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Dental School Prerequisites


Because undergraduate education is the foundation on which medical training is based, medical schools scrutinize their applicants' undergraduate records carefully. Few schools require that their applicants hold a baccalaureate degree, but rarely do they admit students who have completed less than four years of undergraduate study. Accordingly, it is recommended that you choose a major and work toward fulfilling degree requirements as you prepare yourself for medical school.

There is no such thing as a "pre-med" major. This means that you may choose from the college's list of more than eighty majors. You may note that many pre-meds major in one of the biological sciences. In some ways this is the most convenient program, because its requirements include all courses which are the prerequisites for medical school. The deciding factors in selecting your major, however, should be your own interests and abilities. Your major should also provide an alternative path should you be unsuccessful at gaining admission to medical school.

Since medical studies are more intense and more concentrated than most undergraduate programs, admissions committees will take into account both the grades you received in courses as well as the nature of your academic program. A 3.65 grade-point average is more impressive when achieved in study loads of 16-20 units per quarter than when earned in programs of 12-15. Course selection will also be considered, for some courses are recognized as being more rigorous than others. This does not mean that as a pre-med you should always burden yourself with heavy loads or that you must always select the most rigorous courses. Evaluate your abilities and responsibilities realistically. Don't look for the easy way out just to be sure of earning good grades, but avoid dooming yourself to failure by taking on more than you know you can manage.

In addition to fulfilling requirements (pre-medical or major), take courses outside your area of primary emphasis. During your undergraduate years, the goal is to acquire a broad education. If you are afraid that taking courses outside your field of maximum expertise will jeopardize your grade-point average, use the passed/not passed (P/NP) grading option. Admissions committees will want to see that you have taken most of your courses on a graded basis, but a limited use of the P/NP option will not weaken your application.

There are 126 medical schools in the United States and fortunately they all have essentially the same requirements. On the following page are listed the essential elements of these requirements. You should consult the Medical School Admissions Requirement Handbook (published by the Association of American Medical Colleges) to ascertain specific requirements for a given medical school.


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