Frequently Asked Questions
You should major in the subject that most interests you and for which you have the ability. There is no preferred major for health professions programs. You will need to complete the required prerequisite courses as well as the requirements for your chosen major. See what the AAMC and ADEA say about choosing a major.
AAMC Statement: “Medical schools recognize the importance of a strong foundation in the natural sciences—biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics—and most schools have established minimum course requirements for admission. These courses usually represent about one‐third of the credit hours needed for graduation. This approach deliberately leaves room for applicants from a broad spectrum of college majors, including those in the humanities and social sciences. No medical school requires a specific major of its applicants or matriculants. Admission committee members are aware that medical students can develop the essential skills of acquiring, synthesizing, applying and communicating information through a wide variety of academic disciplines. Nevertheless, many premedical students choose to major in a scientific discipline. Ideally, they do so because they are fascinated by science and perceive that such a major can be the foundation for a variety of career options. Choosing science primarily to enhance one’s chances for admission to medical school is not in a student’s long‐term best interest. Medical school admission committees seek students whose intellectual curiosity leads them to a variety of disciplines and hose intellectual maturity assures that their efforts are persistent and disciplined. In fact, practicing physicians often recommend that, during their college years, premedical students take advantage of what might be their last opportunity for the study of non‐science areas (music, art, history, and literature) that might become avocational interests later in life.” From Medical School Admission Requirements, 2010‐2011.
From ADEA "Individuals pursuing dental careers should take certain science courses. However, you do not have to be a science major to gain admission to a dental school and successfully complete the program… Most dental students are science majors as undergraduates, but many major in fields not related to science… ADEA encourages dental schools to accept students from all walks of life, who, on the basis of past and predicted performance, appear qualified to become competent dental professionals." http://www.adea.org/dental_education_pathways/aadsas/Documents/OG08_1-77_r4.pdf
Does it matter if I choose a science versus non-science major? See: Developing an Academic Plan
The specific major is of minimal importance to an admission committee. It is most important to choose a major based upon your interest and aptitude. For non-science majors, it is important to demonstrate an ability to handle the rigor of multiple lab sciences in the same semester and you may wish to take an additional science course beyond those minimally required by professional schools. For science majors it is important to incorporate courses in the humanities and social sciences.
AP Credit, though accepted by UNH, is not universally accepted by medical, dental and other health professions programs. If you have AP credit for any of the prerequisite courses (with the exception of ENGL 401), we strongly recommend taking the equivalent course at UNH. If you have placed out of one of the above courses and do not take the equivalent course, an applicant will need to take additional upper level courses in that subject area.
It is important to build a strong foundation in the sciences for you to succeed in medical/dental school. The first year science sequences are building blocks for the upper level sciences. We have found that completing the foundation courses at the same school that you will complete the upper level course leads to greater success. In addition, it will enable you to develop stronger connections with your science faculty. Note that not all graduate programs accept science prerequisites completed at a community college. Therefore unless there are circumstances that make it necessary for you to take community college courses, you may want to reconsider this. If there are other courses that you are interested in completing at a CC, you should check with your major advisor to be sure they will fulfill University requirements. It is rarely advisable to split a two-semester science course between different schools.
Health professions schools want evidence that a prospective student performs well in a rigorous curriculum. Whether you are in a science or non-science major it is important to demonstrate you perform well while taking at least two lab science prerequisite courses at the same time and as part of a full course load. There may be circumstances that require you to take a prerequisite in the summer such as very structured major requirements or student athletes that are unable to fit in required lab times. You are encouraged to discuss your situation with the Health Professions office.
If you receive a C- in a course, you may wish to repeat the course because you did not gain a sufficient foundation in that subject. A C- is commonly the lowest grade a health professions program will accept. (Check the website of the individual schools). If you received a grade of C or C-, rather than repeating the same course, and assuming an understanding of the materials, consider taking an upper level course in the same area and demonstrate success in and understanding of the more advanced concepts. If you receive a grade lower than a C- you will need to re-take the course. (For medical schools applicants, when applying, the repeated course grades are averaged.)
In addition to the resources available through the Health Professions office there are numerous other opportunities to seek out help. Consider visiting the Connors Writing Center or the Online Writing Lab for help with your papers. The Center for Academic Resources (CFAR) assists with tutoring, study groups, time management, test taking and study skills workshops. The Career Center can help with interview coaching and resume writing. The Mac Center provides support for many of the math courses. In addition, students can utilize the support and services provided through the Counseling Center, Disability Services, and UNH Health Services.
If you seek out your professors for help with issues you may be having with the material you are learning, you are apt to do better in the class. Your professors are an important avenue to learn about opportunities for other experiences in your field of interest. Additionally, when it comes time for seeking letters of recommendation for professional school, you will want to be able to call on several past professors who know you well and respect your work. Many health profession programs want to see two letters of recommendations from faculty in the sciences as well as a letter from a faculty member in your major (if non-science).
Can I study abroad?
For a pre-health professions student, careful planning is essential. It is possible to study abroad and still complete the prerequisites for professional school. Some things to consider are that it is best to complete your prerequisite science classes in the U.S. so that you build the necessary foundation in that subject area and develop solid relationships with those professors. In addition, many professional schools will not accept prerequisites completed abroad. Since many prerequisites are based on a two semester sequence, these courses should both be taken at the same college. Because of this, a student who studies abroad during the regular school year may need to take a gap year before entering professional school. An alternative to consider may be to do a study abroad experience during the summer. Health profession programs do not view gap years in a negative light and encourage applicants to take full advantage of opportunities available to them during their undergraduate education.
How do professional schools view an applicant who takes a gap year (taking a year or more off before professional school)? See: What is a GAP or Bridge year?
Medical, dental, and other health professions schools do NOT take a negative view of a student who has a gap year (or several gap years). As a matter of fact, a gap year may be viewed positively, depending on what you are doing with that time. Additionally, if you take a gap year, professional schools will be able to review your academic progress on all four of your undergraduate years, as opposed to only three years. See "Ten Good Reasons To Delay Your Application".
What kind of experiences are health professions programs looking for? See: Experiential Opportunities
Health professions programs are interested in well rounded applicants. The goal to become a health professional must be based upon experience. The types of experiences that will help an applicant be well prepared for a future in health care include community service, leadership, and medical/clinical experiences. There is no “one size fits all” approach. Seek enriching and challenging life experiences.
Health care providers serve people from a variety of economic and educational backgrounds as well as a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Become more culturally competent while offering your time and talents to others. Find community service experiences that are meaningful to you and help you understand and work well with people from all walks of life.
Long term, in-depth medical/clinical work or volunteer experiences will help you understand yourself and the profession while serving others. Seek out medical, clinical, and shadowing opportunities, whether paid or volunteer, within your community. Contact your own physician or provider who practices in the medical career areas that most interests you. Physician shadowing and caring for friends and family members are valuable experiences but your experiences will need to be broadened to a wider population and extend over a longer term than a shadowing experience. A great place to start volunteering is at your local hospital. Some ideas to consider might include work as a Certified Nurse’s Assistant (CNA), an EMT, or at a camp for disabled or chronically ill children, providing home health care services, volunteer at your local American Red Cross, hospitals, geriatric centers, or clinics, serve as a hospice volunteer.
A journal can help you to reflect back on your experiences with shadowing, volunteering, research, classes, etc. It can help you to understand what you like or dislike about an experience, and what you've learned from it. Think about what you have learned by participating in these activities. Perform ongoing self-reflection to learn from your experiences. This can help you when writing your personal statement, interviewing, and when making decisions about what career path to follow. It can also be helpful to keep a log of experiences in preparation for writing your resume and filling out applications.
While doing research can strengthen your application to professional school, it is not a requirement. If a student had limited time in their schedule and had to make a choice between medically related experiences and research, the medically related experience should be the priority. It is most important to understand the research process and interpretation of data. These concepts may be incorporated in to a statistics course. In addition, there are “research methods” courses offered in several departments ( PSYC, SOC, BIOL, etc.). As a health professional you will need to be able to review research and determine the validity of its results for your purpose. Additionally you may be able to work with a professor who you will get to know and who can mentor you, and through the experience, provide you with a letter of recommendation. Research can be done in the biomedical field, the social sciences, life sciences, public health, and other fields. Explore UNH's Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) or AAMC's Summer Undergraduate Research Programs.
What else should I be doing to strengthen my application? See: Developing Your Health Professions Profile.
There are many things you can do to help strengthen your chances of being accepted to professional school. Shadow professionals in your chosen field, volunteer at hospitals and other medical facilities, perform community service, continue to gather information, regularly read journals and become familiar with current issues in your field, engage in extracurricular activities, develop positive professional relationships including with professors, continue to do self-reflection, based on your real world experiences, on why this is the right profession for you.
How far in advance should I begin the process if I plan to apply to a health professions school? See: Application Process/Forms
As early as junior year. If you will need a Committee Letter of Evaluation (for MD/DO/Dental), you will need to open your file with UNH's Pre-professional Health Programs Advising Office two years before the date you expect to start medical/dental school. In addition, remember careful planning is required throughout your time at UNH to meet the required prerequisite courses for professional school.
The national median GPA’s and exam scores for recently admitted students are listed in the following table. It is important to remember that these are averages and do not reflect other factors that come in to play when evaluating an applicant’s file.
GRADE POINT AVERAGE
MD: 3.6 Overall/3.59 Science
DO:3.5 Overall/3.38 Science
30 (Allopathic Schools)
25 (Osteopathic Schools)
3.4 Overall/3.35 Science
Academic Average: 19.5
Perceptual Ability: 18.7
Total Science: 19.5
OAT: Mean 330
3.3 Overall/3.29 Science
How many UNH applicants get into medical school? (Click to view)
Even if I have some low grades, entrance exam scores or need more experience doesn’t it make sense to just apply and see what happens? Is there any harm in trying? See: Ten Good Reasons to Delay Your Application
Actually, yes, there can be serious drawbacks to applying hastily to medical school. An applicant should apply when they can present their strongest profile. Making a decision to apply with a weak profile may be seen as a reflection of the applicant’s decision making skills and judgment. In addition, because UNH applicants will interview with the Pre-professional Advisory Committee, they want able to present with their strongest credentials. When students have applied to their health profession programs and are rejected, and then re-apply, they are not working with a “clean slate.” They have to overcome the negative judgment made against them by the schools—they have to prove that they have significantly improved upon their first application. It is much better to delay applying, use the extra time to gain some more life experience, and to put together a stronger application. Getting into school requires hard work, maturity, scientific ability, discipline, and a spirit of compassion. Remember, the right time to apply is when you are ready and able to demonstrate all of these attributes.
When should I take it? See Application Timeline
Plan to take the MCAT (medical), DAT (dental) or OAT (optometry) exam no later than the end of June of the year you interview with the HP committee. Ideally, you will take the exam so that you will have the results prior to the opening of the primary application services. The application services generally open in May. Palnning to take the exam in the spring will allow time to recieve your scores and, if needed, plan for a re-take.You should take the exam only after completing the required science classes, and most importantly, only when you feel you are sufficiently prepared to take it.
Discuss you results with the health professions advisor. If test scores were low, plan to retake the exam. Develop a game plan on how to tackle the exam so you will be more successful in the next attempt. Think about where or why you had difficulty the first time and how you will change that. Build improved test-taking strategies; use test preparation materials; practice, practice, practice. Most importantly, only take the exam when you feel you are ready and will do better on it – even if it means that you delay your application to a future application cycle
Advice about re-taking the MCAT exam from a faculty member at another school: "For most students, improving their MCATs is not an easy thing, and if a student has taken all the science coursework and done quite well, and still not moved their MCAT score, it is likely that the problem is more along the lines of application of that knowledge to problem solving (in that notoriously difficult MCAT style), test anxiety, etc."
"In a nutshell, it is important to understand what the issue is with your MCAT performance so you can focus on improvements in those areas. ... this would be more purposeful and effective than blindly "studying more," and hopefully will not only improve the MCAT score, but give some insight into yourself and some important med-school survival skills along the way."
Also see "Percent of MCAT Retesters Attaining Specified Score Changes Broken Down by Initial Score" (Chart at bottom of link page)
- Exploring the Health Professions
- Application Process/Forms
- Prospective Students