Pre-Professional Program FAQs
Pre-Admission Requirements and Undergraduate Major
1. Do I have to major in biology or science in order to attend medical school or to prepare for a career in health care?
No. Your choice of major should be based on your academic interests. However, you must complete the admission requirements or demonstrate competency in science for the particular field of health care in which you have an interest. Most science majors cover these admissions requirements. However, the Pre-Professional Program at Millikin University is prepared to advise students across all majors in the university. It is the responsibility of the student to make himself/herself known to the program director.
2. Will a science major give me an advantage in admission to medical school?
No. Professional schools and graduate programs that prepare students for careers in health care are looking for students with a broad exposure to a variety of courses AND who have an aptitude for science and critical and analytical thinking. They do not give preference to any particular academic major. By taking additional science courses, over and above the minimum for admission to professional school, you will be better prepared for the admission examinations which need to be taken and for the first intensive years of professional school in which the basic sciences are taught. In addition, breadth of course work in the liberal arts and language is a distinct advantage.
3. Should I have a double major or a minor in another field?
Only if you are truly interested in the additional field of study and are prepared to do well in both. Depending on the additional field, additional time may be required to complete the requirements for a double major.
4. Should I try to graduate early?
No. There is no advantage to graduating early and in fact early graduation may truncate your education and present a picture that has less breadth. In addition, most professional schools prefer the older student who can bring some significant life experiences to bring to the table.
5. Can I take required courses in the summer, during study abroad and/or at another institution?
In general, it is best to complete your required courses, especially those in science, at your primary academic institution and during the regular school session. Professional schools want to know that you can succeed and you demonstrate this by taking a normal academic load. Taking courses in a piecemeal fashion and at a variety of institutions is often suspect and not highly regarded by admission committees. You also may have issues with the transfer of the course work to your primary academic institution. While there are some cases where online course work is accepted, check with the program director and the schools that you are considering before taking an online course. In general, since most schools ask for a laboratory component, online science courses will not be accepted.
6. Can I get into professional school in less than four years?
In a few cases, the answer is yes. However, the majority of medical, dental and veterinary schools as well as programs for physical and occupational therapy and physician assistant training are now requiring a bachelor’s degree. Pharmacy schools usually require two years of course work prior to admission. There are some special programs for students interested in occupational therapy that allow a student to enter after three years and with two additional years of study in professional school earn both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Check with the program director for specifics.
Grades, Standardized Test Scores, Leadership and Exposure to Health Care
1. If I got off to a slow start in my first year, can I still go to professional school?
Probably. Professional schools recognize that the transition from high school to college can be difficult for many students. Thus, they will look for trends in grades rather than absolutes. If you can show a turn around in the following semesters, poor grades in your first year will probably not have a significant impact on your candidacy. Professional schools put more emphasis on your science GPA and the standardized test scores in their evaluation of your ability to be successful in their programs.
2. If I drop a class, does that look bad?
No. Not if it is an isolated case. Professional schools are looking for evidence that you can handle a rigorous academic load AND have an active campus life. However, if you routinely drop classes or show a consistent pattern of poor performance, your academic record will raise the question of whether or not you can handle the rigors of professional school and your estimation of your particular time management skills.
3. Should I repeat a class (required) in which I earned a “C”?
An isolated C is not the end of your prospects for a career in health care and the course should probably not be repeated. Consistent C work will not produce a competitive GPA and that is another issue entirely. If you have received a C in a course AND you have satisfactory knowledge of the subject, then you should probably take an advanced course in the same subject matter. For example, if you received a C in Genetics or Cell Biology, rather than repeat either of these courses, you should take Molecular Genetics and Advanced Cell Biology and earn A/B grades. In the application process, all grades from all institutions attended must be reported. The same is true for admission exam scores.
4. Why should I take courses that I am not interested in even if they are part of my major?
Professional schools are looking for students with a broad background in both the humanities, sciences and the liberal arts. If you are a biology or a chemistry major, or if you are a history or music major, the faculty have determined that there are a certain number and type of courses that you should take in order to have adequate knowledge of that particular field. You may feel that they have no relevance to your proposed career. However, it is wise to recognize that people and circumstances often change and what you may regard as irrelevant now may be very important later on in life. In addition, our goal is to prepare you for professional success. That means that you must learn and understand the fundamental concepts that accompany the discipline of your major.
5. What GPA and admission exam scores do I need to enter professional school?
Your grades and admission exam scores are used to assess your academic potential in professional school and your ability to obtain a license to practice your particular form of health care. There is no magic cut off for either parameter. However, you should strive to present a balanced picture between your GPA and your admission exam scores. Your scores need to be about the same as the previous years ENTERING class (not the national average) for each school that you apply to. In general, a GPA of 3.5-3.7 with higher numbers in science will be sufficient. For medical schools, MCAT composite scores of 500 are competitive; DAT academic average of 20 is competitive; GRE scores of 150 verbal, 150 math and 5 in writing are competitive. Individual consultation with the program director will provide additional information.
6. Can I take admission exams multiple times?
Yes, with some limitations that are set by each organization that provides the exam. Most of the programs that administer admission examinations limit the number and timing of repeats. In addition, professional schools do not look favorably on students who take the exams multiple times. The very best plan is to prepare well and take the exam ONCE, when you are ready. It goes without saying that all basic course work must be completed prior to taking the admission exam. There is no point in taking the MCAT, for example, if you have not completed physics or organic chemistry! This applies, more or less, to all admission exams with the exception of the GRE (general test).
7. How can I prepare for these standardized exams?
The first and most important act that you can take in preparation for admission examinations is to read, read, read! All exams will test your ability to analyze information quickly and consistent reading outside of your textbooks is the best way to prepare for these examinations. Read a variety of materials, fiction, and non-fiction, material in the field of health care, the newspaper, high quality magazines and any kind of literature. The more sophisticated the prose and the vocabulary, the better off you will be. You should set up a reading program for the summer, using suggestions from our English Department as well as from the program. During the summer months, you should read at least one book a week in addition to a daily newspaper. You should continue reading during the semester but somewhat less because of your course load. In addition, you should be able to demonstrate competency in mathematics. We recommend at least a semester of calculus for all students who aspire to professional school graduate programs. You should also prepare diligently and intensely for the exam. Millikin offers a four-semester review in addition to specialized reviews for each of the major standardized exams. Consult with the program director on which review is appropriate for you. For medical, dental and optometry students, review begins during the second semester of your freshmen year. Not only do you begin preparation for the admission exam but also you build a learning community through your participation. Students who need to take the GRE will also participate in review as well as an intense course but the timing differs from the first group.
8. How many organizations do I need to join to demonstrate leadership?
The number of organizations that you participate in is not crucial; the quality and depth of your commitment to the organizations is important. You should spend a semester evaluating campus organizations and during your second semester begin to participate. A small number of carefully selected projects, which clearly demonstrate that you can be a leader, are better than belonging to many organizations with little depth of commitment. You may also demonstrate leadership in your home community. One of our students took on the leadership role with a group of young boys who were somewhat at risk for success both in school and in life. His church sponsored this organization. He worked with these children for nearly three years and continues to work with them today even after graduation from Millikin and enrollment in dental school. Part of this commitment was to return home to be with the boys every Sunday evening, a trip of two hours each way. He did this and kept his commitments to academics, campus activities and exam preparation.
9. I shadowed a doctor in high school. Isn’t this enough exposure to health care? Why do I need direct patient contact?
No. While the health care related experiences you participated in during high school might have provided the initial motivation towards a career in health care, professional schools expect that you will expand on these experiences in college. Again, the key is quality instead of quantity. One, good internship or work experience is better than a few days shadowing a doctor or physical therapist. Variety is also important but again quality of the experience should be kept in mind. There are several international health care programs that may also be useful and you should explore these. If you are interested in veterinary medicine, you should plan on having both large and small animal experience prior to application to professional school. Professional schools are placing more emphasis on direct patient contact. These programs ask you to provide the evidence that you have the empathy and interpersonal skills to work with those that are vulnerable. When you see the program director during advising, you should be prepared to discuss these aspects of your application profile.
Advising, Application, Interviews and Admission Process
1. When do I come for advising?
You should plan on seeing both your academic and pre-professional advisor at least once every semester. At Millikin, your academic advisor is charged with monitoring your progress toward meeting the requirements of your major and monitoring your progress towards graduation. The preprofessional advisor is charged with monitoring your progress towards admission to professional school. The pre-professional advisor will make suggestions to improve your candidacy and make sure that you are meeting the course requirements for admission. Failure to meet with each of these advisors may mean that you will be less competitive for professional school. It is your responsibility to set up appointments with each of your advisors and to keep these appointments. Both your academic and pre-professional advisor are available at other times. Remember that advising is highly individualized. What worked for your friend, your Dad, your roommate or your aunt may not work for you. Also remember that the requirements and competition for professional school are constantly changing. Unless someone is active in the field of health care advising, they may not be aware of these changes and thus, give you incorrect advice.
2. When should I take the admission examination?
For pre-medical, pre-dental and pre-optometry students the admission examination is usually taken during the junior year. Pre-pharmacy students should plan on taking the PCAT during the early part of the spring semester of their second year at Millikin. If you need to take the GRE, the best time is the summer between your third and fourth years or in the fall semester of the fourth year. It is crucial to have completed all of the required courses before you sit for the exam. Consult with the preprofessional advisor on the timing of the examination. If you feel that you will be better prepared if you wait a year, this will not affect your application to professional school though it may delay it by a year. Today, the trend is for more students to take a year or more between college and professional school. This time represents a valuable opportunity for personal growth and strengthening of the application. It is not considered “bad” to take this time. Millikin’s advising extends beyond graduation and we are eager to work with you to facilitate your success regardless of the timing.
3. When should I apply to professional school?
For the majority of students, applications are completed in the summer between the third and fourth years or, depending on timing, during the fall semester of the fourth year. The program provides both pre-application and application workshops to explain the general process and give you the details that support your application. The program director then works with each student individually to ensure that the application is complete and submitted in a timely fashion. Timing is everything and the earlier you submit the required application and supporting materials, the farther along in the process and the more successful you will be. Most professional schools have rolling admissions. This means that given the competition, the earlier applications have the best chance of success, all other aspects being competitive.
4. How do I prepare for an interview at a professional school?
The Pre-Professional Program will prepare you individually through a series of practice interviews for the interview at a professional school. These are rigorous training sessions that are designed to see that you go into these interviews with confidence. The program director will guide you on ethics, body language and dress. In addition, you should prepare for these practice and real interviews by reading extensively in the field of health care. That type of preparation can begin during your first year at Millikin.
5. Who should I get to write letters of recommendation?
Each type of professional schools has a unique emphasis on the letters of recommendation. During the application workshop, the program director will tell you of these various requirements. Some programs will be very specific on the source of the letters. You will want to ask for recommendations from people who know you well and can express, using examples, your intelligence, academic ability, character and potential as a health professional. In order to get such a recommendation, you must establish a strong working relationship with these members of the Millikin faculty. You should establish these professors early in your academic career and maintain contact with them during your time at Millikin.