Planning & Advising

If you are interested in pursuing a career in the health professions, then you’ve come to the right place! As you already know, Mount Holyoke College offers top-notch academic preparation, research and internship opportunities. A liberal arts education is highly valued by health professions schools, and MHC has a well-deserved, excellent reputation. The Pre-Health Programs office provides extensive information, resources, programs, and opportunities to guide you in your choices and through the application process. This page and the flyers attached below are designed to give you an introduction to some of the things you should be considering as you plan for a career in the health professions, as well as to outline for you the resources that are available to you.

  1. General Rules
  2. Chronological Overview
  3. Other tips

General Rules

In preparing for a career in the health professions, follow these general rules:

  • Major in what you want to. If you love it, you’ll be good at it. A liberal arts background will serve you well.
  • Understand what courses are required and have a plan for fulfilling them in a timely manner.
  • Understand the timetable for preparation and have a plan for fitting that timetable with your goals.
  • Do a research project. It doesn’t have to be in a medical field. But it does speak to your problem-solving and analysis skills.
  • Get clinical experience. This is important. Really important.
  • Be critical/patient/honest/optimistic with yourself. There will be ups and downs, successes and disappointments. Use them to evaluate your intentions and adjust your planning.
  • Stand out, though honors work, study abroad, summer study, internships, community service, leadership, athletics, campus involvement--wherever your strengths and interests lie.

A Chronological Overview for Planning Pre-Health Courses 

As soon as you know you have an interest in health professions, set up a meeting with a pre-health advisor. Learn what you need to accomplish, and design a plan for doing so.

Second Year of Preparations

  • Investigate internship and research opportunities. Evidence of both is essential to a strong application.

Third Year of Preparations

  • Identify programs and begin applications
  • Complete prerequisite courses
  • Take standardized exams
  • Complete a “Pre-Application” package
  • Request individual reference letters
  • Request a Committee recommendation letter

Fourth Year of Preparations

  • Complete secondary applications
  • Schedule a practice interview
  • Interviews

Other Tips

  • Spending your junior year abroad is possible and requires planning. It will also extend your timeline for applying to med school, because you’ll be away during the year that you’d apply if you wanted to begin medical school the fall after you graduate from MHC. Most students do not begin med school right after they graduate, anyway, so you’d be in good company. The vast majority begin med school after one, two, or more years out of college. Keep your long-term goals in view but follow your dreams in the meantime, even if they aren't on the “premed requirements” list.
  • Advanced Placement (AP) credit may enable you to exempt out of an introductory Mount Holyoke course (departmental requirements differ). But health profession schools usually do not accept AP credit to fulfill a pre-health requirement. It’s best to take the AP credit and use it to get into more advanced courses. For instance, if my AP score exempts me from Bio 145/160, I may ask to take Bio 200 in the spring and then Bio 210, a more advanced course, the following fall to complete my two required semesters of bio.
  • Entrance Exams (e.g. MCAT, GRE): Allow time in your schedule during junior or senior year for test preparation, whether you prepare by self-study or take a commercial prep course. The MCAT should be taken in the spring of your junior year (if you wish to begin medical school the fall after graduating from MHC) or spring of your senior year (if you wish to begin 1.5 years after graduating from MHC). GREs can be aligned more closely with application deadlines. Please speak with an advisor if the profession you are interested in requires a different exam.
  • International students face a special set of challenges in gaining entrance to a U.S. medical school.  In the health professions application process, non-U.S. citizens holding permanent residency in the U.S. (i.e., green card holders) are generally treated in the same way as U.S. citizens.  Opportunities for medical education in the U.S. are not as available for international applicants, that is, non-U.S. citizens and non-permanent residents.  While some medical schools do allow applications from international students, the numbers admitted yearly are quite small.  Most acceptances are offered by private health professions schools.  Many American students finance their medical education, at least in part, through government loans. U.S. government loans are not available to international students who are not permanent residents.  Therefore, many medical schools will require international students to document their ability to independently pay for a medical education.  In some cases, students may be required to demonstrate adequate funds in an escrow account prior to enrollment. If you are an international student, contact either Pam Matheson or Katie Lipp in the Office of Pre-Health Programs to discuss your options.
  • Course work is only a piece of preparing for a career in health. Get involved in extracurricular activities, athletics, community service, leadership, research; go wherever your strengths and interests lead you. 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 scores on standardized tests (GRE or MCAT, depending on the program) are very important, so are your essays, clinical experience, and extracurricular involvement.