Common Coursework Questions

Advanced coursework taken in high school

Professional schools usually do not accept Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Advanced Level credits as meeting their requirements. If you have such credit in any of the required fields, you should speak with a pre-health advisor. In many cases, students in this situation take the same number of prerequisite courses as other students, but some are taken at a higher level.

Regarding dual-enrollment or other college courses taken in high school, a good rule of thumb is that if you can get an original transcript from a two- or four-year college, showing a C or higher in a given course, then it should be accepted by professional schools. Nevertheless, it is still wise to speak with a pre-health advisor about your specific coursework.

Whether Mount Holyoke will grant credit toward graduation or allow you to begin in more advanced classes based on your advanced high school coursework is a separate consideration. Please be familiar with the Mount Holyoke policy regarding transfer and advanced placement credit.

Choosing a major

There is no such thing as a pre-med or pre-health major at Mount Holyoke, and you do not need to major in a science to be a competitive applicant to health profession schools.

While many successful applicants are science majors, professional schools are interested in nonscience majors, recognizing the diversity of thought and worldview such applicants offer.

Admission committees are looking for the well-rounded, interesting student: someone who brings a variety of experiences and who has made a deliberate, well-informed decision about their choice of career. All applicants must show strong records in the specific courses, standardized tests and nonacademic experiences that are set forth as requirements for admission. There are a variety of advising and academic planning resources to help you.

So when it comes to selecting a major, pick the path that you are excited about and that offers courses that will challenge you throughout your time at Mount Holyoke College.

Withdrawals and ungraded courses

All prerequisite courses must be taken for a grade in order for them to be accepted by professional schools. Most schools will also require that you earn at minimum a C in any prerequisite course. Nevertheless, there may be a time when you consider withdrawing from a course after add/drop has ended, or converting a course to ungraded. We recommend that any student considering these options discuss the choices with their academic and pre-health advisors, as each situation is different. You should be aware of the following when making your decision:

  • If you take a course ungraded and pass, then you cannot repeat that course, or its equivalent, within the Five Colleges because you will have already received credit for the course.*
  • Because most professional schools require a C or better in prerequisite courses, you will likely need to repeat a course in which you earn a C- or lower. Again, in this situation you cannot repeat the course for credit within the Five Colleges unless you failed the course the first time around.*
  • If you withdraw from a course, then you can repeat it for credit within the Five Colleges.
  • Professional schools will not be concerned if you take some non-prerequisite courses ungraded.
  • Neither one low grade nor one withdrawal on your transcript will by itself keep you from being admitted to professional school. A transcript that shows many low grades, many withdrawals or both would be of concern.

* Summer courses offered at the Five Colleges are different and can be used to repeat a course.

Study abroad/away

Study abroad or elsewhere in the U.S. broadens your cultural and academic experience and is looked upon favorably by health profession schools. From an academic perspective, a semester, year or summer away can be an excellent opportunity to take courses that you might not otherwise have taken and to explore topics from new viewpoints.

Study away also requires careful planning. As a general rule, we do not recommend taking pre-health prerequisite courses outside of the United States, because professional schools may not accept them toward their requirements. If study abroad plans take you away from courses required for professional school, you may wish to offset that by taking those courses in summer school or completing them after graduation. Alternatively, you might choose a summer study abroad program so that you can remain on campus during the regular academic semesters. Advance planning will help you anticipate and avoid potential conflicts, while finding the academic pathway that is right for you.

Five College courses

It is acceptable and sometimes necessary to take some pre-health prerequisite courses at other institutions within the Five Colleges. You may also choose to take other interesting courses (check this great list of health-related courses offered across the Five Colleges). In addition to following Mount Holyoke College and Five College guidelines around registering for courses at another campus, when planning your prerequisites keep the following in mind:

  • A course on another campus may fit better with your schedule than that course’s Mount Holyoke College counterpart.
  • When you take a course elsewhere, you need to factor travel time into your schedule.
  • You will almost always have better access to course resources (office hours, tutoring, library reserves, group work, etc.) at Mount Holyoke.
  • The people who can best support you — as mentors, resources and references — as you continue through your educational and pre-professional journey are those who get to know you the best. If you are choosing between a Mount Holyoke College or Five College course, consider whether your choice will have any effect on building these relationships.
  • If you wish to take a course off campus because you believe it will be easier, ask yourself why that is an important factor. “Because it will be an easy A” is likely not a response that will serve you well in the long run. Entering the health professions is a rigorous and challenging pathway, from gaining admission to taking professional courses and passing licensing exams. Now is the time to set reasonable challenges for yourself: Seek courses where you will need to work hard and grow as a learner and which are at the right level for you to achieve success.

Summer courses

At some point during your undergraduate years you might consider taking one or more summer courses. There are some good reasons for doing so:

  • The course(s) cannot fit into your regular academic schedule.
  • You earned a C- or lower in a prerequisite course and need to repeat it in order for the course to be accepted by professional schools.
  • You earned a low grade in a course and need to repeat it in order to be best prepared for the next level.
  • The professional school you hope to enter requires a course that you cannot complete within the Five Colleges (this is rare).

There are also disadvantages to taking a course over the summer:

  • In addition to a summer course being outside of your regular Mount Holyoke College tuition, financial aid is rarely available.
  • Taking courses during the summer months uses up time that could be spent building valuable experiences outside of the classroom.
  • Summer courses cover the same content as academic year courses, but in half the time. While preferred by some, this intensive structure is not the right fit for everyone.

As a general rule, one or two summer courses is fine. Overall, most prerequisite courses should be completed at your home institution. Consider all of your options and make the summer plan that is right for you.

For planning non-academic summer experiences, work with the Career Development Center and the Office of Pre-Health Programs.

Community college courses

Professional schools vary in how they evaluate community college courses. Some professional schools may not accept community college courses as prerequisites. In most cases, however, some prerequisite courses at community college is fine. 

Specifically:

  • If you took community college courses while still in high school
  • If you started your years of higher education as a student at a community college and transferred to Mount Holyoke
  • If you need to take one to two courses to complete prerequisites, and community college courses are what are available to you

While these situations are not cause for concern, it is prudent to be aware of how professional schools might evaluate any courses taken away from Mount Holyoke College. We recommend discussing options with an advisor.

Transferring credit to Mount Holyoke College

It’s important to distinguish between courses required for you to complete your degree and graduate from Mount Holyoke, versus courses needed as prerequisites for the professional school you hope to enter. In many cases these courses will overlap, but in some cases they will not. When it comes to transferring credits, these two types of courses can be considered differently.

Courses taken to meet graduation requirements: To get credit toward graduation, a course taken outside of the Five Colleges must be transferred to Mount Holyoke College.

All other courses: If you take a course outside of the Five Colleges because it is a prerequisite for professional school, you may not need to transfer the credit. Does the course help to fulfill your Mount Holyoke College degree requirements? If the answer is no, then the credits do not need to be transferred. When you apply to professional school, you will submit transcripts from all institutions you have attended, whether or not credits were transferred to Mount Holyoke College.

Five College courses taken during the academic year are different, as these courses will automatically appear on your Mount Holyoke transcript, with a grade. They are not considered transfer credits. They do have an A (Amherst), H (Hampshire), S (Smith College) or U (University of Massachusetts-Amherst) next to them on your transcript, to indicate at which institution you took the course.

Unsure whether or not to transfer credits? Please speak with an advisor.