PREPARING FOR ADMISSION

WHEN TO ATTEND

In order to go immediately to medical school after graduation, you must complete the admission requirements by spring semester of your junior year. You will then have the course background necessary for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which you should plan to take no later than April junior year. Going to medical school immediately after Wesleyan is not necessarily the best choice for most people. (In fact, many people who now have very successful and personally rewarding careers practicing medicine began medical school in their 30s or 40s). Having all four undergraduate years and then taking more time to explore and prepare -- which will then lead to a year or more between college and medical school -- offers many advantages. One advantage is that you can take the required courses at a pace that will allow you to make the most of Wesleyan's liberal arts curriculum. In addition, you are likely to be a stronger candidate because of your additional volunteer, employment, or academic experience. The most important advantage is that you will be more sure of your choice for medicine.

SELECTING COURSES, CHOOSING A MAJOR

Medical schools do not require a specific major. They prefer to attract students from many disciplines. They do require that applicants take specific courses (mostly in the sciences, as mentioned earlier) in order to apply. Your choice of major should be based on a variety of factors -- ideally on what you prefer to study, and what you do well in, rather than what you think medical schools want to see. As a physician, you may want to work in a Spanish-speaking community; if so, a Spanish major would be a great advantage. Perhaps you will want to prepare yourself for some of the tougher ethical questions that physicians face, and therefore choose a philosophy or religion major. An economics major can help you when you confront the variety of market forces that affect health care practice and research. You should choose some of your courses with these types of considerations in mind, as well as giving yourself the opportunity to develop as a whole person. You will always need to work at balancing the "personal" and the "professional" aspects of your life. Many health professionals find pursuits in the arts especially rewarding. It is fine to take courses for no other reason than that they have intrinsic appeal to you.

While you are at Wesleyan, it's a good idea to schedule your courses so that you have an opportunity (1) to explore health care as a classroom topic, (2) to take courses that are required by medical schools at a comfortable pace, (3) to make the most of what Wesleyan offers by meeting Wesleyan's educational expectations, and (4) to maximize your chances for doing well academically each semester. Since there is really no set age by which you must begin medical school, there is no set time for taking the courses required to apply. First year students, in particular, need to be careful and not take on more than they can handle. Talking over your course selections with your academic advisor and the Health Professions Advisor can help you to pace yourself well.

GRADES & COMPETITION

Competition for admission is keen at all US medical schools. Nearly all of the schools quote an average GPA that falls somewhere between A- and B+ -- roughly 3.5/4.0 or 90.00 on the Wesleyan scale -- as representative of successful applicants. Academic achievement is weighed heavily by the admissions committee. Unless you have no choice, we recommend that you choose grades over pass/fail in all courses. Pass/fail courses make it more difficult for admissions committees to evaluate your performance. Keep in mind, though, that grades by themselves don't tell the full story. Faculty recommendations are also very important in helping admissions committee members to appreciate and assess your abilities. Admissions committees also pay attention to the difficulty of courses you select and where you took them.

As the application picture stands at present, two out of three candidates to allopathic medical schools will not be admitted, even though they may be very qualified applicants. While most Wesleyan graduates are highly competitive applicants, you should apply only when you are personally ready and a strong candidate. An excellent senior year can greatly improve chances for admission and a glowing recommendation from a thesis advisor is very helpful. For individuals whose overall GPA is below a B+ at the end of senior year, we suggest you consider taking additional courses after graduation and/or work in a laboratory or clinical research setting; these experiences will enable you to develop greater understanding of medicine, acquire valuable new skills, and further strengthen your medical school application.