Frequently Asked Questions
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What are the requirements for getting into medical or other health professional schools?
You must be able to show the following:
- A strong academic history, through a good GPA (around 3.5 or better for medical school, dental school, vet school and pharmacy, somewhat lower for other schools)
- A strong interest in the welfare of others through a solid history of volunteer work
- A good knowledge of the career you wish to follow through extensive work or shadowing experience
- Strong letters of support (see below) that speak of your integrity, reliability, and communication skills
- Research projects and internships are advantageous but not required
- A competitive score on the national entrance exams (MCAT, DAT etc.) See below for links to the entrance exams.
What are required courses for health professional schools?
- Medical schools all want a significant number of hours in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and English. These are all contained in the liberal arts Bachelor of Science degrees in biology, biochemistry and chemistry. Diversity of study is welcomed and a degree other than science is possible – but you still need these courses.
- Dental schools often specify that anatomy and physiology, microbiology and biochemistry should be part of the science degree, as well as biology, chemistry and English.
- Optometry schools also require calculus, anatomy and physiology, microbiology and biochemistry as part of the science degree, and sometimes specify psychology and statistics also.
- Pharmacy schools require physical chemistry in addition to the standard courses in a biology degree.
- Physical therapy schools require less biology than a biology degree, but add in anatomy and physiology, kinesiology and psychology. Requirements could be fulfilled by an Allied Health degree.
- Physician’s assistant schools require less biology than a biology degree, but add in anatomy and physiology, and biochemistry. Requirements vary somewhat from school to school and could be fulfilled by an Allied Health degree.
- Occupational therapy programs accept a variety of degrees, but science is very helpful
- Nurse Practitioner programs accept a variety of undergraduate degrees, not only Bachelor of Nursing. Biology is a suitable basis for NP programs.
You should study carefully the websites of schools that offer training in your chosen profession early in your undergraduate years, so that you know exactly what course work is required by each school – some are more specific than others. Then you should discuss with your academic advisor or with the Pre-Health Professional Advisors how you can fit these courses into your Otterbein years.
What else is needed apart from coursework?
To be a credible candidate for any career that impacts the health of others, you must be able to show that you are a person with humanitarian ideals; this can be done through your volunteer work. You will need to find an area of service that fits your personality and your aspirations, and establish a strong record of contribution to it. Medical and other admissions committees can see the difference between a commitment to service over years, and a few scattered service days undertaken for the sake of the application.
You must also be able to show that you are resilient, ethical, able to negotiate intercultural difficulties, and a team worker. Letters of recommendation from your professors and others are helpful for this.
If you ask to be considered for membership in a profession you must show that you are knowledgeable about what you are asking for, and how good a match your personal characteristics are.
Shadowing experiences are an excellent start. Volunteering and paid jobs in healthcare are also rewarding and useful.
Membership in student societies appropriate to your chosen field help you gain knowledge of how things are done.
Your score on the national admissions test (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, OAT, GRE etc) is one of the most important parts of your application. Scores considered "competitive" can be found on individual professional school websites.
Most schools require that you earned good grades in your science courses. A perfect 4.0 is not necessary, but you should maintain a GPA of 3.4 or better; the higher your score, the more competitive you will be.
What are the facilities like at Otterbein?
Most science classes are taught in our new state-of-the-art Science Center opened in October 2009. It houses over 96,000 square feet of discipline-specific laboratories, research space, classrooms, and a greenhouse.
Pre-veterinary science students will be impressed with Otterbein's Austin E. Knowlton Center for Equine Science, which opened in Fall 2009. Among only a few academic equine centers nationally to be housed within an urban environment, the facility provides an important academic, economic, and recreational resource to the community, the region, the equine industry, and our outstanding students just 2 miles from campus. Learn more about the Knowlton Center for Equine Science here.
When should I start preparing for application to a health professional school?
You can start when you are still in high school. Gain a solid background in science, and find an area of community service that fits your personality and your aspirations. Establish a strong record of contribution to it. Medical and other admissions committees can see the difference between a commitment to service over years, and a few scattered service days undertaken for the sake of the application.
Also, make opportunities to shadow as many practitioners in your field of interest as you can. This will let you know whether you have an affinity with the profession, or whether you need to consider other career options. You will find clinicians are only too willing to help the next generation in their field – all you have to do is ask in a way that considers their time and convenience.
Why do I need letters of support?
The admissions committee can see what your academic record is from your GPA and exam scores, and determine your motivation based on your personal statement that is part of the application. However, they also need assurance that you are of appropriate personality to join a health professions. Patients' trust in their practitioner is paramount; therefore practitioners need to be honest, diligent, and compassionate. Admissions committees also need to know that you have the perseverance to complete the training and to manage a heavy workload. At Otterbein we get to know our students very well over the years as we are a small institution, and therefore faculty can write well-informed letters from personal experience.
What schools do Otterbein students apply to?
Because in-state tuition is much less expensive than out-of-state, many students apply to The Ohio State University Medical School, School of Dentistry, Optometry, or Veterinary Science. Additionally many pre-med students apply to Cincinnati University, Wright State University, or Ohio University (which offers a Doctor of Osteopathic medicine program). However, students have also been accepted at Yale, Berkeley, Johns Hopkins and other schools of national prominence, as well as universities on Long Island and Virginia Beach. There are several Physician’s Assistant programs in Ohio, all housed in smaller universities.
How do I contact an advisor at Otterbein?
Advisors for medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, optometry, podiatry, physician’s assistant:
Dr. Mary Gahbauer (MD), Biology, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Lisa Marr (MD), Biology, email@example.com
Advisors for physical therapy:
Dr. Joan Rocks (PhD), Health and Sport Sciences, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr .Shelly Payne (PhD), Health and Sport Sciences, email@example.com
Advisor for veterinary science:
Dr. Mary Gahbauer (MD), Biology, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Maria Calderone (DVM), Equine Science, email@example.com
Dr. Sheri Birmingham (DVM), Equine Science, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where can I learn more about the national entrance exams to graduate schools?
The following professional schools require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE):
- Veterinary schools
- Physician’s Assistant