Choosing Courses

When to Take Required Courses

It is a good idea to spread your requirements out, but you should complete the courses before you sit for any standardized test that requires knowledge of these disciplines, such as the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) or the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). Do not avoid requirements; take them in due course. Medical schools want you to have been challenged. We suggest taking one laboratory science course your first semester so you can adjust to the added demands of these courses and life at Tufts.

Learn More About Required Courses

AP Credits

Even if you have Advanced Placement (AP) credits for biology, chemistry and physics many medical schools will look for college-level coursework in that subject in your college transcript. You can either forfeit your AP credit and take the introductory course, or take additional intermediate or upper level courses in those subjects. For instance, if you have an AP score of 5 in chemistry, either choose to take Chemistry 11 and forfeit your AP credit or take a semester of Biology 13 first before signing up for Organic Chemistry.

Study Abroad

Studying abroad 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, check with the appropriate science department here to make sure a given course covers the material you will need to know to continue your scientific training when you get back.

Tufts and its partner institutions offer a range of Study Abroad programs through the Programs Abroad Office.

Summer Courses

If you want, you can take one of your four pre-health sequences in the summer. It is best not to take more than one of the sequences in the summer. Summer courses may or may not be the best route to pursue such requirements.

Some medical schools consider summer session courses less competitive than regular semester courses. Some think they are so compressed that you will not learn as much. Also, summer is often a time to reflect on your chosen career and get hands-on experience in the field. 

Things to Consider

  • What am I forfeiting in income or experience by taking a summer course?
  • Will this course prepare me well for future courses, standardized tests, and professional school?
  • Can I take the class at Tufts or get transfer credit at Tufts? (Use SIS’s Transfer of Credit process to request this)
  • Avoid taking a science course at a much less rigorous institution if you need to build on it at Tufts. A weak chemistry course elsewhere may not prepare you for organic chemistry at Tufts.
  • Avoid splitting courses (e.g. taking Chem 1 at home in the summer and Chem 2 at Tufts during the year).

Plan your schedule so your workload will be manageable. You will most likely overburden yourself if you sign up for three science lab courses in one semester. Pay attention to 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 start with general chemistry instead of introductory biology, as a chemistry background can help in Biology 13. Others with excellent backgrounds in biology may prefer to begin with biology. Less common, but still possible, is starting with physics. In general, be flexible, but also try to plan ahead and play to your strengths.

If You Do Poorly in a Course

On average, successful premeds at Tufts have an overall and science GPA of at least a 3.5. Very few medical schools seriously consider applicants with less than a B+ average unless you have overcome significant disadvantages. Programs leading to an MD are the most competitive; students could be competitive with a lower GPA getting into most other graduate-level health programs.

Getting a "C" or even a "D" is not going to keep you out of medical school but multiple ones may. On the other hand, 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". 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, you may consider retaking the course. Talk this over with one of the pre-health advisors. Even if you do not perform well in your early science courses, taking additional science courses might strengthen your academic records and help you become a competitive candidate.