Information for 1st and 2nd Year Students

We are excited to start working with you to help you choose courses and settle into college life. Throughout the year our office sponsors many activities to help you explore your interest in the health professions. There are also several student-run organizations that sponsor talks and meetings related to the health professions. On this page we will focus on preparation for a career as a physician; however the course requirements and application process are similar for preparing for a career as a dentist. The Guide for 1st and 2nd Year Students and other sections of this web site have more detailed information about preparing for careers in medicine, dentistry, and veterinary medicine.

Click here for the 2014-2015 Guide for 1st and 2nd Year Students

Click here for an important note for international students

You may be surprised to learn that you can major in absolutely anything and still go to medical school. Medical schools value the liberal arts education for the development of strong critical thinking and communication skills as well as cultural awareness and intellectual curiosity. There is no “best” major for premedical students. Although an interest and facility in science are natural corollaries to an interest in medicine, many students prepare for medical school while pursuing a non-science major. If you think you may want to do biomedical research, however, there can be a distinct advantage to majoring in science.

Because there is no “standard” premedical track at Bryn Mawr,  students have the autonomy to develop their own academic plans in consultation with their dean, faculty advisors, and the prehealth advisor. Ultimately you should major in a subject that captures your intellectual passion. If you are thinking about spending a semester abroad it is important to meet with the prehealth advisor early in your college career in order to discuss possible academic plans.

Background on recent changes to medical and premedical education

This is an exciting time to be entering the medical profession.  Advances in technology such as genomics and bioinformatics and emphasis on public health issues highlight the need for physicians to have a strong background in natural, behavioral, and social sciences.  Over the past several years the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) have been reviewing medical school and premedical education.  Their goal is to provide a conceptual and skill-based framework for lifelong learning and the practice of medicine.

The recommendations from the AAMC and the HHMI review are summarized in a report entitled “Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians,” which outlines a set of scientific competencies and quantitative skills that should be mastered by premedical students.  This report was followed by another AAMC report, "Behavioral and Social Science Foundations for Future Physicians," which advocates that it is essential for physicians to have a conceptual framework in these disciplines to understand socioeconomic and cultural determinates of health and to address health care disparities.

In response to these reports, medical schools are reviewing their premedical course requirements and some have already responded by introducing changes to their course requirements. It is not clear yet what impact these changes will have on specific premedical course requirements at individual medical schools, but it is clear that Bryn Mawr College is very involved in making plans for these changes.  Representatives from the science faculty, the prehealth advisors, and the Provost have been meeting regularly to discuss these developments in premedical education.  In addition, the prehealth advisors from Bryn Mawr regularly attend national meetings with representatives from the AAMC and medical schools.  The prehealth advisor will continue to keep students informed as new information becomes available.

Premedical course requirements

Currently for most medical schools, by the time you apply you must have completed the following courses:





  • ONE YEAR OF ENGLISH (one semester of the Emily Balch Seminar plus one additional writing intensive course that can be completed at any time prior to graduation)

Notes on additional premedical course requirements

Science: Many medical schools require or strongly recommend one or two additional upper level science courses. A listing of these schools and their requirements can be accessed from the web site section on Advanced Science and Math Requirements . We strongly recommend that non-science major premedical students take 1-2 upper level biology courses in addition to the core premedical science requirements, specifically at least one course in biochemistry.

AP and IB credits in the sciences: Because medical schools want to see that you can handle college level science and laboratory work, at a minimum you should take as many college level science courses as are listed in the premedical requirements. If you have AP or IB credits, this often means that you may take upper level science courses instead of introductory courses, but sometimes the science departments will still recommend that students take the Bryn Mawr introductory science courses. If you have AP or IB credit in a science, speak to the prehealth advisor about the best choices for your individual situation.

Math: The math requirement varies from medical school to medical school. Some schools do not require any math; many require one semester of calculus; some require a course in statistics; and very few require two semesters of calculus. Approximately 35% of the US medical schools have math requirements. You should discuss whether or not to take calculus with your dean or faculty advisor and the prehealth advisor. If you are thinking about majoring in a science, calculus may be an important course to take. A listing of medical schools with math requirements can be accessed from the Advanced Science and Math Requirements page.

AP and IB credits in math: Although most medical schools will accept AP and IB credits to satisfy the premedical math requirement, some state medical schools do not accept AP or IB credits. If you have AP or IB credit for calculus or statistics, please see the prehealth advisor for more information about the policies for medical schools in your home state.

Miscellaneous other course requirements:
Some medical schools have very specific course requirements in social sciences and humanities. The Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR), published online annually by the AAMC, includes information about course prerequisites.  It is important to meet with the prehealth advisor early in your college career to discuss course requirements at medical schools in your home state.

General advice about academic planning

  • We advise students not to take two lab sciences during the first semester of their first year in college. Students need to time to adjust to a college workload and to develop a balanced approach to academics and extracurricular life. Do not rush through the premedical requirements and do not overextend yourself at the outset of college.
  • Take few (or no) credit/no credit courses. Medical schools look for applicants who have consistently challenged themselves. You must take all of the premedical requirements for a grade.
  • Plan to take the premedical science courses at Bryn Mawr or Haverford. If you are thinking about taking a summer science course, consult the prehealth advisor. In general premedical requirements cannot be taken abroad.

Fitting the premedical requirements into your schedule

There are many different ways to complete the premedical requirements. You should work out your own personal ‘best plan’ by talking with your dean and the prehealth advisor. Your primary goal while at Bryn Mawr should be to explore as many areas of interest as you reasonably can; you may complete the premedical requirements in the next four years--or when you are 30 years old, but you will never have a chance to repeat your liberal arts education at Bryn Mawr.

Approximately 80% of the medical school applicants from Bryn Mawr apply to medical school after graduating from college. This pattern reflects a national trend of students taking time in-between college and medical school for other pursuits.  This period of time is often referred to as a glide year(s). In addition, applying after graduation enables the applicant to present a complete college record including senior year work, any graduation honors, senior thesis information, and senior year extracurricular accomplishments to medical schools. See the section on Medicine for more information about the application time line and taking a glide year.

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

The MCAT is a standardized test required for admission by all medical schools. The computer-based test is offered several times per year between January and September at testing centers throughout the United States. The MCAT is sponsored by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). The AAMC's MCAT web site provides comprehensive information about the content of the test, study materials, and registration information.

In April 2011 the AAMC released MR5: 5th Comprehensive Review of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which is a draft report of recommendations for changes in content coverage and format of the MCAT. The changes to the MCAT will be implemented in 2015. Students can learn more about the 2015 MCAT at the official AAMC MCAT2015 information page or on the MCAT page within this web site.  The prehealth advisor will continue to provide new information about the changes to the MCAT as it becomes available. 

Every October the Office of Health Professions Advising holds an MCAT information session at which we review the format of the test and discuss various study methods. Usually junior and senior premedical students attend the information session, but all students are welcome. Premedical students typically take the MCAT in the late spring or early summer of the year that they are applying to medical school.

The importance of state residency in the admissions process

Your state of residence is an important factor in the medical school admissions process. Many medical schools reserve the majority of their seats for in-state residents therefore you should plan your premedical course work around the requirements of your state medical school(s).  Some state medical schools have specific requirements for upper level science courses or courses from the social sciences.  You should meet with the prehealth advisor early in your college career to review the prerequisite courses for your state medical school.

Learning about the medical profession

Becoming a physician and practicing medicine requires significant personal sacrifice and commitment. You should definitely explore medicine from as many perspectives as possible to be certain that it is the right career for you. While at Bryn Mawr you can take advantage of opportunities to volunteer in hospitals and clinics, attend seminars by physicians, and participate in “focus groups”, which are informal student-run clubs devoted to exploring specific areas in medicine. You can also take advantage of the externships available through the Career and Professional Development (CPD) Office.  Externships are opportunities for you to “shadow” a Bryn Mawr alumna who is a health professional during winter or spring break.

Stay informed about campus events related to the health professions

The Prehealth Listserv:  Be sure that your name is added to the Prehealth Listserv. Much useful information will be sent out as e-mail over this listserv including announcements about special events on campus, research and internship opportunities, application deadlines, etc. The undergraduate student Prehealth Society also announces its meetings and activities over the listserv.

To subscribe to the prehealth listserv go to the website: . Choose the subscription page, scroll down to and select Prehealth-l. Complete the subscription form using your Bryn Mawr e-mail address. After you submit the subscription form, your request will be sent to the listserv moderator for final approval. You can unsubscribe from the prehealth listserv at anytime by logging back into the subscription page, and completing a form at the bottom.

Important information for International Students

While admission to medical, dental, and veterinary school can be challenging for even the best students, international students who are not U. S. permanent residents face additional challenges. It is extremely difficult for a non U.S. citizen who is not a permanent resident to secure a place in medical, dental or veterinary school as well as many other health professional schools.  Many medical, dental and veterinary schools will not accept applications from non-U. S. citizens.

In 2013 only 115 international students matriculated into allopathic US medical schools, thereby representing 0.5 % of the entering medical students.
(115 international matriculants / 20,055 total matriculants in the US)

The medical schools that consider applications without reference to citizenship will usually require accepted foreign applicants to pay their tuition up front; sometimes as much as four years’ tuition will need to be paid in advance of starting medical school. The cost of a four year medical education ranges from $150,000 – $250,000. Because non U.S. citizens are not eligible for U. S. government loans and other U.S. government-sponsored financial aid, the “up-front payment” requirement can make it very difficult for an international student to pay for medical school--even if she is accepted.

Information about which U.S. medical schools accept international students can be found in Medical School Admissions Requirements (onilne access can be purchased from the AAMC).  International students face very similar challenges in gaining admission to dental and veterinary schools and many other graduate schools in the health professions.

Note: For admissions purposes most medical schools do not differentiate between U.S. citizens and non-citizens who are permanent residents.