FAQs

Prospective Students

How do I become a doctor (medicine, dentistry, veterinary, etc.)?

  1. You would normally go to college and receive a bachelor’s degree, usually four years.
  2. Then, you would go to medical school for another four years.
  3. After medical school, you would go on to a residency training program. This is where you actually specialize in a particular area of medicine such as Pediatrics, Surgery, Family Practice, or Radiology. Most residencies are about three years, although some can last up to nine, depending on the specialization.

Isn’t there a way to go into medical or other healthcare professional school right after high school?

  1. Not really, although there are some schools which have accelerated B.S./M.D. or other programs. You can be accepted right out of high school and enter a bachelor’s program which automatically leads you into a medical program.
  2. These programs, however, usually do not accept many students.
  3. The University of Florida has an accelerated program, called the Junior Honors Medical Program (JHMP). This program is a little different in that students may not apply for this program until the Spring of their second year of college. For more information on this program visit the JHMP web page or call (352) 273-7990.
  4. UF has a Combined BS/DMD program in the dental school. For more information on this program call (352) 273-5955. Students would apply to this program after two full semesters at UF. For more information on this program, visit the UF’s College of Dentistry’s BS/DMD page.
  5. UF College of Dentistry also has a Summer of Learning Program that provides High School Students the opportunity to explore dentistry as a profession. This program is free and is offered every summer.

What should I pick for a major when I go to college?

  1. It doesn’t matter! There is no specific major for which professional schools are looking.
  2. You should pick something you find interesting, whether it is science-related or not.
  3. It is NOT recommended that you major in a specific healthcare profession training program such as Physical Therapy or Nursing. These are professional programs which prepare you for a specific profession OTHER THAN being a doctor.

Are there certain courses I should take in high school or college?

  1. Medical schools do not require any high school courses, but they do require college courses in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and often Math and English. You do not have to take extra courses in these areas in high school if you do not want to.
  2. You SHOULD enter college with skills that will prepare you for these types of courses. You should have good analytical thinking and problem solving skills for Science and Math, and good communication skills for English.

What if I will have Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or dual enrollment credit for these courses?

While many students enter college with AP, IB, or dual enrollment credit, professional schools want to see how you perform in university level coursework. Many professional schools will accept AP and IB credit, but most expect that you will supplement it with higher level coursework in the same area. Some students may feel they do not know the material very well and may decide to retake some of the courses for which they have already earned credit. This is up to you.

How can I find out about becoming a healthcare professional OTHER than a physician?

  1. The best way to find out about a specific job, health-related or not, is to find someone who is doing that job and talk to that person. If you are interested in nursing, physical therapy, dentistry, or veterinary medicine, find a nurse, physical therapist, dentist, or veterinarian, and see if you can “shadow” that person. “Shadow” means you follow the person around and get to see what he/she does on a daily basis and talk to him/her about the job—possibly even assist!
  2. Keep in mind that some healthcare professions do NOT require a bachelor’s degree to begin training. For example, nursing, nutrition, and therapeutic recreation are undergraduate majors at the University of Florida.
  3. Other healthcare professions, such as Emergency Medical Technician, require some school, but not as much as a bachelor’s degree.
  4. Finally, dentistry, veterinary medicine, podiatry, optometry and chiropractic typically require a bachelor’s degree BEFORE entering these programs (just like medicine).
  5. You may also begin researching other healthcare professions careers by going to http://www.explorehealthcareers.org.

What can I be doing NOW to prepare myself for healthcare profession programs?

  1. Develop good time management and study skills. Some students work really hard in high school, but some don’t need to work hard to get good grades. However, college is much, much harder. Learn to set aside a certain amount of time each day to study, even if you don’t have to now. Take notes in class and review your notes when you get home. Practice studying early—DO NOT wait until the night before the test. These suggestions sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many first year students in college have NOT practiced these skills. You need to get VERY good grades if you want to go to medical school, and you need good study skills to get good grades.
  2. Explore the health care profession. Volunteer in a hospital, clinic, nursing home, hospice or other health care facility, or “shadow” a doctor. You will do more of this in college, but the sooner you start, the sooner you will find out if you are REALLY interested in becoming a doctor. Explore other healthcare professions such as nursing, physician’s assistant, physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc.

What services are available to Pre-Health students at the University of Florida?

  1. Individual advising and group workshops by the Pre-Health advisor.
  2. Incoming pre-med students attending our Preview first year orientation program will be given advice on registration and related information on being a competitive applicant.
  3. Pre-Health students at UF can join one (or more) of several Pre-Health student organizations to provide more Pre-Health preparation resources.
  4. Subscribe to our Pre-Health email Listserv to get updated information about volunteer and research opportunities and advising presentations for Pre-Health students.

Where can I get more information?

Please review the information available on our Resources page.

Transfer Students

What courses should I take before coming to UF?

Recommended before coming to UF:

  • General Chemistry and labs (CHM2045, CHM2045L, CHM2046, CHM2046L or equivalent)
  • General Biology and labs (BSC2010, BSC2010L, BSC2011, BSC2011L or equivalent)
  • Calculus and either Statistics or Calculus 2 (MAC2311, STA2023 or MAC2312)
  • English, 2 semesters

Recommended at UF:

  • Organic Chemistry and lab (CHM2210, CHM2211, CHM2211L)
  • Physics and labs (PHY2053 or 2048, PHY2053L or 2048L, PHY2054 or 2049, PHY2054L or 2049L)
  • Biochemistry (BCH4024 or CHM3218)
  • Upper-level biology courses (see prerequisite handout for required or recommended courses for your profession)

When should I apply to professional school if I am a transfer student?

Students who plan to apply to medical, dental, or veterinary schools can often benefit from applying at the end of their senior year if they are coming from a community college. While it is ultimately your choice as to when you apply, having two full years of university level work on your record will give professional schools a better picture of your ability to handle rigorous coursework. In addition, you would have 3 semesters (versus 1) to get to know your UF professors and secure letters of recommendation, as well as to get additional volunteer, research, and leadership experience. In the end, it is a very individual decision as to when you will be most competitive to apply. If you would like help in determining this, please attend our “Applying to Professional Programs” workshop during your first semester at UF, and see a Pre-Health advisor if you have additional questions.

What else should I be doing before I come to UF?

Please don’t wait until you come to UF to begin exploring the health professions and getting valuable volunteer and leadership experience. Please review the Pre-Health website to see what else makes an applicant competitive. You should begin these activities as soon as you can after entering college.

Can I get letters of recommendation from my instructors at my community college?

While it is ideal to get your letters of recommendation from your UF professors, it is acceptable to get them from instructors at your former institution. If someone from your former school knows you better and can write a much stronger letter for you, that is a better option than getting a letter from a UF professor who does not know you very well. We would still recommend trying to get at least one letter of recommendation from a UF science professor. Start getting to know your UF professors your first semester here!

Can I see a Pre-Health advisor before I begin at UF?

Any student is welcome to see a Pre-Health advisor via walk-in advising. Please see the website for current walk-in hours. For students not in Gainesville, you may send general questions to our Pre-Health advisors at prehealth@advising.ufl.edu. Please be sure to browse the Pre-Health website first to see if your question can be answered that way.

What should I major in? Does UF have a Pre-Health major?

UF does not have a “pre-health” major. Transfer students can apply to any bachelor degree program, as professional schools have no preference for any particular type of major. The courses you will need to take prior to transferring to UF will depend on what major you choose. Always contact an advisor in the college of the major you are applying to if you have questions. When choosing a major, think about what subjects interest you the most, or what fits into your backup plan. Once you have a graduation plan for your major, a pre-health advisor can help you plan out your remaining pre-requisite courses and discuss the timing of your application.

UF Students

How can I see a pre-health advisor?

Please see the information on our website for how to see a prehealth advisor.

When do I have to complete the prerequisite courses by?

You should plan to complete the courses required for your entrance exam prior to taking it, however, other courses typically need to be complete by the time you matriculate into professional school. Some schools may require that courses be complete in the Fall of the year prior to beginning in their program, so it’s always a good idea to double check with schools you plan to apply to. You can also see our timelines in our Forms/Handouts section for sample course schedules.

What electives should I take?

We recommend courses that you have an interest in and that support your ultimate personal goals. This is your time to explore areas outside of science that may be complimentary to your interest in healthcare. Think about taking courses that will help you learn about your future patients. That could mean courses in language, religion, sociology, psychology, ethics, communication, anthropology, and other departments that teach you about diverse populations. If you are really struggling with what to take, take a look at our suggestions.

Do schools really care how many classes (or what classes) I take each semester?

Yes! They look no only at what your GPA is, but how you earned your GPA. You will be more competitive if you have 15-18 credit hours per semester on a consistent basis including at least 2 science courses and challenging electives. Imagine you have to look through thousands of transcripts…who will stand out-the student who’s taken 12 hours a semester including many so called “easy” classes, or the student who has challenged themselves by taking 16 or 17 hours a semester with upper-division electives? What impression does the first student make?

Should I take classes in the summer?

Most students don’t need to take classes in the summer unless they must fulfill the 9 hour summer requirement for their degree (check your degree audit to see if you need this). Summers are usually better spent doing extracurricular activities such as volunteering, shadowing, summer programs, or study abroad. If you must take classes, it is ALWAYS best to take prerequisite courses at your home institution. Therefore, we do not recommend taking math or science courses at another institution during the summer. Many professional schools also prefer to see the prerequisite courses taken in the context of a full semester, not by themselves. That gives the admissions committees a better understanding of how you handle rigorous courses along with other courses and extracurricular commitments. Do not use summers to lighten your load during other semesters!

Can I take online classes?

Many professional schools do not accept online classes for prerequisite requirements. Taking online electives is usually fine, but avoid taking anything that is a requirement online.

What GPA do I need to have to be a competitive applicant?

Some schools may have minimum GPA requirements, but these are typically well below what a competitive applicant would have. While there is no GPA that guarantees admission, usually overall and science GPAs of 3.5 and higher are considered competitive. This can vary by profession, and that does not mean that you are not competitive with under a 3.5. Remember that the GPA is just one thing that schools look at when reviewing applicants. There are many more important factors such as extracurricular activities and letters of recommendation. Also remember that they look at HOW you earned your GPA including course load, institution where you took them, how many sciences you took each semester, and the overall breadth of your curriculum.

Where should I volunteer?

There are many volunteer opportunities in and around Gainesville. It’s a good idea to get clinically based volunteer experience, however, you can supplement that with any type of community service activity. See our Volunteer Resource page for ideas.

How many hours of volunteering do I need to complete?

Medical schools typically do not require a minimum number of volunteer hours, however, other types of programs such as physician assistant, dental, veterinary, physical therapy, and occupational therapy often do. Please check the requirements at the schools where you plan to apply to get an idea of what they’re looking for. For all programs, it’s usually the quality of your volunteer experience that matters, along with consistency. You will often have a more meaningful experience if you stick with the same location over a longer period of time (1-3 years) rather than just doing a “week here and a month there”.

How do I get involved in research? Is it required?

Research is not required unless you are applying to MD/PhD programs. We recommend, however, that any student who has an interest in research try it out. As a health care provider you will be a lifelong consumer of research, so having an understanding of the research and scientific process will be of great benefit. See this advice for how to get involved in research on campus, as well as the Research section of our Resources page.

Do you arrange shadowing opportunities for students?

OHLPA does not arrange shadowing for students. Most students arrange shadowing on their own by calling or emailing professionals they are interested in observing. For premed students that take MEL4011, Introduction to the Professions of Medicine, you can apply to take MEL4012, Physician Shadowing. In that course you will be matched with a physician at SHANDS to shadow.

When should I take the MCAT?

The MCAT should ideally be taken before July of the year prior to your intended matriculation into medical school. It is offered from January-September, however, delaying the exam to July or later means there is little time to retake it should you need to, and schools will not receive your scores until August-October (it takes approximately 30 days for scores to be available) which is disadvantageous at schools with rolling admissions. For students taking the exam BEFORE 2015, you should have completed through Biology 2, Organic Chemistry 2, and Physics 2 prior to taking the exam. For students taking the MCAT in 2015 or later, you should also complete Biochemistry and an introductory psychology, sociology, and statistics course in addition to Biology 2, Organic Chemistry 2, and Physics 2.

What MCAT score do I need to be a competitive applicant for medical school?

There is no MCAT score that guarantees admission, but mean scores for admitted applicants are generally between 30-35. We recommend using the MSAR to look at each school’s 10th -90th percentile range for admitted applicants. This will give you an idea of the overall range at a particular school.

I heard the MCAT is changing. When is it changing and how?

The MCAT is expected to change in 2015. The new content is expected to include concepts of psychology, sociology, statistics, and biochemistry in addition to the material that is currently on the MCAT. The writing portion of the exam will likely be eliminated. Students planning to take the MCAT in 2015 or later are advised to take an introductory course in psychology, sociology, and statistics, as well as Biochemistry prior to taking the exam unless they have gained competency in these subjects by other means. We will provide more information for students as it becomes available.

When should I apply?

The application process takes over a year for most health professions, therefore, you need to plan ahead. For instance, if you plan to enter medical school in Fall of 2015, you would need to submit your application in Summer of 2014. APPLY EARLY! Do not wait until published deadlines to submit your application. What year you decide to apply is up to you. We encourage students to apply when they feel they will be a competitive applicant. For some students this means after their junior year, but for others that may mean after their senior year or even later.

What do I do if I don’t get in?

There are many options for students who are not admitted the first time they apply. What direction you choose to go depends on many personal factors. Please watch our “Growth Year Planning” workshop to discover opportunities to consider. You can also look at our Post baccalaureate information.

I’m applying after my senior year, what should I do in my year off?

Please see our Post baccalaureate information for ideas on what to do in your time off.

Do I need to repeat my AP, IB, or dual enrollment credits?

While many students enter college with AP, IB, or dual enrollment credit, professional schools want to see how you perform in university level coursework. Many professional schools will accept AP and IB credit, but most expect that you will supplement it with higher level coursework in the same area. Some students may feel they do not know the material well enough to perform well in upper-level classes or on the MCAT or DAT and may decide to retake some of the courses for which they have already earned credit. This is up to you.

Do I need to take English courses if I have AP or IB credit? What counts as an English course?

We DO recommend taking 6 hours of English courses at UF if you are pre-health, even if you have AP or IB credit. This is for multiple reasons:

  1. There are a few professional schools that do not accept AP or IB credit for their English requirement. While most schools will accept AP or IB, if you want to leave your options open to apply absolutely anywhere, take additional courses here.
  2. It can help prepare you for the Verbal and/or Writing portion of the MCAT, DAT, GRE, etc.
  3. If you score low on the verbal portion of those exams, having strong grades in English courses can give admission committees additional information about your abilities.

Ultimately it is up to you whether or not you choose to take additional English courses if you come in with AP or IB credit for them. If you choose to take more courses or you did not come in with AP or IB credit, typically any English department course will do. This includes courses with prefixes such as ENC, LIT, AML, ENL, ENG, and CRW. Some professional schools are more flexible and will accept any writing requirement course, while a small number specify composition courses.

How many letters of recommendation do I need?

This varies by profession. Please see our Letter of Recommendation information for specific requirements.

Does UF have a Premed Committee for letters or recommendation?

No, UF does not have a committee for letters of recommendation. Professional schools know this and will accept individual letters of recommendation in the place of a committee or advisor letter.

What percentage of UF students get into medical school?

This varies from year to year, but in the past five years the percentage of UF applicants who have applied to allopathic medical schools and have been accepted has been approximately 45%.

I got a C in a prerequisite course, should I retake it?

We do not recommend retaking a course in which you earned a passing grade. It proves much more if you take another course in the same area at a higher level and earn a high grade. Professional schools want to see that you can be successful on the first attempt of a course. There are certain circumstances where retaking a course may be warranted such as earning a C in a General Chemistry course at a community college via dual enrollment. Some students feel as though they will be more successful in higher level chemistry courses if they retake General Chemistry at UF.

I’m thinking of dropping a class, should I?

Please see our handout “Should I Drop my course?

Do I need to fill out any forms for shadowing or volunteering so they are “official?”

You do not need to fill out anything with our office, however, some hospitals and offices may have forms that they require in order to shadow or volunteer. It is always a good idea to keep a record of your volunteer and shadowing experiences including when, where, a contact person, how many hours per week, and what you did including reflections on what you learned from that experience. Please see our information on portfolios for a good way to keep track of your activities.

Does it look better to do a double major or minors?

Professional schools do not give greater weight to double majors, dual degrees, or minors. If you have a specific interest in another area outside of your major then they may make sense, but there is just as much worth to taking courses from multiple departments as your electives. Ask yourself what you want to learn about and how those classes are preparing you for a career in medicine, or how they are supporting your personal interests.

Is taking time off after graduating looked down upon?

Not at all, in fact usually an application is stronger if a student takes additional time to further their extracurricular interests such as volunteering, shadowing, or research. For students that end their junior year with a weak GPA, having an additional year or more of successful coursework can also be helpful to an application.

Can I graduate and apply early? Will it hurt my chances of getting in?

Graduating early and applying early are two separate issues. Students who are academically strong may choose to graduate early and take a year or two off before applying to professional school to pursue other graduate programs or service activities. This is usually not an issue. For students who have below average GPAs, graduating early can be detrimental since you will not have an opportunity to take additional coursework to raise your GPA. Applying early is usually never to your advantage. It is up to you if you decide to do so, however, you are often at a disadvantage when compared to other applicants who have one or more years of additional university level coursework, and one or more years of additional extracurricular activities.

Will having something on my student conduct or criminal record prevent me from getting in?

Usually not. If you have a conduct issue or misdemeanor that does not mean that you will not be admitted to professional school. It is important that you are always up front about what happened, take responsibility for your actions, and can discuss what you learned from the experience. Some states will not issue professional licenses to convicted felons, therefore, if you have a felony on your record, it is very important that you check with the schools that you plan to apply to, and with the states where you may practice, to see their policies.

Letters of Recommendation

When should I ask for letters?

Ask early! We recommend asking for letters by February or March of the year you plan to apply. Some individuals can take months to write a letter, and some may have a limit on the number of letters they will write.

How many letters do I need?

This varies by profession. See http://www.advising.ufl.edu/prehealth/prerequisites.html for a general idea of how many letters you will need. It’s best to research the programs you may be interested in applying to early and keep track of each school’s requirements.

How do I ask my professors for a letter?

Hopefully you know your letter writers well, so either a stop into their office to ask, or an email request is fine. If you decide to email an individual to ask for a letter, be sure you offer to also meet in person to discuss your request. Some professors require a meeting and others don’t, but if they are open to it it’s always in your best interest to meet in person to discuss your goals, etc., especially if you don’t know your letter writer as well as you should. It’s also best to ask if they are willing to write you a “strong letter of recommendation”. After all, a mediocre letter won’t help your application.

What counts as a science letter?

This depends on the schools you are applying to, but in general a letter from a professor who taught you in a Biology, Chemistry, or Physics class can count. Some schools will allow math courses to count as a science letter and others won’t. Some schools will allow letters from lab instructors while others may require letters from a lecture course. Some schools will allow courses from any science class in those basic areas (anatomy, physiology, entomology, etc.) while others are more specific. It’s up to you to research the requirements of the schools you are applying to and be sure you give them what they ask for. When in doubt, give the admissions office a call to clarify their requirements.

What counts as a character letter?

A character letter can be from a professional you have shadowed, a PI from research, a volunteer coordinator, and employer, or anyone else who can speak about your qualities outside of the classroom. Character letters should not be from family members or from “well-known” people whom you’ve never worked with.

What do I tell my letter writers to do with the letter?

If the application service has not yet opened, simply tell your letter writers to hold your letter until the application opens, at which time you will provide them with instructions for submitting the letter. Many application services will automatically email your letter writers once you input their information into the application. AMCAS (allopathic medical school application) does not, so you will need to email or print the instructions to give to your letter writers after you input their information into the application. Each application service has detailed instructions on how letters should be submitted. Applicants to Osteopathic medical schools can use the Interfolio letter collection service to submit letters to AACOMAS (and AMCAS if you are applying to both allopathic and osteopathic schools).

If the application service has not yet opened, simply tell your letter writers to hold your letter until the application opens, at which time you will provide them with instructions for submitting the letter. Many application services will automatically email your letter writers once you input their information into the application. AMCAS (allopathic medical school application) does not, so you will need to email or print the instructions to give to your letter writers after you input their information into the application. Each application service has detailed instructions on how letters should be submitted. Applicants to Osteopathic medical schools can use the Interfolio letter collection service to submit letters to AACOMAS (and AMCAS if you are applying to both allopathic and osteopathic schools).

What do I tell my letter writers to do with the letter?

If the application service has not yet opened, simply tell your letter writers to hold your letter until the application opens, at which time you will provide them with instructions for submitting the letter. Many application services will automatically email your letter writers once you input their information into the application. AMCAS (allopathic medical school application) does not, so you will need to email or print the instructions to give to your letter writers after you input their information into the application. Each application service has detailed instructions on how letters should be submitted. Applicants to Osteopathic medical schools can use the Interfolio letter collection service to submit letters to AACOMAS (and AMCAS if you are applying to both allopathic and osteopathic schools).

What do I need to give to my letter writers?

Offer to give them a copy of your personal statement, a resume, a “Release for Letter of Recommendation” form if they are a UF employee, the AAMC LOR Guidlelines (if you are pre-med), and any other material they request.

Can I get a letter from a TA or graduate student?

Letters from professors are always preferred if they know you well. Professors have longer teaching experience than TA’s and graduate students, so they are able to compare your performance in their class to a larger group of students which often makes their input more valuable. However, if the professor does not know you, and a TA or graduate student who taught the class does, most schools will accept that letter (always double check). Sometimes a professor may be willing to co-sign a letter written by a TA.

Can I submit my application before all of my letters are in?

Yes! It’s important to apply early, so do not wait for all of your letters to come in before submitting your application.

Does UF have a “Pre-Health Committee?”

No, we do not have a committee at UF. Professional schools know this, and accept individual letters in place of a committee letter.

Can I ask for a letter from a professor even if I didn’t get an A in the class?

Yes, you don’t have to have gotten an “A” to receive a strong letter of recommendation from a professor. The objective is to get letters from professors who know you well, even if you weren’t one of the top students in the class.

Additional FAQs