Pre-Professional Programs

Health Related Fields

Hendrix has a long-standing tradition of preparing students, within the context of a liberal arts education, for the pursuit of advanced degrees in the health professions (i.e. medical, veterinary, dental, physical therapy, nursing and other schools) or for immediate entry into health-related occupations. In preparing students for these fields, the Hendrix curriculum focuses on the principles of science and scientific reasoning. After all, science is the backbone of each of these fields, and problem solving is at the heart of what health practitioners do.

Students who are successful in the pre-health programs at Hendrix are well versed in their particular scientific field and accomplished communicators. Furthermore, while science will certainly be the focus of the undergraduate preparation, it will not be so consuming that students are restricted from taking full advantage of the breadth of a liberal arts academic program. Students who are interested in becoming physicians, dentists, or veterinarians but also want to know their Plato, Chaucer, and Marx should look into the liberal arts…they should look into Hendrix.

Hendrix students who are interested in the health sciences field usually choose to major in biology, chemistry, health science, or biochemistry-molecular biology. Post-graduate programs expect successful applicants to have taken certain science classes as well as a variety of classes outside of the sciences. Most graduate or professional schools also require satisfactory scores in one of several standardized tests, such as the MCAT (Medical College Aptitude Test) for medical school and the DAT (Dental Aptitude Test) for dental school. Faculty advisors ensure that the students are taking the necessary classes to prepare for the exams.

Graduate and professional schools generally require successful applicants to have spent time in classes that address the non-scientific side of the healing professions. English courses are required to hone writing skills, while speech classes are often mandated to polish interpersonal communication abilities. Hendrix students are able to satisfy these requirements while also meeting the diverse requirements of the Hendrix liberal arts curriculum.

Many students at Hendrix will take advantage of the opportunities to get involved in undergraduate research. Unlike large universities, at Hendrix there are no graduate assistants to compete with for chances to work with professors in the laboratories. Most science classes require weekly laboratory work to complement the work done in class. Research is a powerful tool that reinforces the analytical skills necessary for careers in the health professions. This not only has intrinsic value educationally, but also helps to enhance applications for competitive professional schools.

Look to the Future

Students interested in pre-medical or other health-related fields requiring the MCAT, DAT, VCAT, OAT, PCAT or similar exams in the spring of the junior year or the fall of the senior year usually need to take at least 2 biology, 4 chemistry, 2 physics, and 2 mathematics courses in the first three years. Some schools require 3 or more biology courses. Thus, they need 10 science courses in six semesters, many of which have laboratories and need to be sequenced properly, regardless of the student’s major. These 10 courses are typically the following: Cell Biology and Genetics (we strongly recommend Animal Physiology as well), Chemistry I and II, and Organic Chemistry I and II, Physics I and II (algebra or calculus-based), and one or two mathematics courses. While some professional schools state a mathematics requirement of “two courses,” others state “Calculus I” or “Calculus II” as a requirement. Some have no specified math requirement and others require statistics. Proper course sequencing throughout the first three years of the four-year curriculum is crucial. One should consult course requirements for any specific major in the Catalog. Once a major has been decided upon, the student should consult with a faculty member in that department for further information on optimum course sequencing.

As long as the minimum science requirements are met, one’s major is not a criterion of professional school admission, but overall grade point average, science grade point average, and the standardized exam scores (which have science sections covering courses listed above) are critical. Students with equivalent credentials (e.g., MCAT, GPA, and grades in science courses) who major outside of the sciences will be a little unique when their applications are considered, and this may even be an advantage.

Generally, first-year students need to start at least two science sequences and to take at least four science/math courses in the first year regardless of their projected major. An absolute maximum is six science courses (three per term), but this is not often recommended. Taking fewer than three science courses will make it difficult for students to be prepared for the professional school standardized exams in three years. It is recommended that in the first year, pre-professional school students take Cell Biology and Chemistry I and II. Other science courses which are often taken by first-year students include selections from this list: Zoology (Biology majors), Functions and Models, Calculus I and Calculus II. Physics may be an appropriate choice for Physics or BCMB majors. Outside the Natural Sciences, students should consider coursework in psychology, sociology, ethics or speech communication. While the courses listed above are the most frequently specified prerequisites by professional schools, students should check for additional prerequisites when they have chosen the particular school to which they want to apply. All students are encouraged to visit the web site of the professional organization that they wish to enter, as well as the websites of any specific schools they might consider applying to, for further information.

Questions? 

For additional information, please select one of the specific health-related fields in the menu on the right-hand side of the page. Each field has a Faculty member who can be contacted by students. There is also an active Pre-Health Club.