Frequently Asked Questions

Majors/Courses

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.

What are the general course requirements for pre-health students?

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, 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. 

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

How many semesters of organic chemistry should I take?  

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 AAMC 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 and pre-vet students are advised to take both semesters of organic chemistry (Chem 51/53 and Chem 52/54) along with the one semester of biochemistry.

Which biochemistry course should I take? Bio 152 or Chem 171?

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.

Should I also take behavioral science courses?

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.

How do I complete the English requirement?

Most medical schools require two courses in English, but many are flexible and accept the various ways Tufts students fulfill our writing requirement. Tufts requires its liberal arts 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 inEnglish 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.
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 credit or other pre-matriculation requirements for my pre-health 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. 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 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 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. Students with AP credit for Physics 1 and 2 should take an additional semester of physics coursework with a lab. 

When should I take all 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.

Is it ok to double up on science courses?

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.

Is it ok to use the summer to take required pre-health 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 if I don't do well in a required pre-health 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. 

Can I study abroad if I am a pre-health student?

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.

Are calculus and statistics courses required?

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 do 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 in the required standardized test.

I am a Biomedical Engineer Student.  Do I have to take Bio 13 and 14?

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.  

 

Clinical Experience

What options/resources can I use to find clinical opportunities?
We are always posting 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. 
What sort of activities should I be looking for in order to gain a better sense of the field? (volunteering, shadowing, internships, etc.)

Volunteering, internships, paid employment, research, lab work, they can all contribute to your informed motivation for becoming a healthcare professional.  Shadowing can be ok, but it is of relatively low value compared to experiences which bring you direct contact with patient populations. The link to experiential preparation on our website provides more detail, as does our Canvas course, where we have 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.  

 

Disciplinary or Institutional Action 

What is Institutional Action?  Do I have to report on my health professions application?
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. 
I went through the process of institutional action, but my case was dismissed and will not show up on my transcript.  Do I have to disclose this on my health professions application?

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.