Frequently Asked Questions about Health Professions

The questions below are coded and organized according to audience.
Some questions are important to more than one group of people.

    √  =  prospective students     *  =  current students     ∆  =  applicants     ∞  =  alumni

Do medical schools consider a 3.5 GPA at Centre equivalent to a 4.0 GPA at an easier school? (√*∆∞)

The question you are really asking is “Do medical schools rank undergraduate institutions”? Most medical schools do NOT rank undergraduate institutions. So why should you attend an academically challenging school like Centre? The most obvious reason is Centre will prepare you better for the MCAT. Medical schools look at both GPA and MCAT. If either is low, you probably will not be accepted. Centre’s strong academic reputation will enable you to get better jobs and research internships that are important for your resume whether you apply to medical school or do something else. Skills like writing and speaking are emphasized at Centre and those skills are essential to a physician. Finally, you may change your mind about medical school as a career. You need to have the best academic preparation to keep your options flexible.

If I have a low GPA, should I transfer to another school to raise it? (*)

The answers to this question depend on your individual situation. If you are not happy at Centre, transferring is an option. If you just want to raise your GPA, transferrring to an easier school may not do it. You need to realize that the academic atmosphere is very important. If you go to a school where no one really studies, will you be able to motivate yourself? The HPAG has tracked some students who do transfer from Centre and quite a number of them do not end up applying to medical school.

Does Centre College have a pre-med major, if not, what is the best major for someone interested in medical school? (√)

Centre, like the vast majority of liberal arts colleges, does not have a pre-med major. There are no best majors for medical school. You should major in what interests you. Most Centre students who are planning to attend medical school tend to major in one of the sciences. The major breakdown for the last five years for successful first-time applicants was: 33% BMB; 24% CHE; 22% BIO; 3% BNS; 18% non-science majors; 5% double majors. It is not necessary to have a double major or a minor. If you want to do that, it is OK, but medical schools are not going to be impressed by it one way or the other. A medical school just wants to see that you have a college degree and have taken the medical school requirements. The HPAG is always happy to help non-science majors schedule their medical school science requirements.

Will I have a better chance of getting into a medical school if I attend the university where the medical school is located as an undergraduate? What about those programs which where I just go to college for two years and then enter medical school? (√)

The answers for both of these questions are related. There are a few schools which will show a preference to a small number of students from their undergraduate population. However, there are never any performance-blind guarantees for admission to medical school. For instance, the UofL medical school takes ~5-6 students from the GEMS (Guaranteed Entrance to Medical School) program. Despite the name, students must maintain a high GPA, do well on the MCAT, and get some experience in medicine. If an undergraduate admissions officer tells you that students from that institution get some sort of preference at medical school X, check with medical school X to make sure that it is true. There are a small number of universities that have a program where students take pre-med courses for two years and then enter medical school. The problem with these fast-track programs is that you will not get much variety in your education. Furthermore, such a program pre-supposes that you are absolutely certain you want to be a physician. There are very few high school students who possess that kind of certainty. In the long run you should probably opt for variety and flexibility. Why go to the same medical school that you went to as an undergraduate? Why lock yourself into a career without taking some time to explore other options? Why not enjoy four years of college and then go to medical school?

How am I going to pay for medical school? (∆)

Even though medical school is pretty expensive, remember to think of it as an investment. Low-interest loans are basically automatic and allow you to pay your tuition and living expenses. If you budget carefully the loans should be sufficient. If you want a free medical education there are two choices. Some rural hospitals will pay for your medical education and, in return, you must work at that hospital for some period of time. The military will also pay your bills. You must give them one year for every year they pay.

What are the differences between allopathic and osteopathic medical schools? (*∆)

You may not have realized that there are two types of medical schools. There are actually three types; podiatric medicine is the third. The best thing to do is to go to the LINKS page and check out the osteopathic medicine web page. Most Centre students apply to allopathic medical schools, but a few do enter osteopathic medicine.

Will I get credit for my AP courses at Centre and/or at the medical school? (√*)

Centre will grant credit for a 4 or 5 on the AP test. However, some medical schools will not accept AP courses for their prerequisites or will accept them only if supplemented by upper-level undergraduate courses. You may be better off taking the introductory courses anyway for a few reasons. Often AP courses teach just to the AP exam. There may be things that are covered in the Centre course that your high school course did not cover. AP courses generally do not prepare you well from the standpoint of laboratory. You do not want to get into the second semester of general chemistry and find yourself behind. Finally, at a small school like Centre, you will probably repeat professors during your four years. It really helps your letters of evaluation if a professor has seen you mature personally and intellectually.

What percentage of Centre applicants are accepted to medical school? (√*∆∞)

This question is very complex and you need to understand the different factors that go into the answers so that you can judge things appropriately. Usually, 15-20 students are first time applicants from Centre each year. Over the last 10 years, an average of 80% of first time applicants are accepted. Because we have relatively few students applying, the accepted percentage can vary widely. You should realize that any top-ranked liberal arts college like Centre will have a high acceptance rate. Large public universities will have much lower acceptance rates (probably less than 50%). The acceptance rates at large universities tend to be low because there are many more students applying and they do not get much personal advising. The HPAG at Centre is very honest with students about their chances for acceptance to medical school. The HPAG does not control who applies (some schools will not support some students and do not count them in their statistics). Most Centre students who do not have a realistic chance at getting into medical school do not apply. Instead, they work with the HPAG to find out how they can become better candidates in their years after graduation. Similarly, the first time applicants who are not accepted work with the HPAG to improve their subsequent applications. The HPAG tracks re-applicants and the majority of them end up being accepted.

How many first-year students say they want to go to medical school and what happens to them? (√*)

About 25-30% of incoming first-years (about 100 students) indicate that they are interested in medical school on a form they fill out during the summer. The HPAG never really knows how seriously students fill out those forms. In the last five years an average of 12 graduating seniors have applied to medical school. Most of those are from the 100 who indicated an interest, but some students develop an interest in medicine after they have started college. As for the students who do not apply, many of them were not serious about medicine. Some students get some exposure to medicine and find out it is not the career for them. Or, they decide to enter a medical field other than M.D. because they do not like the lifestyle of a physician. Quite a few students realize they are more interested in science and pursue a masters or Ph.D. in the basic sciences. A few entering first-years are very serious about becoming physicians and have enough experience to be making an informed decision.

What other courses should I take in order to prepare for the MCAT? (*∆)

You should not take the MCAT until you have fulfilled the basic requirements for medical school (you can be taking some of those when you take the MCAT—talk to Dr. Workman). Apart from them, BMB 210 is a very useful class for the MCAT. Any upper-level science class will be useful, but you have to remember that the MCAT tests your ability to think. There will be passages that you would never see in a normal science class, but the information given in the passage is sufficient to solve the questions. The take home message is that you will not necessarily be better prepared for the MCAT by taking a whole bunch of science classes. You should spend more time getting used to the test.

What other courses should I take to prepare for medical school? (*∆)

Most Centre students in medical school say the best class to take is histology. Quite a number of them, though, say you should take some non-science courses because you will get your fill of science once you get to medical school.

What courses should I take in high school to prepare myself for the pre-medical curriculum in college? How else should I prepare myself? (√)

You should definitely take as many lab science courses as you can. Biology, chemistry, and physics are the most helpful classes since you will also be taking them as part of the pre-medical curriculum in college. Math through calculus will also be beneficial to you. You should try to get some experience in medicine during high school. Shadowing your family physician, volunteering in your local hospital, or getting a job in a medical setting are all very good things you can do to find out if medicine is a good option for you.

Can I take the MCAT while I'm studying abroad? (*)

There are test centers for the MCAT in Europe, but you probably should not try to take it when you are studying abroad. You will be doing too much traveling to be able to prepare effectively. Your best bet is to just take the exam when you are in the U.S. and, if necessary, delay your application to medical school. For more on this subject, see the APPLY web page.

Will I be able to play a varsity sport and complete the pre-med requirements? (√*)

In the last five years, 43% of the successful applicants from Centre played at least one varsity sport. You should look at the typical profile of successful Centre applicants. Also, Centre students tend to be involved in many extracurricular activities. If you come to Centre you should expect to do much more than just study. Athletics are just one thing that Centre students do.

Will I be able to study abroad and complete the pre-med requirements? (√*)

The answer to this question is “Definitely Yes”. In the last five years 89% of the successful applicants studied abroad for at least one term. You should look at the typical profile of successful Centre applicants. The HPAG will work closely with you to schedule classes so that you can study abroad without getting behind on pre-requisites.

Is it better to do research or work in a hospital? (*)

Ideally you should do both. If you have no experience in medicine, it is vital for you to get some, whether it is working in a hospital or some other medical environment. If you have sufficient medical experience you should try research. All medical schools have a great deal of research going on and you will be a better applicant if you can show that you have some experience in that area.

I've been away from Centre for a few years so do I need to use the HPAG to complete my application? (∞)

If you graduated within the last 3 years you should still get a committee evaluation from the HPAG. If you have been away from Centre for longer than 3 years, you should just get letters of evaluation from employers or professors that know you well. Check with Dr. Workman about your individual situation.

Can I take some of my medical school requirements during summer school? (√*)

Almost all medical schools will accept course credit for summer school courses as long as the university/college is accredited. You should only take summer school classes as a last resort. With a little planning, you will be able to take all of the necessary courses at Centre.