Explore and Prepare

Health professions schools have several requirements that students must consider and fulfill in order to be competitive applicants, including:
  • science coursework and a record of academic success
  • professional engagement with healthcare professionals
  • clinical experience with patients
  • research experience
  • service work in the community
  • standardized exam


Professional schools want applicants who are academically successful, based on their cumulative GPA, their science GPA and standardized exam. These numbers show not only that you have developed effective time management and study skills, but they also indicate a solid foundation in the sciences and the potential for continued success.

Schools will want to see if you have been capable of rigorous course loads and advanced or even graduate-level classes. Admission committees will also consider special circumstances, such as the need to have a part-time job, or whether you improved your academic skills and standing throughout your four years of college. 

At Scranton, our students typically have a cumulative GPA of 3.6 or higher (and a science GPA of 3.45 or higher) to be accepted to medical school and other health professions schools. Your science GPA includes grades from courses listed as biology, chemistry, physics and math (also referred to as BCPM).

If your cumulative GPA is considerably below 3.5 and you’re worried about your grades, you should meet with a Pre-Health advisor to discuss your concerns.

Your Major

While in college, you can choose to pursue any major you like!

It’s a common misconception that being accepted to health professions schools hinges on having completed a specific major. Consider your interests and your strengths and explore courses in a variety of disciplines and majors during your first year of college.

If you enjoy what you study and are passionate about the courses you’re taking, you will be more likely to do well in your classes and earn good grades. You should be aware that admissions committees give serious consideration to the rigor and scope of your education.

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and take courses outside of your comfort zone. If you decide to pursue a major which does not already include pre-requisite courses for the professional schools in your chosen field, don’t wait to set up a meeting with your academic advisor and the pre-health advisor to develop a plan of study.   

Course Work

No matter what your major is, there are several prerequisite courses that you must take:

  • General Biology I and II with labs (Bio 141/141L, 142/142L)
  • General Chemistry I and II with labs (Chem 112/112L, 113/113L)
  • Organic Chemistry I and II with labs (Chem 232/232L, 233/233L)
  • Physics I and II with labs (Phys 120/120L, 121/121L)
  • Biochemistry I (Chem 350 or 450)
  • Psychology (PSYC 110)
  • Math – at least 1 semester of college-level math (Calculus and/or Statistics)
  • English/literature/writing - at least 2 semesters (at least 6 credit hours)

Dental School: Follow the recommended courses above. Check the websites of dental schools to which you're interested in applying since some schools may require additional coursework (for example, microbiology, human anatomy) and consult with the pre-health advisor and/or Health Professions Organization’s pre-dental chairperson for additional courses of interest (for example, histology).

Optometry School: Follow the recommended courses above, as those will likely cover the requirements for most optometry schools. Some additional courses might include anatomy & physiology with labs, microbiology, calculus, and statistics.

Physician Assistant School: Begin with General Chemistry, General Biology, and Organic Chemistry, but then check the websites of schools to which you might apply.  Required courses vary from school to school.

Veterinary School: Follow the recommended courses above. Check the websites of veterinary schools to which you're interested in applying. Some might require or recommend anatomy, microbiology, animal science or animal nutrition courses.


While science courses are obviously important to build your foundational knowledge, don’t forget to immerse yourself in some non-science areas, like the humanities, social sciences, or the arts. Classes in these areas will provide you with a strong background in the liberal arts, that emphasizes the human side of medicine. Many courses in the social science or humanities will allow you to develop a broad perspective on health care and issues related to health care delivery.

Scranton offers a health humanities concentration, which focuses on the integral role that humanities play in shaping human health, well-being, and healthcare. For pre-health students taking science pre-requisite courses, the concentration offers diverse perspectives and opportunities for future health care professionals to better understand the needs of patients from a variety of cultural, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds.

Helpful Tips

  • Completing the pre-requisite courses and preparing for your intended profession will take several years. Develop a realistic and flexible plan that you can evaluate and adjust yearly.
  • Be open to opportunities, whether in service, research, or clinical exposure.
  • Work with your academic and pre-health advisors.  Use the collective knowledge and experience of the officers of the student Health Professions Organization here on campus.
  • If you find courses challenging, seek help from the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (which provides tutoring) and talk to your advisors.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if something doesn’t make sense.
  • The road to your chosen profession is long and not easy. Our job is to illuminate the path and give you the tools to make the best decision for yourself.
  • Use your time at Scranton to gain experience, assess your goals, and show who you are as a human being and what you can accomplish.
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