The Big Picture: What to Consider as you Develop your Plans

In Your First Semester

If you are just starting at Brown and are interested in the health professions, attend the health careers meeting during orientation week as well as one of the information sessions offered during the year. These meetings will help you develop a plan for your pre-medical course of study. We often recommend starting the chemistry sequence early, though this depends on your interests and academic goals. 

One major piece of advice applies to every student: Do not take more than two science courses in your first semester of study. You are new to Brown and have no way to gauge how you will perform in college-level science classes. Pace yourself well to be successful in your course work. Consult the list of recommended pre-med courses  and sample study plans to see which courses you will need to take and when. 

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Time Management

All students, regardless of their post-college aspirations, need to balance their time commitments carefully. Allow enough time to study for classes without cutting into your non-academic interests (and time for fun!) and vice versa. Many new students at Brown quickly recognize that college-level study requires a greater commitment of time and effort than high school study. Thus, you should use your first year to learn how to study and manage your time effectively as a college student. Tutoring and Coaching workshops are available and can give you a great boost not only when you adapt to college life but also later when you manage a progressively rich course and extracurricular schedule.

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Academic Preparation

Applicants to medical and other health professions schools must present evidence that they can succeed in a fast-paced, science-intensive curriculum. In addition, health profession schools value intellectual curiosity, breadth of study, and the potential to be an avid life-long learner. Admission committees will be interested in your overall academic record, your MCAT (or other) scores, and your letters of  recommendation from faculty, mentors and supervisors.

Successful applicants to medical school generally have a science GPA of 3.5 or higher (average GPAs vary for admitted applicants to other health professions). Note that strong grade point averages and test scores alone are not enough to gain admission to any health profession training program. You must also demonstrate your interest in and knowledge of the profession, as well as strong interpersonal abilities.

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Clinical Experience

All health profession training programs require you to gain some knowledge of the profession to which you aspire before applying. In the case of medical school, there is no particular time commitment that you must make, though we recommend volunteering or working in a clinical setting at least once per week over a couple of semesters or summers. Students interested in veterinary school will need extensive experience working with animals. Dental applicants must demonstrate that they have spent a significant number of hours working or volunteering in a clinical setting (some schools will require a minimum number of hours). Other professions have similar requirements. The more involved you are with clinical activities, the stronger your application will be, and you will be better prepared for your chosen profession. 

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Research Experience

Although research is not strictly required by the great majority of medical and other health professions schools, most applicants have one or more experiences that expose them to the practice of scholarly inquiry before they apply for admission. Think of this as an important part of your academic and career exploration. Medical schools will not prefer any particular type of research, so look for opportunities that match your  interests.

Some students prefer to participate in clinical research projects, while others are more inclined to pursue basic science research. A great way to connect with professionals who are looking for assistants on campus is the Directory of Research and Researchers at Brown.  Our Activities Related to Health Care section also offers a wealth of useful information and links. 

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Other Activities

In evaluating your application, health profession training programs look for evidence that you have challenged yourself through activities that demonstrate leadership, service to others, and the ability to communicate with others across cultures, gender, race, economic status, or affinity. Your applications will require you to list any activities that are relevant to your overall development as a student and a person, so it is never too early to think carefully about the types of activities to which you want to commit time and energy.  Although breadth of experience is certainly encouraged, it is best to explore a few areas of greatest interest to you in depth. For example, a single day of volunteerism at an event or a very brief trip abroad will not give you sufficient experience, opportunity to learn, and to contribute to others' well-being. 

On-campus resources that will help you identify opportunities include the Swearer Center for Public service, student organizations, and CareerLAB. Letters of recommendation from supervisors, mentors, and members of the faculty can also provide evidence of your interpersonal skill development during your time at Brown.

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Connect with Faculty and Other Mentors

Meaningful interaction with faculty and mentors on a regular basis will not only provide you with intellectual stimulation but will also give you excellent guidance and support. Faculty may be able to direct you to a number of research, clinical, academic or civic engagement opportunities. Ultimately, they will be the individuals who can write letters of recommendation on your behalf. 

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Selecting a Concentration

Brown students are required to declare a concentration by the middle of their fourth semester of study. It is never too early to learn about the many options you have in this regard. Start with Focal Point, a search engine that contains information on every concentration program at Brown, including course requirements. Explore departmental websites and talk to professors and well-informed peers.

Medical and other health profession schools do not require any particular concentration. Hence, you should choose your concentration based on your academic interests. You should also be aware that double concentrations do not enhance your chances of admission. Health profession schools will be most interested in what you have learned from your concentration, as well as the rationale for your academic choices. 

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