For New Students

June registration

Every health profession and each individual school will have their own variation of prerequisite courses. (See common prerequisite courses, by profession.) Frequently required courses among health profession schools include biology and general chemistry.

Students who are confident in their desire to pursue a career in a clinical profession, such as nursing, physician assistant, dentistry, physical therapy and human and veterinary medicine, will be well served by taking biology and chemistry early in their undergraduate years.

Students with interests in nonclinical professions, such as global health, health education, environmental health or health administration, might also look into biology and/or chemistry, or they may prefer to select first-semester courses from disciplines such as anthropology, international relations, environmental studies or statistics.

Beyond your career interests, consider your specific academic interests, potential majors you wish to explore and your high school preparation. Taking courses across a variety of academic disciplines during your time in college is recommended for pre-health students. Using the suggestions below, work with your academic advisor and the pre-health office to create your first fall schedule. 

  • Are you a transfer student or Francis Perkins Scholar? Please contact the pre-health office directly to discuss your prior studies and upcoming fall courses. 

First-year students: planning your first semester

There are many academic pathways toward health profession school. While determining your first-semester schedule, carefully assess your academic background and your comfort level with each of the academic subjects you are considering. 

For clinical professions

These recommendations are based on the most common prerequisite courses for clinical professions (those that involve directly treating individual patients, whether human or animal).

Step 1: Pick your first-year seminar (this will be done in May).

Step 2: Assess your high school science and math background as it relates to your readiness to enter college-level science courses with labs. Consider which science courses you took, how many, at what level and what grades you earned in the courses. Successful completion of advanced STEM coursework (e.g., Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, dual enrollment) may indicate that you should begin your Mount Holyoke College science courses at a more advanced level. You may wish to take a placement exam in math or chemistry. It is wise to discuss your readiness with an advisor.

Step 3: Most students hoping to become a clinician (e.g., dentist, veterinarian, physician, nurse practitioner, optometrist, physical therapist) will take biology or chemistry, or both, in their first semester. Consider the following six options for biology/chemistry course selections, and choose one that would be most appropriate for you. Speak with an advisor if you don’t think you should take any of these courses. All the courses listed here have associated laboratory sections that meet once a week.

  1. CHEM-150 (four credits, including lab): This course, Foundations of Chemistry, is usually the first chemistry course for an entering Mount Holyoke student who has taken fewer than two years of high school chemistry. You might choose to take only CHEM-150 as your fall lab science course if:
    1. You feel that you will be most successful with only one lab science course in your first semester, and you are not exploring a major in neuroscience, and this course feels like the best fit.
      or
    2. The chemistry placement exam shows that your first chemistry course should be CHEM-201 in the spring semester, and you are not exploring a major in neuroscience.
  2. NEURO-100 (four credits, including lab): Introduction to Neuroscience and Behavior is a comprehensive survey course that explores the brain and the biological basis of behavior. Students interested in pursuing a major in neuroscience should register for this course. You might choose to take only NEURO-100 as your fall lab science course if:
    1. You feel that you will be most successful with only one lab science course in your first semester, and you wish to major in neuroscience.
      or
    2. The chemistry placement exam shows that your first chemistry course should be CHEM-201 in the spring semester, and you wish to major in neuroscience.
  3. CHEM-150 (four credits, including lab): This course, General Chemistry I, is usually the first chemistry course for an entering Mount Holyoke student who has taken fewer than two years of high school chemistry. You might choose to take only CHEM-150 as your fall lab science course if:
    1. You feel that you will be most successful with only one lab science course in your first semester, and you are not exploring a major in neuroscience, and this course feels like the best fit.
      or
    2. You have a strong background in biology (AP score of 4 or 5, IB score of 6 or 7, or a prior college biology course), have been advised by the biology department to take a 200-level biology course in a different semester, and you are not pursuing a neuroscience major.
  4. BIOL-160 and CHEM-160 (eight credits, including lab): This combination of two courses, Integrated Introduction to Biology and Chemistry, is a gateway to both the biology and chemistry core curricula. While BIOL-160 and CHEM-160 are listed separately, they must be taken concurrently. There is only one lab (CHEM-160L), but professional schools requiring labs in both biology and chemistry will accept this course as having fulfilled that requirement. You might choose to take BIOL-160 and CHEM-160 as your two fall lab science courses if:
    1. You feel prepared to successfully complete two lab science courses in your first semester,
      and
    2. you do not intend to major in neuroscience,
      and
    3. based on the course descriptions, these courses feel like the best fit.
  5. BIOL-145 (four credits, including lab) and CHEM-150 (four credits, including lab): See descriptions, above. You might choose to take this combination of two courses for your fall lab science courses if:
    1. You feel prepared to successfully complete two lab science courses in your first semester,
      and
    2. you do not intend to major in neuroscience,
      and
    3. based on the course descriptions, these courses feel like the best fit.
  6. NEURO-100 (four credits, including lab) and CHEM-150 (four credits, including lab): See descriptions, above. You might choose to take this combination of two courses for your fall lab science courses if:
    1. You feel prepared to successfully complete two lab science courses in your first semester,
      and
    2. you wish to major in neuroscience.

Step 4: At this point, you should have selected two to three courses. Choose one to two additional courses of interest. You may wish to select something related to a potential major and/or something that fulfills Mount Holyoke College general distribution requirements. Some fall health-related courses available to first-year students include:

  • ANTHR-105: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • COMSC-151MD: Introduction to Computational Problem Solving: ‘Computers in Medicine’*
  • ECON-110: Introductory Economics
  • GEOG-105: World Regional Geography
  • GEOL-109: History of Life
  • GNDST-101: Introduction to Gender Studies
  • GNDST-133GV: Introductory Topics in Feminist and Queer Studies: ‘Global Perspectives on Gender Violence and Justice’
  • MATH-101: Calculus I*
  • PHIL-260ME: Topics in Applied Philosophy: ‘Medical Ethics’
  • PSYCH-100: Introduction to Psychology
  • SOCI-123: Introduction to Sociology
  • STAT-140: Introduction to the Ideas and Applications of Statistics*

*Students who already selected two lab classes are generally advised not to add one of these courses in their first semester.

For public health or nonclinical careers

Schools of public health, health administration and other nonclinical health professions (i.e., those that do not involve the direct treatment of individual patients) typically do not have set lists of prerequisite courses. Instead, they look for background in the areas most relevant to their particular program. Because of this, our recommendation to first-year students interested in these professions is to plan your first semester around your first-year seminar (selected in May) and other particular areas of interest.

Some health-related courses available to first-year students in the fall include:

  • ANTHR-105: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • BIOL-145: Introductory Biology
  • BIOL-160: Integrated Introduction to Biology and Chemistry
  • CHEM-150: Foundations of Chemistry
  • COMSC-151MD: Introduction to Computational Problem Solving: ‘Computers in Medicine’
  • ECON-110: Introductory Economics
  • GEOG-105: World Regional Geography
  • GEOL-109: History of Life
  • GNDST-101: Introduction to Gender Studies
  • GNDST-133GV: Introductory Topics in Feminist and Queer Studies: ‘Global Perspectives on Gender Violence and Justice’
  • MATH-101: Calculus I
  • NEURO-100: Introduction to Neuroscience and Behavior
  • PHIL-260ME: Topics in Applied Philosophy: ‘Medical Ethics’
  • PSYCH-100: Introduction to Psychology
  • SOCI-123: Introduction to Sociology
  • STAT-140: Introduction to the Ideas and Applications of Statistics

Tips and Resources

Register early! You may find yourself with limited options if you wait until the last minute.

Have a few schedule combinations in mind, in case your first-choice classes are full or have time conflicts.

If writing is challenging for you, consider taking one or more writing intensive courses in your first year. No matter what major you select or what profession you pursue, you will need strong writing skills. Start tackling doubts or fears now, and build your writing skills over four years so that by graduation you will write with confidence and strength.

The first semester of college is a time of significant transition. Build a schedule that will engage and challenge you without becoming overwhelming. Leave time in your week to build relationships with peers and professors, to involve yourself in meaningful social and cocurricular opportunities and to take care of yourself with good food, physical activity, down time and enough sleep. If you register for courses with labs, we recommend no more than two at a time.