Frequently asked questions

1. How does Mount Holyoke support pre-health students?

Pre-health advising is available from your first semester at Mount Holyoke and continues to be available after you graduate. The Office of Pre-Health Programs provides guidance on choosing courses, planning internships, preparing for entrance exams, working through the application process, and practice interviews. We hold regular events and presentations, and often invite alumnae and other local health professionals and professional schools to visit campus and speak with students. Applicants to medical, dental, optometry and podiatry schools may request a composite letter of evaluation from the Committee on the Health Professions. This “committee letter” provides a comprehensive summary of all aspects of your preparation.

2. How many Mount Holyoke students apply to health profession schools, and where do they enroll?

Mount Holyoke graduates are successful at gaining entrance to excellent graduate programs in a variety of health professions, including medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, nursing, physician assistant, physical therapy, and public health. On average, 50 students and alumnae apply to professional schools each year. While the schools our graduates attend are varied, as a northeast college we see many graduates headed to northeast professional schools.

3. Do I need to be a pre-health or pre-med major to apply to health profession schools?

No, in fact there is no such thing as a pre-med or pre-health major at Mount Holyoke, nor do you need to major in a science to qualify for admission to health profession schools. While many applicants are science majors, professional schools are interested in 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 made a deliberate, well-informed decision about their choice of career. All applicants must show strong records in the specific courses, entrance exams, and related experiences that are set forth as requirements for admission. Read more about academic preparation.

4. Should I go directly from Mount Holyoke into professional school, or should I have time in between spent doing something else?

Most of our advisees will spend from 1-2 years between Mount Holyoke and professional school, building their qualifications and going through the application process. This is particularly true for applicants to schools of dentistry, physician assistant studies, and human and veterinary medicine. Moreover, the trend is a national one: across the country, the average age of a student entering medical school is 24. There are many reasons for not going straight to a health profession school from your undergraduate program. These include taking additional courses, gaining related experience, performing volunteer work, earning money, and pursuing other life goals. Talk your plans and ideas over in advance with a pre-health advisor, and read more about long-term professional planning.

5. Can I use AP, IB, or other advanced credits towards prerequisite courses?

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. Read more about course planning.

6. Can I take required courses at institutions other than Mount Holyoke?

Yes. Be prepared to explain why you did so. Course availability sometimes dictates that you must take a course elsewhere (e.g., taking a Nutrition course for nursing school at UMass because Mount Holyoke 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 professional schools.

Taking a course at another institution because you think it will be easier or because it will lighten your academic load will not be considered favorably. Keep in mind that if you wish to transfer the credit to Mount Holyoke you must comply with our Registrar’s regulations for transfer credit. Your application to professional school will need to include official transcripts from all institutions you have attended. Read more about course planning.

7. Can I 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. Read more about course planning

8. What are the most important criteria for getting into professional 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 and does not follow a set formula. Admission committees review an applicant’s entire package, and while GPA and standardized exam scores are important, so are your essays, related experience, extracurricular involvement, letters of recommendation, and interview. Read more about becoming a qualified applicant.

9. 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 money in application fees. Medical school applicants who have done their research picked realistic programs and polished their applications can reasonably apply to 15-20 schools. Applicants to other professional schools may apply to fewer programs.

10. How do I calculate my science GPA?

You may wish to periodically calculate your science GPA if you think it may differ from your overall GPA. Most health profession school application services will do a similar calculation, so it’s important for you to have at least a general sense of your overall science GPA before you apply. Additionally, we require that you calculate and share with us your science GPA on your preapplication.
Calculating your science GPA is a two-step process.

  • First, looking at the original transcripts from all colleges or universities where you have ever taken a course for a grade, you need to note which courses would be considered biology, chemistry, physics, or math. You can use the AAMC’s course classification guide to help you determine which courses to include within this group, or look up the course classification guide for the application service used by the professional schools you will apply to. Do include relevant independent study credits.
  • Second, enter the relevant information from those courses into Mount Holyoke’s GPA calculator.

11. What are entrance exams, and how should I prepare? Should I retake my exam if my score is not competitive?

Most health profession schools require you to submit results from a standardized exam as part of your application. Competitive applicants will score above average on these exams. For some professions, a score above the 70th percentile is necessary to be competitive. You should not take your exam until you are confident that your score will be strong. Nevertheless, sometimes it is necessary to take the exam more than once. If you are unsure whether or not to retake the exam, speak with a pre-health advisor.

Visit our page on entrance exams for more information on the different exams and how to prepare.

12. Can I substitute related courses for a professional school’s required courses?

In most cases, this question must be directed to the admission office of the health profession 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.

13. How do I write a personal statement?

Every fall, the Office of Pre-Health Programs offers a workshop on writing the personal statement. Make sure to attend the workshop, review our page on personal statements, and keep in touch with us regarding your questions and progress. As the application cycle progresses, we offer individual feedback on your essay through appointments with Katie Lipp. 

14. What kind of questions will I be asked in interviews?

For applicants who are offered interviews, we schedule mock interviews in the office or via Skype to help you prepare. Please see our page on interviews for more information about how to prepare, and to find sample questions.