Who can advise me about being pre-med at Carleton?

The pre-med advisor is Pam Middleton. Pam also advises other health professions programs, such as dentistry, veterinary and allied health. Meet with her at some point in the first year or at the time when you decide to pursue a health professions career. Pam’s office is in Anderson 238, and the best way to set up appointments is via email: pmiddlet@carleton.edu.

In addition to Pam, there is an Advisory Committee on Health Professions Programs consisting of members in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. You can find out which faculty are currently on the committee on the staff and committee members page. In addition, the Carleton Pre-Health Association is a student organization that provides support and puts on events for students interested in medicine.

Do I need to major in Biology or Chemistry?

No. Medical schools do not care what you major in, just so long as you are passionate and interested in your course of study. If you major in a non-science discipline, it is quite possible to complete the course requirements for medical school. Pam can help you to determine how to get this done.

What are medical schools looking for?

Medical schools are interested in applicants with excellent academic abilities (as shown in grades, the rigor of courses, and MCAT scores), strong interpersonal skills, clear motivation for and understanding of medicine, and demonstrated compassion and concern for others.

Do I have to get a 4.0 GPA in order to get into medical school?

No, but be aware that the average GPA of Carleton graduates over the last five years who have been accepted is 3.6. Science grades do matter and are calculated separately. A few low grades will not keep you out, but a pattern can make it difficult. Upward trends are also favorable. If you are struggling with a class, take steps such as meeting with the professor and the teaching assistants, forming study groups, or simply dedicating more time to those classes (sometimes you may have to slow down in the extracurricular areas).

What is the MCAT?

The MCAT is the standardized test required by all medical schools. The MCAT consists of 4 sections which test on the following areas: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.

It is a seven-and-a-half-hour, computer-based exam, given about 15 times a year with test dates in January and April through September. You may take the MCAT when you have completed the chemistry, biology and physics premed requirements.  Information can be found at the AAMC website.

What else do I need to do to submit a competitive application?

Besides maintaining a strong GPA and scoring well on the MCAT (79th percentile or above), there are several things that schools are looking for. First, is your commitment to helping others and working in a service profession. Therefore, volunteer work in any area that you feel strongly about is important — for example, the environment, tutoring children, the food shelf, etc.

Keep in mind, however, that medical schools want for you to have experience in the medical setting, and therefore, you must also gain experience in the medical field — either working, interning, or volunteering in a clinic or hospital setting. It will benefit you to spend some of the time that you can commit to volunteering in a clinic or hospital.

A 4.0 GPA student with a 98th percentile MCAT who has NOT volunteered at a hospital or spent any time in a clinical setting will have a greatly weakened application. There are many individual factors that come into play in the admissions process, so students should consult with Pam about their individual situations.

Are there opportunities to volunteer in a hospital during the school year?

Many pre-med students volunteer at Northfield Hospital, local retirement homes, or Healthfinder’s Clinic. Carleton’s CCCE office organizes these opportunities.

Do I need to do research as an undergrad to get into medical school?

Not necessarily, but it is a good idea. Some schools emphasize it more than others. There are opportunities at Carleton and at other institutions around the country to work in labs either during the summer and winter breaks or during the term. Get to know your science faculty, find an area that interests you and pursue opportunities early on.

When do I begin the application process?

If you plan to begin medical school the fall following graduation from Carleton, you apply in the summer following your junior year, with the earliest date for application submission being around June 1st. That means that you take the MCAT in the spring or summer of your junior year. Therefore, certain courses should be completed by the spring of your junior year.

Medical schools have rolling admissions, which means “the earlier, the better” UNLESS you are not ready. For example, if you will not be prepared to take the MCAT in April, but will be in July, then take it in July.

If you decide to take some time between graduation from college and matriculation, then applications are submitted in the summer of the year before you plan to matriculate. For example, if you will take one year off, then you will apply during the summer following your senior year. There is a strong trend nationwide towards taking at least one year between graduation and starting medical school.

Do medical schools look unfavorably on students who take time off?

No. The average age of the first-year medical student is 25, meaning that many students do not attend medical school directly from college. The reasons vary, but one common reason is that students know that the time between college and medical school is a good time to explore another interest before beginning their medical training. Students do various things, from Peace Corps and AmeriCorps to doing basic research in a lab. The important thing is to spend that year or years doing something that is enriching.

How many medical schools should I apply to?

The average number of schools that Carleton students apply to is around 12–15. Most students apply to the schools in their state of residence. The Medical Schools Admissions Requirement book (MSAR) contains all of the information for each school, including average GPA and MCAT scores.