College of Arts & Sciences

Department of Biology

Information for Pre-Health Students

Many Biology majors and minors intend to pursue careers in the Health Professions. This includes such programs as medical, dental, veterinary, nursing, physician’s assistant, physical therapist, etc.  This page contains information regarding how students can prepare for applying to and gaining admission into these programs. The information is sorted by year, but this is not meant to imply that failure to do any of these things at a particular time will make it impossible to successfully apply.  Rather, this is meant to provide an idea about a “typical” path.

Freshman Year
1. Inform your academic advisor that you are interested in the health professions.  This will help your advisor work with you in deciding upon appropriate course selections.  Also let him/her know if you are in any special program such as PACE.
2. Begin (or continue) work (paid or volunteer) in a health care setting related to what you think you would like to do.  In other words, if you are interested in dentistry, get a position working in a dentist’s office, or shadow a dentist.  Keep in mind that some programs require a great deal of paid or volunteer experience BEFORE you apply (Vet schools require 500 hours as a minimum).  More importantly, the more experience you have, the better able you will be to decide which area to pursue.
3. Attend the information session for freshmen held by Ms. O’Hara, the Health Professions adviser.  She will provide general information regarding the process of preparing for and applying to schools of the health professions.
4. Check out information available from professional societies like:

The American Academy of Optometry
The American Academy of Physician Assistants
The American Association of Medical Colleges
The American Nurses Association.
The American Osteopathic Association
The American Physical Therapy Association
The American Veterinary Medicine Association
The National Society of Genetic Counselors

Sophomore Year

1. Talk with both your academic advisor and Ms. O’Hara about your career plans, especially before registration.  Students planning to enter nursing, PA, PT and other programs will need to begin taking specific courses to fulfill admissions requirements.

2. Attend career panels, the “Dinner with a Doc”, health professions advisor meetings, and other activities where you can meet professionals working in health care to talk about their jobs.  Get involved in one or more of the shadowing opportunities.
3. Continue volunteer/paid work in health care.  It is important that you get in a position where you see ongoing health care.  In this regard, hospitals, doctor’s, dentist’s, vet’s offices, are preferable to hospices, rest homes, shelters.  While all types of service are good, be sure you are getting to see and talk with health professionals so you can decide what career you want to pursue.
4. Beginning at the end of your Sophomore year, and continuing throughout your Junior year, spend 10 hours per week reviewing material for the professional exam you will have to take.  For medical school (MD or DO) you will need to take the MCAT, for veterinary school you take the VCAT or GRE, depending on the program, for dental school you take the DAT, for optometry school you take the OAT, and for many other programs (PA, PT, etc.) you take the GRE.

Junior Year
1. Make decisions about what programs you will apply to.  You should definitely visit schools whenever possible and talk with the students enrolled in the program you are considering.  Be sure to check with SJU teachers and Ms. O’Hara as there are probably SJU alums in those programs who would be glad to talk with you. 
2. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with the details of the profession you are considering.  Be sure to be able to address questions like : “What is the difference between Osteopathic and Allopathic philosophies?”, “What are typical duties of a BS-RN?”, “What has motivated you to want to enter health care?”, etc. 
3. Talk with your academic advisor about your career plans.  You may want to consider taking 4 courses one or both semesters junior year to provide more time for preparing for the admissions test and review process.  Be sure that doing this will not prevent you from graduating on time!
4. Students planning on entering fields (MD/DO, Dental, Vet) requiring review by HPAC Health Professions Advisory Committee), should begin the HPAC application process in the Fall of their Junior year.  Letters of recommendation are required from science and non-science faculty.  These should be requested well in advance and from teachers who know you well.  Make a point of visiting all of the members of HPAC early in the Spring semester to introduce yourself and answer any questions they might have. Prepare your personal statement and have it reviewed by both your academic advisor and Ms. O’Hara.
5. Apply for and take the appropriate admissions test.  Many students find a review/preparation course helpful as part of their preparation, but not all students do. 
6. Continue volunteer/paid work in health care.  It is important that you get in a position where you see ongoing health care.
7. Work on your interview skills.  Attend the mock interview sessions and visit the Career Development center for help.
8. Most students will begin the application process for professional school in the junior year.  Continue with this through the Summer.  Make sure that schools have received completed applications.

Senior Year
1. Students will typically hear from schools starting in the Fall of Senior year.  Schedule interviews as quickly as is possible as many times schools will use a rolling admissions process.  Review information about each program before going to the interview.  Have questions about the program prepared ahead of time
2. Inform you academic advisor and Ms. O’Hara of the decisions of the programs you have applied to. 
3. If need be, consider alternative options for after graduation.  Pre-professional MA programs, research-based MS programs, and jobs in science/biotech are good ways to improve your chances on the next round. Talk with your advisor and Ms. O’Hara to identify weaknesses that need to be addressed.