Pre-Professional FAQ

Academic Foundations

Professional Admissions Exams

Improving Your Application

Other Questions


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What should my ACT/SAT scores be?

Studies indicate a student who has an ACT Composite and Mathematics of 21 or higher (SAT 500 or higher) has a reasonable chance of getting into and graduating from a professional school. This is not to say that a student with lower ACT/SAT scores cannot go to a professional school. A shortcoming in scores does not rule out successfully completing a program in the sciences at Marshall, but it will mean that you will have to work extra hard. Determination and dedication are important.

But that’s not all . . . A strong high school course of study in the sciences (biology, chemistry, math, and physics) is a great preparation for entry and success in the College of Science; however, completing the transition from the high school culture to the university culture is a challenge.

And did we mention commitment and a strong work ethic? The course work will probably be much more difficult than you may anticipate, even if you are a high school honor student. A student’s first semester performance is an excellent indicator of your ability and dedication to succeed. From the beginning, you must hold yourself to tough standards. Successful pre-professionals (medical, dentistry, pharmacy, etc.) must possess both the intellectual ability and drive required to achieve academically. The number of applicants to professional programs is increasing, and the competition is very stiff. You need to convince yourself from the beginning that you can and will do the work. Only those who persevere will achieve their goal. Realistically, you should spend two to three hours studying for each hour spent in class.


What do I major in at Marshall University?

Pie chart showing majority of students admitted to medical school declare biology as their major

The majority – approximately 90% – of students admitted to medical school declare biology as their undergraduate major. About 7% are chemistry majors and the rest of the applicants have a variety of majors including physics, mathematics, and psychology. Pre-pharmacy students typically choose chemistry for a major. The entire science requirements for a professional exam (MCAT, PCAT, DAT, etc.) is required for biology majors and most of the courses are required of chemistry majors, so you should consider choosing one of these two science majors.

You can choose any major. However, if a non-science major (Psychology, English, Nursing, Athletic Training, etc.) is chosen, the science requirements for the professional school still must be met. An additional year or two may be required to complete the science requirements along with coursework for a non-science major. If you have a longing to pursue a major that is non-science, that choice is not likely to influence your chances for admission to a professional school, provided you have met all of the requirements.

Debating on which major? Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Do you enjoy the subject matter in one major more than another?
  2. Can you complete all of the science courses and those in the selected major within a reasonable amount of time?

This is not a decision you have to make during your first semester at Marshall, but it is a choice you will have to make early in your college career.  A choice only you make!


What are the science requirements for admission to a professional school?

The actual number of required courses for admission to a professional school is small. The required science courses for the majority of professional schools include:

Science Block Marshall Equivalent
Principles of Biology I & II BSC 120 and BSC 121
Biochemistry CHM 365
Inorganic Chemistry I & II with labs CHM 211, CHM 212, CHM 217, and CHM 218
Organic Chemistry I & II with lab CHM 355, CHM 356, and CHM 361
Physics I & II with labs PHY 201, PHY 202, PHY 203, and PHY 204
Math Depending upon ACT/SAT Math scores and major, students may take one to four courses in math (developmental coursework, Algebra, Trigonometry, and/or Applied Calculus). Also, individual professional schools may have additional math admission requirements.
Social or Behavioral Sciences SOC 200 or PSY 201

Professional exams specifically test the content from the above science block; more advanced courses will give you an admission advantage. Other science course requirements can vary according to which professional school you choose. Suggested courses include:

Suggested Courses Marshall Equivalent
Animal Physiology BSC 422
Cell Biology BSC 322
Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy BSC 310
Embryology BSC 301
Genetics BSC 324
Histology BSC 300
Human Anatomy BSC 227 (does not count toward a Biology degree)
Human Physiology BSC 228 (does not count toward a Biology degree)
Immunology BSC 448
Microbiology and Microbiology lab BSC 302 and 304 (BSC 250 is acceptable to some schools but does not count toward a Biology degree)
Written Communications ENG 101 and ENG 201
Oral Communication CMM 103
Ethics PHL 303
Statistics STA 225

You must identify additional admission requirements early and incorporate them into the graduation requirements for your major. Check the specific requirements of the professional school you want to attend.

Through careful planning, all of the requirements for professional school can be included within the courses needed for graduation from Marshall University without taking extra courses or spending unnecessary time.


Is there a suggested order to taking the science requirements?

Students and parents often think taking general classes for the first year of college is best. However, taking only general classes in your freshmen year will prolong your admissions to professional school. Also, you place yourself in a position of taking only upper-level science courses the rest of your time at Marshall. It is best to have a balance of science and general education courses each semester.

Your freshmen and sophomore years need to focus on the science block courses in order to prepare you for the professional exam (MCAT, PCAT, DAT, etc.). The professional admission exam should be taken in the late fall or early spring of your junior year. Additional admission requirements to a professional school as well as the additional courses required for graduation are taken during your junior and senior year. If you decided to deviate from the recommended 4-year plan, you may need to take summer classes or prolong graduation – both will increase the cost of your education.

Following the recommended 4-year plan, avoiding repeat classes, and remaining focused will help you complete your undergraduate degree within four years and be ready to begin professional school on time – also saving you money. The science block courses can be challenging, especially if you are not ready for college-level studying. Only you can decide how prepared you are for these courses. In some cases, it may be best to deviate from the recommended plan in order to keep you GPA higher.


What GPA is required for admission?

There are several factors that collectively determine the admission decision: GPA, your professional exam score, outside activities, and the admission interview. The average distribution of GPAs for applicants accepted are skewed with more applicants having between 3.8 – 4.0 GPA than between 3.4 – 3.7 GPA. However, there is neither a guarantee that a student with a higher GPA will be accepted nor a certainty that a student with a lower GPA will not be admitted. Someone with a high GPA (3.8 or above) can be rejected, and an applicant with slightly lower GPA (3.4 – 3.7) can be selected. The decision rests on the overall application. Also, professional school selection committees vary from year to year in what they look for in a successful candidate.


Is it true that only my science GPA is reviewed?

Professional schools calculate the GPA for each applicant in three ways: science, non-science, and overall. Depending on the institution, some may only count the first grade received in a course. Thus a course retaken, even under the D&F Repeat Rule, would not count. Others institutions count the highest grade or average the two grades. These differences could cause the calculated GPA to differ from your GPA calculated by Marshall University. It is a good idea to check with the professional school admissions office, or consult the institution’s web site, to learn how the GPA calculation is handled.

Students who have sought academic forgiveness may not be eligible for professional school.


Can I prepare for my professional exam?

Yes, you can and should prepare at great length for your professional exam. The DAT, GRE, MCAT, OAT, and PCAT are very difficult (and expensive) exams, and the rewards for doing well are great. It is very shortsighted to not prepare in a significant way for an exam.

Perhaps the best way to study is to get a good freshman or sophomore textbook in each of the disciplines covered by the exam and to use those texts as a means to review material you had a year or so earlier. The scientific competencies you will be expected to demonstrate include basic principles and concepts in biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, math, and physics.

You are strongly encouraged to take practice exams in order to help familiarize yourself with the exam and timing. These online exams can help you determine which areas you may need to study further. Minimize distractions, time yourself, and take the sections in their standard order.

Some students benefit by taking professional test taking courses. Two of the most widely known preparatory services are the Kaplan Course* and the Princeton Review*. These review services are expensive, but are gaining favor with local students.
*Marshall University does not endorse nor is affiliated with the companies. Marshall University is not responsible for the content, cost, or claims of these outside resources. These outside resources are for informative purposes and should be view at the students discretion.


When and how do I register for my professional exam?

You should normally take the exam approximately 18 months prior to the date you plan to enroll in medical school. Typically, you take the professional exam during your junior year.You must pre-register for the professional exam. There are no walk in arrangements. The pre-registration dates are listed on the professional exam’s web site.

You should familiarize yourself with the expectations of exam admittance by reviewing information given on each professional exam’s web site.


Should I retake my professional exam?

If you feel that your scores are low, or that they do not accurately reflect your abilities, you may wish to retake the exam again. Most studies indicate that about 60% of those who retake the exam better their grades, 20% do about the same, and 20% make lower grades the second time.

Some considerations for retaking the exam include:

1. Is there an unusual discrepancy between your college grades and the exam scores?
2. Was your coursework in the areas covered on the test inadequate?
3. Did you misunderstood the directions or incorrectly recorded your answers?
4, Were you seriously ill at the time of the test?
5. Has a member of a professional school admission committee recommended that you retest?

Remember that poor scores will probably prevent acceptance, but excellent scores do not guarantee acceptance.


How many times may I take my professional exam?

Exam Retake Options
DAT Three times without special permission. You must wait 90 days between testing dates.
GRE As many times as you want. You need to find out from the professional school of your choice which set of scores are accepted.
MCAT Three times per year but you can only register for one testing session at a time. There is no specific waiting period between testing sessions.
OAT As many times as you want. You need to find out from the optometry school of your choice which set of scores are accepted. You must wait 90 days between testing dates.
PCAT As many times as you want. You need to find out from the pharmacy school of your choice which set of scores are accepted.

Professional schools use multiple sets of scores in several ways. Some schools weigh all sets of scores equally and note improvements. Others consider only the most recent set of scores. Still others take an average of all sets of scores. Finally, some schools use only the highest set of scores or the highest individual section scores. Of the four methods, the first (using all sets of scores equally and noting improvements) is the most common. You may wish to contact the professional schools of your choice to find out directly information about its score acceptance procedure.


Should I release my test scores to the pre-professional advisor?

When filling out the test application you will be asked to select the schools you wish to receive your test scores. Additionally you may be asked whether you wish to release your scores to your pre-professional advisor. Most students release the scores. It is your choice.


Do I need practical experience?

Be sure you take the opportunity of getting some practical experience before you decide to dedicate a great amount of time and effort toward becoming a health-care professional. Talk with a family care provider; a great way to see the professional in action is to shadow him/her for a day. Volunteering at the local Red Cross or a nursing care facility would also give valuable experience, or you may prefer work as an aid in a hospital. Summer employment in the medical field (positions such as an aide, orderly, or a pharmacy tech) is valuable. Your practical experience is perhaps as important as the major you choose.


Do I need to be involved in extracurricular activities?

Concentrating on academics to achieve the best grades possible is extremely important. However, outside activities can play a crucial role in admission to professional school. Activities that might be helpful would include some volunteer work (e.g., the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, hospitals, etc.).


What are application submission services?

Most allopathic medical, osteopathic medical, dental, pharmacy, and veterinary schools require the submission of application materials via a web-based service. Applicants should consult the web page of all schools they wish to apply to be certain they are meeting all requirements for admission and are submitting credentials properly.

Profession Submission Service
Allopathic Medicine American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS)
Dental Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS)
Osteopathic Medicine American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)
Pharmacy Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS)
Veterinary Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS)


When should I begin the application process to professional school?

For most students, this activity begins shortly after taking the professional exam. As previously recommended, you should take your professional exam during your junior year. The actual process of applying to a professional school is a long and tedious one, often taking 12 to 15 months. Remember, the rules and the overall application process vary for each professional school. See the professional school materials for critical dates and requirements.
For the most accurate information on the application process, contact the professional school of your choice or review information on the school’s website.

  1. Begin by acquiring an application from the professional school’s admission office or the school’s preferred professional website like the AMCAS for medical schools.
  2. Carefully fill out all required material.
  3. Go to the Registrar’s office and have an official transcript sent to the professional school.
  4. Get a copy of your transcript and calculate your science and non-science GPA.
  5. Begin the process of writing your entrance essay and have a trusted individual read and critique the essay.
  6. Call at the appropriate time and check to see that your test scores have arrived.
  7. Go by the College of Science Dean’s Office and pick up forms that will assist you in getting letters of recommendation from the faculty. These forms are designed to ensure that faculty members will not have to write letters to all of the schools to which you expect to apply.
  8. Have everything completed and mail your application as soon as possible during your junior year and before your senior year. Honor the application deadlines for the individual schools. Late applications will seriously reduce your chances of being admitted.
  9. The last step, and perhaps the most important step, is the personal interview. This should not be a totally intimidating situation. You will usually be asked the premier question, “Why do you want to be a physician (pharmacist, dentist, etc.)?” You should seriously think through this question before arriving at the interview. Always be honest and sincere. A light-hearted or comedic answer will most likely not be appreciated. During the interview you may be asked about hobbies, interests or special skills. These questions are asked to give the interviewers an idea of who you are as a person and how you relate to your fellow human beings. Be sure to talk about related experiences that you might have. If applying to an osteopathic medical school, be sure you know the difference between an osteopathic and an allopathic physician.


Do WV residents have a better chance of being admitted to a WV state school than a non-resident?

Yes. All three state medical schools have a legislated mandate to admit state residents almost exclusively. There are exceptions, but the rule is fairly rigid. Private schools, such as the University of Charleston Pharmacy School, receive no state money, so they may admit anyone they choose. These schools are, however, rather expensive compared to a state school’s tuition and fees.


Are there special opportunities for minorities in health care?


What is the Academic Common Market?

The Academic Common Market enables you to pursue out-of-state majors (like veterinary medicine) at in-state tuition rates, through agreements among the states and college and universities. Visit the Southern Regional Education Board’s website for schools and programs offered.


Is completion of the baccalaureate degree required for admission to a professional school?

Even though most professional schools do not require completion of the degree, the tendency among medical or dental colleges is to require four years of pre-professional preparation, and preference is given to applicants having a four year degree. Chiropractors must possess a baccalaureate degree in addition to the Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine in order to practice in West Virginia. If you are granted early admission to a doctorate level program, you may accept the offer and receive your degree from Marshall University after one year of study at the professional school. If you wish to study medicine or dentistry at a professional school, you may be granted a leave of absence during the senior year at Marshall University.


How do I request a leave of absence from my senior year at Marshall?

To secure this leave of absence you must file a written report in the College of Science’s Office of the Dean immediately after gaining admission to the professional school and before the termination of coursework at Marshall University. Failure to discharge this responsibility voids candidacy for the degree under this program. Please contact your academic advisor for the current leave of absence requirements and more information.


What can I do if I am not admitted to a professional school?

Each year many students are disappointed by an unsuccessful application to a professional school. At this point, students look back to evaluate their level of commitment beginning with the freshman year; and they wish that they had devoted more time and effort to ensure solid academic credentials. Although the time invested in undergraduate work might not result in admission to a professional school, it could be sufficient for alternative health care careers, graduate school, or law school.


Are there any outside resources available?

Marshall University does not endorse nor is affiliated with the companies listed below. Marshall University is not responsible for the content, cost, or claims of these outside resources. These outside resources are for informative purposes and should be viewed at the students discretion.


How can I obtain the best pre-professional advice?

The Associate Dean of the College of Science serves as Marshall University’s Pre-professional Officer, and can assist you with your preparation and choices. You may speak to the Associate Dean of the College of Science at any time if you need help or have specific questions. The College of Science Office of Student Services will assist you with class selection based on your ACT/SAT scores, Advance Placement classes, and goals. Juniors and Seniors are assigned to a faculty advisor who can assist you with upper-level course choices as well as career paths.

Requirements vary slightly among the professional programs. You need to discuss your options with your advisors in order to meet the requirements for your undergraduate degree and professional area of emphasis. With careful planning, all requirements for graduation and application to professional programs can be met while acquiring an undergraduate degree.

Be careful seeking advice from students, relying on self-advice, or taking courses just because they are fun. These strategies can have negative consequences.

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