Frequently Asked Questions
Can I study abroad?
Yes! Study abroad or elsewhere in the U.S. broadens your cultural and academic experience as an undergraduate and is generally looked upon favorably by health professions schools. Study away from Mount Holyoke does, however, require careful planning, and may indeed postpone your application to certain programs. Conduct a careful comparison of courses available elsewhere with those offered here, and consider how the time away will affect your completion of requirements as well as the timing of applications to professional programs. If study abroad plans take you away from required courses, you may wish to offset that by taking those courses in summer school. Advance planning will help you anticipate and avoid potential conflicts.
Can I take required courses at institutions other than MHC?
Yes. Be prepared to explain why you did so. Course availability sometimes dictates that you must take a course elsewhere (e.g., taking an Animal Nutrition course for vet school at UMass because MHC does not offer the course). Sometimes taking a course elsewhere provides a better fit to your overall schedule (e.g., taking Organic Chemistry in the summer so that you can study abroad the following semester). These are straightforward, valid reasons that are readily accepted by the professional schools. Taking a course at another institution because you think it will be easier or because it will lighten your academic load are examples of motives that will not be considered favorably. Keep in mind that if you wish to transfer the credit to MHC you must comply with the MHC Regulations for Transfer Credit. Also, your application package will need to include official transcripts from all institutions you have attended.
Is it okay to take time off before attending/applying to a health professions school?
The answers to this can be as varied as the reasons for taking time off. Many students take time off and are successful in gaining entrance later on (indeed, some students are forced to take time off because they do not get in initially and need to do things to enhance their application). If you are considering taking time off, have a plan, and be ready to explain your motives to an admissions committee. Schools do not look favorably upon applicants who have demonstrated a lack of direction. On the other hand, there are many valid reasons for not going straight to a health professions school from your undergraduate program. These include taking additional course work, gaining clinical experience, performing volunteer work, earning money, and pursuing other life goals. Bottom line: you need to be able to articulate persuasively why you did what you did. Talk your plans and ideas over in advance with your health professions advisor.
How many schools should I apply to?
Careful, deliberate investigation of schools that match your needs and qualifications is essential to being able to apply to the right number and the right kind of program. It will also save you a great deal of money in application fees. Students who have done their research really well, picked realistic programs, and polished their applications can apply to ten to fifteen schools with an expectation that they’ll have three to four acceptances to choose from. Understand what the schools are looking for and what their acceptance rates are. Normally, you are expected to include your in-state or state-affiliate schools among those you apply to.
Can I substitute related courses for a professional school’s required courses?
Direct questions about specific course substitutions to your Pre-Health Advisor and to the admission office of the health professions school. The main concern is whether the course’s content provides the subject coverage intended by the requirement. You may need to provide a course description and/or syllabus in order to get an accurate interpretation.
Should I re-take my standardized exams if I don’t like my score?
Yes, but consider the following questions as you plan for a re-take: Why was your score sub-par? What did you do/not do in preparing for the exam? What will you do differently in preparation for the second exam? How do your scores compare with your other academic records? Finally, will the schedule of taking the exam and getting the score reported fit with the ongoing consideration of your application? Keep in mind that the schools will see all of your scores, and you want to show improvement on a re-take. As a rule of thumb you should not take an exam more than twice. Speak to your health professions advisor about your plans and methods of preparation.
Do I need to be a premed major to apply to health professions schools?
No, in fact there is no such thing as a “premed major” at Mount Holyoke, nor do you need to major in a science to qualify for admission to health professional schools. While many applicants to schools in the health professions are science majors, these schools are very receptive to non-science majors, recognizing the diversity of background such applicants represent. Admission committees are looking for the well-rounded, interesting student; someone who brings a variety of experiences and who has obviously made a deliberate, well-informed decision about her choice of career. All applicants must show strong records in the specific courses, standardized tests, and clinical experiences that are set forth as requirements for admission.
Can I use Advanced Placement and I.B. credit?
Generally, no. Professional schools ordinarily do not accept credits earned prior to college as meeting their requirements. If you have Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate credit in any of the required science fields, you will still want to take advanced work in the same field to demonstrate competence, as well as to broaden your undergraduate preparation.
What kind of support does Mount Holyoke provide to pre-health students?
Pre-health advising is available to you from your first semester here and continues to be available once you become an alumna. The Office of Pre-Health Programs and the Committee on the Health Professions provide advice and guidance on choosing courses, planning internships, selecting schools, preparing for standardized entrance exams, working through the application process, and practice interviews. Your pre-health advisor will also write a composite letter of recommendation for you, which provides a comprehensive summary of all aspects of your preparation, including course work, internships, research, entrance exam scores, and comments contained in your individual recommendation letters. All students should formally declare their intentions to the Committee no later than April 1st of the year in which they are planning to begin their application.
What are the most important criteria for getting into health professions school?
Your job is to stand out. Major in a discipline where you will thrive, get involved in extracurricular activities, athletics, community service, leadership, and research. Admission to graduate training in the health professions is highly competitive, but also does not follow a set formula. Admission committees review an applicant’s entire package, and while GPA and standardized exam scores are both very important, so are your essays, clinical experience, extracurricular involvement, and interview.
What are entrance exams, and how should students prepare for them?
Most health professions schools require you to submit results from a standardized exam as part of your application. What exam you take depends on the school you are applying to. You must consult directly with each school’s published requirements to determine which test to take. The exams currently in use are: Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), Dental Admissions Test (DAT), Graduate Record Exams (GRE), Optometry Admissions Test (OAT), and the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT). The official Web sites associated with these exams provide practice questions, study suggestions, and even online practice tests. Bookstores also carry exam preparation guides published by Barons, Princeton Review, Kaplan, and others. Through partnership with the CDC, Kaplan offers prep courses and practice exams on campus at reduced rates. What combination of these preparation strategies you employ is up to you.
How many MHC students apply to health professions schools, and where do they enroll?
MHC students and alumnae are successful at gaining entrance to excellent graduate programs in a variety of health professions, including allopathic and osteopathic medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, nursing, physical therapy, and public health. While many matriculate into health professions programs immediately after graduating from MHC, others choose to take a year or two to pursue other interests. This is a common trend nationally, with the result that the average age of entering medical students in the U.S. is 26. In the most recently completed application cycle, 48 MHC students and alumnae applied to health professions programs. In recent years, MHC graduates have been accepted into graduate health professions programs at: Albert Einstein, Boston University, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Drexel, George Washington, Harvard, Howard, Indiana, Johns Hopkins, Michigan State, Mount Sinai, Penn State, Princeton, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Upstate, Temple, Texas A&M, Tufts, UCSF, UConn, University of Florida, UMass, University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester, University of Vermont, University of Washington, Vanderbilt, Yale, and others.