Health Advising

Frequently Asked Questions

What should my major be?

You might be surprised to learn that medical schools do not require a specific major of their applicants or matriculants! Therefore, you really can major in almost anything you wish. As clearly stated in the 2006-2007 Association of American Medical College's Medical School Admission Requirements, "Medical schools recognize the importance of a strong foundation in the natural sciences - biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics - and most medical schools have established minimum course requirements for admission. These courses usually represent about one-third of the credit hours needed for graduation. This approach deliberately leaves room for applicants from a broad spectrum of college majors." Nevertheless, many premedical students at Xavier choose to major in Natural Science, Chemistry, or Biology because they are very interested in science and understand that one of these majors can be a strong foundation for a variety of career options.

The bottom line is simply this - "Pre-Med," "Pre-Dent" or "Pre-Vet" is not a major - it is a career intention or goal. With this in mind, you should consider a major which you enjoy, in which you will perform well and which may serve as a basis for further graduate work or employment should you choose not to apply to medical school or are not admitted to medical school. At Xavier we do ask that you at the least declare a natural science minor if you choose a non-science major and have career goals for the medical field. This way, it ensures that you will prepare yourself with at least the minimum prerequisite science courses necessary for most medical school admissions. Medical school admission committees expect variety in educational programs and Xavier's liberal arts core will allow you to take courses in a wide variety of subject areas, no matter what you decide to declare as a major. As a rule, there are minimum requirements for each professional health school, and you must at least meet the minimal requirements in course work for the schools to which you apply. It is always a good idea to exceed the minimum requirements since admission to professional health schools is extremely competitive.

What are the minimal requirements of medical school?

Generally, most medical schools require one year each of general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. All courses should have laboratory components. At Xavier, that translates to BIOL 160/161 and 162/163, CHEM 160/161 and 162/163, CHEM 240/241 and 242/243 and PHYS 160/161 and 162/163. Most schools also require or strongly recommend college mathematics through calculus, and many require a year of English composition. For the specific requirements and recommended courses at each school in which you are interested, you should consult the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR), published by the Association of American Colleges (AAMC) and available for purchase through their website. The MSAR should always be consulted for each medical school's specific entrance requirements, curriculum, admission selection factors and important deadlines. There is a copy in the medical reference section of the Xavier library and a copy is available to browse in the office of the Coordinator of Pre-Professional Health Advising in Albers Hall 105B. If you are interested in a particular school, you should learn as much about that school as you possibly can. A good way to begin your research is by visiting medical schools' websites.

What is so hard about being a premedical student?

For many freshmen, the most difficult task is to acquire the study skills and self-discipline necessary to attain academic excellence. The success of your academic transition to college level work depends not only on ability, but upon preparation, motivation, organization and how well you learn how to learn. The rigorous curriculum of a pre-med student demands determination and stamina. There will be "star" students in your pre-med classes and for the first time in your academic career, you may have to work harder than some students. This can be discouraging.

What do medical schools consider when evaluating applicants?

The criteria for admission varies from school to school, but usually include academic record (GPA), MCAT scores, letters of evaluation, demonstrated knowledge and commitment to the medical profession and a personal interview.

Is it all over if I have a bad semester?

Medical school admission committees look at the "big picture" as they evaluate applicants. They realize that every student does not hit the ground running when they enter college. Admission committees expect an excellent academic record, but will make some allowances for a problem semester, slow start or rough spot. If academic problems arise, you must bounce back and perform better than ever to show that the problem was an exception, rather than the rule.

Is it becoming more difficult to get into medical school?

Here are the actual numbers for the last five years:

Class # of Applicants # of Matriculants
2000 37,089 16,301
2001 34,859 16,365
2002 33,625 16,488
2003 34,786 16,538
2004 35,735 16,648

Don't let these numbers fool you. It is highly competitive to get into medical school. In the years prior to these statistics, the average acceptance rate was as low as 34% compared to the last five years' average of 47%. Experts predict that the next five years might show a trend of more competition for medical school acceptance as more students decide to apply in our changing economy. There are many qualified people who want to go to medical school. You must be well-informed, well-prepared, and very determined to work very hard to gain admission. You should also actively explore alternative careers.

What is the MCAT?

The Medical College Admission Test is a standardized test that measures aptitude and achievement in science and other areas that are related to the study of medicine. Most medical schools require that you take the MCAT prior to admission. I suggest looking at The MCAT Student Manual (published by the same company who gives the test) as early as your freshman year so that you can plan for the test. Understanding what is on the test can positively affect what you learn in class, and how you choose to retain that knowledge. There are four parts to the test. They are: Verbal Reasoning, Physical Sciences, Writing Sample and Biological Sciences. Many students who love science courses also seem to avoid courses outside of science that require extensive reading and writing. As you can see, half of the MCAT focuses on reading and writing skills. Stretch yourself in your liberal arts core courses at Xavier. The training will serve you well when you take the MCAT.

When do I take the MCAT? What scores are competitive?

You should take the MCAT in the spring prior to the year of application to medical school. The MCAT is administered each April and August. Generally, you apply to medical schools early in your senior year, so you should take the MCAT in the spring (April) of your junior year. You may repeat the test in the late summer/early fall (August) if you are not happy with your scores AND you have a good reasons to think you would do better the second time. The MCAT score breakdown of 2004's successful applicants was: Verbal Reasoning (VR) - 9.7; Physical Sciences (PS) - 9.9; Biological Sciences (BS) - 10.3; and Writing Sample (WS) - P (O is average) for a total of MCAT score of 30P.

What GPA do I need to get into medical school?

It varies from school to school, but in general, the higher your cumulative and science/math GPA, the better your chances of being accepted. The average GPA for those admitted to medical school in 2004 was a 3.62. It has been rising steadily each year.

Is financial aid available for medical school?

Amounts and types of aid vary from school to school, as does the cost of a medical education. You should investigate the costs early in your undergraduate career. Knowing that you are probably going to incur a substantial loan debt for medical school may affect the way that you borrow for your undergraduate education and the way that you responsibly manage your consumer debit, such as not incurring large amounts of credit card debit and making sure you that you maintain a good credit rating.

How can the coordinator of Pre-Professional Health Advising help me?

Preparing for admission to medical school requires careful long-range planning and accurate information. The coordinator of pre-professional health advising specializes in providing you with necessary information and helping you develop good planning skills. My office provides you with help through each step of the way. Course selection, time management tips, information on individual medical schools, MCAT preparation advice, letters of recommendation, mock admission interviews, help finding alternative careers in or out of medicine and links to ways to get experience in health care settings are some of the services provided.

You probably have more questions. Call or email the coordinator of pre-professional health advising to make an appointment. It's never too early to start planning.