1. 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 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. Alternatively, you might choose a summer study abroad program. Advance planning will help you anticipate and avoid potential conflicts.
2. 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 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.
3. Is it okay to take time off before attending/applying to a health professions school?
Yes! The majority of our applicants to medical schools have 1-2 years between MHC and the start of professional school, and this is consistent with national trends, where the average age of a first-year medical student is now 24. The timeline for applicants to other professional schools may vary, though a 1-2 year gap remains common. We encourage students to plan for a 5-6 year process, from entering MHC to entering professional school. This additional time allows students to fully develop their qualifications so that they can apply when they are best prepared. Some common pursuits during a gap year(s) are taking additional course work, preparing for entrance exams, gaining clinical experience, conducting research, earning a Master’s degree, performing volunteer work, earning money, and pursuing other life goals.
4. 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 12-15 schools. Applicants to other professional schools may apply to slightly fewer programs.
5. 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 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.
6. Can I use AP and IB credit towards pre-requisite courses?
Generally, professional schools do not accept these credits as meeting their requirements. If you have AP or IB credit in any of the required science fields, you should take advanced work in the same field to demonstrate competence, as well as to broaden your undergraduate preparation.
7. Should I re-take my standardized exams if my score is not competitive?
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, and you should certainly never take an exam before you are fully prepared to do your best. Speak to your health professions advisor about your plans and methods of preparation.
8. Do I need to be a pre-med major to apply to health professions 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, standardized tests, and clinical experiences that are set forth as requirements for admission.
9. 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 after you graduate. The Office of Pre-Health Programs provides advice and guidance on choosing courses, planning internships, selecting schools, preparing for standardized entrance exams, working through the application process, and practice interviews. 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 including course work, internships, research, entrance exam scores, and comments contained in your individual recommendation letters. Committee letters are widely appreciated by professional schools. Future applicants should ensure that they are in touch with the pre-health office and reviewing the “applying” section of the pre-health website two years in advance of when they expect to matriculate.
10. What are the most important criteria for getting into health professions school?
Stand out by following your passions. 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 building your qualifications is not about checking items off a list. While GPA and standardized exam scores are important, so are your essays, clinical experience, extracurricular involvement, and interview.
11. What are entrance exams, and how should students prepare for them?
Most health profession schools require you to submit results from a standardized exam as part of your application. What exam you take depends on the profession you hope to enter. 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 websites associated with these exams provide practice questions, study suggestions, and some online practice tests. Bookstores and websites also carry exam preparation guides published by Barons, Princeton Review, Kaplan, Next Step Test Prep, Altius Test Prep, and others. Through partnership with the CDC, Kaplan offers MCAT prep courses and practice exams on campus at reduced rates. What combination of these preparation strategies you employ is up to you. You may wish to discuss you plan with a pre-health advisor.
12. How many MHC students apply to health professions schools, and where do they enroll?
MHC 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 MHC students and alumnae apply to professional schools each year. The schools our graduates attend are varied, though as a northeast college we see many graduated headed to northeast professional schools.