How to be a strong candidate for medical school

How to be a strong candidate for medical school

College of Health

Select a major that gives you a unique path and perspective

Elements of a strong pre-med application

Medical schools take a holistic approach in considering applicants.

They consider

  • Experiences in health care, clubs, service organizations, leadership roles, job shadowing and more.
  • Attributes such as personal history, hardships and resiliency, critical thinking skills, cultural competency and diversity.
  • Metrics such as GPA (recommend 3.2+), grade trends and MCAT score (recommend 501+), sciences requirements.

It’s important to

  • Build excellent relationships with professionals and faculty who might serve as references.
  • Engage in extracurricular activities. Choose three to four activities that you're passionate about and consider ones that align with your interests such as patient care, community building, sports or arts.
  • Convey your passion for health.

What to major in for pre-med?

For most health professions, your specific major isn’t as important as pre-requisite courses and hands-on experience. This gives you the freedom to major in something you enjoy and find inspiring.


College of Health majors that include some requirements for medical school:


The pre-therapy and allied health option offers professional tracks that include pre-requisites for physician assistant, athletic training, medicine and nursing.


Many pre-medical competency courses are built into the nutrition and health sciences option requirements.

Public health

All courses required to apply to pre-professional programs or medical school can easily be included in any public health option.

Courses required for medical school

Most medical schools require the following courses:

  • 1 year general chemistry
  • 1 year organic chemistry
  • 1 year general biology
  • 1 year general physics
  • At least one math course; preferably also statistics
  • Social science courses (consider HDFS courses)
  • Humanities

Online courses, study abroad and international science courses are usually not accepted by medical schools for completing prerequisites.

Most medical schools highly recommend:

  • Anatomy and Physiology (included in the college’s kinesiology degree)
  • Genetics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Physiology

How to choose extracurriculars for medical schools

When considering extracurricular activities for your medical school application, three or four in-depth experiences where you gain valuable lessons are more important than trying to check off a wide range and number of activities.

Show you care

Medical schools care about what you care about.

This means your experiences could be:

  • patient- or people-focused,
  • contribute to building community,
  • be sports-related,
  • or be physical activities,
  • or creative or artistic pursuits.

It's your opportunity

Extracurricular experiences are an opportunity for you to:

  • Explore your interests,
  • test out your natural inclinations for certain activities,
  • better understand medical practice and daily demands,
  • assess your ability to communicate and empathize with diverse people,
  • and evaluate your willingness to put others’ needs ahead of your own.

Medical schools value commitment to the health care field.

To be a strong applicant, we recommend at least one year of health care related experiences.


Review this example pre-med timeline so you’re well-positioned to achieve your goal of attending medical school.

Take advantage of pre-med resources

Attend application seminars, the pre-medical orientation seminar, and a personal statement workshop.

A medical preceptorship program will immerse you in a clinical environment with a physician mentor to give you a firsthand look into the profession.

More resources

We’re here to help you plan for medical school

If you're interested in attending medical school, meet with the College of Health pre-med advisor toward the end of your first year, or as soon as possible, to learn about and prepare for the application process.

By working with the COH pre-med advisor, you will also establish a mentoring relationship, a critical part of the process.

Please read


Advising appointments can be made by calling the College of Health's Office of Student Success at 541-737-8900.

Are you a current College of Health student interested in pursuing medicine? Please complete the Pre-med Initial Interest form.