Preparing for the Health Professions

In keeping with the desire of health profession schools to have a diversity of interests among their students, there is no fixed pre-health curriculum. However, certain courses are required by all professional schools, others are required by some professional schools, and still others are recommended by varying numbers of professional schools.

Traditionally, the great majority of students throughout the country who apply to health profession schools come from the biology or the chemistry majors. However, the courses referred to above can be made a part of any of several degree programs. The Niagara University curricula leading to the bachelor of arts degree with a major in chemistry, or the bachelor of science degree with majors in either biochemistry, biology, or chemistry are especially well suited. However, any of several other degree programs may be modified to allow a student to meet the admission requirements of the professional schools.

Admission requirements are published annually by the professional schools and school associations and this is an excellent source for all types of pertinent information.

Recommendations given in regard to preparation for medicine are generally true for dentistry as well as the other health professions such as optometry, podiatry, pharmacy or veterinary medicine. Whether a student looks toward a career in medicine, dentistry or one of the other health professions, he or she must take care to meet the particular requirements of any professional school at which he or she anticipates possible matriculation.

Regardless of the degree curriculum pursued, the pre-health student should consult Niagara's pre-health professions advisor regarding selection of courses, and about qualifying, preparing and applying to professional school.

Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Experiences

Essentials/Minimal Requirements

  • Complete the prerequisite courses:
    • ONE YEAR of General Biology and lab
    • ONE YEAR of General Chemistry and lab
    • ONE YEAR of Organic Chemistry and lab
    • ONE YEAR of General Physics and lab (if required)
    • ONE (or TWO) SEMESTERS of Calculus (if required)
  • Prepare for and take the appropriate preprofessional exam (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, OAT, GRE).
  • Take a variety of courses in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.
  • Regularly devote your time and effort to one or more activities (e.g. humanitarian, social, talent, hobby, interest, etc.) that shows personal initiative, persistence, time management and leadership. Sustained involvement in one activity is preferable to superficial commitment to many activities.
  • Interact regularly with healthcare professionals through shadowing, volunteering, or a health internship.
  • Follow the suggested timetable for preparing a pre-health application.

Highly Recommended

  • Undertake an experimental research project under the supervision of a faculty member or research professional.
  • Enroll and maintain enrollment in university or departmental honors program.
  • Enroll in lab-based courses in cell biology, human anatomy and physiology, genetics, microbiology and biochemistry.
  • Enroll an MCAT, DAT, PCAT, OAT prep course (e.g. Kaplan, Princeton Review).
  • Carry out in-depth summer reading about the health professions.
  • Develop an awareness of how current events impact health care in the USA.
  • Pursue an academic minor in the humanities (e.g. a foreign language) or social sciences (e.g. psychology).
  • Undertake the most rigorous academic program (i.e. coursework) reasonable. Do not take a multitude of easy courses to pad your GPA.
  • Consult regularly (at least once an academic year) with the pre-health advisor about your progress in preparing for professional training.

Optional (But Recommended)

  • Be trained as an EMT or become proficient in first aid/CPR.
  • Take courses in courses in statistics, public speaking, persuasive writing.
  • Purse a program of studies in the biomedical sciences that includes one or more of the following courses: histology, pharmacology, immunology, bioinformatics, molecular genetics.
  • Volunteer as a tutor or teaching assistant in one or more of any of the courses listed above.
  • Seek out a highly unusual experience or notable individual achievement (e.g. mission work, recognition as an expert, travel overseas, championship competition, etc.).