Pre-Health Advising

Frequently Asked Questions

Health Profession Advising
Students interested in any health profession may come to the Futures Center at Armstrong Hall, Suite 112, 1100 S McAllister Ave Tempe, Ariz. We are happy to talk with anyone interested in the health professions about admission requirements, course scheduling, electives, the application process, etc.

Academic Advising
Students without a declared major, can be advised in the Health Professions Advising Office up to 45 credit hours. Then, students will have to declare a major. Once a student has a declared major, our office will advise them concerning pre-professional courses, but not degree requirements. Faculty members and academic advisors in individual departments are more familiar with requirements for their majors and are, therefore, the best source for this advice.

Information about registration, the availability of registration materials, advising, etc., can be obtained at the Health Professions Advising Office for from an academic advisor.

The health professions advisor can help determine which courses satisfy requirements, how to best sequence them, and how to find tutoring or other academic support. The health professions advisor can guide students in incorporating study abroad, or adding a double major or senior honors thesis to their course of study. The advisor will encourage students to seek experience in the health care field to become informed about the profession and strengthen the student's application to a professional school. The advisor will encourage and support students as they determine a career path by assessing strengths and weaknesses, values and life's goals. Advisors assist students to select the appropriate courses, find meaningful health-related experience, explore personal strengths and weaknesses, and negotiate the complexities of the professional school admissions.

The health professions advisor meets with all students individually to offer assistance, including non-traditional students, returning students and alumni.

We believe that students should become broadly educated in college, with some specialization in one of the areas of knowledge. ASU does not have a separate major for pre-medical students. This exposes students to an interdisciplinary and diverse academic foundation within a department, which enables them to explore alternative career choices. Many professional school admission committees prefer applicants with traditional academic majors.

If a student is interested in a doctoral health career, they are not required to major in a science to be a pre-medical or pre-dental student. Students admitted to U.S. medical school's and the other professions come from all possible undergraduate majors. Students should choose a major based on their interests. At ASU, most students have majored in biology, chemistry, psychology, physics and engineering. However, it is not unusual for someone who majors in political science, English literature, sociology or a non-science field to be accepted, if the student receives acceptable grades in the required undergraduate science work.

Yes! ASU welcomes those who make a decision to prepare to enter a health professional school after having completed a college degree. All of the required "pre-medical" sciences are available at ASU. A non-traditional, pre-medical student may take advantage of the services of Health Professions Advising Office.

U.S. medical and dental schools have certain minimum course requirements for admission. These are: one year each (with labs) of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics, mathematics (including some calculus) and a year of English. Beyond these minimum requirements, additional work in biological sciences or psychology is sometimes recommended. Students who are not science majors, will need to plan course schedules carefully and take these science courses as electives. They should start these as early as possible. Some requirements, like the chemistry sequence, may take at least two years to complete.

Student may pick up the handout titled, "Pre-health professions programs: Dentistry - Medicine - Osteopathy - Podiatry and Allied Health Careers" in our office. The courses listed in this handout are preferred in professional schools. Students are encouraged to check with an advisor or the office if they are considering courses other than those listed to meet the minimum admission requirements.

No, but admission to medical and osteopathic medical schools is quite competitive. Nationwide, about one-third of those who apply are accepted. Students accepted from ASU usually have grade point averages above 3.40 (better than "B+"), with excellent grades in the required science courses. While students must keep their grades high to be competitive, successful completion of the requirements does not guarantee admission to medical study. Many other factors, including personality, can play a part.

There are several entrance exams available. Students complete the type of examination required by the professional school. Students should be prepared to take any entrance exam by the spring of their junior year. To be ready for the MCAT and DAT students will need general chemistry, organic chemistry and general biology. For the MCAT, students will also need physics. However, to be better prepared for the MCAT, DAT, OAT, PCAT and GRE, it is highly recommended that some additional upper-division, biological science course work is completed. See an advisor in the Health Professions Advising Office for specific course recommendations.

Yes, out-of-state schools may have slightly different requirements, for example, additional chemistry or mathematics course work. The following are resource books you can use to verify requirements for individual schools:

  • Medical School Admission Requirements, U.S. and Canada.
  • Admission Requirements, U.S. and Canadian Dental Schools.
  • Pharmacy School Admission Requirements.
  • Physician Assistant Programs Directory.

Resource guides for just about every health profession are available. New editions are typically published each spring.

Applicants apply 12 to 15 months in advance of the date they wish to enter professional school. Normally, this means the summer following the student's junior year. Applications are accepted from early summer through the fall for most programs. Verify each school's admission deadline. We strongly suggest that students file their applications early - ideally during the summer.

It depends on the professional program to which the student is applying. For medical and dental school, yes, exceptionally mature students with outstanding academic and personal qualifications may be admitted after completion of 90 credit hours, but that is rare and most schools prefer that students have completed a bachelor's degree before entering medical or dental school.

For most allied health professional schools, such as physical therapy, physician assistant, pharmacy, etc., it depends on the program and the school to which the student is applying. Some programs are master's level programs that require completion of a bachelor's degree; some programs are master's level programs that just require 90 credit hours completed prior to entering, and other programs are bachelor's level programs requiring only 60 credit hours before entrance. Students should research the schools they are interested in and talk with an advisor in the Health Professions Advising Office to get the latest information.

The manner in which a weakness in a particular required subject is viewed is dependent on the extent of the weakness. A grade of "D" (1.00) in a required course is serious, and only partial compensation may be achieved with retaking the class and receiving an "A" (4.00) or "B" (3.00). Additionally, students might want to take an advanced course in the same subject. A grade of "C" (2.00) is not so serious, provided it is an isolated occurrence. Consecutive "C's," or worse, in any preprofessional course should be considered as strong indicators of trouble with a student's motivation, ability, interests or career choice. A course should not be repeated unless; a higher grade is required to progress to the next course in the sequence; it is required to receive credit for the course for graduation; or the amount of information acquired in the first attempt was insufficient to permit satisfactory progress in advanced courses or on standardized tests.

Naturally, continuous top performance is preferred and will give a student the most realistic chance of admission. The next best grade trend is an upward progression without sacrificing course loads (two hard science or math courses and at least 15-17 credit hours) or difficulty of the courses taken. An erratic record of sharp peaks and valleys is to be avoided. A continuously decreasing performance record is, of course, a serious deterrent to admission. One bad term will not completely destroy a student's chances for admission, provided that the student consistently excells in successive terms.

If a student did poorly as a first-year student but improved greatly in the following years, this improvement will enhance the chance of admission. But even a strong record of performance can not completely erase previous low grades records, failures or withdrawals. The overall GPA must be competitive. The records of those accepted to professional institutions show a pronounced upward trend in grades while an average or high number of credits in reasonably demanding courses is maintained.

  • Medicine is practiced by those with the M.D. degree. The physician deals with human health and disease encompassing the entire body.
  • Osteopathic Medicine also involves treatment of the entire body. These physicians with the D.O. degree have a slightly different philosophy from the M.D., with greater focus on the musculoskeletal system and holistic approaches to patient care.
  • Naturopathic Medicine is a distinct profession of primary health care physicians whose practitioners make conventional disease diagnoses, and are more oriented toward prevention, education and promotion of optimal health and wellness rather than just treatment of disease.
  • Dentistryspecializes in treatment of problems of the teeth and oral cavity. While practice is limited to that region of the body, dentists may prescribe systemic drugs and use surgical methods. They obtain a D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree.
  • Chiropractic Medicine A doctor of chiropractic medicine is a primary care physician whose purpose, as a practitioner of the healing arts, is to help meet the health needs of individual patients and of the public, giving particular attention to the structural and neurological aspects of the body.
  • Podiatric Medicine deals with problems of the foot and lower leg. The D.P.M. degree is received after a four-year program in a college of podiatric medicine. Like dentists, podiatrists may prescribe drugs and perform surgery for problems of the region that they are licensed to treat.
  • Optometry specializes in problems of vision, with treatment by prescription of lenses, eye exercises, behavioral and other non-medical methods. The optometrist refers patients who need medical or surgical treatment to a physician. The O.D. degree is awarded after four years study at a school of optometry.

Professional schools consider more than just academics (GPA) and test scores in evaluating an application. A strong academic background, along with other attributes is very important in the application process. Medical and dental schools' average GPA is approximately 3.50. For the allied health professions, the GPA requirements vary depending on the profession. Physical therapy and physician assistant programs are the two most competitive programs in the U.S. today. These professions have become quite popular in recent years. Since the interest in these careers is strong, with a limited number of schools and small entering classes, the programs are very competitive. Other areas such as pharmacy or optometry have slightly lower average GPAs. Students should strive to do their best academically at all times. Grades and test scores are important, but other factors are also included in the decision of admitting students into professional programs.

Letters of Recommendation
Keep in mind that at the time a student applies to professional school, they will need letters of recommendation. Most professional schools require a minimum of three letters of recommendation: two science and one non-science.

The student is encouraged to get to know their professors so that recommendation letters reflect familiarity with the student and pertinent observations of abilities and performance. Letters give depth to an application and dimension to the applicant.

What Else?

  • Interviews -¬†Interview policies vary depending upon the professional school. Most schools require a personal interview. However, a few programs will conduct regional interviews, and some programs do not require an interview at all. The Health Professions Advising Office will offer interview workshops each fall for all students currently applying to health professional programs.
  • Applications -¬†The Health Professions Advising Office will assist students in the application process to professional schools. An application workshop will be held each spring to familiarize students with the application format for medical and dental school. Helpful hints for writing the personal comments section of the application will be discussed along with how to select appropriate schools. As an applicant, students need to fill out an "Applicant Information Sheet", to start a file containing letters of recommendation and other materials.

More than one. If the student is an Arizona resident, we recommend that they apply to any professional school in Arizona having the particular program they desire. A student's best chances are with their state schools. There also are programs where Arizona has agreements with other states for students to apply to their programs as a resident. For further information on such programs please contact the Health Professions Advising Office. Schools in other states will give preference to their own state's residents if they are a publicly funded institution. Private schools do not take residency into consideration, but private schools tend to be more expensive. Points to consider when choosing schools to apply to: financial resources, academic qualifications and self-confidence in the merit of the application.

Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED), the national premed/predental honor society, has a chapter on the ASU campus. There is also a predental and a pre-optometry club. FACES (Fostering Academic Cultural Education) for pre-health professions students and the American Medical Students Association (AMSA) is another organization at ASU.

Extracurricular activities are not an explicit requirement. However, carefully chosen activities can help reinforce a student's interest in health professions. Activities that show communication skills are encouraged.

Students will need letters of recommendation from faculty members when they apply to most professional schools.

Students are encouraged to meet with their professors during office hours to become acquainted. It is not necessary to have a question about class to visit during office hours. Also, as students take upper-division courses some classes will have smaller sizes, leading to more direct interaction in the classroom between the student and the professor.

Before asking a professor for a letter of recommendation, the student may want to prepare an information sheet and/or resume, personal statement and student waiver form (available in the Health Professions Advising Office). This information sheet should include activities the student has participated in, any health-related jobs, volunteering, activities and any other pertinent information. A professor can not be expected to write a recommendation letter just because a student received a good grade in his or her class. If, however, a student makes an effort to talk with them on occasion, then the professor will feel that they know enough about the student to write a recommendation letter. Most professors will not agree to write a letter if they do not have enough information to write a good letter. Most students have no problem getting letters of recommendation from the faculty at ASU.

All students are urged to explore the wide variety of careers available. Not all students applying to professional school will be successful in gaining admission to the program they choose. It is important to keep alternative careers in mind. The Health Professions Advising Office maintains information on various careers in most health professions and different health-related graduate programs for you to consider.

Yes! There are several health careers that you can enter with the bachelor's degree. These include nursing, physical therapy, athletic training, clinical laboratory sciences, respiratory therapy and cardiovascular health and exercise. Information on all these programs may be obtained from the Health Professions Advising Office.

A wide array of resource books and application materials are available in the Health Professions Advising Office. Statistical information (GPA , test scores, major, age, etc.) will help you get an idea of what it takes to get into health professions schools across the country. The best sources of information are advisors: we're here to help you find answers to your questions.

If a student is unable to find the answer on this website and they believe their question can be answered quickly and easily, then it is acceptable to e-mail the advisor. When e-mailing an advisor, the student should use their Arizona State University e-mail address.

It's not a good idea to e-mail an advisor with questions that require lengthy answers or that should be discussed in a one-on-one appointment. Here are some examples of topics that are appropriate and not appropriate for email:

Some topics/questions that are appropriate for email:

  • Can you tell me what office is responsible for ... ?
  • Can I drop off a recommendation form for you to sign?
  • Is there a deadline for changing my major?
  • What websites do you recommend for ... ?
  • I've decide to major in xyz. Should I make an appointment to discuss it with you?
  • I'm sorry I can't make it to my appointment tomorrow. I'll reschedule it soon.
  • I forgot who you referred me to in our meeting. Can you remind me?

Some topics/questions that are not appropriate for email:

  • What should I take next semester?
  • Do you think I should drop my Math 210 class?
  • Are you free tomorrow between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.? Call me.
  • I have no idea what I want to major in. Help!
  • I'm thinking about withdrawing. Where do I get a form?
  • I need to change my schedule. Please get back to me right away!