Students who plan to enter the Health Professions also need to experience the broad array of liberal arts opportunities in the
humanities and social sciences available at Colby. Many students hope to study abroad, and others play a varsity sport that
puts large demands on their time. Traditional pre-med courses of study
can make these goals difficult or conflicting, while in fact health professions
schools place a high value on applicants with a broad education and a
variety of experiences both inside and outside medicine.
To enter medical, dental, or veterinary school directly after graduation
from Colby, all premedical requirements must be completed by the end of
the junior year. This timetable will require that you take the appropriate
entrance exams (MCAT/DAT/GRE) in the spring of junior year, and submit applications in the early summer following
the junior year. However, more than two thirds of successful Colby applicants
spread their preparation over a longer period of time and do not apply
until their senior year or after graduation, spending the "glide" time (or "gap year") doing research
or working in a clinical or community service position. For this reason,
we will talk about course selection from two perspectives: the Liberal
Arts path and the Direct Entry path.
It must be emphasized that there is no one way to prepare for
school that is correct for all applicants. The only correct
or combinations of courses are the ones that lead to optimal
for you personally. For some students, taking all of
their required courses
in a relatively short time is appropriate, but for others
courses out over a longer time frame, which may include taking
in summer school or after graduation, makes more sense. Pacing
according to your own interests and abilities is the key to a
The following science courses comprise the minimum required for admission
to most US and Canadian medical and dental schools. Specific requirements
for individual schools can be found in the guides
published for allopathic, osteopathic, dental and veterinary schools.
Guides for allopathic, osteopathic, and dental schools are available to borrow from the reserve desk in Miller Library (course name "premed").
BIOLOGY: General or Introductory (163, 164), one year with lab.
CHEMISTRY: General or Inorganic (141, 142), one year with lab.
CHEMISTRY: Organic (241, 242), one year with lab.
PHYSICS: (141 or 143, followed by145), one year with lab.
MATHEMATICS: One or two courses, usually calculus
(121 or 161) and one other.
ENGLISH: One or two courses, usually English 115 and one
other. While many medical schools will accept other writing intensive
courses not in the English Department, it is usually safer to take actual
English courses rather than risk having other courses not accepted at
OTHERS RECOMMENDED BY MANY SCHOOLS AND REQUIRED BY SOME: biochemistry and genetics as well as additional courses in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.
Note that many of these will be taken in the context of the Colby distribution
January and/or summer internships providing clinical exposure to healthcare
settings and practitioners; research; community service; leadership. Clinical experience prior to applying is highly valued by medical schools, and expected by most.
students who enter with AP credit (4 or 5) must take a least one
additional course in that field. For example, if Colby gives you credit
for Physics 141 and 142 based on a 5 AP score, medical schools will
require one additional upper level college physics course taken at Colby or over
the summer at another institution. Despite having placed out of a
science course, students who feel that they would benefit from taking
the introductory level course at Colby (which will move at a
significantly faster pace and have more lab work than a high school AP
course) is strongly encouraged to do so. Students placing out of Chemistry
141/142 may not take Organic Chemistry in their first year at Colby
without petitioning the department for permission.
Required courses for veterinary school and many other allied health professions are often include other specific courses but vary from school to school, and vary
somewhat from those for medicine and dentistry. You should check the
requirements of each school to which you plan to apply, and speak with
the health professions advisor in the Career Center. The official
guides to allopathic and osteopathic medical schools and dental schools
are available to borrow from the reserve desk at Miller Library (class
The Liberal Arts Path
By spreading out the required courses over four years instead of three,
a student can accomplish a number of objectives: avoid overloading on
science and math courses in the first year while making a transition to
college-level work; take a broader array of non-required courses in multiple
disciplines, and study abroad without compromising MCAT or DAT preparation.
Additional time is also made available for clinical experience, research,
and community service. Students following this path will usually take
the MCAT or DAT in the spring of their senior year, and apply following
graduation. The opportunity to work for one or two "glide" or "gap" years
in a position related to healthcare is often an enormous advantage, helping
the student confirm that medical or dental school is the right choice,
and showing the admissions committee substantial evidence of relevant
experience and commitment. This has been a very successful model for many
liberal arts students and, at Colby, is the most common approach.
It is strongly suggested that students following this path do not take
more than two science courses with lab OR one science course with lab
and one math course during each semester of the first year.
Students following this path who have a Math SAT of 650 or below should
not take more than one science course with lab and one math course during
each semester of the first year. A gradual start can result in stronger
preparation and better success.
|Examples of Liberal Arts Path course selection alternatives for
students who want to study abroad* (each student develops their own path in consultation with their academic advisor and the Pre-Health Advisor):
|1st yr: Chem 141, Math 121
Soph: Bio 163, Chem 241
Senior: Physics 141
|Chem 142, English 115, Math
Bio 164, Chem 242
Physics 145, MCAT prep
|1st yr: Chem 141, Math 121
Soph: Bio 163, Physics 141
Senior: Chem 241
|Chem 142, English 115, Math
Bio 164, Physics 145
Chem 242, Biochem, MCAT prep
|1st yr: Bio 163, Math 121
Soph: Chem 141, Physics 141
Senior: Chem 241
|Bio 164, English 115, Math
Chem 142, Physics 145
Chem 242, Biochem, MCAT prep
Additional alternatives without study abroad for Liberal
|1st yr: Abroad
Soph: Chem 141, Bio 163
Junior: Chem 241
Senior: Biochem, Physics 141
|English 115, Math
Chem 142, Bio 164
Chem 242, English
Physics 145, MCAT prep
|1st yr: Bio 163, Math 121, English 115
Soph: Chem 141
Junior: Chem 241
Senior: Physics 141
Bio 164, Math
Chem 242/Biochem, English
Physics 145, MCAT prep
|*Natural science majors should consult with their
individual department. |
The Direct Entry Path
Students who want to enter medical, dental, or veterinary school directly
after graduation, and those who want to focus primarily in the natural
sciences, need to take the basic prerequisites earlier in their time at
Colby. The goal is to complete all pre-requisites by the end of the spring semester of junior year to allow the student to take the MCAT at that point and begin the application process in May. This usually involves studying for the MCAT during that spring semester also.
Students with an SAT Math score above 650 may consider taking two science
courses with lab and one math course during each semester of the first
year if they are confident in their ability to do this successfully. If you have any concern about this, take the lighter load!!
|Direct Entry Path course selection alternatives for
students with an SAT Math score above 650* (each student develops their own path in consultation with their academic advisor and the Pre-Health Advisor):
|1st yr: Bio163, Chem141, Math 121, Eng 115
Soph: Chem 241, Physics 141, electives
Junior: Biochem, electives
|Bio 164, Chem 142, Math, elective
Chem 242, Physics 145, English, elective
MCAT prep, electives
|*Students with an SAT Math score below 650 should strongly
consider following the LIBERAL ARTS PATH. In the DIRECT ENTRY PATH,
they should not take more than one science course with lab and one
math course during each semester of the first year.
|Direct Entry Path course selection alternative for
students with an SAT Math score below 650* (each student develops their own path in consultation with their academic advisor and the Pre-Health Advisor):
|1st yr: Bio163, Math 121, Eng 115, elective
Soph: Chem 141, electives
Junior: Chem 241, Physics 141, electives
Senior: Biochem, electives
|Bio 164, Math, electives
Chem 142, English, electives
Chem 142, Physics 145, MCAT prep, electives
|*Natural science majors should consult with their individual
Selecting a Major
Science major or not?
It is important to emphasize that no specific major is required for admission
to medical school. This has been the case for many years. Students should
select a major area of study that is of interest and that will provide
a foundation of knowledge necessary for the pursuit of several career
alternatives. Students who select a major area of study solely or primarily
because of the perception that it will enhance the chance of acceptance
to a school of medicine are not making a decision in their best interest.
A science major is not a prerequisite for medical school, and students
should not major in science simply because they believe this will increase
their chances for acceptance. Medical schools are most concerned with
the overall quality and scope of undergraduate work.
It is the general rule, however, that students who do not take more than
the minimal number of science courses should have very high grades in
those courses to insure serious consideration. Competence in the sciences,
regardless of your major, is a key factor in medical, dental, and veterinary
For most physicians, the undergraduate years are the last available opportunity
to pursue in depth a non-science subject of interest, and all who hope
to practice medicine should bear this in mind when selecting an undergraduate
Acceptance rates by major
There is some degree of variation in acceptance rates across undergraduate
majors. Recent data reveal that although students majoring outside
of the natural sciences represent a smaller proportion of those entering
medical school than do science majors, the probabilities of being accepted
are not systematically different. Moreover, recent studies find that
science and non-science majors are not differentiable in terms of performance
in medical school or in their careers as physicians. Overall, no one
major can be said to provide a big edge in terms of medical school admission.
Medical schools readily accept well qualified students with diverse academic
The situation regarding choice of a major is similar for dental and
veterinary schools. Academic excellence, regardless of major, is essential
All students interested in the health professions are urged
to refer to current editions of the admissions guides for medicine,
dentistry, and veterinary, as well as other health professions, in
order to get a clearer sense of how these professions view
undergraduate education. Medical and dental school guides are on
reserve in Miller Library (course name "pre-med). Copies of those
guides and veterinary school guides, along with directories of many
other health professions preparation programs are also available to
consult in the Career Center Resource Library.
It is extremely important that you begin planning your overall academic
program early. This will allow you to arrange a reasonable distribution
of required and recommended courses during the undergraduate years, so
that you can do as well as possible in each course. From previous academic
experience, you should have some idea of which courses will require greatest
effort, and you should plan each semester accordingly.
First-year students who plan to major in one of the natural sciences
should follow the guidelines for enrolling in science and mathematics
courses during the Fall semester that have been developed by the department
in which they will major.
Students who plan to major in one of the social sciences or humanities
should work closely with their academic advisor and with the advisor
for the health professions to select the optimal combination of science
and non-science courses for each semester.
When planning course schedules, all students should keep in
mind the following: The first of the introductory courses in Biology
(BI 163), Chemistry (CH 141), and Physics (PH 141 and PH 143) are offered only during the
Fall semester, and are prerequisite for enrolling in the second courses
offered in the introductory sequence (BI 164, CH 142, and PH 145, respectively)
in each discipline during the Spring semester. Effectively, you CAN NOT "begin" your sciences in the spring semester. If you do not take the first semester of a science in the fall semester of your first year, you will not be able to take a science until your sophomore year (the exception to this would be if you placed out of an introductory science course). Not taking a science in your first year does NOT mean you won't be able to go to medical school, but will require you to work with the health professions advisor to plan how you will complete your pre-requisites.
If you plan to go directly to medical, dental, or veterinary school following
graduation from Colby, ALL pre-professional requirements must be completed
by the end of junior year. This timetable will require that you study for and take
the MCAT in the spring of junior year, and submit applications beginning in May of the junior year.
If you plan to spend a year or more in work and/or volunteer settings
between graduation and entering professional school, your required courses
can be taken over four undergraduate years and/or after graduation, and
the MCAT can be taken in senior year or after graduation.
It must be emphasized, and bears repeating, that there is no one way to prepare for professional
school that is correct for all applicants. The only correct sequences
or combinations of courses are the ones that lead to optimal performance
for you personally. For some students, taking all of the required courses
in a relatively short time is appropriate, but for others spreading the
courses out over a longer time frame, which may include taking some courses
in summer school or after graduation, makes more sense. Pacing your
studies according to your own interests and abilities is the key to a
Course Grades and Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA)
Course grades and cumulative GPA are considered to be extremely important
indicators of future success by medical, dental, and veterinary admissions
committees. In recent years, the national average GPA of a student going
on to allopathic medical school has been about 3.50. Those individuals
admitted to M.D. programs with less than an overall GPA of 3.30 either
have achieved strikingly improved performance in their later years of
college, or have demonstrated other characteristics deemed desirable for
medicine by various admissions committees. Frequently such students have
"proven themselves" academically by taking more science courses,
and/or completing a master's degree, following graduation. The national
average GPA of students going on to osteopathic schools has been around
3.25 or higher.
The GPA situation regarding dental and veterinary schools is more variable.
However, competitive dental applicants typically have at least an overall
GPA of 3.00, while veterinary applicants are closer to 3.5. The higher
the GPA, the higher the probability of being accepted.
If you do poorly in one of the courses required for professional school,
it is not necessarily the end of the line for your aspirations! If
you have high grades in most of the other required and recommended courses,
there is no reason why you cannot retake the course in which you did poorly
and apply as planned. Although professional schools certainly do not encourage
this, they are well aware that no student is perfect under all circumstances
and that overall performance speaks more definitively than one exception. Students who demonstrate a distinct upward trend in their academic performance, especially in the sciences, may also be strong candidates for professional school. There are a million variations on the theme of performance -- don't hesitate to talk with the Pre-Health Advisor to assess your situation and develop a strategy to achieve your professional goals.
Clinical Experience, Volunteering, Special Projects, and Research Experience
In addition to demonstrating a strong record of achievement in your courses,
it is very important to take every opportunity to gain experience in clinical settings. A combination of volunteering, internships, summer jobs, and shadowing is critical in demonstrating to health professions schools your commitment to the profession you seek to pursue (and an absolute requirement for students interested in PA, PT, or veterinary studies). Opportunities for these experiences exist both on campus in the Waterville community and should be sought early and often throughout your Colby experience. Participation in humanitarian volunteer opportunities of any kind is valued by medical schools.
You should also seek opportunities to engage in special projects or individual
For students majoring in the natural sciences, projects in the major
may take the form of laboratory research at Colby, at another college
or university, or in a hospital or professional school setting. This research
may or may not involve human or animal subjects, but will demonstrate your understanding of how research is conceived, organized, and conducted. After all, research is the underpinning of all you do as a clinician.
For students majoring outside of the natural sciences, it is also
beneficial to get involved in research in your discipline, especially
if it is pertinent to health in the broad sense. Some recent examples
are a Psychology major who helped to carry out a study examining perceptions
of health risks among college students; an Economics major who got involved
in research on the health and cost implications of hydrocarbon emissions
near an airport in an urban setting; a Chinese minor who did research in Beijing on the effects of air quality on asthma sufferers; and a Philosophy major who wrote
a senior thesis on medical ethics pertaining to contraception, abortion,
and euthanasia. Non-science majors have also developed relationships with faculty in their science courses which have led to lab science research opportunities.