Pre-Health Advice


Advice for Entering Students Looking Towards a Career in a Health-related Profession

A Dartmouth Guidebook


Key Contacts for Information about Health-related Careers:

Over 1000 Dartmouth undergraduates each year have some potential interest in a career in the health professions. These careers include among others: Physician,Veterinary Medicine, Ph.D. programs in public health and health care administration, Dentistry, Nursing, and Physician Assistant. Support of this group of students (and of DC alumni) is complex and involves information about curricular options, extracurricular activities and the actual process of application to a graduate program. The Health Professions Program (HPP), located in 10/11 Parkhurst, is an important resource of information, advising and support.

In planning your Dartmouth curriculum and in seeking opportunities that would allow you test your interest in the health professions, your attention is drawn to the following key points of contact and/or information:

1. The Health Professions Program Advising Office and Resource Center (10/11 Parkhurst) This is the hub of all advising activities (walk-in advising hours among them) and its resource center has lots of valuable information about all health careers and the process of applying to them.

2. Nathan Smith Society A student-led campus organization of >1100 students with diverse interests in health careers. A central source of information, events and advice/counsel about health careers. Lee Witters, MD is the faculty advisor. BEING ON THE NSS BLITZ LIST IS ALL THAT IS REQUIRED TO JOIN! IF YOU HAVE NOT SIGNED UP AT THE ORIENTATION MEETING, BLITZ 'nss" to join!!

3. Nathan Smith Society web site (You are here!) This web site contains many valuable links to all the health career professions and it contains information on curricular options, extracurricular experiences and details of the applications process. An equally valuable web site is the NSS Blackboard site, where one can get rapid access to lots of information, ask questions and find lots of links. You must self-enroll on the NSS Blackboard site .

4. Dartmouth College Career Services THE place to go for comprehensive advice about career planning and how to develop your Dartmouth extracurricular experiences. Meet personally with advisors, read important documents on developing your resume, establishing a credentials file, finding internships and much more!

5. Tucker Foundation The Tucker Foundation challenges students to explore places in the heart, spirit and mind that will help them serve as humane, thoughtful and just leaders. Explore opportunities locally, nationally and internationally for volunteer service, community service leave term internships, and fellowships. A MUST stop for the pre-health career student.

6. Academic Skills Center Improve your active learning strategies by attending Learning at Dartmouth (fall term for first-year students only), making an appointment with Carl Thum, visiting the ASC website, or taking the Reading Improvement Course (through Miniversity). Increase your science learning by signing up for a tutor or joining a study group for the science courses you take.

7. Information for Dartmouth Pre-Veterinary Students

8. Information for Dartmouth Pre-Dental Students

Students who are considering medical/dental/vet or other health professional school should connect with the Health Professions Advisors early and throughout their Dartmouth experience.  Though a healthcare career path may begin later, decisions made early affect long-term career options.


Walk-in Office Hours (for summer term and interim):  
Monday: 1-3 PM; Tuesday and Wednesday, 3-5 PM; Thursday, 9-11 AM
Use walk-in hours to check-in, review your DPlan, discuss curricular and extracurricular activities, to begin your individual career exploration, or to create an action plan for your future career in the health professions.  If a longer appointment needed, we can arrange it during this visit.


Dr. Lee Witters, MD, Eugene W. Leonard 1921 Professor of Medicine & Biochemistry, Dartmouth Medical School; Professor of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College
Office, 322 Remsen, DMS (click for map)     Phone:  650-1909

Annette Hamilton, Health Professions Coordinator           
Office: Career Services, 63 S. Main St. 2nd Floor of Bank of America Building (click for map); Phone: 646-3377



Table of Contents

1. Welcome and Beginning Tips

2. Things To Consider in Choosing a Health Career

3. Required Courses for Medical, Dental or Veterinary Schools with Course Chart

4. A General Timetable for Planning

5. Other Advice, Hints and Ideas

6. Other Resources (Publications, Web links)




Dartmouth College is a rich environment in which one can begin to decide whether a future career in a health-related profession is a goal you wish to pursue. Advice, counsel, extracurricular programs and opportunities and assistance in any application process are all available from multiple individuals and organizations. All of these will allow the student to gain the wisdom and the information to make such a decision. The Dartmouth community is here to assist you through your years as an undergraduate and beyond.

Five (5)important facts/tips to remember at the beginning:

  1. Meet with a Health Professions Advisor in the Health Professions Program at Dartmouth.  There is NO ONE WAY to prepare for a career in the health professions – each individual career path is different.   A combination of experiences both in and out of the classroom will offer you the opportunity to decide whether you want to proceed in the direction of a health career and the timetable over which you want to do that.  To “chart” your own individual experience, both to test your interest in the health professions and to prepare you, based on classroom and extracurricular experiences, to be a successful applicant, it is imperative that you interact with a knowledgeable health career advisor both at the beginning of and THROUGHOUT your time at Dartmouth.  You will receive “advice” from many as you think about these things (parents, peers, departmental faculty, deans, administrators, popular press); while there is value in each of these opinions, ALWAYS confirm that advice with an experienced advisor before making any substantive decisions.
  2. Dartmouth does not have a standard "prehealth" curriculum. Successful medical school and health program applicants have majored in every discipline available at Dartmouth. Choose courses and a major that you enjoy and want to explore. Specific courses are, however, required for admission. The demonstration of scientific aptitude through good performance in these courses is essential for successful application. Work with a knowledgeable advisor to schedule and pace your science courses according to a plan that best suits your educational program. Planning your potential path(s) through Dartmouth EARLY with an experienced advisor is paramount!
  3. Consider applying to medical school or health programs after graduation.  Most of our students (80%) delay some required courses until senior year (or even later) and plan to enter medical/vet/dental school after a year or more of work or graduate study. Many also choose to complete course work after graduation in post-baccalaureate programs or to use post-graduate course work to strengthen their classroom credentials (and preparedness of MCAT/DAT/GRE exams). Follow your own interests and do not sacrifice courses, off-campus programs, or extracurricular activities in order to rush through the pre-health requirements. Delaying one’s application may actually be an advantage to some in that one has “extra time” to build one’s classroom and extracurricular credentials and get to know potential letter writers better. At the very least, discuss this option EARLY with one of the pre-health advisors to see which time frame(s) might be best for you. There is NO ONE WAY to be successful in your eventual application. Get the very best education Dartmouth College has to offer!
  4. Get to know your professors as you proceed through the Dartmouth curriculum. The faculty is a rich resource of advice and guidance for the pre-health student. In addition, the eventual application process for medical school and other health-related professional schools relies heavily on letters of recommendation from faculty and others. Take the time to develop relationships with your faculty, so that at the time you need letters, they can write one that reflects how well they know you as a person and not just by your performance in a class. Utilize office hours and other contacts to get to know the faculty better. A good rule of thumb: Get to know ONE faculty member well each term.
  5. Plan to participate in extra-curricular activities involving medicine and health careers and in service to others throughout your time at Dartmouth. Participation in extracurricular activities is perhaps the best way to let you decide whether a career in the health-related professions is something that you will aim for. These activities range from volunteering in a clinic or hospital, doing research in a biomedical laboratory, observing patient care close up while shadowing a physician, dentist or vet (note that for the latter, schools will require a certain number of hours of work with a vet), working in groups that assist patients or their families or doing a internship in a health- or human-service related field. The demonstration of your care and concern for others is also extremely important. Plan to do these things throughout your time at Dartmouth, not just for a term or two. Such participation is looked on very favorably at the time of application, for they demonstrate your interest in science, medicine, others and society.




REQUIRED COURSES for Medical, Dental, or Veterinary Schools

In considering your course schedule and D-plan with an advisor, you SHOULD develop more than one plan for the completion of this curriculum, based on the pace & difficulty of courses and possible routes toward different application dates.

If your plan is to delay entrance to medical/dental/vet schools with a "gap year" or more between graduation and matriculation, this creates much more curricular flexibility and you can work out several paths in consultation with an advisor. If you are pointing towards entering medical/dental/vet school immediately following graduation, the following courses should be completed before spring term of junior year, the optimum time to take the required MCAT admission test.

The courses listed below are considered an adequate minimum basic preparation by most schools, although a few schools have additional course requirements. To obtain information about specific schools, refer to the current edition of the Medical School Admission Requirements, Admission Requirements of U.S. and Canadian Dental Schools; and Veterinary Medical School Requirements for required and recommended courses; these editions are available in the Career Services office. You can also consult our summary document that reviews several features of specific medical schools, including course requirements. This has been updated for 2009-2010 admissions, so you should double-check the specific requirements of schools you are interested in, as they can change without notice.


  • Two (2) terms are required by most schools
    Writing 5 and First-Year Seminar are satisfactory. Students exempted from Writing 5 should schedule an additional term of Writing Program or English Department offerings. If you are exempted from Writing 5, then you must complete another course in literature in the English language; best to speak to a Health Professions Advisor as to which courses are acceptable.



  • Two (2) terms recommended by most schools; required by 20% of the schools
    Several possibilities: Math 1 & 2; 3 and 8 or 3 plus a non-calculus math course, such as Math 10 (Statistics); AP + Math 10; or two terms AP (if AP is accepted by the med school in question). Note: Math 10 is equivalent to Sociology 10, Economics 10, and Psychology 10 in terms of this requirement. Biology 29 ('Biostatistics') is also a good option for biologically relevant applications.

    Check the individual medical school course requirements for additional required or recommended math courses. Some schools require two terms of calculus or one term of statistics.


  • Two (2) terms with laboratory is the minimum requirement at most schools

    At Dartmouth, all students wishing to satisfy this requirement must first take Biology 11 ('The Science of Life'). This course, offered 4 times per year without a lab, focuses on problem-solving in Biology and prepares students to take the required laboratory-based courses. One can then choose among 5 laboratory-based courses (BIOL 12-16) to satisfy this minimum requirement with many students choosing two courses between Biology 12 ('Cell Biology'), Biology 13 ('Genetics') and Biology 14 ('Physiology').

    We feel that all students should take Biology 13 ('Genetics') and that, if they plan to take only the minimum number of lab-based courses, that either Biology 12 ('Cell Biology') or Biology 14 ('Physiology') is an acceptable 2nd course. However, strong consideration should be given to taking all three of these courses and certainly more than the minimum both for MCAT success and for success in the graduate curriculum. Other courses in Biology are strongly recommended and can be chosen from among BIOL 24, 27, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40, 42, 44, 46, 47, 66, 67, 69, 74, 78, or 79, among others. Students should consider including a course that emphasizes physiology and anatomy, since these subjects are frequently represented on the MCAT exam. General courses that include these subjects are BIOL 2, 14 and 35. Students who are uncertain about their interest in a health career or feel they have weak backgrounds in Biology (and science) prior to matriculation at Dartmouth or who are hesitant about college science courses in general should consider Biology 2 ('Human Biology') as their entry course in the fall of their first year. Learn more about the Biology Dept curricula at the department web site.

    Note: The laboratory-based courses, Biology 12 to 16 can be taken in any order after completing Biology 11.

    Note: Most Vet schools also require Biology 46 (microbiology), Biology 40 (biochemistry) and another course with biochemistry emphasis (e.g. Bio 66, 69 or Bio 78).

  • Two (2) terms of General Chemistry
    • Chem 5/6; or Chem 10 (by competitive exam; carries two terms of general Chemistry credit).

  • Two (2) terms of Organic Chemistry

      Chem 51/52 or Chem 57/58 are the options

    NOTE: If you choose to enroll in Chemistry 5, you may be placed into Chemistry 2, based on your pre-matriculation mathematics and science record. Chemistry 2 is a course for students who intend to take Chemistry 5-6, but who need additional preparation for quantitative and analytical aspects of general chemistry. Satisfactory completion of Chemistry 2 is a pre-requisite for enrolling in Chemistry 5.

NOTE: If you choose to delay Chemistry 5/6 or 10 until sophomore year, you could lock yourself into scheduling six (6) consecutive enrolled terms without a vacation term if you plan to enter med/vet/dental school in the fall of 2014. For most students the only alternative to the six-term enrollment will be to delay entrance until the year 2015 or later.

  • Two (2) terms of Physics

    Physics 3/4; Physics 13/14; or Physics 15/16 are the three options. Physics 3/4 is the most frequently selected option if one does not plan to major in Physics.

  • Currently, 14 medical schools REQUIRE a course in Biochemistry, and nearly 90 schools recommend it. Veterinary schools nearly all REQUIRE a course in biochemistry. Biology 40 or Chemistry 41 would meet this requirement. This requirement has been changing in recent years in medical schools and students are encouraged to check the our 2009-10 summary list. Because these lists may change without notice, students are encouraged to seek the information on the requirements of all schools they are interested in attending by checking with their web sites or admissions offices. In any event, it is a course to seriously consider, as having this background is really of great value in the first year of medical school.

These are minimum science requirements. If your grades in these courses are good, and your schedule is filled with courses necessary for your major, you need not go beyond these unless an individual school of your choice has additional prerequisites. Check individual school requirements in the current edition of the Medical School Admission Requirements or the dental or veterinary medical school directories available in the HPP Resource Center. For students preparing for veterinary medical schools, prerequisite courses differ from school to school, but most include courses in microbiology and biochemistry. Learn the requirements of the schools of your choice during your first year. For information and scheduling advice, consult a Health Careers Advisor.

If your academic record does not clearly establish competency in laboratory sciences, you should include more upper-level science courses. Additional biology and/or chemistry courses are recommended by most schools and required by a few schools.



First Year



1. Choose courses that challenge and interest you and activities that will let you grow and develop your skills.

2. If you do not have Math 3 credit, strongly consider enrolling in the fall term in either Math 3 (or Math 1 (by invitation). Math 3 is a pre-requisite course for beginning the chemistry sequence with Chem 5. Hesitate about enrolling in upper-level math courses (Math 8 or greater) in your first term, unless you have strong skills in math.

3. Students who are planning to major in Biology should take Biology 11 in their first year, though not necessarily in the fall. Taking Bio 11 in the first year permits advancement to the laboratory-based foundation courses (Bio 12 to 16). If you are concerned about your actual interests in the health professions or the strength of your biology background or scientific acumen in general, consider taking Biology 2 as your first Dartmouth science course.

4. Students with a strong chemistry background : consider taking the proficiency test for Chem 10. Chemistry 10 (offered only to First Year students and only in the Fall) carries credit for both Chem 5 and Chem 6, fulfilling this two term requirement, when successfully completed. Note that enrollment is limited.

5. Students not eligible for Chem 10, but who have AP credit for Math 3, should consider taking Chem 5. Taking Chem 5 in the first OR second term (either okay) has its advantages, if you want to avoid doubling-up lab courses in future terms. If you plan to enter medical school the fall after graduation and you don't take Chem 5 & 6 in your first year, your D-plan will be tricky, particularly if you want to be away in the fall term of your junior year, plan on applying to med school at the end of that year and still have general chem and organic chem to complete in your junior year. Best to discuss this latter option with an advisor.

However, if you feel your preparation for a college-level Chemistry course may not be adequate, consult with an advisor before signing up for Chem 5 in your freshman fall. If you choose to enroll in Chemistry 5, you may be placed into Chemistry 2, based on your pre-matriculation mathematics and science record. Chemistry 2 is a course for students who intend to take Chemistry 5-6, but who need additional preparation for quantitative and analytical aspects of general chemistry. Satisfactory completion of Chemistry 2 is a pre-requisite for enrolling in Chemistry 5.

6. Students who feel they have incomplete science backgrounds and/or want to gain confidence in the science curriculum at Dartmouth before embarking on required courses should consider taking Biology 2 ('Human Biology') in the fall of the first year. This course also offers a broad view of the science of health and medicine for those students who are uncertain or uncommitted to this career direction.

7. Students considering a major in engineering should consult Professor Erland Schulson and read this document on combining the major with fulfilling the pre-medical requirements.

8. Involve yourself with campus activities that refresh you intellectually and physically.

9. Meet with your professors to discuss courses, plans, and interests.

10. Consider the Women in Science Program ; volunteer through NSS programs, the Tucker Foundation and/or the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

11. Plan your "D-plan" and the pre-health courses you expect to take for the next three OR four years. Prepare to change, modify, and adapt your schedule as needs and interests change. Reconsider your 4-year schedule of courses. Think about possible majors and try-out courses. Do you want to take an off-campus program of study? Are you taking science courses at a pace which you can handle successfully?

13. Begin to search for a summer job; gain health-related experiences. Know the resources available at Dartmouth and in the Career Services Center.


Sophomore Year

1. Challenge your decision to prepare for a health career. Address your doubts. Talk with a Health Career Advisor or faculty. Assess your talents, interests, and values. Talk with alumni/ae in the health professions.

2. Familiarize yourself with professions in the health field. Secure leave-term or part-time health or human-service related experiences (both science/lab research and patient-care experiences). Read about the health field; its problems, future, and roles.

3.Choose your major by end of your 5th term (admissions committees have no preference for any specific major, provided you have a strong academic record in the required science courses).

4. Arrange a supervised research experience as part of your academic program (e.g. Independent Study, Honors Thesis Research, Presidential Scholar Program, Volunteer or Paid Internships). Get involved with community service projects through the Tucker Foundation or in human service projects at the DHMC.

5. Attend Nathan Smith and Health Professions Program-sponsored health career programs.


Junior Year


1. Plan your academic schedule for the next two (2) years.

2. Attend informational sessions hosted by the Health Professions Program and Nathan Smith Society.

3. Consult admission directories and catalogs for individual school course requirements.

4. Monitor the NSS web site and Blackboard for information about med school application.


If you are planning on application to med/vet/dental school at the end of this year (so that you can matriculate the fall after your graduation):

1. Attend an Application Procedures informational meeting. Become aware of the deadlines for arranging letters, submitting applications, taking the MCAT/DAT/GRE exam, etc.

2. Obtain the Medical School Application Procedure handouts on this web site, NSS Blackboard site or during announced workshops. Listen to /watch podcasts of meetings you were unable to attend. Alternatively, check out procedures of veterinary or dental school application with a pre-health advisor.

3. Consult admission directories and catalogs for individual schools' course requirements.

4. Open an Interfolio file for collection of your letters of recommendation and other documents.

5. Plan whom you will ask to write letters of recommendation and request them.

6. Prepare/study for and take the admissions test for medical school (MCAT) or dental school (DAT) if you are planning to begin applying in June of your junior year. For vet school, you will have to take the GRE exam. If you plan to delay your application, discuss the best strategy with one of the pre-health advisors.


Senior Year


1. File medical/dental/vet school applications by late June/early July, if your plans are to apply this year.

2. Ensure Interfolio file is complete and ready to be mailed to prospective schools.

3. Submit secondary applications and prepare for medical school interviews between August and April (scheduled by invitation).


If you are planning on application to med/vet/dental school at the end of this year or in a subsequent year after graduation:

1. Attend an Application Procedures informational meeting. Become aware of the deadlines for arranging letters, submitting applications, taking the MCAT/DAT/GRE exam, etc.

2. Obtain the Medical School Application Procedure handouts on this web site, NSS Blackboard site or during announced workshops. Listen to /watch podcasts of meetings you were unable to attend. Alternatively, check out procedures of veterinary or dental school application with a pre-health advisor.

3. Consult admission directories and catalogs for individual schools' course requirements.

4. Open an Interfolio file where your letters of recommendation and other documents will be collected.

5. Plan whom you will ask to write letters of recommendation and request them.

6. Prepare/study for and take the admissions test for medical school (MCAT) or dental school (DAT) if you are planning to begin applying in June right after graduation.

7. If you plan to delay your application until a later year, discuss the best strategy with one of the pre-health advisors.




1. Advanced Placement (AP): Course credit granted by Dartmouth College can be applied toward graduation and admission. HOWEVER, it is advised to take additional advanced courses in a subject in which you have received a science AP credit (for example; you SHOULD take a college-level math course even if you have satisfied the Dartmouth math requirement with AP credits). Several schools DO NOT accept AP credits (see a recent collation from the PreHealth Advisor's Manual), particularly in the science courses. Consult the admission requirements directories and catalogs. Speak to a Health Professions advisor to be certain how any AP credits will apply to you.

2. Off-Campus Study : If you plan to take a Language Study Abroad or Foreign Study term during your sophomore year, consider scheduling your general chemistry (Chem 5/6) during your first year. Four chemistry courses must be taken sequentially, a delay of general chemistry until junior year could make it impossible to enter medical/vet/dental school the fall after graduation.

3. Non-Recording Option (NRO): NOT RECOMMENDED for any courses required for admission to health related schools. Some schools do not accept pass/fail grades. NRO is valid for non-required courses, BUT you should consult with one of the Health Professions Program advisors before exercising this option in any science course or other course that might impact on medical school admission.

4. If you plan to enter med/vet/dental schools in Fall of 2014, Admission Tests for Medical Schools (MCAT) or Dental Schools (DAT) or Vet School (GRE) should be taken by the end of the spring term of your junior year. Schedule and complete the required science courses before you take the test.


1. Dartmouth students entering medical school represent over 20 different majors.

2. Select a major you enjoy and one you want to pursue in depth.

3. Many students select biology, psychology/brain sciences or chemistry, although this gives you no great advantage towards admission.

4. Regardless of major, your success in the required basic science courses will be assessed.

5. GET TO KNOW YOUR PROFESSORS : speak to your professors about your courses and future plans. Your professors will become a key to strong letters of recommendation.


1. Take health-related internships to test your commitment and interest in the profession.

2. Find internship possibilities in Career Services, the NSS Web site and the Dickey Center & Tucker Foundations. Begin researching for internship possibilities at least two terms before your off-term.

3.Dartmouth funding for unpaid internships may be available (information found in Career Services)


VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES -- Volunteer your time and interest to social services or health-related service. A trip to the Tucker Foundation is very worthwhile to identify possibilities.



1. The Health Professions Program Office and Resource Center, 10/11 Parkhurst: "Pre-Health Central"

2. Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, 111 Parkhurst.To discuss how to succeed in courses and at Dartmouth. The Deans and the DOSC advisors can be very valuable sources of general information).

3. Professors, Advisers, Health Career Advisors: To help to decide best course of action.

4. Academic Skills, Collis Center 3rd Floor: To assist all students in becoming more efficient and effective independent learners. Improve your study skills, find a tutor, gain test taking strategies.

5. Undergraduate Research Programs: Contact Dean of Faculty Office in Wentworth Hall

6. Women in Science Program: Contact Kathy Weaver, Director, for more information (office is in the Parker House).

7. Nathan Smith Society, THE resource for all pre-health information







The Nathan Smith Society

Career Services at Dartmouth College

Academic Skills Center

The Tucker Foundation

The Dartmouth Medical School

The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice

The C. Everett Koop Institute at Dartmouth


Association of American Medical Colleges

American Dental Education Association

American Physical Therapy Association

Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine

American Chiropractic Association

Association of Schools of Public Health

American Association of Colleges of Nursing

American Academy of Physician Assistants

American Association of Colleges of Optometry

American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy

American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine

American Occupational Therapy Association

National Society of Genetic Counselors

Association of University Programs in Health Administration

Naturopathic Medicine


ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS, Association of American Medical Colleges

ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS, American Dental Education Association

ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS, Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry




in HUMAN GENETICS, American Society of Human Genetics

PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT PROGRAMS DIRECTORY, Association of Physician Assistant Programs