Photo of a college classroomBe aware that preparing for a career in one of the many health professions requires more than academic preparation. Read below to learn how to become academically qualified to enter professional school, but also learn more about important types of non-academic preparation, such as gaining clinical experience. You will also find information on preparation timelines, standardized tests, health-related student groups, and financing your professional education.

General Rules for Academic Preparation

  • General Rule #1
    For full-time students, we recommend starting with no more than a total of 13 to 15 credit hours per semester and no more than two sciences courses with a lab and only increasing if you can handle this load and earn at least the average GPA for your desired health profession (3.5 or above for most health professions). Keep in mind that you need to allow time in your schedule for important Extracurricular Experiences.
  • General Rule #2
    You should take courses you find interesting! Admissions committees at professional schools are looking for people who are excited about learning and are intellectually curious.
  • General Rule #3
    After completing your science prerequisites, you should take at least one or two more science courses. Your Health Professions Advisor can help you select appropriate additional coursework.
  • General Rule #4
    If you have a slow start, you can recover, but you should plan to have at least three to four consecutive semesters leading up to submitting your application that include challenging science courses and high grades.

Below are answers to common questions health professions students have regarding academic preparation.

Implications for your college coursework: The coursework for the introductory-level sciences at CU Boulder tends to be quite rigorous, sometimes more so than the AP/IB courses taught in high schools. Accordingly, some students with AP/IB credit find value in taking the honors versions of those courses at CU Boulder before moving on to more advanced coursework (this consideration is especially true in the case of General Chemistry).

Implications for professional school admissions: AP/IB courses are accepted for the prerequisites by many, but not all, health professional schools, provided that they have been accepted by the undergraduate institution. Some will only accept AP/IB credit if you supplement it with additional coursework in the subject area for which you received the credit. You will need to check on policies at the specific schools to which you plan to apply.

Implications for standardized entrance exams: A final issue to consider is the subject matter tested on the standardized entrance exam for the professional schools in your field. If you will be required to take a science-based entrance exam, you may benefit from taking college-level coursework in the relevant subject areas, especially if you took any of your AP/IB courses before your junior or senior year of high school.

At CU Boulder, as with many colleges and universities across the country, being a pre-health student is a mindset, not a major. You can choose ANY major and become a strong candidate for health-related professional schools.

Professional school admissions committees consistently emphasize that they value all majors because students coming in with a diversity of academic backgrounds will create intellectual diversity in their classes and in their professions. They do not expect (or even want) all of the applicants to be cookie-cutter science majors. They are most impressed by individuals who express their own, personal intellectual passions.

Thus, you should choose a major you will find enjoyable and intellectually stimulating. That way, you are likely to become most engaged in your education and earn the best grades. Also, if for any reason you change your mind about going into a healthcare career, your major can set you up for an alternate career in an area you enjoy.

Students at CU Boulder must choose to be in one of the six colleges within the University and, within that college, select an academic major. The pre-health advisors are happy to work with all CU Boulder students, regardless of college or major. All health professions students will need to fulfill three sets of requirements:

  • General graduation requirements for your college.
  • The requirements for your major.
  • The prerequisite courses that will fulfill your professional schools’ admissions requirements. (All students will need to take a certain number of elective credit hours in order to graduate. If you choose a non-science major, you will take your pre-health prerequisite courses as elective courses. Refer to the Areas of Interest section of our website for more specific information on prerequisite courses.)

Should I choose a science major?

Only if you are truly excited about taking most/all of the required courses for the major. We recommend looking at the list of courses you would have to take for each major, especially the upper-division courses.

If a science major is the best fit for you, go for it! But remember that you are considering devoting your career to a science-based profession. Your college experience will be one of the few times in your life in which you will have the opportunity for concentrated study in the liberal arts. So, if you’d like to use your college years to delve into a field like history, or philosophy, or art, then we urge you to do so. You just need to take certain science courses (as “elective” credit), in addition. Your advisor will help you choose which science courses to take, and when.

From our point of view, the only “wrong” major choice would be to select a major that you don’t like, perhaps based on a misguided understanding that certain majors will help you get into professional school. They won’t. Even worse, unhappy students are less likely to do well in their coursework. So avoid this mistake!

Should I choose a double-or triple-major?

Only if you honestly think it will enrich your college experience. As a general rule, we don’t necessarily recommend it, because there are other, more important ways for you to spend your time as a PreHealth student. The potential disadvantage of choosing multiple majors is that you will be limited to a very prescribed set of coursework, without much room for other interesting elective courses. Professional schools do not care which major you choose, nor do they much care if you choose more than one.

Different types of healthcare related professional schools have different lists of prerequisites. In fact, prerequisites can differ among schools offering the same type of programs.  Please refer to the Areas of Interest section of our website for detailed lists of prerequisites, with corresponding CU Boulder course numbers, for each of the healthcare fields for which we advise.

As a health professions student, you have two advisors:

  • Your academic advisor is here to help you understand your major requirements, university academic policies, and graduation requirements. If you have questions about course registration or CU’s academic policies, see your academic advisor.
  • Your health professions advisor’s role is to help you prepare for professional school. We can help you pick courses relevant to the health professions path, provide you with advice about relevant extracurricular activities, and assist you with all of the elements of the professional school application process.

By working with both of your advisors, you will know what is needed to graduate from CU and to prepare for professional school. You can make appointments with either type of advisor through the online advisor appointment system (MyCUHub).