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Pre-Health Advising: Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary, Public Health & Other Health Professions

Advising Tips

The single most important advising tip for first-year students is to tell them that they should seek the advice of a Health Professions Program Pre-health advisor to plan their path through and after Dartmouth. Misinformation often occurs through anecdotes from fellow students and the Pre-health advisors are dedicated to having expert and up-to-date information about the complex academic and extracurricular path to a health profession.  The Health Professions Program (HPP) offers walk-in office hours 4 days per week in 2 locations: (1) With Sarah Berger in the Baker/Berry Advising Center (132/133 Carson) and (2) with Dr.  Lee Witters in his office and Nathan Smith Society (NSS) Resource Center (122/123 Life Sciences Center). Hours are posted on the NSS/HPP web site (  Longer appointments can also be scheduled with the advisors.

Pre-Health Advisors

Faculty Advisor: Professor Lee A. Witters, M.D.
Chair, Dartmouth College Health Professions Advisory Committee
Eugene W. Leonard 1921 Professor of Medicine & Biochemistry, Dartmouth Medical School
Professor of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College
Faculty Advisor, Nathan Smith Society
Office: 122/123 Life Sciences Center
Phone: 650-1909, e-mail:

HPP Pre-Health Advisor: Sarah Berger
Office: 132 Carson
Phone: 646-3916; e-mail:

HPP Administrative Coordinator: Annette Hamilton
Office: 133 Carson
Phone: 646-3377; e-mail:

Some VERY IMPORTANT standard information for all students considering a career in the health professions is available from the Nathan Smith Society and Health Professions Program Web site (, including documents such as "Advice for Entering Students" and "The Road to Medical School Application."  These documents have a considerable amount of information useful to first-year advisors and their advisees. Advisors who are interested in keeping up-to-date on health professions advising can also join the Health Professions Program Listserv by contacting Lee Witters.

In addition,  many documents for all the health professions have been assembled on the Nathan Smith Society Blackboard site, a convenient place to identify and retrieve information.  One can "self-enroll" in this site by following the instructions in the box on the NSS home page.   Documents on this site are frequently updated and there is also a discussion board to ask questions (it is monitored by Professor Witters).

Excerpted from these documents are some particularly important points:

  • Dartmouth does not have a standard pre-health curriculum, though many courses are required for entrance into graduate programs and for success on the MCAT/DAT/GRE exams.  See the next section for courses required for medical and dental school.  (Veterinary schools have other requirements.  Students should become aware of those additional requirements early on.)

  • Let your advisees know that over 80% of students from Dartmouth, and country-wide, are applying to medical school AFTER they graduate (i.e. either at the end of their senior year or as alums), creating one or more "gap years". This allows for more flexibility in scheduling courses, leave terms, FSPs, etc, and often strengthens applications.   It may also allow time to complete all the required courses.

  • Students are all moving at different paces. Some students will be ready to jump into pre-health science classes, for other it will be better to start slowly and either wait a term or two to take any, or to take just one at a time to get grounded in their college coursework. While most will take all those classes during their undergraduate years, some will finish classes after they graduate, or even take them all in a post baccalaureate program following graduation, with the goal being a plan that supports the best academic success for each student.

  • It is possible for students to fulfill pre-health courses, have a non-science major, and study off campus on one of the LSAs or FSPs, but it will require careful planning.

  • Students should work with the HPP advisors to make a four-year schedule for the required science courses needed to apply to medical/dental/vet school.  The advisors always recommend working with faculty within their major to plan their majors.  Constructing alternate D-Plans is strongly encouraged.

  • Students are accepted into medical school with any undergraduate major.  A student must complete minimally 9-13 pre-requisite courses, depending on AP or other credit, but can major in anything from anthropology to studio art to engineering and still be admitted.  Students do, however, have to master certain categories of material in the sciences. Students without a strong background in the sciences, including biology, should consider taking Biology 2 in the fall of their first year to begin this mastery and adjust to the demands of a college science curriculum.

  • If an advisee is struggling in the required science courses encourage them to seek the advice of one of the HPP advisors.  You can also encourage them to make use of the Academic Skills Center ( for either tutoring help, or for one-on-one appointments with Carl Thum or Leslie Schnyder, Dartmouth's academic skills advisors.  HPP is currently collaborating with the ASC to provide, at least once a term, a workshop on studying for the sciences.

  • A student who wants to keep open the option of attending medical school immediately following graduation is advised to complete general chemistry sequence in their first year, and to complete the organic chemistry sequence in their second year.  This gives them more flexibility in constructing a D-plan.  It is possible to delay the organic chemistry sequence until junior year, but that may limit a student's ability to enroll in other courses that are either required for med/dental/vet school admission (e.g. biochemistry) and/or ones that may be helpful in preparing for the MCATs.  In general, students are advised to complete all recommended courses in biology, chemistry, physics, psychology & sociology - see following section) before the MCAT, which they should take by no later than early summer following their junior year, if they plan to go directly to medical school.  This would be followed by submission of their application during that summer. All students should consult with an HPP advisor when devising their curricular plan. Many first year students come in with a fixed notion about "going straight through," but it is an unrealistic aim for many and a prohibitive one for most.  The HPP advisors can help students create and adjust to a timeline that will help them be successful while having a fulfilling Dartmouth career and major.

  • First-year students who do not have credit for Math 3 should at a minimum be encouraged to take a math course in their first term as it is a prerequisite for Chemistry 5.

  • In planning for their "pre-health" science requirements, HPP generally discourages students from taking two courses with labs, especially in their first year, until their ability to handle that schedule has been developed.

  • Students should NOT use the NRO (non-recording option) in a course required for med/vet/dental school admission and should be very cautious about using it in any natural science course.  In any event, the potential use of an NRO or decisions about course withdrawals should be discussed in advance with one of the HPP advisors.

Last Updated: 9/4/13