Pre-Health Information

Pre-Health Information

Are you interested in a Career in Health Professions? 

The faculty advisors work with all students interested in pursuing a career in health professions (ex: medical, dental, pharmacy, etc.). We work with both current students and Alumni who are applying to health professions schools and encourage all students that are interested in a career in Health Professions to attend workshops, familiarize themselves with our website, join our emails, and to come to our office for an advising appointment every semester. Thus, we enjoy working with students at all stages of their pre-health journey. 

What are health professions graduate programs admissions committees looking for from their applicants? In other words, what criteria are most important to admissions committees and what is considered less critical? In our experience, health professions graduate programs are looking to answer two basic questions: “Can you do it” and “Should you do it”. 

How you answer these questions is demonstrated through your actions, behaviors, and experiences and is addressed in greater detail below: 

Question One: 

Can you do it? Healthcare is forever growing and changing. The first question to ask yourself is easier to quantify, e.g. health professional schools expect academic excellence. Good grades, e.g. typically an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better is expected of competitive applicants (3.5 GPA or higher for some disciplines). Note that different professional schools vary somewhat in terms of their accepted student profile, but all schools expect that you have performed to a standard that predicts success in professional school. 

Question Two: 

Should you do it? While grades and test scores are vital components of a successful application, it is also important that you demonstrate commitment to others through experiences outside of the classroom. Schools expect that you have engaged the community in meaningful ways, both on campus (through student organizations, undergraduate research, and other opportunities offered through the University) and off-campus (medical/clinical experience, community service and outreach, etc.). One needs to discover those activities and commitments that are important to you and pursue them enthusiastically. Not only will you be richer for it, but also you will approach your academic work refreshed. 

Desirable Personal Attributes of Applicants: 

HonestyPersonal Warmth
IntegrityHealthy Sense of Humor
Emotional MaturityResilience
Empathy/CompassionService Oriented
Industry/MotivationCultural competence
Sense of PurposeCommunicate Ideas Clearly and Effectively
Dependability 

Health professional schools evaluate students based on academic performance (transcripts, standardized test scores) but also holistically review the other pieces of your application (list of activities, personal essay, letters of recommendation, interview performance). This allows them to get a clear picture of who you are as a candidate, both academically and in terms of your character. 

What should I choose for my major? That plays less of a role than many appreciate, as admissions committees assess the student on the pre-requisite courses that they taken most importantly. Therefore, study what you love, i.e. you should choose a major that reflects your interests, your passions, and your strengths, while at the same time providing you with adequate challenges. Many students choose to major in a science, primarily because people interested in health professions are typically interested in the sciences.

Pre-Health Advising Information

The faculty advisors believes that advising is an important part of student’s preparation, particularly for professional school. Our pre-health faculty advisor(s) stay current with the trends and best practices in advising pre-health students.

Our CSUDH students have a reputation of being positive change agents in our campus community and in their professional programs. To best prepare for an advising appointment, we recommend that students remember the acronym P.R.E.P:

PLAN

Come prepared with questions; review your resume, course sequences, and Academic Requirement Report

REFLECT

Is this major/path still right for me? Am I competitive? What are my barriers to success and how can I address them?

ENGAGE

Share this plan with advisors and mentors. Create realistic action plans.

PRACTICE

Register for classes at your registration time. Find ways to demonstrate your passion or commitment to this plan.

 
Pre-Medical and Other Health Professional Programs

Program: An important component of the CSUDH undergraduate curriculum is the preparation of students for medical and other health professional programs, e.g. dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, etc. This preparation can include a major in the sciences as well as taking relevant courses in other disciplines, e.g. music, history, English, etc. In fact, a “well rounded” education is viewed very favorably by many health professional school admissions committees, so for even those who major in a science, it is important to obtain a broad liberal arts education by taking electives in the humanities, fine arts and social and behavioral sciences. However, it must be recognized that majoring in a non-science discipline does require completing, and doing well, in the science courses that are pre-requisites for admissions to the health professional schools. 

Since many of the professional health schools (e.g. medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, optometry and podiatry) require similar courses as requirements for admissions, this sheet describes the CSUDH courses for “pre-health professional” programs.

Generally, the requirements for these health professional schools include one-year lecture and laboratory in general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, general biology and math. 

In addition, medical schools may recommend additional courses in embryology, genetics and biochemistry. Specifically, for students going to medical school, with the advent of the new MCAT in 2015, the recommendation (but not yet a required prerequisite) is to take one semester of biochemistry. To reiterate, students must meet these requirements in addition to those of their major. Students who already have a bachelor’s degree in an area other than the sciences may, of course, fulfill the minimum requirements for entrance into these health schools by completing the core requirements through a post-baccalaureate program or even a second bachelor’s degree. Faculty in the sciences, i.e. biology, chemistry and physics often teach the required courses. At CSUDH, students taking these courses benefit from small class size, close instructor contact and active advising programs. 

Academic Advising: Regardless of their major, pre-professional health students should be advised by a faculty member with knowledge of the admission requirements of the various health professional schools so as to assist them in planning a program that will fulfill the entrance requirements for the professional school. Since the entrance requirements vary, it is important that the student works with the advisor to determine the specific requirements of each school to which they plan to apply. An example of this is that anatomy and physiology are required for entry into physician assistant (PA) programs, in addition to those courses required for medicine. 

Community College transfer students often complete some of the lower division required courses at their community college. However, in addition they should consult with the Pre-health advisor, the Advising Center and the University Catalog for the requirements. 

Dr. Thomas Landefeld, from the biology department, has been designated as the CSUDH Pre-health Advisor. Students who are interested in a career in the health professions should make an appointment with him at any stage of their education, preferably as early as possible once they have made that decision. Contact for further information, Dr. Landefeld (http://www.thomaslandefeld.com/) directly at (310) 243-3528 or through the Biology Department (310-243-3381). 

Pre-Health Requirements and Recommendations:

It is strongly advised that you check individual schools for their requirements and recommendations as some schools may have specific requirements for their programs. The following list represents some general requirements. 

Required courses: 

  • 1 year general biology with lab (e.g. BIO 120/122) 
  • 1 year general chemistry with lab (e.g. CHE 110/112) 
  • 1 year organic chemistry with lab (e.g. CHE 310/311/312/313) 
  • 1 year college math - many schools are requiring statistics and calculus (e.g. MAT 131/MAT 171 or 191) 
  • 1 year physics with lab (e.g. PHY 120/122 or PHY 130/132) while some schools may specify a calculus based-physics 
  • 1 year college English (composition) 

www.explorehealthcareers.org

As mentioned above the Physician Assistant Programs also require Anatomy and Physiology

Recommended courses: 

  • Biochemistry (e.g. CHE 450) – is strongly recommended 
  • Spanish (particularly for CA and TX schools, but others may also recommend) – strongly recommended 
  • Cellular and molecular biology, endocrinology, microbiology, immunology, genetics, developmental biology, psychology 

Other recommendations: 

  • Dentistry – psychology (may be required), sculpture or fine arts or drafting 
  • Optometry – psychology (made be required), physiology, neurophysiology 
  • Veterinary – animal/human nutrition, vertebrate physiology (usually a letter is required from veterinarian) 
  • Pharmacy - economics and composition (often required); experience in a pharmacy (may be required) 
  • Osteopathic medicine– A letter of recommendation from a D.O. (usually required) 

Additional Experiences that strengthen an application: Volunteering, Research and Clinical Experience. Strong academic credentials and high-test scores are only a part of what admissions committees consider. 

  • Physician Medical experience/exposure, whether gained through internship or service programs, is a critical component of your preparations for professional school. Some graduate programs even require that students have a certain amount of direct patient care experience prior to applying to professional school (i.e. Physician’s Assistant graduate programs (require 1000-2000 hours). 

  • Scientific laboratory research: Additionally, involvement in laboratory or clinical research settings is highly desirable by some schools. Other commitments and responsibilities are also important factors. For example, some students may need to work to support themselves financially while in college. These experiences are important learning opportunities, too; working through school shows determination, work ethic, discipline, and self-reliance - all valuable characteristics to an admissions committee! It is important that through these experiences that you gain a real-world perspective on whatever form of medicine that you are interested in. 
  • Hospital/health care volunteer and/or work experiences.

Many students who do some kind of clinical or service related experience during the semesters find it easier to keep the “bigger picture” in mind. Focus on the quality of the experience. This will help you gain a better understanding of the provider-patient relationship. 

In short – maximize your free time. Invest yourself in activities that typify the person that you hope to become. 

An excellent “general” site for health careers is www.explorehealthcareers.org 

It is critical that you speak to the Pre-health advisor to not only discuss your specific career plan but also to better prepare your application regarding such things as a personal statement, obtaining letters of recommendation and choosing schools. However, in addition, the student must familiarize themselves with as much information as possible regarding not only the health professional schools but also about the career itself.

The Admissions and Interview Process: The application process to a health professions graduate program can be a lengthy and intensive process that begins approximately 12-18 months prior to your intended start date. For many of our students, the application process begins in the spring of the junior/senior year, depending upon the length of their matriculation.  Some students choose to take a gap year (or more) between finishing at CSUDH and starting graduate school. The committee letter process happens the year prior to when you plan to start professional school. 

Pre-Health Student Organizations: Students who are interested in pursuing a career in a health-related field should join the Pre-Health Society, an organization that includes all students interested in pursuing a health career. This involvement with pre-health professional student organization can be a valuable experience. Often a pre-health advisor will serve as the advisor for these organizations. 

Our goal is to help you make informed decisions as to which career path is best suited for you and your candidacy for admission to health professional school, while also encouraging involvement and engagement in valuable learning experience both in and out of the classroom. 


Advising Per Year :

Advising Freshmen

All pre-health students should have a great start at our university, which is why we recommend that pre-health freshman students meet with a pre-health advisor once per semester, beginning the student’s freshman year. Advising will include assessing your adjustment to college, finding organizations and activities that are meaningful to you, and keeping you aware of your academic competitiveness. 

We seek to make you aware of the road ahead and map out a strong first year experience both inside and outside the classroom. Schedule an appointment or come to walk in advising for this.

Advising Sophomores

By your second year, students have had a year of foundation science coursework and student involvement behind them. Advisors support pre-health sophomores by working with them to design an individualized academic and co-curricular plan to help them towards their goal of pursuing their dreams. 

Again, sophomores are strongly encouraged to make an appointment with a pre-health advisor in the fall of their sophomore year in order to help get feedback and advice about future activities and a competitiveness check.

Advising Juniors/Seniors

Your third year (junior year) is sometimes referred to as “The Application Year” as years of preparation both inside and outside the classroom, your demonstrated passion, and the student’s desire to put forth their best professional school application have now come to fruition. From workshops, we strive to help our applicants navigate the application process. Additionally, our conversations during this year include: selecting schools and programs that fit your application, preparing for your standardized test (MCAT, OAT, PCAT, DAT, etc.), tips on writing your personal statement, and so much more.  The recommendation is that pre-health juniors come in for an advising appointment once per semester during their application year, also utilizing our walk-in advising times for quick questions if needed.

Advising Seniors

Whether it’s helping you prepare for interviews, deciding between acceptance offers, or planning a meaningful gap year, we are here to help! We have workshops and seminars for seniors and recommend that seniors come in for an appointment with their pre-health advisor at least once during the school year


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