Medical Studies Fall 2020 FAQs

Information for Class of 2024

What classes should I take this fall?

First-year students will work through their course schedule with their FYS advisor.

For chemistry, students should take General Chemistry 107 A in either Module A or Module B and Chemistry 108A in either Module C or D (winter/spring 2021). Students who have AP/IB credit for chemistry should consult with the chemistry faculty.

For math, students who have high school credit for calculus with a grade of A or B should plan to take Math 106. The math faculty, with the use of the non-binding and online placement test, can also help students select the right math course. Students do not need to take calculus in their first or second module but can wait until later in their academic schedule.

For biology, at some point during the first year, students should take Bio 195 (any section is fine).

Beyond that, your first-year seminar class will help you build community with peers and faculty (and help you to get to know your faculty advisor), and additional courses outside of the sciences will help you explore your interests and your eventual major selection. A balanced curriculum is important!

Please attend our virtual First Year Pre-health meeting held during First-Year Orientation on August 28th at 9:00 am.

How can I maximize my time on campus this fall as a first-year prehealth student?

In your first term, focus on making as smooth an academic and social transition as possible. Get to know your peers and faculty, and gauge how you need to adjust your study skills and time management. Chat with members of the Public Health Initiative (PHI) and Club Med groups and learn about their campus and community involvement.

Information for All Students

How can I stay involved in prehealth activities while I’m home?

This is a time of uncertainty and disruption for everyone, so it may be hard to start a new volunteering position or other formal activity since folks in charge of organizations may not have time to bring new people on. Many in-person volunteer and clinical activities will also be suspended to try to maintain social distancing. Here are a few ideas–we’d love to hear of other ideas that you might have.

  1. Be an active, helpful member of your home community. Volunteer to cover childcare needs for neighbors or to check-in (by phone/from a distance) on the elderly. If you’re part of a religious community, see if there are ways that you can provide support through them. Check with organizations where you have volunteered in the past to see if you can step back into previous roles.
  2. Use,, and local volunteer opportunity databases (like NY Cares) to seek other local options, but be ready for slow responses. Connect with the Harward Center for Community Partnerships for virtual community-engaged learning opportunities.
  3. Read books that provide insight about being a doctor, applying to medical school, or learning about other health careers. For ideas, here’s a list of books that you might be interested in reading.
  4. Contact alumni physicians near your home by searching Bates Bridge, LinkedIn, and for additional contact information, the Alumni Directory. Shadowing may not be possible for a while, but it will be interesting to chat with alumni about their experiences as physicians, nurses, PA’s, etc. See the PW Making Professional Connections Guide for guidance on connecting.
  5. Learn more about the next step in your education: Surf through websites for medical schools in your home state. Listen to the All Access Medical School Admissions podcast. Attend virtual fairs, virtual open houses, and other educational opportunities online (we’ll post these opportunities in Healthwork).
  6. Engage in free online learning opportunities, like this class about pandemics from Harvard or one about community change in public health from Johns Hopkins or essentials of global health from Yale.
  7. The Power of Self-Reflection. Many pre-health students are super-focused on doing as much as possible, but it is just as important to set aside time to reflect on your journey. Think deeply about your academic experiences, shadowing opportunities, research, and community service. Being able to share your personal narrative in writing (personal statement) and in-person (interview) is critical when applying to pre-health programs. Journaling, for example, is a great way to capture your thoughts as your understanding and motivation for medicine evolves with your experience.
  8. Keep taking good care of yourself and others!

Here is an evolving, crowd-sourced list of ideas for pre-health students.

Will medical schools accept online courses for prerequisites?

Medical Schools understand the extraordinary circumstances that future applicants have to navigate. When you apply to medical school, we provide a Medical Studies Committee Letter that provides context about your academic trajectory, which will include information about how the pandemic affected your choices. Medical schools consider each applicant holistically and we expect them to consider your circumstances individually in light of the pandemic. We’re happy to chat with you about your individual situation.

Is it okay to P/F prerequisite courses?

When you are given the option of taking the prerequisite science courses for grades, we strongly recommend maintaining the grade option. However, if circumstances like illness, lack of access to appropriate resources, or other hardships prevent you from performing at your best, health professions schools understand that we are all facing unprecedented circumstances during the pandemic.

If you feel that you need to P/F a science course, reach out to us so we can talk with you and provide advice. We will try to help convey your rationale and your specific situation in our committee letter of recommendation, but it is still unknown how schools will respond. A number of medical schools have moved to competency-based entrance requirements rather than specific courses, so there will be some schools you can apply to, even if other schools ultimately will not accept the P/F grades for prerequisites.

Keep in mind that many medical schools are using online learning within their curricula, so this will provide helpful practice. Be sure to use the Academic Resource Commons (ARC) to maximize your online learning.

We continue to recommend that you demonstrate academic readiness for the rigor of medical school by engaging in robust graded science preparation (at least 10-12 biology, chemistry, physics, and math courses, ideally taken during a full course load), securing strong academic letters of recommendation, and doing well on the MCAT.

How can I learn about specific medical schools’ admissions policies and prerequisites?

Most, if not all, medical schools are updating their admissions websites with relevant COVID-19 information.

Information for Health Professions School Applicants

I plan to apply to medical school this year but I won’t be on campus. Is that a problem?

Not at all! We offer virtual advising sessions year-round and Medical Studies Committee Interviews in the spring. To schedule an appointment with Karen Daigler or Bruno Salazar-Perea, please reach out to the Center for Purposeful Work at (207) 786-6232 or

I’m a junior and I’m worried that I haven’t gotten enough clinical experience because of the pandemic. What should I do?

It’s hard to meet the prerequisites, prepare and take the MCAT, and gain significant clinical experience as a junior even in a normal year, which is why so few of our applicants are juniors or even seniors. If you can find ways to develop an understanding of the day to day work of physicians and to develop the competencies that medical schools seek, it may still be possible to convince medical school admission committees that you’re ready to apply as a junior. Typically, our applicants take at least one or two glide years before applying to health professions school.

What are the advantages of applying as a senior/alum?

There are many reasons that students apply as a senior or even more typically as a young alum:

  • Your senior year grades will be on your application, which will provide more evidence of your readiness for medical school.
  • You’ll have access to letters of recommendation from smaller classes and your thesis that you undertake in your senior year.
  • You will not have to manage interviews during the academic year.
  • You will have a year to gain real-world “adulting” experience before returning to academics.
  • You will have more time to prepare for the MCAT and gain additional shadowing and community/clinical service experience.

Will it significantly weaken my medical school application if my thesis research is remote?

Medical schools value research but it is less about specific techniques that you learn at a lab bench and more about the competencies that you gain in a research setting. In terms of intellectual competencies, you will gain the ability to critically read primary literature, devise your own hypothesis-based line of inquiry, generate and analyze results, write up the results and present your findings to others. In regard to interpersonal competencies, you will have the opportunity to work collaboratively, learn to take constructive criticism, be organized and reliable, be resilient, and adaptable when research doesn’t go the way you expected.

These competencies can be accomplished in many disciplines (not just science!) and in many settings. It may become harder to provide as much evidence of teamwork ability when not working side by side with folks on a regular basis, but otherwise, you will not lose as much as it seems by performing your thesis research remotely.

MD/PhD: If you want to pursue an MD/PhD in a research area where you would ideally be at the bench, a lack of in-person research may pose more of a challenge. It’s easier to know for sure whether you want to devote your life to bench work if you have spent significant time in that setting before applying.

The letter of recommendation from your thesis experience can be one of the most powerful letters that you can include in your application since it will be from someone who has worked one on one with you over a long period of time. Try to make a point of giving your thesis advisor ample opportunity to get to know you well in this remote setting!