Prerequisites & Choosing Your Courses 

Since most Dartmouth pre-health students apply to medical school, provided below is a detailed outline of courses that will satisfy admissions requirements for nearly all medical schools, and at the same time prepare students to excel on the MCAT. These prerequisites are the same for Osteopathic medical schools (DO) and Dental schools. Veterinary schools have two additional biology courses (see Biology section). For prerequisites for other graduate programs in health professions, please see those pages, and feel free to reach out to your pre-health advisors.

Please note that Texas medical schools have slighly different requirements. For more information, please scroll down to the section titled, "Texas Medical School Prerequisite Requirements."

Medical, DO, and Dental Prerequisite Requirements

In general, medical schools and MCAT preparation require the following courses or equivalent (in Dartmouth terms). Below you will find the list of the most common pre-health courses taken by students:

  • English/Writing: 2 terms
  • Mathematics: 2 terms (1 term Calculus and 1 term Statistics)
  • Biology= 2 terms w/labs (although 3 is recommended for the MCAT preparation)
  • General Chemistry= 2 terms w/labs
  • Organic Chemistry= 2 terms w/labs
  • Biochemistry= 1 term w/ OR w/out a lab
  • Physics= 2 terms w/labs
  • Additional Courses for MCAT preparation= 1 term of psychology and 1 term sociology

For more information about pre-health prerequisites, please see our Course Requirements and D-Planning Document and Course Timetable

Texas Medical Schools Prerequisite Requirements

BIOLOGY PRERQUISITES: Most med/dental schools with specific prequisites require a baseline of 2 biology courses+labs which usually translates to 8 semester credit hours for biology. However, Texas schools currently require 14 biology credit hours.

  • Dartmouth courses are the equivalent to typical semester hours. A course+lab translates to 4.5 semester credit hours. Therefore, with a minimum of 2 biology foundation courses you have 9 credit hours, which fulfills the baseline requirements at most med schools (many students do take more for MCAT preperation, their major, or just out of interest).
  • A course without a lab , or a lab course without a lecture, are equivalent to 3.5 semester credit hours.
  • Because Texas requires 14 biology semester hours, two course+labs would NOT be sufficient for Texas schools. Even with a 3rd foundation course at 13.5 credit hours, an applicant would just miss the Texas requirement.
  • However, if a student has 3 foundations and one other course, or 2 foundations and 2 other courses then they would have enough credits hours.
  • A student could also supplement their biology class hours by taking a final course at a community college, state college, or extention course during the application cycle - many students are able to do this while also working fulltime. Even an online course would be sufficient since it would not require more lab hours. 

Tips for Choosing Courses

Below are common questions that many students ask as they begin their pre-health journey and choose their courses. Should you have more, please consult a pre-health advisor to build a course selection plan that will work with you and your timeline.

What Classes Should I Take if I Need More Science Preparation?

It's important to consider your pre-existing strengths when selecting courses. Those with a strong background in science might take more advanced courses right away. For those who have less experience, it can be prudent to start more slowly by choosing foundation-building courses (BIO 2, BIO 11, MATH 1&3), one at a time. Our pre-health advisors can help you determine a plan that's right for you.

How Many Lab Courses Should I Take Per Term?

In general, it's best to avoid taking two lab courses at the same time in the first year of college unless your science background and skills are superb. As you become more comfortable with the rigor and fast-pace of Dartmouth terms, you may begin to consider taking two science lab courses in one term. Look at your past grades in science as an indicator of whether you can balance two lab classes. Most times, the lab is a "class" of its own, including pre-lab and post-lab work.

Do I Get AP Transcript Credit?

If you arrive with AP credit or a strong background, you may qualify for an exemption from some courses (such as Calculus, Chem 5, Physics 3), and for most medical schools that will still count. If you have been exempted from all of general chemistry or physics, you must still take a college-level chemistry or physics course. Contact departments directly to see how you can find out if you qualify for an exemption.

Although these will count for medical school, your AP exemptions WILL NOT count for Dartmouth course credit. You must still fulfill the 35 credit requirements.

Can I NRO a Prerequisite Course?

DO NOT elect the Non-Recording Option (NRO) for a prerequisite course. All medical school prerequisite courses should be taken for a grade, not an NRO (pass/fail).

Should I Take More Biology Classes to Increase My Chances of Getting into Medical School?

Upper-level biology courses can be very beneficial. While taking the minimum required biology courses are adequate and students have still been accepted to medical school, taking more is valued and can be advantageous for MCAT preparation.