Myth #1: I must be a science major in order to be considered a strong applicant – Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, or Physics, for example.
The truth is that any major is acceptable for professional schools. A diverse academic background is essential to help broaden your perspectives and develop excellent critical thinking skills. If you are a science major, be sure to NOT take only science courses. If you choose a non-science major, be sure to take all prerequisite science courses alongside your required curriculum, and DO WELL in them.
Consider the following in selecting courses and a major:
- There is no need to “collect” majors or minors.
- Look for the relevance in a variety of courses—medicine is not just science.
- Pursue your interests. This is your chance to explore.
- Don’t try to pad your GPA with “easy” courses!
- What subjects or areas do you like or enjoy?
Myth #2: Studying abroad is not possible for pre-med students.
If you plan early enough and accordingly, it is always possible to study abroad. Study abroad during the summers will be the easiest to fit into your academic plan, but you should also be able to go during the academic year. It is NOT recommended that you plan to take any of your prerequisite courses at a school outside of the United States.
Consider the program(s) of interest and how they will affect
- your academic program at FSU
- when you will be ready to take admissions tests
- when you will be ready to apply to professional schools
Myth #3: Health professional schools, especially medical, dental and veterinary schools, will only consider applicants with 4.0 GPAs and very high test scores.
Grades and exam scores are important; however, schools also look for the following:
- Consistent healthcare experience
- Commitment to service
- Involvement and leadership
- Good reading and writing ability
- Compassion and empathy
- Intellectual curiosity
Professional school academic expectations:
- Start off well your first year and maintain a high level of performance until graduation.
- Overall GPA and science GPA should be about 3.50 to be considered competitive.
- Do not just do what is minimally required. Schools expect you to go above and beyond the basic requirements and to demonstrate you can handle the pressure.
Develop good learning strategies and study habits:
- Time management and a regular study schedule
- Early exam preparation
- Know your learning style or preference
- Active learning
- Seek assistance via office hours
Myth #4: Shadowing one doctor for three years is going to be more than enough to demonstrate my commitment to the field.
Healthcare experience looks best when it
- Starts early in your academic career and continues through the application process.
- Sparks your interest.
- Has special meaning for you.
- Takes place in a variety of areas. Healthcare happens in a variety of places. Sticking to one area only narrows your understanding of what providing health care involves.
- Includes direct patient contact. You want to have opportunities to understand the nature of the doctor–patient relationship.
- Provides an opportunity for you see how you act around those who will depend on you for their well-being.
There are lots of places to gain healthcare experience:
- Teaching or community hospital
- Clinics (medical, dental, physical therapy, veterinary, etc.)
- Private physician's office
- Assisted living facilities
- Nursing homes and hospices
- Animal rescue and adoption centers
Admissions Committees also like to see that you were involved in community service. It demonstrates your concern about the community and illustrates additional passions you have.
There are lots of way to gain community service experience:
- Homeless shelters
- AIDS organizations
- Crisis hotlines
- Big Brother/Big Sister
- Mentoring programs
- Tutoring programs and lab assisting
- Habitat for Humanity
- Create your own!
Myth #5: Research is a required part of my application to a health professional school.
Admissions committees are not actively looking for research in the application. However, while health professional schools do not require research experience it is strongly encouraged. It is important for you to see how research contributes to medicine, public policy and public health. Admissions committees like to see that students have at least attempted research so that they understand those connections.
Myth #6: It’s perfectly okay to enroll at a community college over the summer.
Taking courses outside of your home institution is ALWAYS going to have an impact— sometimes NEGATIVE—on the application. If you ABSOLUTELY must take courses outside your home institution, there should be an extenuating circumstance for doing so. Repeating courses or taking courses elsewhere will make it appear that you are avoiding courses at your primary institution and that you are not up to the challenge or rigor of a demanding course load. If you are planning to take a required pre-requisite course at a community college, it is best to contact the professional school(s) that you are planning on applying to and see if they have a policy regarding community college courses.
—Modified from “Common Pre-Med Myths” by Carol Crafts, PhD, Providence College, 2011