FAQs

I have AP credits for some of the courses. Am I exempt from taking the prerequisite courses?
Most medical schools will require that you have actual college courses in the disciplines that they require. For example, even if you scored a 5 in AP Biology and received NMSU credits for that class, you would still need to take one year of biology courses with labs to fulfill the medical school requirement. However, if you are a biology or biochemistry major, you will certainly be taking one year of biology courses with labs during your college career. In this way the AP credits you earned exempt you from the Fundamentals of Biology course and give you the time you might need for other activities, such as volunteering at a hospital.
Do I need to volunteer at a hospital if I want to go to medical school?
No, volunteering is not a requirement. However, it is strongly recommended. The admissions committees at the medical schools are much happier accepting students who have demonstrated by their choice of actions that they are seriously committed to a career in medicine. Spending significant time in a medical setting, e.g., working with a volunteer ambulance crew, volunteering in a nursing home, or transporting patients in an emergency room, allows you to gain the experience of being in a medical setting and helps you decide if this is really the right career choice for you.
Do I have to do scientific research to get into medical school?
No. However, please realize that the competition for those coveted spots in medical school is fierce. The better your academic record, the more competitive your application package will be. Being involved in research and being included in the publication of the results testifies to your academic accomplishment and gives you something interesting
to talk about at your interview as well. If you are interested in applying to an M.D./Ph.D. program, however, research is essential. You need to demonstrate that you have the academic and technical skills that will make you an attractive candidate for these very selective programs.
When do I have to complete the prerequisite courses by?
You should plan to complete the courses required for your entrance exam prior to taking it, however, other courses typically need to be complete by the time you matriculate into professional school. Some schools may require that courses be complete in the Fall of the year prior to beginning in their program, so it's always a good idea to double check with schools you plan to apply to. You can also see our timelines in our Forms/Handouts section for sample course schedules.
What electives should I take?
We recommend courses that you have an interest in and that support your ultimate personal goals. This is your time to explore areas outside of science that may be complimentary to your interest in healthcare. Think about taking courses that will help you learn about your future patients. That could mean courses in language, religion, sociology, psychology, ethics, communication, anthropology, and other departments that teach you about diverse populations.
Do schools really care how many classes (or what classes) I take each semester?
Yes! They look no only at what your GPA is, but how you earned your GPA. You will be more competitive if you have 15-18 credit hours per semester on a consistent basis including at least 2 science courses and challenging electives. Imagine you have to look through thousands of transcripts...who will stand out-the student who's taken 12 hours a semester including many so called "easy" classes, or the student who has challenged themselves by taking 16 or 17 hours a semester with upper-division electives?
What impression does the first student make?
Should I take classes in the summer?
Most students don't need to take classes in the summer unless they must fulfill requirement for their degree (check your degree audit to see if you need this). Summers are usually better spent doing extracurricular activities such as volunteering, shadowing, summer programs, or study abroad. If you must take classes, it is ALWAYS best to take prerequisite courses at your home institution. Therefore, we do not recommend taking math or science courses at another institution during the summer. Many professional schools also prefer to see the prerequisite courses taken in the context of a full semester, not by themselves. That gives the admissions committees a better understanding of how you handle rigorous courses along with other courses and extracurricular commitments. Do not use summers to lighten your load during other semesters!
Does it look better to do a double major or minors?
Professional schools do not give greater weight to double majors, dual degrees, or minors. If you have a specific interest in another area outside of your major then they may make sense, but there is just as much worth to taking courses from multiple departments as your electives. Ask yourself what you want to learn about and how those classes are preparing you for a career in medicine, or how they are supporting your personal interests.
Can I graduate and apply early? Will it hurt my chances of getting in?
Graduating early and applying early are two separate issues. Students who are academically strong may choose to graduate early and take a year or two off before applying to professional school to pursue other graduate programs or service activities. This is usually not an issue. For students who have below average GPAs, graduating early can be detrimental since you will not have an opportunity to take additional coursework to raise your GPA. Applying early is usually never to your advantage. It is up to you if you decide to do so, however, you are often at a disadvantage when compared to other applicants who have one or more years of additional university level coursework, and one or more years of additional extracurricular activities.
Does graduating early make me a more competitive applicant?
You may have arrived at NMSU with numerous advanced credits. Many students may be able to complete their major in three years, and some students erroneously believe professional schools look positively on students completing their degrees earlier than in four years. This is not usually the case. Most Deans of Admission indicate a preference for students who have demonstrated academic performance throughout a four year period. An application filed after only two years will certainly not be as rich as one filed after three or four years of demonstrated academics and experiences. If for financial necessity you complete your degree in three years, consider taking a "gap" year between undergraduate and professional school to work or continue service activities. This way your application will reflect a full three years of academic performance and will be a stronger, more competitive application. When in doubt, feel free to consult with a pre-health advisor.
Can I take online classes?
Many professional schools do not accept online classes for prerequisite requirements. Taking online electives is usually fine, but avoid taking anything that is a requirement online.
What GPA do I need to have to be a competitive applicant?
Some schools may have minimum GPA requirements, but these are typically well below what a competitive applicant would have. While there is no GPA that guarantees admission, usually overall and science GPAs of 3.5 and higher are considered competitive. This can vary by profession, and that does not mean that you are not competitive with under a 3.5. Remember that the GPA is just one thing that schools look at when reviewing applicants. There are many more important factors such as extracurricular activities and letters of recommendation. Also remember that they look at HOW you earned your GPA including course load, institution where you took them, how many sciences you took each semester, and the overall breadth of your curriculum.
Where should I volunteer?
There are many volunteer opportunities in and around Las Cruces. It's a good idea to get clinically based volunteer experience, however, you can supplement that with any type of community service activity.
How many hours of volunteering do I need to complete?
Medical schools typically do not require a minimum number of volunteer hours, however, other types of programs such as physician assistant, dental, veterinary, physical therapy, and occupational therapy often do. Please check the requirements at the schools where you plan to apply to get an idea of what they're looking for. For all programs, it's usually the quality of your volunteer experience that matters, along with consistency. You will often have a mor meaningful experience if you stick with the same location over a longer period of time (1-3 years) rather than just doing a "week here and a month there".
Do you arrange shadowing opportunities for students?
NMSU Pre-Health does not arrange shadowing for students. Most students arrange shadowing on their own by calling or emailing professionals they are interested in observing. The Pre-Health Advising Office can give some suggestions and recommendations as a starting place.
When should I take my entrance exam (MCAT, PCAT, DAT, GRE, etc.)?
The exams should ideally be taken before July of the year prior to your intended matriculation into medical school. The MCAT is offered from January-September, however, delaying the exam to July or later means there is little time to retake it should you need to, and schools will not receive your scores until August-October (it takes approximately 30 days for scores to be available) which is disadvantageous at schools with rolling admissions. For students taking the exam BEFORE 2015, you should have completed through Biology, Organic Chemistry, and Physics prior to taking the exam. For students taking the MCAT in 2015 or later, you should also complete Biochemistry and an introductory psychology, sociology, and statistics course in addition.
What MCAT score do I need to be a competitive applicant for medical school?
There is no MCAT score that guarantees admission, but mean scores for admitted applicants are generally between 30-35. We recommend using the MSAR to look at each school's 10th -90th percentile range for admitted applicants. This will give you an idea of the overall range at a particular school.
I heard the MCAT is changing. When is it changing and how?
The MCAT is expected to change in 2015. The new content is expected to include concepts of psychology, sociology, statistics, and biochemistry in addition to the material that is currently on the MCAT. The writing portion of the exam will likely be eliminated. Students planning to take the MCAT in 2015 or later are advised to take an introductory course in psychology, sociology, and statistics, as well as Biochemistry prior to taking the exam unless they have gained competency in these subjects by other means. We will provide more information for students as it becomes available.
When should I apply?
The application process takes over a year for most health professions, therefore, you need to plan ahead. For instance, if you plan to enter medical school in the Fall, you would need to submit your application in the Summer of the previous year, about 14 months prior to matriculation. APPLY AT THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE DATE! Do not wait until published deadlines to submit your application. What year you decide to apply is up to you. We encourage students to apply when they feel they will be a competitive applicant. For some students this means after their junior year, but for others that may mean after their senior year or even later.
What do I do if I don't get in?
There are many options for students who are not admitted the first time they apply. What direction you choose to go depends on many personal factors.
Is taking time off after graduating looked down upon?
Not at all, in fact usually an application is stronger if a student takes additional time to further their extracurricular interests such as volunteering, shadowing, or research. For students that end their junior year with a weak GPA, having an additional year or more of successful coursework can also be helpful to an application.
I'm applying after my senior year, what should I do in my year off?
This is commonly referred as the “Gap” year. See information under “Applying” on benefitting from a “Gap” year. Does NMSU have a Premed Committee for letters or recommendation?
No, NMSU does not have a committee for letters of recommendation. Professional schools know this and will accept individual letters of recommendation in the place of a committee or advisor letter.
I got a C in a prerequisite course, should I retake it?
We do not recommend retaking a course in which you earned a passing grade. It proves much more if you take another course in the same area at a higher level and earn a high grade. Professional schools want to see that you can be successful on the first attempt of a course.
Do I need to fill out any forms for shadowing or volunteering so they are "official?"
You do not need to fill out anything with our office, however, some hospitals and offices may have forms that they require in order to shadow or volunteer. It is always a good idea to keep a record of your volunteer and shadowing experiences including when, where, a contact person, how many hours per week, and what you did including reflections on what you learned from that experience.
Will having something on my student conduct or criminal record prevent me from getting in?
Usually not. If you have a conduct issue or misdemeanor that does not mean that you will not be admitted to professional school. It is important that you are always up front about what happened, take responsibility for your actions, and can discuss what you learned from the experience. Some states will not issue professional licenses to convicted felons, therefore, if you have a felony on your record, it is very important that you check with the schools that you plan to apply to, and with the states where you may practice, to see their policies.

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