Planning Your Path

Not sure what courses you need to take? We're here to help you plan your path.


Health care is an exciting and varied field. The more courses you take and the more co-curricular experiences you acquire, the more information you will have to inform your decision.

Important Notes:

  • Professional program requirements can be completed alongside any major.
  • Do not overload with too many courses too early.
  • Prerequisites should not be taken Pass/Fail, or abroad.

First-year students, start slowly and move into a more demanding schedule after a year – when you know exactly how much you can do. Two science courses (including math) each semester during your first year is probably enough.

Take stock of whether you are enjoying the ideas in your science coursework. Almost half of the health care fields do NOT require advanced coursework in chemistry or biology. A graduate program based on prerequisite courses you truly enjoy may be a better choice!

What Are Medical Schools Looking for?

Mature, Informed Decision to Pursue Medicine

Medical schools want to see evidence that applicants understand the challenges as well as the rewards of being a physician. Shadowing or clinical volunteering that allows a prospective student direct  observation of the physician role is essential. During the covid pandemic, informational interviewing or obtaining paid employment such as scribe or medical assistant may be more realistic than shadowing, although virtual shadowing can yield good insights as well. Clinical volunteering (including virtual formats) or paid employment that provides direct patient contact is equally important.

Click here to download data from the AAMC on undergraduate experiences of accepted medical students. Note that the few students who did not engage in clinical volunteering were probably MD, PhD applicants who appropriately focused their time on research.

Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students

The 15 Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students have been endorsed by the AAMC Group on Student Affairs (GSA) Committee on Admissions (COA). The competencies fall into four categories: Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Thinking and Reasoning, and Science.

Specific Course Requirements vary. The following will meet most Medical School's Requirements. Check the requirements of the institutions where you plan to apply:

  • One year of biology, chemistry, and physics, each with laboratory 
  • One year of organic chemistry with laboratory (some schools will allow biochemistry as a substitution for organic II)
  • One semester of biochemistry
  • One year of English/writing - Some schools accept WI courses from other departments (although NOT foreign language WI courses); others insist on English department courses.
  • One semester of psychology and sociology
  • The Mathematics requirement varies considerably, but AP credit for Calculus II is almost always sufficient, and AP credit for calculus I and a graded statistics course is often sufficient.
  • Students should consider at least one applied ethics course in any discipline to prepare for CASPer (a situational judgment screening tool that is required by some schools) and MMI interviews.

Individual schools may have additional requirements. Always check the specific requirements of the institutions where you plan to apply.

What grades and MCAT do I need for medical school?

Our Aggregate Matriculation Data is the best way to ascertain whether your numerical credentials are a fit for the schools where you want to apply.  Some schools admit a wide swath of Wash U students; others have a narrower range of academic credentials that they consider.  You can also surmise how familiar the school is with our curriculum from the total number of matriculants. <

A few things to keep in mind as you examine this data:

  • The table includes re-applicants.
  • The BCPM (science) GPAs on this chart are at time of application.  Many younger students have more modest grades early on and build an upward trend.
  • Numbers are only half the picture. How well you describe your narrative in the written aspects of your application, how well you demonstrate the AAMC Core Competencies, how well you perform on the pre-interview situational judgement test (CASPer), and how well you interview in both traditional and MMI formats are all important.  These are all skills you can build.
  • Rising seniors with a BCPM GPA < 3.4 may be well advised to spend an additional year building their portfolios before applying.

What if my grades, MCAT or both are below the middle 50% for my target medical schools?

Holistic review is real, and students with lower grades and MCAT can be successful applicants. See your prehealth advisor to develop a strategy.

Timeline for PreHealth Students

There is no right or best timeline for preparing for medical school. That being said, some general guidelines...

Students Join the PreHealth Listserv

In August, all incoming students are invited to join the PreHealth listserv for upcoming events, information, and programming notifications.

PreHealth Advisors assigned Sophomore Spring

Students who registered on the PreHealth Listserv will receive a PreHealth advisor assignment in January, as well as an invitation to an Information session about what to expect in the year ahead. Students who decide on health care later should email

To Gap Year OR Not to Gap Year

Half of our students take at least one gap year, a gap year is never a disadvantage. Students who do not opt for a gap year have a lot to do before June after the Junior year including: take all required coursework for the MCAT, take the MCAT, secure three strong faculty recommendations (including two from science faculty), develop a portfolio of evidence of a strong interest in the welfare of others , and engage in enough clinical experience to demonstrate a mature and thoughtful choice of vocation.

Gap Year Stories

Required Programming: Official MyPreHealth Assessment Meeting

In the year leading up to application to medical school (maybe senior year, maybe after graduation, maybe junior year), students will work closely with prehealth advisors and staff to craft application narratives. Our fall break program (Break into Medical School), an official MyPreHealth Final Review meeting, Personal Statement Workshops; and the Junior Jumpstart program are all part of executing an excellent application. A PIR/Final Assessment meeting by the end of April is a REQUIREMENT for our institutional letter of introduction and endorsement. All medical schools expect this institutional letter; other health care graduate programs vary in expectations.

Application to Medical School happens in June

No matter what year you plan to apply, it must be in June. We have statistical evidence that applying later in the summer puts you at a disadvantage.

PreHealth FAQs

What courses are recommended if you want to go into health policy-making? What's the recommended timeline for taking courses? Can you take courses pass/fail? What about your GPA? Can PreMeds do Study Abroad? Learn the answers to all these questions and more on our FAQ page.

Visit the FAQ

Entrance Exams

A pre-professional entrance exam, such as, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), Dental Admission Test (DAT), Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) are an important component of your professional school application. You should study extensively and sit for these exams when best prepared. If needed, you can consult your prehealth advisor to best determine exam timing.

MCAT scores are valid for 2-3 years, depending on the school.

Students considering multiple gap years:
Taking the MCAT before April of your Junior year may limit the schools you can apply to without retaking the MCAT. Check your State School(s) and any other programs that you're particularly interested in.

Learn More About Test Prep

Application Submission, Letters of Recommendation and Interviews

Students submit AMCAS (the common application for medical school) in June.  AMCAS spends several weeks verifying your application before forwarding to medical schools at the end of June.  When medical schools receive your AMCAS , they will send you secondary applications, which you will ideally return within 2 weeks of receipt.  Your letters of recommendation are attached to your application around the same time as you are returning your secondaries.  Interview offers may start appearing in your inbox as early as late August, and may continue to appear through February; some interview offers are sent as late as April.

more information on preparing for interviews


Your academic advisor is an excellent resource, or you can email Ms. Heidger, the PreHealth Program Coordinator.

Contact Ms. Heidger