The minimum required science courses for medical, dental, and veterinary school admission are:
Biology (8 credits) Biology 111, 113; 220, 221 (Genetics with lab) OR 211 (Cell Biology with lab)
General Chemistry Chemistry 110
Organic Chemistry Chemistry 241, 242
Physics (8 credits) Physics 111/111A, 112
Also required for all veterinary and pharmacy schools, and either required or recommended for most medical and dental schools is:
Biochemistry (fulfilled by either Chemistry 341 or Biology 215)
With this bare minimum, it is possible to major in any department in the university while including required science courses. Individual professional schools may have additional requirements in the sciences: for example, a second semester of General Chemistry is still required for dental, veterinary, physical therapy, and pharmacy schools. Many of the schools retain math and/or statistics (6 credits), English and/or writing (6 credits), social sciences, and/or humanities courses in their list of specific requirements - particularly English.
Most professional schools proclaim an interest in a well-rounded education, yet in the long run, it is the performance in science courses that seems to weigh most strongly in admissions decisions. Additionally, many prospective health career students are interested in science and elect more than the minimum required courses. Data compiled by the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that more than half of the successful applicants to medical schools have undergraduate science majors; and although majors in nearly all fields have gained admission, all must have had strong records in their science courses.
Since many likely candidates fail to gain acceptance to professional schools, a strong major field provides a maximum of career opportunities for employment and graduate work. Often a career in an alternate health-related profession may arise from such a major. Such a major is often in a field of science, but because of Washington and Lee's dedication to the liberal arts philosophy, graduation requirements assure that all students include a breadth of courses (from general education requirements and electives) leading to a well-rounded education, regardless of major. In most cases it is possible to complete a major in the traditional four years of undergraduate study provided the first course in the department of the major is taken no later than fall of the sophomore year.
Course Selection and Sequence
The science courses required for medical, dental and veterinary school admission are also those required for minimum preparation for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test), DAT (Dental Admission Testing Program), and the GRE (Graduate Record Examination, for veterinary medical school admission). The MCAT is normally taken in April or May of the junior year, so it is important to schedule these courses prior to this time. The DAT should be taken before July 1 of the year that you apply to dental school. The GRE should be taken in June or July prior to the senior year.
The MCAT format emphasizes problem solving, analysis, and reading comprehension. In addition to testing competencies in chemistry, biology, biochemistry and physics, it also has a section that tests competencies in sociology and psychology, so students preparing for medical school should take a courses in social science disciplines relevant to the competencies. At Washington and Lee, there are a number of ways to meet these social science competencies, which are outlined in a separate document, found at http://www.wlu.edu/document/mcat-information.
To evaluate which W&L courses will help prepare you for the MCAT Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section, see the document found at https://www.wlu.edu/document/mcat-chemistry-and-biology-course-coverage. It details specific W&L biochemistry and biology courses and how significantly their content overlaps with the content tested in this MCAT section.
For help with either of these documents, please contact Dr. Lisa Alty, Health Professions Coordinator.
The sequence in which these courses are taken is strongly dependent upon choice of major. All majors should be planned by careful consultation with an advisor from that field and a health professions advisor.
Summer School Work
Regardless of major, some of the courses required for medical school admission are electives or cognate courses rather than specific degree requirements. This means that they may be taken in summer school and the credits transferred to Washington and Lee for degree credit. The wisdom of doing this is a matter of some debate. Some medical school admissions officers have indicated that students presenting summer school credit for a required course will be asked to justify why they took it away from their home institution. Some students have reported being asked about summer school credits during medical school interviews. Different medical schools treat this issue differently. It would seem wise if there is a need to do summer school work not to take required courses: if this becomes a necessity, one should choose a strong institution.