Planning Your Path

Not sure which health field you want to pursue? Which courses you need to take? What you need to apply? 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 about a path that is right for you.

It's important to understand that professional program requirements can be completed alongside any major. First-year students are advised to start slowly and move into a more demanding schedule after a year, once you know exactly how much you can manage. 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.

Are you specifically interested in medical school? 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. 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.

Timeline for PreHealth Students

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

Students Join MyPreHealth

Early in the Fall semester, all incoming students are invited to join the MyPreHealth system for upcoming events, information, and programming notifications.

MyPreHealth Portal

PreHealth Advisors assigned after completion of canvas course

After the first year, students who registered in MyPreHealth will receive an announcement with a link to self enroll in the noncredit Canvas course, A Reflective Guide for Prehealth Students. Students may complete the assignments as early as the summer after their first year, or any semester after that. A PreHealth advisor is assigned after completion of the course.

Link to Canvas Course

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 Strategy 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 program (Break into Medical School), an official MyPreHealth Strategy meeting, Personal Statement Workshops; and the Junior Jumpstart program are all part of executing an excellent application. A Strategy Meeting by the end of March 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.

Link to Canvas Course

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

Course Recommendations

Specific Course Requirements vary. The following will meet requirements of most medical schools. That said, it's important to check specific requirements of institutions of which 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.

What do I need to take and when?

Many different arrangements and sequences of basic pre-requisite coursework lead to medical school, dental school and other science-intensive graduate professional programs.
See Examples of Course Schedules.

What courses do medical schools require me to take?

(MSAR) Report for Applicants and Advisors: Premed Course Requirements 2024

Which WashU courses contribute to my science GPA?

Visit our FAQs about AMCAS and TMDSAS science GPAs.


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 us.

Contact PreHealth