Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Getting Started

There is no prescribed curriculum or academic track for students pursuing the Health Professions Advisory Program at F&M as well as no "pre-med" major. This section will include information regarding prerequisites for health professional schools, course selections and planning, and choosing a major.

Prerequisites for Health Professional Schools

Students with an interest in the Health Professions Advisory Program (HPAP) need to fulfill the prerequisites for health professions schools. In general, these requirements are one year each of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics:

Course Area F&M Equivalents

Biology — Biology 110 and 220 (Biology 230 strongly recommended)
General Chemistry — Chemistry 111 and 112
Organic Chemistry —Chemistry 211 and 212
Physics — Physics 111 and 112 (co-requisites of Math 109 and 110)

Some schools also require such coursework as math (calculus and/or statistics), English (literature and writing-intensive courses), psychology, advanced biology (e.g, genetics, biochemistry, microbiology), and other miscellaneous requirements (e.g., statistics).   There are a variety of ways to complete requirements as well as flexibility within various majors.

Regardless of academic major, health professions school requirements can be completed by the end of the junior year. However, many students can benefit greatly by delaying their application one year and extending requirements through the senior year.

NOTE: Students should take these courses for a letter grade. Additionally, some health professions schools require such coursework as math (calculus and/or statistics), English (one year of literature and writing courses), psychology (one year in general plus developmental in the case of physical therapy and physician assistant programs), and advanced biology (genetics, biochemistry and microbiology for veterinary school). Further information about additional required courses can be found here.

The English Requirement

In practice, "writing across the curriculum" and becoming exposed to literature and the humanities are major components of curriculum at Franklin & Marshall College. The general education components of the curriculum insure that applicants meet English composition, advanced writing, and/or literature requirements of U.S. medical and other health professions schools.

Some health professions schools specify that applicants complete at least ONE YEAR OF ENGLISH, specifically highlighting courses in literature and/or a proficiency in writing. Health professions students at F&M are advised to interpret these requirements quite liberally. In general, you will meet the English requirement of most health professions schools by completing F&M's Writing Requirement. If, and only if, you receive a follow-up notification from a school indicating that you have not satisfactorily met an English requirement, send Dr. Glenn Cummings, the Director of Health Professions Advising, a formal request to forward a special letter to the school on your behalf. This letter will explain in detail how an F&M student -- and you specifically -- have met the English literature, and/or writing requirement.

First and Second Year Course Sequencing

As health professions students plan their academic program, it is important that they realize there are a variety of ways to complete requirements as well as flexibility within various majors. Most incoming students are advised to ease into health professions courses by taking General Chemistry the first semester along with Calculus and two additional courses. A biology major, for example, would likely complete the following course sequence:

Semester I Semester II Semester III Semester IV
Chemistry 111 Chemistry 112 Chemistry 211 Chemistry 212
Math 109/110      
Writing/First Year Seminar Biology 110 Biology 220 Biology 230
Foundations I Foundations II  Elective Elective

Choosing a Major

No one can tell you what major is "right" for you, just as no one can tell you what career is "right" for you. Each of you is unique and the only one who really can-or even should-make that decision is you.  College prepares you for many careers -- the difficult part is deciding which one you'd like to start with!

Instead of asking simply "What can you do with a major in ___? The questions you will want to ask yourself include: What do you like to do? What are you good at? What areas give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in what you're doing? What classes and subjects have interested me most? Where do you think you'd like to begin? This last question is very important because many times students become paralyzed because they think that a decision they make now is going to dictate what they will do for through the bulk of their career. In general, today's college graduate will be expected to hold 1-10 jobs within 3-4 career moves over the span of their work life. You always have the option of changing direction, whether your talking about changing your major or your career or your lifestyle.

It is not necessary to major in the science to be admitted to a health professions school, although an aptitude and demonstrated achievement in science is very important. As long as you complete the minimum health professions course requirements with a high level of achievement, you may consider a major in any area of study. In other words, your chances for admission are not dramatically influenced by your choice of major.

The following statement is published by the Association of American Medical Colleges and is a philosophy that is maintained by most health professions schools:

Medical schools recognize the importance of a strong foundation in the natural sciences-biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics-and most schoools have estalished minimum course requiremens for admission. These courses usually represent one-third of the credit hours needed for graduation. This approach deliberately leaves room for applicants from a broad spectrum of college majors, including those in the humanities and social sciences. No medical school requires a specific major of their enrollees. Schools know that medical students can develop the essential skills of acquiring, synthesizing, applying, and communicating information through a variety of academic disciplines....Medical school admission committees seek students whose intellectual curiosity leads them to a variety of disciplines and whose intellectual maturity assures that their efforts are persistent and disciplined....Practicing physicians often recommend that, during the final years of college, pre-medical students take advantage of what might be their last opportunity for study of non-science areas (music, art, history, and literature) that might become avocational interests later in life. (Medical College Admission Requirements, 2003-4, p. 11-12).

Over the past decade, approximately three-fifths of all applicants reported undergraduate biological science majors, while the remainder major in a variety of disciplines, including the humanities, physical & social sciences, and other health sciences. Comparisons of the majors of the national application pool with accepted applicants reveal acceptance rates ranging from 39.1 percent for applicants with specialized health science majors, to 48.1 percent for biological science majors, to 54.6 percent for physical science majors. Your decision of academic major should be based on an honest assessment of your interests and talents and not on these percentages. Health professions schools want students who have proven themselves not only in the required science courses, but also in the humanities and the social sciences. The undergraduate years should be viewed as at time for intellectual growth and exploration, and not solely as a means to an end.

How Should You Begin?

The first step to acquiring the perspectives and information that you need to make sound decisions about your academic program is to do a thorough self-assessment. Consider, first, the following six areas as they relate to you:

  • Interests - what you've learned to like and what you think you might like
  • Skills - what you do and learned to do well.
  • Aptitudes - what you're naturally good at doing
  • Personality Traits - what makes you unique (strengths and weaknesses)
  • Life Goals - what you want to accomplish in your lifetime
  • Values - what is important to you; especially, what is important to you in the work you do.

Once you've gone through such a self-assessment, consider what you know about yourself in

  1. planning your academic program
  2. choosing your extracurricular activities
  3. participating in internships/work
  4. choosing a major
  5. making a career choice

Ideally, you want to plan your undergraduate experience - which is the sum total of all of those things - in light of your lifestyle - including your career - for the next ten years. If you're doing what you like to do, using the skills and aptitudes you enjoy using, working toward goals you've set for yourself, and are able to find meaning in what you're doing, then it is very likely you will feel satisfied now and into the future. Here are a few tips to help you make well-informed decisions regarding your choice of major:

  • Many people are not familiar with the range of majors that are available or even what majoring in a particular area would entail studying. Discover the possibilities by browsing through The Curriculum.
  • Look at the textbooks in the bookstore for courses in the areas that most interest you.
  • Talk with students who have taken those courses and who are majoring in that discipline. What did they choose that area of study? What were their other choices? Why did they eliminate them?
  • Talk with the faculty members in your areas of interest. Why do they enjoy that subject so much? Besides learning the content of that discipline, what skills do they think you will develop by majoring in that discipline as opposed to the others you are considering?
  • Use your College Studies courses not just to fulfill your graduation requirements, but to test your interest in and enjoyment of those areas.
  • Having trouble deciding? Can't find anything that you like? Think about the options the College provides: double majors, dual or joint majors, majors and minors, special studies (interdisciplinary) major.
  • Use your electives to complement your major.

In summary, as you begin your undergraduate program, set for yourself the goal to learn what you are really interested in, what you are good at, where you will be happy, and what will prepare you for satisfying and rewarding work.