GETTING STARTED

As you consider preparing yourself for a health profession as an undergraduate you need to develop a well-rounded plan and take time to examine your motives, self-reflect, determine an academic plan, become engaged in the college community, and immerse yourself in a clinical setting to ascertain your sincere commitment to your future career. It is also crucial that you take advantage of all of the Health Professions events and HP school visits by reading your Health Professions E-Newsletter that you will receive by email two to three times in a semester. If you do not receive one by the third week of each semester, contact your Health Professions Advisor, Mildred Rodriguez, PhD at mrodriguez01@wesleyan.edu, to request an add-in to the newsletter. Please see the Timeline for Application/Admission to Medical School to help you develop a well-rounded plan to prepare for the health profession of your choice.

FIRST YEAR

We recommend that first year students take no more than one or two science courses in their first semester. The first year is a transitional year and involves becoming accustomed to a new setting, a new set of social and extra-curricular activities, new living arrangements, new responsibilities, and new ways of learning and studying. College-level science courses, especially those with a laboratory, can be unexpectedly time-consuming and demanding, particularly for students who have not had a strong science preparation in high school. Be sure to consult your academic advisor and the health professions advisor if you have questions or concerns.

Besides avoiding overloading on courses and engaging in too many extracurricular activities, health professions students should also avoid dropping below the suggested four courses per semester. To be competitive for the health professional school you are considering, applicants should demonstrate an ability to handle a science-intensive curriculum and a commitment to in-depth learning of a particular area or areas of interest as prospective major(s).

For more information about the pre-requisite science courses and samples of course schedules for application to a health profession program go to the Medical School Requirements webpage on the Health Professions Website and take a look at what a schedule for someone who wants to study abroad and submit their application to medical school after their third year looks like as opposed to someone applying after their fourth year of college. These sample schedules should help you to develop your own plan, which you can discuss with your Health Professions Advisor. It is important to remember that your academic plan does not need to match anyone else’s plan and that it should be a flexible plan that you can change as your goals expand and change.

While you do want to achieve an overall strong performance in sciences, your academic metrics are only one of the factors in the admissions process. Your personal qualities, life and clinical experiences, and motivation are also critical factors. Health professional admissions committees look favorably on students who have tested their interest in a health career through community service, health-related internships, extracurricular activities, or significant research. Each health professional program will have developed their own criteria and priorities for admission, reflecting the goals and mission of the respective school. All medical schools are looking at your application materials to glean attributes and qualities that might apply to you as an individual, among these the commitment to serve others and the ability to lead are very important. To assess these qualities, the admissions committees at medical schools will carefully review the statements and essays in your application, letters of evaluation, your coursework (including trends in academic performance and level of course difficulty), personal interviews and your core competencies as defined by AAMC. For more information on the competencies go to the Preparing for Admission link on the Health Professions Website.

STUDY ABROAD

Wesleyan students are encouraged to move outside of their comfort zone and take advantage of this enriching opportunity. Study abroad entails carefully planning ahead, and possibly doubling up on some of the science requirements in your first two years, but adding an international perspective to your undergraduate experience is invaluable. It will enhance your global awareness, hone your foreign language skills and contribute towards your understanding of other cultures and ways of life. Regarding language skills, if you are going to a country where you will be speaking a language other than English, you will need to start taking courses in that language in your first year so that you are ready by your third year. Students are encouraged to enroll in courses that fall within their broader interests while abroad, however, if a student plans to complete a science course that is a pre-requisite for the health professional program the student will be applying to, the course will need to appear on the Wesleyan transcript, given that health professional programs will not accept a transcript from a foreign institution. Please also note that some European schools only offer one exam at the end of the semester, which could affect your science GPA if you were to do poorly on that one exam or project. For this reason, students are encouraged to think carefully about their potential schedule and may consider enrolling in non-science courses abroad. Some of our students complement their study abroad experience by also pursuing international research, an internship or a volunteer opportunity.

All of this may sound complicated but it is achievable with careful planning and active learning in all of your courses. Be sure to make an appointment with an advisor at the Global Studies office and with the Health Professions Advisor, Mildred Rodriguez, PhD, in the Gordon Career Center if you would like to work on a tentative four-year plan that includes a semester abroad.

ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE

Start off considering a broad course selection, try to identify courses and majors where you can develop strong foundations in critical thinking, writing, reading and communication. Plan on developing relationships with professors and other university staff. These may serve as mentors and help to guide you in the university environment.

Moreover, do not be disheartened or discouraged from pursuing a health profession if your first science grades do not meet your expectations. Health Professional school admissions committees look with favor upon an upward trend in your record of academic performance. If you have difficulty in your first semester, seek help immediately and sign up for a free peer tutor through the Office of Student Academic Resources. If you have concerns you would like to discuss, visit your Health Professions Advisor (HPA) and your academic advisor to review your course load, your extracurricular activities, and study strategies as you continue to pursue your academic interests and your health professions trajectory. Please note that having to drop a course with the result of having a ‘W’ on your transcript will not keep you out of the health profession you are considering if it is the only W you have on your record. There will be opportunities for you to explain your circumstances surrounding your semester that includes a ‘W’ in your centralized application to the schools. Most schools keep an open mind regarding the extenuating circumstances that may have affected your academics.

At most medical schools, Advanced Placement or departmental exemption will not excuse you from the requirements. Hence, if you have placed out of the first introductory science course of a two-part series and that department here at Wesleyan has allowed the student to enroll in the part 2 course, the medical school will still expect the student to take at least one higher level course in that particular discipline. AP Calculus is an exception. If you took AP Calculus in high school and scored a 4 or 5 on the AP exam, and then take "Vectors and Matrices," or an even higher level math class, earning a grade of C or better, you may request that the AP credit appear on your Wesleyan transcript. If your AP calculus credits are on your Wesleyan transcript, they will be accepted by the medical schools requiring calculus that do accept AP credits towards pre-requisite course work. When starting at Wesleyan having completed AP credits, visit the academic department that matches the AP courses you are hoping to include on your transcript and please read the relevant pages on the Registrar’s website.

For more information about the pre-requisite science courses and samples of course schedules that will help you to prepare for a future application to a health profession program go to the Medical School Requirements on the Health Professions website.

RESEARCH

Basic science research is not a requirement for medical school admission, and in fact, a number of Wesleyan students continue on to health professional schools without working in a lab. Successful medical school applicants have usually demonstrated the ability to pursue an area of study in depth. This could be basic science research, clinical research, or a thesis in English literature. The experience of formulating an original research question and critically analyzing data or information does not necessarily have to occur in a basic science research lab.

For students majoring in the sciences, the experience of working in a research lab can significantly enhance your college experience. Moreover, students who are seriously considering a combined MD- PhD or an academic medical career should take advantage of these opportunities to develop research skills and contribute to scientific publications as a co-author. Research requires extended periods of time in the lab to become familiar with the instrumentation, laboratory techniques, scientific protocol, research literature of the lab/project, collection and analysis of data and to engage in scientific writing in order to publish results. Students should understand that if they are hoping to do research they will need to set aside regular and long blocks of time to devote to this endeavor. Undergraduate students who work in research labs often spend two or more years working in a lab. A 10-15 hour per week commitment is a reasonable expectation on the part of a mentor who considers allowing a student to work in their lab. It is possible that some projects may require smaller time commitments, but rarely less than 8 hours per week. A research project involves doing something new and because it has not been done before it may not be possible for a professor to tell a student how long it will take to accomplish the planned work. However, the idea that the student may be doing ground-breaking work should be motivating enough to secure a commitment.

MD-PhD programs provide training in both medicine and research. They are specifically designed for men and women who want to become research physicians, also known as physician-investigators or physician-scientists. Graduates of MD-PhD programs often go on to become faculty members at medical schools, universities and research institutes such as the National Institutes of Health. Regardless of where they eventually end up, MD-PhD trainees are being prepared for careers in which they will spend approximately 70% of their time doing research but also offer clinics to take care of patients. It is a busy, challenging and hugely rewarding career that offers opportunities to do good for many people by advancing medical knowledge and developing new treatments for diseases.  

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES AND INTERNSHIPS

For summer Enrichment Research Programs and other opportunities go to the Summer and Post-Bac Opportunities on our Health Professions Website. This listing includes a variety of programs including those providing housing and stipends for students from under-represented groups and/or economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds such as first-generation college graduates or individuals under-represented in medicine (African Americans, Latinos, Native American Indians and others).

SUMMER SCHEDULING

Before completing a course that is required for your major at another educational institution, check with your academic department. Notwithstanding, you can complete other premedical courses elsewhere during the summer at an academically competitive four-year U.S. college. It is recommended that students not take more than the equivalent of one year of premedical course requirements during the summer, as it may appear as if you are avoiding the more rigorous science courses offered at Wesleyan. Additionally, it is usually not advisable to split sequential courses between institutions for example PHYS 111 and 112.