Pre-Health Professions Office
Frequently Asked Questions
What services do we provide for pre-health professional students?
If you are interested in non-doctoral-level health professions such as nursing, physical therapy, med tech, hospital administration, and things like that, information and counseling are available through the Career Development Center.
We provide full services throughout your academic career if you are interested in doctoral-level programs in medicine (medicine, osteopathy, dentistry, optometry, podiatry, pharmacy) or in veterinary medicine. These include counseling on your curriculum, advice on how best to prepare for the MCAT or other standardized exams, suggestions on how to enhance your credentials, and information about professional programs throughout the United States and some selected areas overseas. We will advise you on how to budget your time, how best to gather your credentials in a timely fashion, how to decide on your references, what you should do to present yourself in the most favorable light, and help you decide which schools to apply to. We will also advise you on how to prepare for interviews, how to expedite travel arrangements, and how to communicate with the health professional schools. In addition to all of its advising functions, the Pre-Health Professions Committee will write a letter of evaluation on your behalf.
Do all doctoral-level schools require a committee letter of evaluation?
Most of the medical and dental schools do. This is especially true in the Eastern U.S. and increasingly so throughout the country. As a general rule, schools require one if they know that your college has such a committee, and this information is generally available to them. Schools of veterinary medicine, optometry, and podiatry will generally accept committee letters but are also happy to receive individual evaluations instead.
Are all students recommended?
Will I be able to see my letter of evaluation?
No. We ask you to sign a waiver form when you open your Pre-Health Professions file denying you access to any information in it. Medical Schools prefer it this way. We strongly advise you to sign this waiver since many health professional schools view the non-waiving as evidence of insecurity or worse.
When does all of this happen?
The formal evaluation process starts whenever you inform the Pre-Health Professions Secretary (SE 234) that you want to apply for admission to a health professional school. This normally is in the spring semester of your junior year if you intend to go on right after graduating, but it can be later, including well after you leave FAU. But advice on what you should be doing starts as soon as we are aware that you might be interested in coming to FAU in order to pursue a career in the health professions, continues throughout your college career, and ends when you have successfully gained admission to a professional school or have decided to pursue other alternatives.
Which courses are actually required?
There is no simple answer since each school sets its own requirements. There are some differences between professions and even among different institutions within each profession. But medicine and virtually all of the others require two semesters each of Introductory (General) Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Introductory Biology, and Introductory Physics (all with labs). Almost all require one or two semesters of English and one semester of Psychology, and about half require Calculus.
Can I major in something other than premed?
You not only can, you must. At most institutions, including FAU, there is no premed major. Instead, you may major in whatever discipline you like provided that you fulfill all of the requirements for entrance into your chosen professional program.
Are you better off majoring in the sciences?
In a way, yes, because you can then simultaneously fulfill your professional school requirements along with your graduation requirements. Also, the more advances science courses you take now, the more advanced science concepts will make sense to you later.
Do I need to knock off a straight-A record?
No, but in this day and age, you need better than a straight B for the more competitive disciplines, especially medicine and veterinary medicine. Just do the best you can and see what options are available to you.
How well do FAU students do?
Over the years, the first-time acceptance rate has generally run at about the national average.
What specific mechanisms are there to keep me on the right track?
Formally, you will receive curricular advising aimed at making sure that you will be ready to take standardized exams at the ideal time, which is in the spring of your junior year. Advising will take place in the Student Services Office of the College and in your major department.
Do you recommend that people take prep courses?
Generally, yes, because it often encourages students to study for the exam seriously and effectively. Some of the courses also provide good guidance on how to take the exams, which is more fundamental than actually learning the material. The Committee takes no stand either on the efficiency of individual courses or study guides since student feedback on them is variable.
Will I get any other help besides planning my program?
Yes, and I'm glad you asked the question. In no particular order, one or more of the following can be very useful to you. AMSA @ FAU, a student-run organization, holds informal meetings to which speakers from the various health professional schools and organizations and funding agencies are invited. Also, recent alums and other health professionals in the community speak. There are also important workshops at which students are advised on how best to enhance their credentials, solicit letters of reference, write their personal statement and prepare for interviews.
Does FAU provide any special opportunities for students to enhance their credentials?
Yes, indeed. First, there are numerous opportunities for you to engage in research both during the academic year and during the summer. These projects provide an opportunity for you to become very well known by faculty who can then write more meaningful recommendations for you. And, although research is not normally a requirement except for students applying to joint M.D./Ph.D.-type programs, it is generally a plus. It is also very often a rewarding experience. Second, there are numerous opportunities, both on and off campus, for you to express your caring instincts. Check out the Volunteer Center (in the UC) for possible opportunities.
Do medical schools require that you have had experiences involving patient contact?
An increasing number do, but others are just as impressed with non-medical activities which indicate that you a caring person, that you have good interpersonal skills, that you are ready to assume responsibility for helping or taking care of others, e.g., being a camp counselor, a lifeguard, an aide in a nursing home, a tutor--you've got the idea. Interestingly, some of these are things that you can do even before you get to college, and they not only enhance your credentials, but they may give you good insights as to whether you have a stomach for medicine and for taking responsibility for others.
What about medical activities that do not involve patient contact?
These can be useful, too, if they put you into a hospital environment and give you some idea of what to expect. But some medical schools actually stipulate that they want clinical contact and not just candy-striping or doing laboratory research.
Are there particular activities that are more helpful in enhancing your credentials than others?
Yes. Medical schools tend to be impressed with those activities which demonstrate time management skills (student government, involvement in school publications, athletics). They are also impressed with students who have been selected to be resident advisors (dorm assistants) or teaching assistants since your selection correctly implies that your school feels that you would command the respect of your peers.
Are all activities useful?
The medical schools are just as aware as we are that a long list of club involvements may not mean much, and over-involvement can actually be a detriment if your academic record is not good.
What happens if you do not get in?
We can offer advice on what you need to do to make yourself more viable. We can suggest more realistic alternatives such as less-competitive programs or nonacademic involvements, e.g., Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Teach for America. Most often the problem is in MCAT performance, and we can counsel you on how to improve your score.
Will the Committee help you once you graduate?
Yes, but it may have difficulty generating a Committee letter if you have been out more than a few years or if you do most of your premed work after graduating.
Is there anything else I should have asked?
Not obviously, but, if you think of something, by all means contact us at 561-297-3307.