Frequently Asked Questions

Many of the questions are answered in reference to medical school but can be generalized to most health professions. Please reference individual program policies when applicable.

All students should first attend a workshop called Pre-Health 101. Check HPAO on BeachSync for the next available workshop. All students are free to attend drop-ins once they have attended this workshop.

If you are trying to decide if you will be applying, do NOT make an appointment. Stop by during drop in hours after you have attended Pre-Health 101. If know you will be applying the upcoming cycle (competitive GPA, fulfilled requirements, research and volunteer experiences completed) you can make an appointment online.

Yes! The HPAO Services are open to ALL current CSULB students and recent alumni (within three years of graduation).

Policies regarding Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) credit are not consistent across medical schools. Some medical schools will accept AP credit for pre-med requirements only if advanced work in that academic area is also taken. Some med schools will accept AP for some sequences, but not others, or accept no AP credit.

It is perfectly acceptable to forfeit your AP or IB credit in a subject if you feel more comfortable reviewing the material and strengthening your skills and background in an introductory course. Many students choose to take those introductory courses at a community college during a summer term. Furthermore, college-level coursework in that area will provide reinforcement in preparation for the MCAT.

Please see Medical School Admission Requirements [PDF] for more information about AP policies.

There is absolutely no preference given to science majors or disadvantage to those who major in the non-sciences. You need to find the major that fits you best and that you do the best in. Grades are extremely important for medical school admissions so make sure to find your academic niche. Medical schools want mature, well-rounded scholars who are enthusiastic about learning, have diverse interests, and are inspired by public service. The best major is the one you are most passionate about.

Please see Pre-Med Plan for Non-Science Majors [PDF].

Evidence-based medicine relies heavily on research for new innovations and treatments. While not mandatory, research experience is looked on favorably by admissions committees. Most people think bench research, the lab coats and petri dishes is the only kind of research. If that's not your interest, there are actually a couple of different kinds of research, which can benefit your health profession profile such as clinical and social research. Click here for details.

Yes! In fact, you may find that your academic schedule lightens up a bit if you incorporate summer school. Most of the lower-division prerequisites are offered in the summer, as well as a good selection of upper-division courses. Medical schools do not place judgment on whether you took the course(s) in the regular academic year or in summer, so go ahead.

Yes, medical schools accept community college coursework to satisfy prerequisites. However, we highly recommend that you take the vast majority of your required courses at a four year university (all upper division requirements). Medical schools look for patterns, so if you have taken your lower division requirements at community college, then that is acceptable as long as you are doing well at CSULB. If you consistently take courses at a community college when you could take them here, then you may be considered less competitive during the medical school admissions process.

Some medical schools will not accept online science courses, especially those with online labs. A hybrid course with online lectures and in-person labs may be acceptable. It is the student's responsibility to check the requirements for each school to which they are applying.

Also: What if no one from my family was a doctor? What if I came from a high school where there were no advanced classes?

Medical schools are very committed to admitting a broad and diverse class in order to meet the healthcare needs of our changing population. There are a lot of resources that can help you strengthen your academics. There are also summer programs at medical schools that are designed to help support rural, disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students to gain entrance to medical school. An example of one is the Summer Health Professions Education Program.

No! The trend, both at CSULB and nationally, is for applicants take at least one year off before starting medical school. The average age for new medical students is 25. Time only gives you more opportunity to strengthen your application- additional classwork, fit in MCAT, clinical experience, research, job experience, travel, and more.

Please see Summer and Gap Year Opportunities [PDF].

Allopathic (M.D.) and osteopathic (D.O.) medical schools both provide the education and training necessary to practice medicine. While both schools employ the benefits of modern medicine (prescription drugs, surgery, and technology), osteopathic medicine uses a holistic approach that also includes hands on diagnosis and treatment (i.e., manipulative medicine).

Theoretically, yes. However, it definitely is not going to help your medical school application. Getting into even one medical school these days are extremely difficult. Those who get into medical school have competitive GPAs and MCAT scores. If you have failed a class, it will undoubtedly affect your GPA. However, a 'W' is not included in your medical school GPA in any way.

One big misconception is that if you failed a class, you can retake it and replace the old grade. This is generally false. Even if your undergraduate college says that your new grade will replace the old grade, medical schools will not follow this policy. Also, you must remember that medical schools view each applicant holistically. If you have one F or 'W' in your first quarter of freshmen year, it probably will not matter all that much if the rest of your grades are stellar. However, if you make a habit of getting these grades, medical schools might not think you are academically prepared for medical school. Upward trends show perseverance and willingness to change. If you did poorly because of special circumstances such as family issues or health problems, you will have an opportunity to explain what happened on your application.

Do not lose hope if you have had one or two bad semesters. There are many medical students and practicing physicians who have been in your shoes. But at the same time, there is no shame in deciding that a career in medicine is not for you. If you decide that you are willing to do what it takes to become a doctor, your bad semesters must be deviations from the norm. Regardless of the route you take, use this time of self-evaluation as a time to mature, learn your limits and push yourself to reach your maximum potential.

Why did you do poorly? First, determine why you underperformed. Were you lazy? Did you simply have difficulty understanding the material? Are you a bad test-taker? Do you genuinely dislike what you are learning? Evaluate where you went wrong and decide whether it is fixable. If it is laziness, you can change that. Go to tutoring. Join study groups. Take advantage of all campus resources to improve.

On the other hand, if you realize you hate science and you dread studying anything science-related, maybe medicine is not for you. You must be willing to be honest with yourself. Medical school admissions committees can look at two students with the same GPA completely differently. They generally look favorably upon the student who started slowly but finished strong and negatively upon the student who started strong but progressively did worse. The former student learned from his or her mistakes, while the latter student did not show any academic growth. Admissions committees look at your entire transcript and see how your grades have progressed.

A postbac program is a great option for students that starting doing well in the upper division sciences but were not able to bring their overall GPA up before graduation (2.9-3.3).

Please do not reapply if nothing has changed. Meet with an academic advisor to discuss a possible reapplication before making any decisions. There are a number of options to consider, including postbac programs or special master's degree programs that are possible routes for you.

What to do before you reapply.

A post-baccalaureate (postbac/post-bacc) program is for students who have already completed an undergraduate degree, and are interested in a health professions career. They need either to finish prerequisite courses and/or need to improve their academic standing for a more competitive professional school application. Two types of postbac programs are offered: "career changer" and "enhancement." Generally the target population of these two programs differs.

A career changer program is geared to students who have completed little or no premed/health career science requirements. The programs are typically two year certificate programs.

An enhancement program targets students who have done those science requirements but need to redo some or do additional science courses to strengthen their science GPAs. These are typically one year certificate or Master's programs.

Read more about postbac programs.