Academics, Advising and Clubs

What's the best major for medical school?

Students can apply to medical school with any major, as long as the required courses are taken.  For most medical schools, that is a year of:

  • General Chemistry (CH 231/261 series)
  • General Biology (BI 211 series)
  • Organic Chemistry (CH 331 or 334 series)
  • General Physics (PH 201 or 211 series)

OHSU also requires Biochemistry (BB 450 or BB 490 series) and Genetics (BI 311 or MB 310). Many schools also require some liberal arts courses.  General Psychology (PSY 201, 202) and Introduction to Sociology (SOC 204) in particular are good preparation for the MCAT.

You should choose a major which interests you. Common choices are in Science (Biology, Biochemistry/Biophysics, Chemistry, Microbiology, etc.), Engineering (Bioengineering, Chemical engineering, Radiation Health Physics, etc), Public Health and Human Sciences (Kinesiology, Nutrition, Public Health, etc) or Liberal Arts (Philosophy, Psychology, Spanish, etc.). 

What is on the MCAT?

MCAT INFORMATION: In 2015, a new Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) was introduced. There are 4 sections:

1) Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems,

2) Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems,

3) Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior, and

4) Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

It is important to begin serious study of the liberal arts early in your program as preparation for the MCAT.  Broad reading is also important.

Click here for more information.

What are the required courses for medical school?

Generally these include a year each of General Chemistry, General Biology, General Physics and Organic Chemistry; OHSU also requires Biochemistry, Genetics and a math class. Many schools also require some liberal arts courses, and it is important to take those classes early because the reading and writing are good preparation for the MCAT. General Psychology (PSY 201, 202) and Introduction to Sociology (SOC 204) in particular are also recommened in preparation for the MCAT. Be sure to take those for a grade, and work just as hard in those classes.

What other courses are recommended?

Courses which bridge the sciences and liberal arts, such as Medical Anthropology (ANTH 483), Biomedical Ethics (PHL 444), Brain and Behavior (PSY 330), etc. are very relevant. Courses which help you understand more about the human condition are always good; suggestions include Families in Poverty (HDFS 447), Sociology of the Family (SOC 312) etc. Courses dealing with public health such as Intro to Health Services and Organizations, (H 210), are very helpful as well.

What is the Medical Humanities program?

The Certificate in Medical Humanities provides OSU students with essential skills in the “art of healing”:
• Critical reflection on medical knowledge
• Interpretations of medical and patient experience
• Engagement with ethical dilemmas
• Acquisition of cultural and civic competency
• Cultivation of an ethos of professionalism
It is a transcript-visible 27-credit curriculum.

Will I have a pre-med advisor?

Yes. There are a number of pre-med advisors in various departments at OSU. They are members of the Premedical Committee. You should meet with him/her regularly in order for the advisor to know you well enough to write a committee letter on your behalf when you apply.


College of Science
Biochem/Biophys majors  Kevin Ahern ALS 2145 737-2305
BioHealth Sciences majors Alex Beck Nash 226 online appts.
  Barbara Kessel Nash 226 online appts.
Biology majors Maureen Leong-Kee Cord 3029 online appts.
  Cody Duncan Cord 3029 online appts.
Chemistry majors Jeff Walker Gilb 233 737-6762
  Daniel Myles Gilb 145 737-6756
  Neal Sleszynski Gilb 139 737-6761
Microbiology majors Linda Bruslind Nash 322 737-1842
College of Liberal Arts majors Marilyn Stewart Gilkey 213 737-0561
College of Engineering majors Kimberly Compton TBA TBA
College of Public Health and Human Sciences majors* Carey Hilbert WB 105 737-8900
College of Agricultural Sciences majors Wanda Crannell StAg 158 737-2999
For all other majors with no specific pre-med advisor, please email

* Note:  PHHS students have different premed paperwork.

Does OSU have a post-bacc program?

Postbac students with successful first degrees looking to change careers are welcome at OSU. We have an informal program where students take the courses they need along with the regular students, and take advantage of all the extensive support services available in the premed program. Expectations for this group of students are higher because they are older, more motivated, and have already earned a degree. Post-bacc students should first review the requirements for applying to be a postbac and pre-health student at OSU. Refer to Pre-Med Post-Baccalaureate Students at OSU for more information.

How can I learn more about medical school and medicine as a career?

Enroll in BI 109 - a seminar for pre-medical students. This is a one-credit course offered spring term that is graded P/N. The course covers information about the field of medicine and the application process; guest speakers visit throughout the term. Also refer to the Association of American Medical Colleges site.

I've heard about a combined MD-PhD program. How does that work?

Many medical schools offer a combined program where the student can combine their passion for research and earn a PhD along with the MD. For more information see Graduate Research, Education, and Training (GREAT) Group.

Where are the medical schools in Oregon?

Oregon Health and Sciences University is an allopathic (M.D.) medical school in Portland, and there is Western Univiersity's College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific Northwest (COMPNW), an osteopathic (D.O.) medical school in Lebanon.

What's the difference between allopathic and osteopathic medical schools?

Allopathic (M.D.) and osteopathic (D.O.) medical schools both provide the education and training necessary to practice medicine. While both schools employ the benefits of modern medicine (prescription drugs, surgery, and technology), osteopathic medicine uses a holistic approach that also includes hands on diagnosis and treatment (i.e., manipulative medicine).

What GPA is required to get into medical school?

The average GPA of admitted students varies each year, however, a 3.70 is average for allopathic schools (M.D.) and a 3.54 for osteopathic schools (D.O.). Remember that medical schools look at many factors besides grades when making admissions decisions so there is a broad range of GPA's in each entering class. Academic momentum is important; excelling in upper division courses can help offset a slow start.

What about retaking a class? How will medical schools view repeats?

Medical schools do not replace grades, so they will look at everything you took. You must have at least a C in all required premed classes. It can be a good idea to retake a course in which you earned a C in order to earn an excellent grade (preferably an A) and to show mastery of the material. Check with your advisor.

Can AP courses be used to fulfill the premed requirements?

Most medical schools will accept AP credit for premed requirements only if advanced work in that academic area is also taken. Some med schools will accept AP for some sequences, but not others, or accept no AP credit.  Most medical schools will not accept CLEP credit for required science courses.

Some of the medical schools which have some restrictions regarding the use of AP credits are: Cornell, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Tufts, Meharry, Rochester, MT. Sinai, Hofstra, Duke, Univ. of AL, Univ. of KY, Univ. of Utah, Univ. of Minn., Univ. of Miami, Loma Linda, USC, UCSF, UCSD, UCI, UCD, UCLA, Univ. of  Louisville, St. Louis, Creighton, LSU, Wayne State, Medical College of WI, Cooper Rowan, Univ. of Missouri, Univ. of Nevada, VCU, Vanderbilt. DO schools include MSU, NY, Pikeville.

It is the student’s responsibility to check the requirements for each school to which they are applying.

Can premedical requirements be fulfilled by taking online courses?

Some medical schools will not accept online science courses, especially those with online labs.  A hybrid course with online lectures and in-person labs may be acceptable.  It is the student’s responsibility to check the requirements for each school to which they are applying. 

Can premedical requirements be taken at a community college?

Yes, but medical schools prefer that the majority of the premedical requirements be taken at a four year institution. 

Can international students be admitted to US medical schools? 

It is very difficult for international students to gain admission to a US medical school. Of the few schools which accept international students, many require proof of ability to pay.

Click here to see a list of US schools which have admitted international students recently.  

Can someone from a disadvantaged background gain admission to medical school? What if no one from my family was a doctor?  What if I came from a high school where there were no advanced classes?

Medical schools are very committed to admitting a broad and diverse class in order to meet the healthcare needs of our changing population. There are a lot of resources at OSU that can help you strengthen your academics. There are also summer programs at medical schools that are designed to help support rural, disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students to gain entrance to medical school. An example of one is the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program . Check with a Premed Advisor for more ideas.

Does OSU have a Pre-Med Club?

Yes. You can join the pre-med listserve to get information on meeting times, guest speakers, volunteer opportunities, etc. Send a blank email to: You can also take the BI 109 pre-medical student orientation seminar to learn more about being pre-med. 

Volunteer Work and Healthcare Experience

How can I get experience in the healthcare field?

Students can gain experience through volunteer work, part-time jobs, internships, and job shadowing. You may also be eligible to participate in OSU's medical preceptorship.

Where can I do volunteer work?

There are many organizations on campus and in the community which need volunteer help. A list of volunteer opportunities is available.

Letters of Recommendation

From whom should I request letters of recommendation?

Ask people who know you well. Of the minimum of four letters required to use the OSU committee letter system, one must be from a physician and 2 must be from basic science professors (such as a Biological science, Chemistry, etc.; applied science such as Engineering, Nutrition etc. do not count as basic science). One letter must be from your major. Additional letters can also be from supervisors, volunteer coordinators, nonscience professors, etc. It is extremely important to build a relationship with your professors so that they can get to know you.

When can I have letters of recommendation sent?

Letters on your behalf can be sent to the College of Science any time, and we will keep them until you apply (up to five years, at which time they are destroyed). The best time to ask for a letter is right after the class ends. Do not wait until you are in the application process to start asking; it can take quite a while to get letters. Go to the following page to learn more about the recommendation letter process

Can I use my premed letters for another purpose?

Letters collected for your premed file may not be used for any other purpose including a different health profession or graduate school. The premed letters may only be used for medical school applications or military medical school scholarships.

The Application Process

How can I get help during the application process?

You may begin by reviewing the Premed Application page. In addition to meeting with your pre-med advisor, an academic advisor on the Pre-medical Committee gives application seminars several times during the school year. A pre-medical committee advisor will meet with all students during the application process and messages regarding the application are sent throughout the summer to those who are applying.

How do I open my premed file?

During the year in which you are applying, you must complete the paperwork to open your premed file. All students must meet with their academic advisor on the Pre-medical Committee. Please see the Premed Application site for more details. For further questions, please email:

When should I take the MCAT?

Take the MCAT when you are most ready for it, preferably by the end of July of the summer you are applying for medical school. Never take it just to see what it's like, or before you have completed the coursework!. It's a computer-based test offered 20+ times during the year from January-September. If you plan to take the MCAT in August or September it may be best to defer your medical school application to the following year.

My MCAT score was lower than I expected. Can I retake it?

Yes but it is imperative that you give yourself ample time to review the material before retaking the exam. Talk with your pre-med advisor before retaking the MCAT.

When should I submit my transcripts to AMCAS/AACOMAS, and do I need all of them - even those from that high school band class I got credit for?

You must submit ALL transcripts, even if the credit from a class taken in high school appears on your OSU transcript. Community colleges can be especially slow so be sure to request those early (allow 6 weeks). You should request OSU transcripts as soon as spring quarter is over. Once AMCAS/AACOMAS has verified your grades, there are no updates.

When should I submit my application?

Apply early. Actual deadlines vary; the earliest deadline is Oct. 15 (OHSU is among the schools with this deadline). Early is best, and it really makes a difference to submit your application by mid summer (preferably by Aug. 1). Many schools have rolling admissions and will have fewer openings as the cycle progresses.

What is a committee letter?

When you are ready to apply to medical school, you must first meet with a coordinating member of the Pre-medical Committee, then with your regular pre-med advisor to open your pre-med file. The committee letter is a cover letter from your pre-med advisor that accompanies the packet of letters from faculty, doctors, employers, etc. You must have at least four letters in your pre-med file (but a good average is 5 to 7 letters). The cover letter gives an overview of your application, adding insight and additional information (that is why it is SO important for you to stay in touch with your pre-med advisor). Medical schools value committee letters. The packet is uploaded to medical schools as a single unit, and no updates are allowed. All deadlines must be met. Please see the Premed Application site for more details

Do I need to wait to submit my application until my letters are ready?

No. The letters are completely separate from your application. You can submit your med school application before your letters or recommendation/evaluation are submitted. 

How can I prepare for my med school interview?

Mock interviews with local physicians are scheduled in the fall. Career Services (Kerr Building) also offers mock interviews and can be tailored to meet the needs of medical school applicants. Dr. Kevin Ahern also teaches a popular class, Science in the Public Eye, where interviewing and writing skills are stressed. Sample interview questions (pdf) are also available online.

How can I pay for medical school?

Medical school training is very expensive, and most students take out loans to pay for it. The average payback time is around 10 years. There are other options such as the military Health Professions Scholarship programs: U.S. Army,  U.S. Air Force,  U.S. Navy and the National Health Services Corps. More information is available at Financing Your Medical Education from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

What are my options if I don't get admitted to medical school?

Please do not reapply if nothing has changed. Meet with an academic advisor on the Pre-medical Committee to discuss a possible reapplication before making any decisions. There are a number of options to consider, including postbac programs or special master's degree programs that are possible routes for you.

What is a good way to learn about other health professions?

There are many outstanding career opportunities in the health professions, and there are excellent websites that will give you insight into some of these. Explore Health Careers .org is a good place to start. Also consult the Occupational Handbook.

For more information about health careers in Oregon visit the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) website at On campus every year the College of Science sponsors a Health Professions Career Fair in April and this is an excellent opportunity to talk to people who represent many different health careers. Examples of some excellent career options to consider are Audiology, Medical Informatics, Anesthesiologist Assistants, Pathologist Assistants, etc.