HEALTH PROFESSIONS . RESOURCES . ADVISING . ACADEMICS . EXPERIENCES . STUDYING ABROAD . SUMMER SCHOOL . SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES . EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES . APPLICATION PROCESS . POST-BACCALAUREATE . GRADUATE ADMISSION STATISTICS . DOWNLOADS

Students who plan to enter the Health Professions will benefit from an experience of the broad array of liberal arts opportunities in the humanities and social sciences available at Colby. Many Colby students study abroad, and others play a varsity sport that puts large demands on their time. Traditional pre-health 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.

It must be emphasized that there is no one way to prepare for graduate study in the health professions 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 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 strong finish.  Typically, over 85% of Colby applicants to health professions programs (often 90% or more for medicine) each year take the “Liberal Arts path” and plan to take a “gap” year or two between Colby and graduate school, whether in medicine or other health specialties. 

While advising for all of the health professions is available through the Career Center, the following information applies mainly to medical/dental school as that demands the most complex preparation, requiring extensive forethought and planning.  For information regarding preparation for a wide variety of health professions, first-year students should contact Professor Ed Yeterian in the Psychology Department.  Other students (and alumni) should contact the Health Professions Advisor in the Career Center, Cate Talbot Ashton.  Each of these fields has unique and non-standardized prerequisites: physician assistant, nursing, advanced practice nursing (AKA nurse practitioner), physical therapy, optometry, occupational therapy, public health, veterinary medicine, health administration, etc.  Links to information regarding these fields can be found under the “Resources” link above.

Required Courses
The Liberal Arts Path
The Direct Entry Path
Selecting a Major
Selecting Courses
Course Grades and Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA)
Clinical Experience, Volunteering, Special Projects, and Research Experience

 

Required Courses

The admission process for medical and dental schools has been undergoing substantial change over the past few years, with more change to come.  Required courses for admission to many medical schools have been adjusted (for example, medical schools are moving away from requiring Calculus and moving toward requiring a course in Statistics).  A revised MCAT (known as MCAT 2015) will be launched in the spring of 2015, requiring knowledge in sociology, psychology, statistics, and biochemistry that was not included in the current MCAT (the last administration of the current MCAT will be in January 2015).

The following science courses comprise our Colby course recommendations for students to fulfill the range of courses 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, and dental schools and may vary from this list. Students interested in other health professions will need to develop their unique list of prerequisites based on the schools they believe they will want to apply to as no other field has a standardized list of prerequisites.

• One year of introductory Biology with lab: BI 163, BI 164
• One year of general Chemistry (inorganic) with lab: CH 141, CH 142 OR CH 145 (credit notation for CH 141 will be added to the transcript for students achieving a B or higher in CH 145, fulfilling the 2-semester requirement)
• One year of Organic Chemistry with lab: CH 241, CH 242 (note that some medical schools now only “require” one semester of Organic Chemistry, but keep in mind that both semesters are required in order to take Biochemistry at Colby)
• One semester of Biochemistry: BC 362 (Medical Biochemistry, one semester, no lab) OR the two semester sequence BC 367 AND BC 378 (only recommended for students whose major/minor require the two-semester sequence)
• One year of introductory Physics with lab: PH 141 OR PH 143 followed by PH 145
• One or two semesters of Mathematics, with one semester of Statistics highly recommended
• One or two semesters of English, usually EN 115 or a W-1 course.
(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 application time.)

In addition, courses recommended for preparation for the MCAT 2015 are:
• Introductory Sociology: SO 131 (must be taken in first or sophomore year)
• Introductory Psychology: PS 111
• A course in Statistics: SC 110,  212, or  231, PS 214/215, EC 293, SO 271/272

Advanced Placement (AP) courses:
Students who enter with AP equivalents for prerequisite courses MUST take a least one additional course in that field. For example, if Colby gives you course equivalency for Physics 141 and 145 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) are 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 – those students are encouraged to take CH145 (Honors Chemistry) to meet their medical school pre-requisite in general chemistry.

 

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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  “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 any semester of the first year. A gradual start can result in stronger preparation and better success.

Sample Liberal Arts Path course plans (each student develops their own path in consultation with their academic advisor and the Health Professions Advisors):

For students who want to study abroad*:

FALL

SPRING

Freshman:
Sophomore:
Junior:
Senior:

Chem 141, Math 121
Bio 163, Chem 241, Psych 111
Abroad
Phys 141 or 143, Biochem 362

Chem 142, English 115, Soc 131
Bio 164, Chem 242
English, Stats 212
Phys 145, MCAT prep

FALL

SPRING

Freshman:
Sophomore:
Junior:
Senior:

Chem 141, Math 121
Bio 163, Chem 241
Abroad
Phys 141, Biochem 362

Chem 142, English 115, Soc 131
Bio 164, Chem 242
English, Psych 111
Phys 145, Stats 212, MCAT prep

FALL

SPRING

Freshman:
Sophomore:
Junior:

Summer:
Senior:

Bio 163, Soc 131
Chem 141, Math 121
English, Stats 231

Organic Chemistry
Phys 145, Biochem 362

Bio 164, English 115
Chem 142, Psych 111
Abroad


Phys 145, MCAT prep

Additional alternatives without study abroad for Liberal Arts Path*:

FALL

SPRING

Freshman:
Sophomore:
Junior:
Senior:

Abroad
Chem 141, Bio 163
Chem 241, Stats 231
Biochem 362, Phys 141

English 115, Soc 131, Math 121
Chem 142, Bio 164
Chem 242, English
Phys 145, Psych 111, MCAT prep

FALL

SPRING

Freshman:
Sophomore:
Junior:
Senior:

Bio 163, Math 121, English 115
Chem 141, Stats 231
Chem 241
Phys 141, Biochem 362

Bio 164, Soc 131
Chem 142, Psych 111
Chem 242, English
Phys 145, MCAT prep

*Natural science majors should consult with their individual department.

 

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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 prerequisites by the end of the spring semester of junior year to allow the student to take the MCAT by April and begin the application process in May. This usually involves studying for the MCAT during the spring semester in addition to a rigorous course schedule.  Students who are spring athletes or highly involved in campus activities should seriously consider taking the Liberal Arts path.

Students with an SAT Math score above 650 should consider NOT taking two science courses with lab and one math course during each semester of the first year unless they are confident in their ability to do this successfully. If you have any concern about getting off to a strong academic start in college, take the lighter science load!!

Sample Direct Entry Path course plans (each student develops their own path in consultation with their academic advisor and Health Professions Advisors:

Direct Entry Path course selection alternatives for students with an SAT Math score above 650

FALL

SPRING

Freshman:
Sophomore:
Junior:
Senior:

Bio 163, Chem 141, Math 121, Eng 115
Chem 241, Phys 141, Soc 131, elective
Biochem 362, PS 111, electives
Electives

Bio 164, Chem 142, Stats 212, elective
Chem 242, Phys 145, English, elective
MCAT prep, electives
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*

FALL

SPRING

Freshman:
Sophomore:
Junior:
Senior:

Chem 141, Math 121, Eng 115, electives
Chem 241, Bio 163, Stats 231
BioChem 362, Phys 141, electives

Electives

Chem 142, Soc 131, electives
Chem 242, Bio 164, English, elective
Phys 145, MCAT prep, electives
Electives

*Natural science majors should consult with their individual department.

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Selecting a Major: Science Major or Not?
It is important to emphasize that no specific major is required for admission to medical/dental/veterinary 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 ensure serious consideration. Competence in the sciences, regardless of your major, is a key factor in medical, dental, and veterinary school admission.  Majoring in a science with mediocre grades will not make you a more attractive candidate than a non-science major who excels in their science prerequisites.

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 major.

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 backgrounds.

The situation regarding choice of a major is similar for dental and veterinary schools. Academic excellence, regardless of major, is essential for success.

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. Links to a variety of guides can be found under the “Resources” link at the top of this page.

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General Notes on Selecting Courses

    • 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.  However, if you come to the idea of health professions later in your Colby career, get in touch with the Health Professions Advisor in the Career Center – it is possible to go to medical/dental/veterinary school even if you do not complete your prerequisites while at Colby.
    • 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.  Consultation with the First Year Health Professions Advisor is still highly recommended.
    • First-year students who plan to major in one of the social sciences or humanities should work closely with their academic advisor and with the First Year Health Professions Advisor 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, CH 241), 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, CH 242, and PH 145, respectively) in each discipline during the Spring semester. Effectively, you CANNOT “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.  In order to take Biochemistry, CH 141/142 must be completed in the first year and CH 241/242 must be completed in the sophomore year (unless one or the other is taken elsewhere over the summer and the credits transferred to Colby).
    • 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 positive outcome.

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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.

In addition to the overall GPA, the “science” gpa (also called the “BCPM” gpa) calculated to include all biology, chemistry, physics, and math undergraduate courses taken is another extremely important academic metric considered in the admission process.  While an upward trend in science grades can be taken into consideration, the importance of putting best effort into succeeding in science and math courses cannot be emphasized too strongly.

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 or take more advanced courses successfully and apply as planned. Professional schools 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.

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Clinical Experience, Volunteering, Special Projects, and Research Experience

In addition to academic performance measured through required courses, grade point averages, performance trends noted in the transcript, and the MCAT score, medical schools have begun to seek evidence in the application of “Social Competencies” that are correlated with someone becoming and excellent physician.  These 9 competencies can be used as a guide to identifying and organizing activities and explorations both in and, primarily, outside of the classroom:

INTERPERSONAL COMPETENCIES
Service Orientation
Social and Interpersonal Skills
Cultural Competence
Team Work
Oral Communication

INTRAPERSONAL COMPETENCIES
Integrity and Ethics
Reliability and Dependability
Resilience and Adaptability
Capacity for Improvement

A combination of volunteering, internships, community services, leadership, campus involvement, summer jobs, and shadowing is critical in demonstrating to health professions schools your social competencies and your commitment to the profession you seek to pursue (and an absolute requirement for students interested in PA, PT, or veterinary studies). Opportunities on campus, in the Waterville community, and at home and should be sought early and often throughout your Colby experience.

You should also seek opportunities to engage in special projects or individual research:

o   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.

o   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 science lab research opportunities.

 

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