Pre-Health Professions: FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions are ones that are asked most frequently by students considering careers in the health professions. Although the questions below most often are asked by pre-medical students, the discussion applies to pre-dental, pre-veterinary, and other pre-health profession students as well.

General Questions

For High School Students Primarily

For Pepperdine Students Primarily

What is the best major for a pre-med student at Pepperdine University?


Medical schools do not require a specific major and Pepperdine does not offer a "pre-med" major. A student should choose a major that they are passionate about and are challenged intellectually by. Genuine interest in your chosen major will motivate you to do well and will result in closer relationships with your professors from whom you might later request letters of recommendation. You may select any major offered at Seaver College (catalog link), including non-science majors, and still be a pre-med student. However, one advantage of majoring in science is that most of the pre-med curriculum will also be required courses for your major. If you choose a non-science major, you will have to complete the pre-med courses in addition to the courses required for your major.

What courses do I take at Pepperdine to complete the pre-med curriculum?


Medical, dental, and veterinary schools have a similar list of undergraduate requirements. For more information about specific classes available at Pepperdine and other recommended classes please refer to the Medical School Course Requirements.

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What percent of our applicants are accepted into medical school?


For the past several years, the usual percent of accepted applicants is between 70% to 80%. We have about 20 to 30 Pepperdine students that apply to medical school each year. The acceptance rate for those students who have high grade point averages (GPAs) and competitive Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores is almost 100%. It is not difficult to understand what you need to do to get into medical school, but it is difficult to do it. The acceptance rate for applicants to veterinary and dental school is close to 100% with only 1-4 applicants to these schools each year.

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In the past, what medical schools have our students frequently attended?


Frequently attended medical schools include Creighton, University of Arizona, University of California, San Diego, University of Iowa, Medical College of Wisconsin, University of Southern California, University of California, Irvine, Emory, Loma Linda, Baylor, Georgetown, Ohio State, and Washington University in St. Louis. Additional schools include state schools, especially when those schools are the home-state schools of the student applicant (Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, New Mexico, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Maryland, Colorado, etc.).

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Can I attend an international program (overseas) while pursuing pre-med at Pepperdine?


Of course! We recommend that you do so both because of the quality of the overseas programs and the invaluable experience it affords. Many of our students attend one of our International Programs while at Pepperdine. You may elect to spend an entire academic year, a semester, or a summer session abroad. Most programs do not offer science classes while overseas. Consequently, pre-med students going overseas during the school year often take science classes in summer school or wait to apply to medical school until their senior year.

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What are the drawbacks of being a California resident?


When selecting a first year medical school class, admissions committees from state medical schools often consider only or mainly applicants who are residents of that state. In California, however, there is not the same kind of home-state advantage like there is in most other states. This is due to the large number of California resident applicants compared to the number of medical school seats available in California. California has 39
million residents and only 9 medicals schools. This is approximately the same number of seats California had 30 years ago when the population was "only" 19 million. California is a major exporter of medical school students to the rest of the nation as well as to offshore schools. This means that if you want to go to a California school you have to have as close to a 4.0 GPA as possible and comparably high MCAT scores as well as the other factors listed below.

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What factors are important to the admission committees of medical schools?


The two critically important factors are your GPA and MCAT scores. Both your GPA and MCAT scores are reliable predictors of a student's ability to succeed in medical school. Other factors include, but are not limited to, clinical experience and/or volunteer work, research experience, work experience, extracurricular activities, and personal attributes such as compassion, passion for medicine, and leadership ability. Evidence of the ability to work with medically underserved individuals and those from other cultures will enhance your application.

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What kind of grades do I need to get into medical school?

You need As and Bs. Depending on what state you are from, you will need As and Bs but the averages will be different for different states. Pepperdine students with an undergraduate gpa of 3.9 *always* get accepted to medical school. The higher your GPA, the greater your selection of medical schools.  Making As and Bs will not guarantee you admission to medical school as your GPA is only one of several criteria that admission committees consider in making admissions decisions.

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What part does the MCAT play in admissions?


Pepperdine students generally score comparably to their GPA. Our average MCAT score generally mirrors the national average for accepted students.

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized test consisting of four parts: essays (one part) and three multiple-choice tests (verbal reasoning, physical sciences, and biological sciences) (one-part each). The multiple-choice tests are scored on a scale of 1-15 in whole-number increments. The national average for all students taking the MCAT is between 8 and 9 on each of the three multiple-choice portions of the test. For students admitted to medical school, the average test score is about 10 on each part, for a combined score on the multiple-choice portions of the exam of about 30. Starting in the year 2007 the MCAT was changed in several ways. It is now computerized, takes less time and is scheduled many more times during the year. For more information, visit their Website https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/.

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Where do Pepperdine students participate in clinical/volunteer work?


All of our students accepted to medical school have had extensive experience as volunteers or in paid work in one or more health care settings involving contact with patients, e.g., working at a clinic, a hospital, or a doctor's office. Such experiences are usually gained off campus, although there are a few opportunities on campus, e.g., Student Health Advisory Board (SHAB). Medical schools highly value exposure to life as a physician as well as work in underserved communities. 

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Where do Pepperdine students participate in research work?


A majority of our students accepted to medical school have participated in research under faculty supervision either at Pepperdine or at another college or research institute. Research may be done during the academic year or during the summer. Although research participation may be mandatory for certain medical schools and career goals, e.g., entrance to a M.D. /Ph.D. program, it is not always required. If you are interested in doing research at Pepperdine talk to your Pepperdine professors about their research and ask if they have any positions available in their lab. In addition, there are SURB and SURP scholarships available every summer for research projects with professors. Off campus research is available on most college campuses during the summer and many organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and American Heart Association (AHA) support summer research at various sites throughout the US.

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What are the benefits of going to Pepperdine University?


  • Pepperdine offers a strong liberal arts education which, especially if a student takes the Great Books sequence, provides skills that are very helpful on the critical analysis and reasoning sections of the MCAT.
  • Pepperdine has an excellent science faculty and rigorous science courses that are excellent preparation for both the MCAT and medical school.
  • Our science professors normally do not grade on the curve which creates a non-competitive atmosphere and promotes cooperation among students and faculty.
  • Pepperdine's emphasis on undergraduate education and the absence of graduate students results in many excellent research opportunities being available for undergraduates with Natural Science faculty. If you pursue this early in your career at Pepperdine you may be able to present your work at scientific meetings and may receive publication credit. Biology, chemistry, and sports medicine all have honors research programs.
  • Pepperdine offers a summer research program in biology (SURB) as well as in other areas (SURP). There are scholarships available to spend the summer at Pepperdine and participate in research with Natural Science faculty.
  • Specifically for pre-health professions students, "Introduction to the Health Sciences" is a one (1) unit course (credit/no credit) taught by the pre-health advisor for freshmen or sophomores. 
  • There are outside speakers from the health professions to help guide you in your choice of career. Our graduates who are presently in medical school also return to speak and mentor our undergraduates.
  • The Pepperdine Volunteer Center can aid you in finding volunteer work in a clinical setting.
  • There is a letter of recommendation service wherein we collect your letters from various faculty and outside sources, create a file for you, and then send them electronically to medical schools as part of the secondary application process.
  • There are pre-med, pre-dent, pre-vet, and pre-PA clubs.
  • The volunteer center offers overseas volunteer opportunities such as the medical mission trip to Fiji. Through Project Serve, held during Spring Break, students may travel to regions of the United States, Mexico, or South America to serve underserved populations.
  • Pepperdine offers a Washington, D.C. internship program for all students. This is an excellent opportunity for pre-health students to get experience at various agencies, hospitals, or clinics in the D.C. area at the same time as they are able to take needed science classes. As examples, students have worked at Healthy Baby, Healthy Mothers, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Amgen, and the National Institutes of Health.

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For High School Students Primarily

What can I do in high school to prepare myself for pre-med in college and medical school?


In the same way that the pre-med curriculum helps to prepare you for the academic rigors of medical school, you can use high school classes to prepare for college. It is recommended that you take as much English, math, physics, chemistry, and biology as your high school offers, as well as any courses that involve extensive reading and writing. You need to be able to read with comprehension, and understand concepts well enough to apply them. You also need to develop efficient study habits and self-discipline. Courses taken at the highest level available, such as Advanced Placement (AP) courses, provide the best preparation for our courses.

Clinical and volunteer work done in a medical setting during high school is valuable in order to help you determine whether medicine is the right career for you. In addition if you continue that same volunteer work in college you can list it on your application to medical school.

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Which AP (Advanced Placement) classes taken in high school give me credit for pre-med classes at Pepperdine?

 

For details about the usefulness of AP scores refer to the Pepperdine Handout on AP class credit. Taking AP Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, and Biology will better prepare you for college level courses. 

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For Pepperdine Students Primarily

What happens if my grades are lower than they should be?


No one individual grade or even series of grades will keep you out of medical school. Often freshman year grades are the lowest due to the difficulty of adjusting to the college environment. It is helpful for grades to improve over time.

If your GPA is too low at graduation you may go back to school as a post baccalaureate student and take upper division or graduate level science classes to demonstrate command of those subjects. Other options include making application to off-shore, foreign, or osteopathic medical schools.

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Is it advisable to withdraw from a course?


Only drop a course if there is no way to bring your grade up to a C. When applying to medical school, it is important to explain why you dropped a class.

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Is it advisable to repeat a pre-med course?


It is not advisable unless your grade is a C- or below. Medical schools do not accept a grade of C- or below in required courses. If you do retake a class both grades will appear on your transcript.  Medical schools recommend that instead of repeating a course you take upper division science courses in the same area to increase your knowledge and boost your GPA.

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What classes count in the "science" GPA on AMCAS, (the application form for medical school)?


The science GPA on your application for medical school (AMCAS) is called BCPM.  The initials stand for biology, chemistry, physics, and math.  However, many of our science classes fit into their designation. Sports medicine and psychology classes that have a lab and are hard science classes also count as biology classes. Your major GPA is very similar to your science GPA if you are a biology, chemistry, or sports medicine major.

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