Health Professions Advising FAQs
There is no "premed major" at Tufts; this is true of many 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.
Health professions schools will want to see how you perform in college science classes, which is why we strongly advise students to opt to NOT use AP credit for prerequisite coursework in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics. Additionally, professional school policies regarding the acceptance of AP credit to satisfy required science coursework varies considerably, which further complicates the admissions process for students.
If you choose to use your AP or other pre-matriculation credits, you will need to consider taking additional courses in that subject. Make sure to view the Registrar's information about exam equivalencies for more information.
Biology: If you have an AP score of 5 in Biology, you can use it to fulfill either Bio 13 or Bio 14. You should take at least one other biology course numbered higher than Bio 13 and 14, such as Genetics, Cell Biology, etc., before applying to health professions school.
Chemistry: If you have an AP score of 5 in Chemistry, you can use it to fulfill Chem 1 and 2, but moving straight into college-level Organic Chemistry can be very challenging for some students. We generally advise students to either use their AP credit for Chem 1 and enroll in Chem 2, or to give up their AP credit entirely and enroll in Chem 11 and 12. We encourage students to speak with a health professions advisor and faculty in the Chemistry Department if they want to discuss their options.
Physics: Students with AP credit in Physics 1 should plan on taking Physics 2 and another science course that has Physics 1/11 or 2/12 as a prerequisite, such as Physical Chemistry.
As with all professional school prerequisite courses, we strongly encourage students to research the requirements at each school to which they hope to apply in order to make sure that all requirements have been satisfied according to each program's individual policies.
While many programs share similar requirements, the only way to know for certain is to review the specific school websites. In cases where you are not sure where you will apply, consider researching schools in areas you may be interested in living, or programs that you have heard of in the past. Researching schools, even if you ultimately apply elsewhere, is time well spent as you will learn a great deal about what you may be looking for in a medical school.
It’s always best to start by checking the school website. Schools often have clear and concise information on the website. If you still find yourself with questions, reach out via email or phone to the school directly.
Research is not a requirement to get into medical school, but if you are interested in research, it is definitely a valuable experience that many medical schools view as a plus.
Most medical, dental, veterinary and other clinical health professions schools share a standard list of requirements that includes Bio 13 and 14; Chem 1 or 11, Chem 2 or 12; Organic Chem 51/53, and Bio 152 or Chem 171 (cross-listed as Bio 171); Physics 1 or 11 and Physics 2 or 12. Medical schools 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.
If using pre-matriculation credits for any of this coursework, it is always a good idea to take additional upper level coursework. Additionally, if any Chemistry courses were taken outside of Tufts, of if prematriculation credits were awarded for Chem 1 and/or Chem 2, then we strongly recommend these students to take Chem 52/54.
Visit this section of our website to see specific requirements for other health professions.
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 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.
Most medical schools require two semesters of organic chemistry with lab. However, Tufts’ Chemistry Department is unique while still keeping with the American Chemical Society recommendations, the Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians report published by the AAM and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the MCAT2015. Tufts students begin organic chemistry at the end of the introductory year of chemistry, have an exclusive semester of organic with lab that includes all those topics relevant to biochemistry and then move directly to biochemistry. We have been successfully preparing students for medical school with this curriculum for over five years. The current sequence is as follows: Chem 1, Chem 2, Chem 51/53 and Biochemistry (either Bio 152 or Chem 171). Chem 11 and 12 can be substituted for Chem 1 and 2.
We explain this sequence in the letter packets we send to medical schools. The sequence is universally accepted, even when schools' requirements may include two semesters of organic chemistry.
We strongly advise students to take all 4 of these classes at Tufts, given the unique nature of our sequence.
Pre-dental, pre-vet, and students pursuing professional school programs that require two semesters of organic chemistry are advised to take both semesters of organic chemistry (Chem 51/53 and Chem 52/54) along with the one semester of 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.
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.
Many medical schools and other health professions schools require two courses in English, but many are flexible and accept the various ways Tufts students fulfill our writing requirement. Tufts requires its Arts and Sciences students to fulfill a two course Writing Foundation requirement as a minimum for graduation. While students will almost certainly do more writing in additional coursework, these two requirements are never waived.
Students fulfill the Writing Foundation requirement in several ways:
- Completing English 1 (Expository Writing) and English 2 (College Writing Seminar)
- Completing English 1 and Philosophy 1 (a writing-intensive seminar equivalent to Eng 2)
- Completing English 1 with a grade of A or A-
- Completing English 3 and English 4, if the student is a non-native speaker
- Earning a score of 760 on the SAT writing exam and English 2
- Earning a score of 5 on the Advanced Placement Test in English Language and Composition or English Literature and Composition; an A on the British A-Levels; or a score of seven on the Higher Level International Baccalaureate.
If you are using prematriculation credits to fulfill the writing requirement, it is generally advisable to take an additional writing course to demonstrate proficiency in written communication. This does not need to be in the English department but could be in another department such as history, philosophy, or political science. As with all professional school prerequisite courses, we strongly encourage students to research the requirements at each school to which they hope to apply in order to make sure that all requirements have been satisfied according to each program's individual policies.
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.
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 may want to 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.
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.)
There is decreasing emphasis on calculus and increasing emphasis on statistics and research methods in health professions graduate programs. Students with AP credit in calculus may not need to take additional calculus courses (some majors may require more than this, however). 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 on the required standardized tests.
As with all professional school prerequisite courses, we strongly encourage students to research the requirements at each school to which they hope to apply in order to make sure that all requirements have been satisfied according to each program's individual policies.
No. As part of your major, you are required to take BME 33, 34, 44, and 45. The BME department, in conjunction with the Biology department and the Health Professions Advising Office determined that BME 33 and BME 44 will cover these topics.
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. Do not break up the four course Tufts pre-health chemistry sequence if at all possible. It is somewhat unique to Tufts and builds on itself. If you take one or two of the courses elsewhere we cannot present our Tufts chemistry sequence as fulfilling your pre-health requirement.
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 introductory biology course may cause problems as you take additional biology such as genetics or physiology, etc.
If you take a course at Tufts, it is on your Tufts transcript the same as your fall and spring courses. The course automatically fulfills whatever requirement is coded in SIS. The grade is on your transcript and becomes part of your GPA and can be used among the courses considered for Latin honors.
If you take the course elsewhere you will have another school’s official transcript that you will have to send to med, dent, vet, etc. schools. The course will not be transferred to Tufts unless you use the Request a Transfer Credit process in SIS. If approved, the credit will be added to your Tufts transcript but not the grade – it will not impact your Tufts GPA nor be used for Latin honors. It will not be used to fulfill any specific requirement – e.g. distribution, major, etc. – unless you take an additional step to get approval.
As we continue to adjust in the era of COVID, it is still important to weigh the pros and cons of summer courses. Consider these questions below:
*Are there other productive or meaningful activities you can do this summer to help you grow and learn, and perhaps make a difference to others? (see our list of COVID specific volunteer opportunities, check out Tuft's Career Center for additional resources, or sign up for our weekly newsletter, Health E News for a list of updated opportunities).
*Are you ready to focus on school work again after having just completed a stressful semester?
*Does it make sense financially to take a summer course?
We often post opportunities in our weekly newsletter, Health-E-News, so make sure you are signed up to receive it. Additionally, you can also find opportunities on Handshake or other sites like Idealist.org that post by field and region. Also, don't forget to check out the Tufts Career Center. View the Career Office group session for pre-health students to learn more.
Volunteering, internships, paid employment, research, and lab work can all contribute to your informed motivation for becoming a healthcare professional. Shadowing can be beneficial but is very difficult to obtain due to liability issues. Other clinical experiences that bring you in direct contact with patient populations is also very beneficial. No matter what type of clinical experience you obtain, you should strive to engage with physicians and other providers in conversation, when appropriate. These conversations can lead to meaningful relationships and offer insights into your intended profession that you may not otherwise gain. Our Canvas course has a module on this topic specifically. Also, consider the AAMC competencies to think more fully about what medical schools are looking for in their candidates.
Absolutely! From pre-med, to pre-dent and beyond, Tufts is home to an array of pre health orgs, including the pre-vet and pre-PA society. For a full list of organizations on campus, check out the HPA Canvas course.
Applications to medical and dental schools both include an activities section, which you will compete as part of your application submission. In most cases, the activities section will be used in place of a resume.
There is no formal documentation required for activities, but you will be asked to include an estimate of your hours by experience as well as the contact information of your supervisor. It’s good practice to track your hours yourself so you can report accurately. If estimating, please be conservative as overestimating can be seen as dishonest.
Disciplinary or Institutional Action
An institutional action is any disciplinary action whatsoever taken by your school or school official in response to either academic or conduct issues. You will be asked if any action has been taken by any college or university against you in your HPRC registration, in the centralized application, and by individual schools. It is critical that you respond honestly. Dishonesty or lack of full disclosure is far more serious than virtually any institutional action that may have been taken.
Even if an action is not noted on your transcript, it must still be reported. Again, dishonesty or lack of full disclosure is far more serious than virtually any institutional action that may have been taken.
A "C" 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 "C-", "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 "C-", ''D" or an "F" in a single incident. Multiple "W"'s are not ideal either, as this may convey an inability to learn from past mistakes, setbacks, or course loads that are too difficult for you to manage.
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.
Consider these two points.
First, are you certain you have an accurate idea of how you are doing in the course and what your current grade may be? Faculty are working very hard to make the transition to online teaching, and adapt to the circumstances. Read your Canvas site carefully so you are sure you have an accurate assessment of your status.
Second, you should be aware that if a student earns credit for a course at Tufts, even if the grade is a pass, they may not retake that course for credit. So, if you choose pass/fail rather than withdrawal, you will not be able to retake the course for credit. Keep in mind these courses are required because they build the necessary foundation for your future health professions studies. In most cases, they are also tested on the standardized test you will take. Are you sure you will have the understanding and foundation you need if you keep a course in which you have only earned a C- or D?
Medical schools want to see that you have challenged yourself academically. Premed required science courses must be taken for letter grade.
In cases where students have not demonstrated competency in the science requirements, it is wise to consider an MBS program (sometimes referred to as a record enhancer program). MBS programs such as the one at Tufts are intended to help students strengthen their academic credentials before applying to medical, dental, or other health sciences schools
Yes. You have to submit transcripts of all college work you have attempted or completed from all colleges.
HPRC Specific Questions
Letter packets are uploaded starting July 1st. Once uploaded they are available for review by the schools where you have applied. Please note, the July 1st date is not “late” for the process. Applicants for both medical and dental schools must first be verified, a process that can take a few weeks from the time of submission. Additionally, both medical and dental programs have a set date in late June at the earliest as to when they start reviewing applications.
First and foremost, be considerate and respectful. Letters writers are often writing multiple letters for students who are applying to an array of programs all at the same time. When emailing them, be sure to acknowledge their work load and ask if there is anything you can provide them to help facilitate the process. It is ok to note an upcoming deadline and ask if the timing still works for them. This allows you with real time information to make changes or updates as needed. If you find yourself unable to connect to a letter writer - consider your resources. Is it possible to check in with an admin coordinator if they are faculty? And ultimately, always consider your options and plan for alternatives in the case you need to make quick changes/decisions.
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. We encourage pre-health students to take their science prerequisites in the U.S., which is preferred by many professional schools and required by others. If you do decide to take science prerequisites abroad, it is important to check with the appropriate science department here at Tufts 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.
A gap year is a term used when applicants apply to start health profession school one or more years after completing their undergraduate studies. There are variety of reasons you might decide to take at least one gap year and pre-health advisors can help you determine whether taking one or more gap years could be beneficial for you. We encourage all of our applicants to consider taking one or more gap years and approximately 75% of our applicants do so. Pre-health advisors can help you plan your application timeline and provide you with recommendations about what to do during your gap year(s) based on what you accomplish during your undergraduate career.
You can view responses to other FAQs by visiting our database.
Check out the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) available from AAMC here.
COVID-19 Pre-health Advising FAQs
At the onset and height of the pandemic, many colleges and universities made significant changes to instruction and academic policies. Many institutions transitioned to fully remote or hybrid learning, adopted P/F or EP/F grading policies, and even briefly discontinued lab courses. Due to this, many health professions schools also made temporary adjustments to their admissions requirements, including considering applicants who had no other option but to take some of their prerequisite courses online or for a P/F or EP/F grade. However, with the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines and the transition back to in-person learning at colleges and universities across the country, professional schools have begun reverting back to their original policies. Most students who started college in the fall of 2021 and on will be expected to have completed their prerequisite and other science coursework for a letter grade, and to have taken these courses in-person.
As with many aspects of the application process to health professions schools, it is up to each applicant to research the programs they wish to apply to in order to make themselves aware of admissions policies and to ensure they have satisfied them all prior to applying. When visiting each school's program website, be sure to look for information about policies that may have been changed or updated due to the pandemic.
- MCAT Coronavirus FAQ page
- AAMC Services (for MD) Coronavirus page
- AACOMAS (for DO): click on the Coronavirus updates link on this page
- A message for applicants in the 2020-2021 AACOMAS Application cycle. Visit the AACOM COVID-19 Resource page for further updates.
- TMDSAS (Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service) - no updates as of 3/20/2020, but check back here
COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
We strongly recommend keeping your pre-health requirements as letter-graded. Ideally, you would also keep your other course work as letter graded. The EP/F grading policy should not be utilized as an opportunity to boost your GPA, but rather for extenuating circumstances due to COVID that may impact your academics. This may mean using tutoring and office hour resources that you have not used in the past. Making this choice can be an indicator that you are resilient, can deal with unforeseen circumstances, and are a good self-directed learner. Consider the AAMC competencies that health profession admissions officers want to see in their applicants.
Additionally, students are strongly advised to discuss their decisions regarding EP/F grading with their advisors. It is recommended students wait until after midterms to determine if this is an appropriate course of action. Once a student submits a form to change a course grading method to EP/F, it cannot be undone. The deadline to opt in for EP/F grading is 3pm (EST) on May 5, 2021.
The AS&E faculty have voted on some special exceptions to academic policy for spring 2021. You can review full information on the Academic Policy Exceptions for Undergraduate Students: Spring 2021 webpage.
Many activities and opportunities to gain meaningful experiences were suspended at the height of the pandemic. Since the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine requirements, many organizations, including hospitals and clinics, have begun welcoming volunteers and student-workers back. For some, there are still lingering concerns about contracting COVID-19, particularly for those who may live with or take care of compromised family members. For these folks, it’s vitally important to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy. Community needs are still high, especially for vulnerable populations, and you can help by volunteering virtually.
This is a good time to read, listen to podcasts and watch documentaries related to become a health professional – all of these can provide insight into your chosen profession. You can still look for summer or fall opportunities (through Handshake, Linkedin, etc.) but be prepared for slow response times, and for the possibility that these, too, may be canceled.
Prehealth advisors across the country worked hard on compiling a document with many suggestions and tips.
Here are a few other suggestions:
- Think about offering to do errands for an elderly neighbor, or offering tutoring or childcare to working parents whose day care centers and schools have closed
- Offer to help families who are healthcare providers who may not be off work when stores are open, particularly if they are working overtime
- Get involved with the initiative to make facemasks for healthcare workers
- Donate at a Blood Bank near you
If you are still in the Boston area, here are some local volunteer opportunities to consider:
Tufts Community Response Volunteer Groups
During this unprecedented and challenging time, Tisch College and the Office of Government and Community Relations are supporting the University’s response to our communities via our online platform: Tufts Civic Impact.
Tisch College Summer COVID Response Program
Tisch College of Civic Life has announced a new program to support students who wish to aid in the COVID-19 response this summer. The Tisch Student COVID Response (TSCR) Summer Program will provide stipends for students to innovate, self-design, or work with an existing project that addresses the impacts of COVID-19. Students may address needs in their hometown community or address a broader need whether domestic or global. All work must be done remotely, and projects must directly address an issue related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Typically, medical schools discourage online coursework. All coursework at the medical and dental school level will require in person participation, so taking online courses provides a limited understanding on how a student may perform once in medical or dental school. Given the pandemic though, medical schools understand the limitations placed on students. In some cases, online coursework was the only type of coursework available. In such cases, medical schools will consider each applicant holistically and consider your circumstances individually in light of the pandemic. We're happy to chat with you about your individual situation if you have further questions.
Medical schools seek applicants who have a realistic idea of what it’ll be like to be a physician, gained in part by interacting directly with physicians. Since there are limitations to in-person interactions right now, schools are encouraging aspiring doctors to be creative in how they build this aspect of their preparation. Virtual shadowing can include having conversations with physicians about their careers, observing telehealth appointments, or attending interactive presentations organized by student organizations or the growing collection of opportunities like webshadowers.com and virtualshadowing.com (with past episodes on YouTube).
You might start with some of the passive opportunities – listening to podcasts or watching YouTube videos, then move on to reaching out to alums or physicians in your network (including your own or family members’ physicians) to see if they’ll have a quick zoom chat with you about their career. Develop a list of questions you’d like to ask so that you feel well prepared for the conversation. We have some suggestions on our handout about informational interviewing.
Keep track of the hours that you spend in these activities and write a quick summary of the key points, what you learned, new questions that you have, next steps you might take after this experience. When you apply to medical school, you can include these experiences on your application, but more importantly, you’ll have gathered new perspectives that will inform how you envision yourself in your future career, which will come through in the way you talk about your motivation for medicine in your personal statement and interviews.