Frequently Asked Questions

What courses are required?

Most medical, dental and veterinary and other clinical health professions schools share a standard list of requirements that includes Bio 13 and 14, Chem 1 or 11 and 2 or 12, and Phys 1 or 11 and 2 or 12. Medical schools now will generally accept Tufts’ accelerated chemistry sequence that includes one semester of organic chemistry (Chem 51/53) and one semester of biochemistry, while dental and vet schools are mostly still requiring Chem 51/53 and Chem 52/54. All must be taken with laboratory and for a letter grade.

Chem 1 – offered each fall, spring and summer
MUST BE TAKEN BEFORE
Chem 2 – offered each fall, spring and summer

Bio 13 – offered each fall only
IS NOT A PREREQUISITE FOR
Bio 14 – offered each spring only

Organic Chem 51/53 – offered each fall, spring and summer

Bio 152 – Biochemistry offered each spring and summer
          OR
Chem 171- Biochemistry offered each spring

Physics 1 – offered each fall and summer
MUST BE TAKEN BEFORE PHYS 2
Physics 2 – offered each spring and summer
          OR
Physics 11 – offered each fall, spring and summer (calc based)
Physics 12 – offered each fall, spring and summer (calc based)

Visit this section of our website to see specific requirements for other health professions.

What about biochemistry?

Both Bio 152 and Chem 171 (cross-listed as Bio 171) will teach you biochemistry, help prepare you for the MCAT, and satisfy the requirement that any health professions school has. You should choose based on major requirements, scheduling issues, and the approach you take to learning science.

What about other sciences?

Non-science majors should consider taking one or more additional biology courses numbered higher than 13 and 14 to strengthen their backgrounds for future study in the health professions. Suggested topics include genetics, cell bio, physiology, neurobiology and endocrinology.

What about behavioral sciences?

You should have exposure to behavioral determinants of health through coursework in psychology, community health, sociology or anthropology, among other departments. These variables play a critical role in health and healthcare delivery. Behavioral Science is now a section on the MCAT as well.

What about math?

There is decreasing emphasis on calculus and increasing emphasis on statistics and research methods in health professions graduate programs. One semester of calculus credit, or a single course itself, is more than sufficient for pre-health requirements (your chosen major may require more than this.) A semester of statistics from any department is highly recommended and increasingly required.

Statistics is taught in a number of departments at Tufts including Biology (Bio 132), Child Development (CD 140), Community Health (31 and 136), Economics (Ec 13), Math (Math 21), Political Science (PS 130), Psychology (Psych 31) and Sociology (Soc 101).

There is no calculus on the standardized tests for the health professions. It is most important for students to have strong college algebra skills to perform well in their science courses and in the required standardized test.

What about English?

Most health professions graduate programs require some English/writing courses. To earn a Tufts degree you need at least one (Engineering) or two (Arts and Sciences) writing courses. If you fulfill that requirement through pre-matriculation credits such AP you are probably fine, but it is never a bad idea to take more courses that allow you to improve your writing.

What other courses should I consider?

Health professions schools value broadly-educated applicants. They know the importance of understanding other people and cultures gained by courses such as psychology, anthropology and sociology. Understanding the behavioral determinants of health is important for pre-health students. Students who have studied literature, art and music have insight into the human condition and human emotion. And those who speak another language have an excellent additional communication skill. Explore all that Tufts has to offer and develop your own interests and passions. You should make the most of your education as a curious, informed, open-minded and critical thinking individual who will be an excellent candidate for the health professions.

Tufts also has a rich array of classes aimed at providing a broad understanding of health. Most notably, the Community Health Department offers a wonderful list of courses that can heighten your awareness of health issues.

Should I use my AP or other pre-matriculation credits for science requirements?

Health professions schools will want to see how you perform in college science classes. Hence if you choose to use your AP or other pre-matriculation credits, you will be taking additional courses in that subject. For example, if you have an AP score of 5 in Biology and use it to fulfill Bio 14, then you will be taking at least one other biology course numbered higher than Bio 13 and 14 at some point before applying to health professions school.

Click here for a chart of AP and other pre-matriculation credits and suggestions.

When should I take all of my required courses?

It is a good idea to spread these courses out, but you should complete the requirements before you sit for any standardized test that requires knowledge of these disciplines (e.g. the MCAT or DAT.) Do not avoid requirements; take them in due course. Note above which semesters courses are offered and which ones are sequential. Medical schools want you to have been challenged. However, it is best to take only one laboratory science course your first semester until you adjust to the added demands of these courses and life at Tufts.

Summer courses may or may not be the best route to pursue such requirements as organic chemistry or physics. Some medical schools feel that summer session courses are not as competitive as regular semester courses (therefore the grade may not mean as much) or that they are so compressed that you will not learn as much. Also, summer is often a time for much needed serious reflection about your chosen career as well as important experience in the field. However, sometimes scheduling demands a summer course. If so, look for a quality course. Take it at Tufts or seek transfer credit here through the on-line "Transfer of Credit" process on WebCenter.

When planning your schedule, do not overburden yourself (i.e. by taking three science lab courses at once), and keep in mind when courses are offered. For example, Biology 13 is only offered in the fall, and certain courses sometimes overlap in time blocks. Many first year premeds prefer to begin college by taking general chemistry instead of introductory biology, as a chemistry background may be desirable for Biology 13. Others come with excellent backgrounds in biology and prefer to begin with biology. Less common, but still possible, is starting with physics. In general, be flexible, but also try to plan ahead.

Doubling Up:

Many pre-health students take two lab sciences at the same time. It is important to make an objective decision on whether or not you are capable of doing well in two lab sciences simultaneously. What others do, or tell you to do, is irrelevant. What is important is your background and history. If you have been able to do well in a single lab science (at least a B+) then you can consider taking two the following semester. Do not do this because you feel you have to catch–up. Some things to consider:

Lab is time-consuming. Physics lab is the least time-consuming, meeting only alternate weeks. Organic lab is most time-consuming; hence it is listed as a separate course with credit.

Summer Courses:

It is not a problem to take one of your four pre-health sequences in the summer. It is best not to do more than that.

Things to consider: what am I forfeiting (e.g. valuable health experience, income); will this course prepare me well for future courses, standardized tests, and professional school; can I get transfer credit at Tufts (use SIS to request this)?

Avoid taking a science at a much less rigorous institution if you need to build on it at Tufts. In other words, a weak chemistry course elsewhere may cause problems as you take organic chemistry at Tufts. Also, avoid splitting courses (e.g. taking Chem 1 at home in the summer and Chem 2 at Tufts during the year is a poor plan.)

Should I double-up in sciences?

Many pre-health students take two lab sciences at the same time. It is important to make an objective decision on whether or not you are capable of doing well in two lab sciences simultaneously. What others do, or tell you to do, is irrelevant. What is important is your background and history. If you have been able to do well in a single lab science (at least a B+) then you can consider taking two the following semester. Do not do this because you feel you have to catch–up. Some things to consider: 

Lab is time-consuming. Physics lab is the least time-consuming, meeting only alternate weeks. Organic lab is most time-consuming; hence it is listed as a separate course with credit.

What about summer courses?

It is not a problem to take one of your four pre-health sequences in the summer. It is best not to do more than that.

Things to consider: what am I forfeiting (e.g. valuable health experience, income); will this course prepare me well for future courses, standardized tests, and professional school; can I get transfer credit at Tufts (use SIS to request this)? Avoid taking a science at a much less rigorous institution if you need to build on it at Tufts. In other words, a weak chemistry course elsewhere may cause problems as you take organic chemistry at Tufts. Also, avoid splitting courses (e.g. taking Chem 1 at home in the summer and Chem 2 at Tufts during the year is a poor plan.) 

What should I major in?

There is no "premed major" at Tufts; this is true of all selective colleges and universities. Medical and other health professions schools look for a well-balanced college program, and do not favor one major over another. Statistically, biology majors comprise at least half of the applicant pool but statistically they have a slightly lower rate of admission than many other majors, including many non-science majors. In fact, some Admissions officers may find someone who has majored in a non-science area and still done well in the premedical requirements to be more interesting.

Major in what excites you; chances are you will do your best and enjoy your time at Tufts more by concentrating in an area you enjoy. If you do choose a science major, remain well-rounded by taking a variety of courses outside your major. If you major in a non-science, be certain to demonstrate your science aptitude by performing well in your premedical courses. It is advisable to elect some additional biology courses numbered above 13 and 14 if you are a non-science major to allow for a smoother transition to your graduate studies. Most commonly recommended courses include genetics, cell biology, molecular biology, physiology, and microbiology. If you are inclined to double major, be aware it will greatly reduce your freedom to take electives, and not necessarily impress admissions officers.

Can I study abroad?

Students are strongly encouraged to investigate study abroad options if they are so inclined. This experience will enrich your education and your application. Many students take time away from their science requirements to study language, history, art, etc. while abroad. If you do want to take sciences abroad, it is important to check with the appropriate science department here to insure that a given course is comparable and therefore covers the material you need to know. In general, it is important to plan ahead if you hope to study abroad.

All Tufts students considering study abroad should attend or listen online to a First Steps Information Session (offered by the Programs Abroad Office throughout the year at different times and places), and should consult the publications Explore the World with Tufts (Tufts programs) and/or Tufts Guidelines for Study Abroad (non-Tufts programs). Subsequent to that, there is information on the Program Abroad website. Please note that students who go on Tufts’ own programs abroad take their financial aid with them.

What if I do poorly in a premed required course?

A "C" or "D" is not going to keep you out of medical school but multiple ones may. The average successful premed at Tufts has an overall and science GPA of at least a 3.6. While an average reflects both higher and lower GPAs, very few medical schools seriously consider applicants with less than a B+ average unless there are significant disadvantages that the applicant has overcome. Programs leading to an MD degree are currently the most competitive; students interested in most of the other health professions could be competitive with a slightly lower GPA.

You do not have to have a 4.0 GPA to gain admission. Attributes other than grades are also important. However, if you are getting a "D" or an "F" in a course, talk to your instructor early to find out how you can turn around your performance. If it is clear that your final grade is going to be that poor, talk to your advisor (and your parents) about dropping or withdrawing from the course. A '"W" will always be on your transcript but it is still better than a ''D" or an "F" in a single incident. Multiple "W"'s are not ideal either, but again, they are generally preferable to a very low grade.

If you do earn a poor, but passing, final grade in a course, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether or not it is best to retake the course. At that point, you should discuss this with one of the health professions advisors. Students who do not perform well in their early science courses, but still wish to pursue a medical degree, can take additional science courses to strengthen their academic records and become competitive candidates.

Should I remain premed if I am unhappy?

Keep in mind that being premed is not directly related to medical school or the practice of medicine. If you are frustrated by the long hours of study and your requirements are not stimulating, do not just give up. Determine for yourself whether you really want to become a physician. This takes more than just saying you have always wanted to be a doctor. Speak to doctors, work in a health care setting, and if you really have your heart set on medicine go for it! But be prepared for sacrifices.

On the other hand, remember that medical students and physicians work extremely hard (much harder than premeds) and the first two years of medical school are primarily very rigorous science courses. The lesson to be learned is that if you want to be a physician, and you can tolerate hard work, pressure and time constraints, and can do the sciences, then you should pursue your goal.

Remember that there are many other health professions that may offer what you are seeking without some of the drawbacks you are experiencing. Do yourself a favor and seriously investigate the other health professions.