply.
The Health Professions Advising Program doesn't recommend any one particular approach to test preparation. Whether it be a course which is taught in regular class sessions such as the Princeton Review, Kaplan, or Altius Test Prep or one that is computer-based, the choice is yours to make. Puget Sound students have been successful test takers using all methods of preparation: self-study, informal groups, class-based, and computer-based.
6. I was not a pre-med student while at Puget Sound, and I have not completed prerequisites. What do I do now if I want to pursue a path in medicine?
If your undergraduate record is strong and you only need the prerequisites, you may choose to do so, preferably at a four-year college or university. If your undergraduate program not only is missing the pre-requisites for a health professional school but your overall GPA is also less than 3.2, you may wish to consider a post-baccalaureate program.
7. What will I need to do in order to get into a health professional school—particularly a medical school?
Successful students in the past have done the following:
- Taken the required courses and done well in them,
- Studied hard for the admission test required and done well,
- Had a consistent record of community service through work or volunteer service,
- Had some exposure to the health care environment while in college,
- Applied in a timely manner to a reasonable mix of schools matching their interests and accomplishments,
- Developed the kinds of relationships with professors and others that will enable them to get good recommendations,
- Practiced interviewing skills, and
- Had a clear understanding of their motivations for medicine as well as the ability to articulate this in writing and in interviews.
Each professional school, as part of the application process, participates in both its own and government financial aid processes. You are encouraged to begin by filing a FAFSA application at the time of your general application. Most financial aid is in the form of loans. There are several programs, however, that offer scholarships. These most often include full tuition, books, equipment and a stipend. Most require a payback of service. Three of these programs are:
- National Health Service Corps
For students committed to providing primary health care in communities of greatest need.
- The Health Professions Scholarship Program
Full scholarships provided through the U.S. Army, Navy, or Air Force. The HPSP covers medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, and physician assistant programs (depending on which branch of the service you are looking into).
- Indian Health Services Scholarships
Financial assistance for American Indians and Alaska Native students covers many of the health professions.
You should also check the Puget Sound Fellowships Office website to see what might be applicable to you.
The 10 year average for University of Puget Sound is over 80% (compared to a national average of 40%), which speaks to the personalized advising support and intentional planning that Puget Sound pre-medical students receive.
The COVID-19 pandemic has lead to an increase in medical school applicants nationally. This has resulted in a more competitive application experience, and slightly lower acceptance rates, than in previous application cycles.
The Health Professions Advisors are well prepared to support students interested in nursing, including RN, BSN, and MSN programs. Pre-nursing students are strongly encouraged to begin working closely with a Health Professions Advisor early in their time at Puget Sound to ensure nursing pre-requisites are fulfilled. Pre-nursing students can select any academic major while fulfilling nursing pre-requisites.
Beyond the required medical school pre-requisite courses (select offerings from biology, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, statistics, psychology & sociology), a broad liberal arts background is encouraged and expected, as is majoring in the field of greatest interest. When a student is “pre-med”, that typically suggests that they are completing the courses required for admission to medical school, but have selected a major in a specific subject matter.