The following information is provided to help academic advisors and pre-health professions students make strategic decisions when selecting and planning prerequisite courses for health professions. These are provided as information and recommendations. When making individual decisions on these matters, consider academic preparation and readiness, degree planning, as well as balancing academic and non-academic activities.
Should I Q-drop a Course?
Check out our TO Q OR NOT TO Q? handout.
Choosing to drop a class should not be taken lightly. Admissions committees become concerned when they see dropped courses on a student’s record. (More than one dropped course can indicate a pattern.) You may be giving the impression of taking on more than you can handle and then dropping a course when it becomes difficult. Or it might mean that you did not ask for assistance in a timely manner and then became overwhelmed. There are times, of course, when dropping a course is the right choice. Under the best circumstances, you would make this decision after consulting with your professor. In these situations, take what you learned from the experience as you move forward in your academic career.
Can I Claim AP/IB Credit?
Please read our detailed recommendations.
While we generally recommend that as a Pre-Health Professions student you not “claim” AP/IB credit for prerequisite courses such as Biology, Chemistry, English, Physics, and Mathematics, these are important decisions that you must make and that require your careful consideration.
It may seem like a convenient way to eliminate hours from your degree plan and accelerate your path to professional school, but claiming the credit can actually be detrimental to your preparation for success on entrance exams and in professional studies. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses vary in rigor, and they are generally not equivalent to the rigor of UT Austin courses. However, your AP/IB courses can be very good preparation for taking these courses at UT Austin, providing the opportunity to master that material, become better prepared, enhance your GPA and demonstrate your academic ability and readiness for advanced study in health professions schools.
Unless you are academically very well prepared, it is best to start with the introductory courses. Please consult with your academic advisor for help in determining your readiness for higher-level science courses. Most schools that accept AP/IB credit will expect you to take additional upper-division coursework in that area of study.
Should I Take a Course Pass/Fail?
In order for a course to count as a prerequisite for professional school, it must be completed with a letter grade of C or better. Some schools may accept a grade of C-; however, each school varies with its interpretation. At The University of Texas at Austin, a C- is equivalent to a 1.67, students are strongly recommended to retake any prerequisite course in which they received a grade below 2.0. Please be reminded that this is the minimum requirement, in order to be competitive an A or B is preferred. Please check the school’s website for specific information.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, TMDSAS, the governing body for medical, dental and veterinary institutions in Texas, agreed to accept all courses graded as Pass/Fall for the spring 2020 semester, plus accepted in summer 2020 through spring 2021, but in the latter semesters, preferred letter grades. Find this information under COVID Impacts on the Texas Health Education Service Newsroom.
Do I Need to Research and Volunteer?
You have probably already been under pressure to spend time working in a research lab or volunteering in a hospital or clinical setting. While both of these are excellent additions to a competitive student’s application it is important to at least explore both options. It is absolutely necessary that you have adequate exposure to the healthcare field you want to be a part of.
For example, if you say you want to be a physician assistant but haven’t spent time around a P.A., it will be very difficult to convince an admissions committee of your true passion and understanding of the profession. While many applicants have research experience, it certainly isn’t a required part of an application. Many students participate in research and find that they don’t have a sustained interest, while many continue to do research while in professional school. There is also value in discovering that you aren’t as passionate about research or healthcare as you thought you might be. Many students spend time in a family practice clinic or laboratory and soon realize that things aren’t quite what they thought they would be. These experiences are all part of the career exploration process and sometimes finding out that you don’t like something is just as important as finding out that you do.
Can I Take Courses in the Summer or Somewhere Else?
It is advisable to take all prerequisite courses at UT Austin. Not only will this better prepare you for admissions exams and for your professional school experience, but it will also make you more competitive. While the course may be equivalent in the name it might not necessarily be equivalent in rigor or depth of course content. UT Austin is known for academic rigor. If you perform well in the classroom here, an admissions committee can make a better prediction of your success in professional school. If you must take prerequisite courses elsewhere (based on timing or costs), we strongly encourage you to take them at a four-year institution.
Non-prerequisites courses, like government or history, can be taken at Community College without having an impact on your competitiveness. Remember, all courses taken at other institutions do not affect your UT GPA, but they definitely affect your application GPA – so do your best.
Completing your coursework at UT (your home institution) is considered the best preparation for health professions schools. For students who find it necessary to take courses away from UT, we offer the following recommendations.
Can I Take my Prerequisites While Studying Abroad?
Most health professions schools require that prerequisites be taken at U.S. accredited schools, and some will accept credits from Canadian accredited schools.
Although exchange program courses and some affiliated program courses are counted as in-residence credit by UT Austin, according to Texas state law, foreign coursework cannot be counted in the GPAs for application to graduate and post-baccalaureate professional schools. The rules and policies can vary among the professional schools. Students who plan to study abroad should research this carefully for the schools and application services they plan to apply to. Look in the education requirements, transcripts and FAQ sections of their websites for information about foreign coursework and study abroad.
Below, we have guidelines the HPO created to help make sense of the study abroad information.
For detailed information, please refer to our Summer & Abroad pages.
Advising Pre-Health Transfer Students
Pre-Health transfer students arrive with a variety of academic and experiential backgrounds. This section covers many of the typical questions that affect their registration and degree planning.
Students who transfer in with some or all of their first-year biology and chemistry will be going into the next courses without the experience that most of their fellow students have in UT Austin classrooms. Students who transfer in with no college-level math and science will have the advantage of starting out in first-year science here at UT Austin; however, due to starting sciences later, they may be completing their health professions prerequisites in their senior year or after. In both cases, it is important that these students get on board academically before filling their schedules with extra-curricular activities.
Academic advisors are often the first to notice when students are dealing with challenges of academic rigor such as time management and learning to study and prep for biology and chemistry tests. Because GPA is a critical component of their preparation and competitiveness for health professions schools, it is important that they do not delay making use of faculty and TA office hours, discussion and review sections and Sanger Learning Center services, including one-to-one tutoring and academic coaching. After the first test is often too late.
HPO Peer Coaches are available to mentor students on balancing academic and non-academic health professions prerequisites. Pre-Health Professions Coaches can help students look at their progress toward professional school applications and strategic options they have for reaching that goal.
For pre-health professions transfer student advising, we offer the following detailed recommendations.