Frequently Asked Questions
FAQs for Pre-Health Professional Students
Do I need to be a specific major?
No! You can complete any major as long as you complete the pre-requisites for the specific professional school. You should choose a major that interests and motivates you to academically excel. Keep in mind it may be take longer to incorporate the prerequisites with some majors. It is common for students to choose a science related major as most of the courses required are in the degree plan and are the basis of future graduate level curriculum. Common majors include Biology, Chemistry, Biological Chemistry, Psychology, Kinesiology, and Biomedical Engineering. It also does not hurt to have a back-up career plan!
Which healthcare career is a good fit for me?
There are many career choices in the healthcare field and it can be difficult to choose 1. Researching and gaining an understanding of different healthcare fields is beneficial! If possible, shadow different healthcare professionals and ask what their day is typically like. There are also several websites and programs that provide great resources: Explore Health Careers, UTA Career Center, SHPEP, Allied Health Career Options
What is the average GPA of students accepted into a Health Profession School?
There are several factors the admissions committee uses to determine acceptance and this will vary by school. However, most students matriculating have GPAs from 3.4-3.8 with medical schools being on the higher end. It is also important to keep your Science GPA (BCMP: Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics) high and have a high standardized test score (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, etc.) in order to be a competitive applicant. Always check with the specific professional school for additional data and information. TMDSAS Statistics
What courses count towards my GPA?
Every college level course you have taken will be used in the GPA calculation for most health professional schools. This includes Dual Credit courses. Even if you repeat a course or have “grade forgiveness/substitution”, ALL college course grades are typically taken into account. Several different GPA’s can be evaluated, such as a Science GPA, Overall GPA, Graduate GPA, and Total GPA. Trend is very important.
If I maintain a high GPA and score high on my admission test (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, GRE, OAT, etc.) am I pretty much guaranteed acceptance?
No. While a high GPA and test score do strengthen your chances of acceptance, most schools use a holistic approach in evaluating students. They favor well-rounded mature students that have an understanding of the specific field they intend on studying along with strong soft skills. This is why gaining clinical experience, volunteering hours and developing leadership skills are important. Other factors include your personal statement/essays, letters of recommendation, and interviewing skills. All pre-health students should become familiar with AAMC’s Core Competencies. While this was designed for pre-medical students, all pre-health student should aim to excel in these areas.
What courses are required?
The prerequisites required vary by program. Common courses include General Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Statistics, Physics, Anatomy & Physiology (for science majors-not Nursing or Kinesiology) You should visit the admission’s website of the particular school for a complete list. Most science related majors have prerequisites built into the degree plan, therefore you are completing requirements as you complete the degree. Additional information regarding prerequisites can be found by visiting your specific pre-health interest at www.uta.edu/pre-health.
What courses are recommended in addition to the prerequisites required?
Most professional schools encourage a well-rounded curriculum with several upper level sciences. Completing the bare minimum course requirements will rarely portray you as a competitive applicant. Behavioral and upper level sciences such as Psychology, Sociology, Human Anatomy/Physiology, Genetics, Microbiology, Cell Physiology, Immunology, and Virology are typically highly recommended if not already required. Humanities courses such as economics, ethics, medical humanities, foreign languages, philosophy, and public speaking are also valuable. Always check with the specific professional school for the specific requirements and recommended courses.
Can I take courses at Community College/Dual Credit/AP? Are they viewed differently than courses taken at the University level?
Yes and No. There are several courses that can be taken at a Community College that are accepted for some pre-health or major prerequisites. While it is understandable why students take courses at a Community College, it is important to consider how well these courses will prepare you for upper and graduate level courses as University level courses are more rigorous. Students that complete a majority of their lower level sciences at a community college can struggle when taking only upper-levels at a University. This also makes the transition to a University and course scheduling challenging since only difficult courses are left for your degree plan. This can also apply to AP credit. Some health porfessional schools may not accept AP credit. Since maintaining a competitive undergraduate GPA and having a good foundation of course content is important, it may be more beneficial to save some, if not all, lower level courses for UTA. Ultimately, only you can decide what works best for you. If you can do well in both Community and University level courses, it should not be an issue. It is not a good idea to take courses at a community college because they are “easier”. Keep in mind the content of these subjects (especially the sciences) will be important for your admissions test and graduate level curriculum. (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, etc.) Students that have already completed a majority of their lower level sciences at a community college are recommended to add a minor to help with scheduling. It will also be beneficial to take additional upper level sciences at the University level to show the ability to be successful in science heavy courses.
But don’t I need an Associate’s Degree before I can complete my Bachelor’s?
No. You can complete a Bachelor’s Degree without an Associate’s Degree. If your career goal requires graduate level schooling, it may save time and money to directly complete a Bachelor’s Degree. There is a misconception that obtaining your Associate’s always means you need only 2 years of University level courses to obtain your Bachelor’s. This will actually vary depending on your career goal, major, course load, and how transfer courses are evaluated.
How can I gain clinical experience?
Most professional schools highly recommend (if not expect) direct patient care and healthcare experiences. Clinical Experience Examples: emergency medical technician (EMT), paramedic, nurse, scribe, medical assistant, certified nursing assistant (CNA), emergency room technician (ER tech), physical therapist assistant, phlebotomist, pharmacy technician, dental assisting, and clinical research assistant. Most require certification through a program, therefore getting an early start is essential! Shadowing working professionals in the field is also highly recommended. The easiest way to start this is to contact local clinics and see if shadowing is allowed. Start with your own local physician! Join a Pre-Health Organization! Networking can be very valuable as experience must be post-high school.
Where and when do I apply to a Health Profession School?
This will be based on your unique situation. Typically, students apply near the end of their junior year after taking the required entrance test or the year prior to expected admission. For more details on application services, click on the underlined link(s) corresponding to your health interest:
Texas Medical, Dental and Veterinary Schools (excluding Baylor, TCU & UIW) TMDSAS
US Medical Schools & Baylor & TCU (excluding public Texas Schools) AMCAS
US Dental Schools (excluding Texas) AADSAS
US Osteopathic Schools & UIW (excluding UNT) AACOMAS
Physician Assistant Schools CASPA
Pharmacy Schools PharmCAS
Optometry School OptomCAS
US Veterinary Schools VMCAS
Orthotics & Prosthetics OPCAS
Public Health Schools SOPHAS
Occupational Therapy & Occupational Therapy Assistant Schools OTCAS & OTACAS
Physical Therapy Schools PTCAS
When should I take my MCAT, PCAT, DAT, GRE, OAT, etc.?
There are several factors that must be considered before choosing a test date. You must take into account the year you plan on entering the professional school, application deadlines, dates the test is offered, and, most important, your level of preparedness. For example, most pre-med and pre-dental students are recommended take the MCAT/DAT by April or May of the year they are applying to medical/dental school. (1 year prior to entry year) It is highly recommended to have all courses that are topics on the test completed. Most students start intense preparation at least 3-6 months in advance. Contact your health professions advisor if you are unsure when you should schedule your test.
What is the best way to prepare for my MCAT, PCAT, DAT, GRE, OAT, etc.?
This will depend on your learning style. However, data shows taking and reviewing 8-10 practice tests is very advantageous. There are test prep courses offered by several companies, some of which are listed on the Health Professions Website. Do your research to choose the best option for you. It is always beneficial to start early (yes, freshaman year) and spread the preparation over several months. Do NOT “CRAM”. I encourage students to begin preparing in their General Biology and Chemistry courses.
Am I required to apply to the Health Professions Advisor Committee (HPAC)?
Depends. Most graduate schools highly recommend if not require students to apply to HPAC if their school provides it. Currently, HPAC is available to pre-med and pre-dental students. The HPAC process helps prepare students for their medical or dental school application. If accepted, a letter of recommendation from an HPAC Member is provided. Students apply the same year they are applying to medical or dental school. Applications open in December and close in February. Visit the HPAC Page for additional information.
I already have a baccalaureate degree. Am I required to obtain another degree to be accepted into a professional school?
No. If you have graduated from an accredited US or Canadian Schools, prerequisites can be completed as a non-degree seeking student, sometimes also referred to as a transient/transfer student. You do have the option of obtaining a second degree. The best choice will depend on your unique situation. Students should visit our Non-Traditional Page for helpful information. International degrees may be accepted by some Health Professional Schools as long as all the prerqusites are completed at an accredited US school. International students should also check with the schools admissions website on if international applicants are accepted.
Am I required to have research experience?
Yes and No. Research experience is not required to apply for programs, however, if your school of interest is research heavy or you are interested in PhD Dual Degree programs, then you should have research experience. Even if you are not interested in pursuing a PhD, having research experience can benefit your overall application and is a valuable learning experience. It is significant to learn about the process of being in a research lab, conducting a project, and presenting scientific data. There are several undergraduate research opportunities at UTA.
How do I get into research?
One way is to simply contact professors! It is important to network and get to know your professors. Keep in mind research is important and you should not participate in research just because it is a section on your graduate program application. Admissions committees will notice if you used research as a valuable experience or did it only to “help” your application. You can also visit our Undergraduate Research Page.
Should I join a pre-health student organization?
Yes! It is highly recommended that you join a pre-health student organization on campus. Meetings are usually conducted biweekly. You can find information on volunteering opportunities, workshops, and guest speakers. Also, it is a great opportunity to meet students who are on the same path as you! A list of our organizations can be found on the Health Professions Website.
Should I take a gap year?
The better question is: Are you a competitive applicant ready for graduate school? When applying, you want to be the most prepared and competitive applicant you can be. If you feel that you are ready to be successful graduate student and have a realistic chance of acceptance, apply! If you do not feel ready, a gap year is one of many options that you should consider. Many students will choose to take additional classes, complete a Master’s Program, continue gaining healthcare experiences, and/or dedicate more time to study for their admission exam. A gap year can be a good thing as long as there is mature reasoning justifying the gap year.