Pre-Health at HWS
Hobart and William Smith Colleges is an ideal place to prepare for a career in the health professions. Over the past five years our placement rate for medical, dental and veterinary school applicants has exceeded 80%, well above national averages. Many recent graduates are also now successful physical therapists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, occupational therapists, and a variety of other clinical practitioners.
Our small class sizes, high-quality faculty, and community of collaborative, diverse and high-achieving students promote strong learning outcomes. Professional schools know this, and value our graduates for what they learn at HWS and for their records of success in taking on new challenges after college.
Students at HWS also extend their education beyond the classroom. Our students take part in research on campus, pursue service learning and community service projects, and study abroad all over the globe. Pre-health students at HWS are thus at the forefront of generating new knowledge, and their obvious and effective commitment to improving the lives of others is informed by real-world understanding of the challenges that face our local and global communities.
One of the most important advantages HWS students enjoy is the outstanding support our alumni and the local community provide. HWS students have access to a wealth of mentors and thus to a great variety of clinical internships and opportunities to gain practical experiences in healthcare.
At HWS pre-health advising is individualized. The information provided here is only meant to be a brief introduction. Whether you aim to pursue an MD/PhD, join Doctors Without Borders, become a large animal veterinarian, or serve your community as a specialty or primary care provider, we will work with you to help you achieve your goal.
If you'd like to view a full listing of our course options in any subject, please visit the Online Course Catalogue.
Majors and Minors
While many pre-health students have a natural interest in the sciences, a major in the sciences is not required for admission to medical, dental or veterinary school. Professional schools welcome diverse academic backgrounds and select applicants who are passionate about what they study. Regardless of your major, you need to do well in prerequisite courses, and should complete all prerequisite courses before beginning the graduate application process and taking standardized entrance exams such as the MCAT or DAT.
Similarly, your choice of minor should follow from your interests. Minors in foreign languages, public policy, women's or men's studies, international relations, child advocacy, and a host of others serve pre-health students well. The Health Professions Minor is a popular option, but is not required.
Your faculty adviser and pre-health adviser are here to help you fashion an academic program that fits your interests and abilities while satisfying the prerequisites for admission to professional or graduate programs.
AP or IB Credit
Health professional programs treat AP and IB in different ways. It is the prospective applicant’s responsibility to investigate and meet the specific requirements and policies of individual programs. Some programs may require or prefer students who earn AP or IB credit to complete more advanced coursework to satisfy prerequisites.
The best first preparation for the MCAT, DAT, OAT and PCAT are the prerequisite courses. In addition to the relevant coursework, you will also want to commit to additional review and study time to produce the best result on your exam. Timing is important. You must have exam scores when you submit your application to medical, dental, or other health professional programs. The most competitive applications to medical and dental programs are submitted 13 or 14 months before you hope to begin medical or dental school.
Consider a schedule that allows you to do well on the exam and to submit polished applications in a timely manner. Individual advice on preparation and timing is provided.
Health Committee Letter of Recommendation
One advantage of attending HWS is the opportunity to request a Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC) recommendation in support of an application to medical, dental, optometry, or veterinary school. The HPAC letter provides a detailed review of the applicant's overall preparation for professional school, and is part of a packet that includes supporting letters that students obtain from faculty, research supervisors, medical professionals and mentors as part of the HPAC application process. Students should apply for the HPAC recommendation in the spring semester before they apply to medical, dental, optometry or veterinary programs. Seniors planning “gap” time before applying to professional school should complete the request process before leaving campus. An informational meeting about the application process is held in early December. HPAC letters are kept on file in the Health Professions Advising Office in the Career Center.
Below are some general suggestions and advice for students preparing for medical, dental, and veterinary school. Individual schools set their own prerequisites, and there is some variation between schools.
Information for students preparing for mid-level provider careers is available here.
For extensive and up-to-date information about the prerequisites for specific schools and programs, see the health professions adviser.
BIOL 167 - Introductory Topics in Biology – is a prerequisite for other courses in biology and will be counted as one semester of biology by professional schools.
Pre-medical, pre-dental and pre-veterinary students should take at least two other lab courses in biology. Any two of the three courses listed below would be good choices, as concepts covered in these courses often appear on the DAT and MCAT.
BIOL 232 - Cell Biology
BIOL 220 - Genetics
BIOL 233 - General Physiology
BIOL 212 - Biostatistics will help HWS students satisfy their quantitative goal (Goal #3). BIOL 212 will also satisfy any statistics requirement or recommendation for health professional programs.
Medical, Dental, and Veterinary schools require a significant amount of chemistry courses. There are two options for completing the general chemistry requirement. Students may complete either a single, accelerated course:
CHEM 190 – Accelerated General Chemistry
or both of:
CHEM 110 - Introductory General Chemistry
CHEM 120 – Intermediate General Chemistry
Students should then continue with the organic chemistry sequence:
CHEM 240 - Organic Chemistry I
CHEM 241 - Organic Chemistry II
Medical, veterinary, and most dental schools require students to take biochemistry. Students preparing for careers in these fields should plan on taking:
CHEM 348 – Biochemistry I
Students preparing for medical, dental, or veterinary school should take:
PHYS 150 - Introductory Physics I
PHYS 160 - Introductory Physics II
Introductory physics courses for non-majors such as PHYS 112, PHYS 120 or PHYS 140 will not satisfy pre-requisite requirements for most health professional programs.
Some veterinary and dental schools require two semesters of calculus. Most medical schools require knowledge of calculus and statistics but do not set specific course prerequisites.
MATH 130 - Calculus I is a prerequisite for PHYS 150
MATH 131 - Calculus II is a prerequisite for PHYS 160
Pre-medical students who earn credit for MATH 131 need not take any additional calculus courses. Pre-medical students should take BIOL 212 – Biostatistics, or another statistics course.
Pre-dental and pre-veterinary students should complete two courses at the level of MATH 130 or above. It is also recommended they complete a statistics course.
Students who do not score high enough on the math placement exam to place into Calculus I or II will need to complete a pre-calculus course, MATH 100 (offered only in the fall), before enrolling in calculus.
MATH 100 prepares for success in the calculus courses, but does not satisfy any calculus prerequisite.
Most health professional programs require two semesters of English or writing. Many different English or Writing and Rhetoric courses may be used to satisfy this requirement.
Social Science Courses
Successful clinical careers require understanding not only the science of disease and health, but also the psychological, social, and cultural factors that shape human behavior. For this reason, many programs require courses in the social sciences. One of the four sections of the MCAT tests knowledge of the psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior. It is strongly recommended that pre-medical students take:
PSY 100 - Introduction to Psychology