Biology4

Frequently Asked Questions

What should my major be?

Medical and dental schools do not have a preference for any specific majors. Therefore, you may major in almost anything.

You should consider a major that you will enjoy, in which you will perform well, or that might serve as a basis for graduate work or for employment in the event you choose not to apply, or you are not admitted, to medical school.

Admission committees expect variety in an educational program, including a significant number of humanities and social and behavioral science courses, if you choose a major in a science. Many applicants majoring in non-science areas are successful applicants to the Indiana University School of Medicine or Dentistry as well as to other medical and dental schools.

All applicants must meet the schools' specific requirements, which generally include a minimum of eight semesters of basic science regardless of major.

Is there a preference for a bachelor of science or bachelor of arts degree?

No. Each applicant's record is evaluated on an individual basis. Both degrees are acceptable for premedical programs. A medical admissions committee would expect an applicant to do well with either degree. Committees look at the quality of the transcript rather than the name of the degree.

Should I enroll in the Honors College?

If it interests you, yes. Admission committees look at the level of difficulty of an applicant's course work. In many instances, the greater depth and breadth of honors programs/courses are reflected in a greater knowledge of the subject area in question. Classes are often smaller, and classmates are similarly motivated achievers. Many successful medical school applicants have enrolled in the Honors College; however, many successful applicants have completed rigorous curricula that did not include honors courses.

What are the minimum admission requirements for medical schools?

Most medical schools require one year each of general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, and physics.
All the courses you complete must have a laboratory section. Admission committees of some schools also may require or recommend college mathematics through calculus. You should consult Medical School Admission Requirements, published by the Association of American Medical Colleges, for the specific requirements and recommended courses for each school.

These resources are available online or in the pre-health professional advisor's office in Cooper Science Building, CL 232.

If you are interested in a particular school, you should learn as much about that school as possible as early as you can.

Do medical schools require a foreign language for admission?

Most medical and dental schools do not.

What is so difficult about majoring in premed?

For many freshmen acquiring the study skills and self-discipline required to attain academic excellence can be a, if not the, most difficult task upon entering college. Many freshmen have been very successful in high school and have been accustomed to being a "star," sometimes without having developed systematic study habits.

The success of your academic transition to Ball State University depends not only on ability but also upon motivation, organization, and the learned skills of studying effectively. Some students will initially be discouraged and must have the determination to learn how to learn.

The demands of the premedical curricula are rigorous because admittance into medical schools is competitive and requires a solid, specific academic foundation. As a premed major, you may have to work harder than some other students who are not aiming for competitive admission graduate programs.

Is participation in extracurricular activities important or helpful to being accepted to medical?
In addition to highly successful academic achievement, medical and dental school admissions committees consider many other traits, including motivation, evidence of humanism, responsibility, maturity, leadership, breadth of interests, and ability to manage multiple tasks. However, a list of organization memberships means little to experienced admissions committees. They will want to know what you have contributed to the organizations that you have listed.

Many positive traits or attributes may be developed in activities beyond the classroom, so students who plan on applying to medical or dental school are encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities but not to substitute activities for academic excellence.

Participating in volunteer and community work or activities related to social concerns or health issues, such as adult day care centers, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Community Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity, and Hospice, may give you a better idea of the options of your future profession while you help others and enrich your life's experiences. Contact the Student Volunteer Services office for more information about opportunities at Ball State and in Muncie. Also explore other campus activities and undergraduate research.

When applying to medical or dental school, you will be asked about achievements within your undergraduate years, and that question will relate to activities inside and outside the classroom.

What factors do medical schools consider when evaluating applicants?

Factors differ by school, but will probably include academic credentials, MCAT scores, a personal interview, and letters of evaluation, as well as demonstrated knowledge of and commitment to the profession and perhaps knowledge of the school and its program. Some schools interview only those applicants meeting certain initial requirements such as residency, GPA, and MCAT standards.

The Indiana University School of Medicine states: "Students are offered places in the class on the basis of scholarship, character, personality, references, performance on the Medical College Admission Test, and personal interview."

Is it becoming more difficult to attend medical school?

Applications to medical schools have increased. Nationwide, less than half of all applicants gain entrance to medical school. To be admitted you must be determined, well-prepared, and well-informed. You should actively explore alternative approaches and alternative careers.
 
What are some alternative health professions?

Osteopathy
Physician's Assistant 
Medical Technology
Doctor of Audiology
Optometry
Pharmacology
Veterinary Medicine
Public Health

All of these careers and professions require training and course work similar to what premed students need. In addition, many students become so interested in research while in college that graduate school becomes an attractive alternative.

Is it all over if I have a bad semester?

No. There is a false but persistent rumor floating among premedical students that if you have a bad science grade or a bad semester you will have to give up. That's not true.
 
Medical school admission committees look carefully at student abilities and development. They realize that not every student enters college with a burst of academic brilliance. They expect an excellent academic record but will make allowances for problem semesters or a slow start--some allowances.

However, the average grade point average (GPA) for incoming medical students at Indiana University in 2007 was about 3.75 and for incoming dental students at Indiana University it has been about 3.60 in recent years.

What is the MCAT?

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) a standardized test that measures aptitude and achievement in science and other areas related to the study of medicine.

You should examine the MCAT Student Manual (published by the corporation that gives the test) as early as your sophomore year in order to plan a thorough review of materials encompassed by the test. Understanding what skills the test measures might affect the way you study/learn in your course work. For instance, many students assume that science skills are tested, but are not aware that reading comprehension and writing skills are tested also.

The four sections of the test are verbal reasoning, physical sciences, writing samples, and biological sciences.

The verbal reasoning section of the test measures your ability to "...understand, evaluate, and apply information and requirements found in prose texts." If your Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) verbal score shows a possible weakness in this area, you should pay special attention to the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT preparation manual and, rather than avoid reading courses, it might be a good idea to enroll in a few.

The biological and physical science portions of the test measure your ability to think critically and analytically, employing science concepts.  Memorization will not be adequate.

When should I take the MCAT?

You should take the MCAT in the spring prior to the year of application to medical school. For example, if you will apply for the entering class of 2006, you should take the MCAT by April 2005 and repeat it in August 2005 if necessary. The late summer of your senior year is usually the last time you can take the test in time to apply for entrance the following year.

Do I need letters of evaluation (recommendation letters)?

Yes. Academic evaluations, which indicate knowledge of your abilities in comparison to other students, may be extremely important.

You can ask a professor about his or her willingness to write a letter of evaluation in your sophomore and junior years and/or at the conclusion of a particular class (rather than a year later when you apply to medical or dental school so that your performance is fresh in the mind of the evaluator). If you had a particularly noteworthy achievement in a freshman class, this too may provide a valuable evaluation. You need to keep in mind that some schools require letters from both science and non-science professors.

To be a stronger candidate for admission, it is imperative that you get to know some of your professors, so they know you well enough to write a convincing letter of recommendation. We strongly encourage you to enroll in some small-size or seminar-type classes in which you will be able to work closely with your professors. Make yourself known to instructors if they have time to talk during office hours. Taking more than one small class from a teacher may be helpful. A small upper-level class in which you have demonstrated exemplary work may be ideal in terms of an evaluation request. For more information see your adviser.

What chance do I have as an applicant to the Indiana University School of Medicine as a non resident of Indiana?

Most state-supported schools generally show preference to their own state residents. The Indiana University School of Medicine typically offers places to 40 or more nonresidents per year.  Ball State students with good records are encouraged to apply to each school.

How do I know if medicine is the right career for me?

Read, talk, listen, observe, and compare. Read about issues and the changes occurring in the fields of medicine and dentistry. Talk with physicians about what they like and don't like about their profession. Attend the Ball State Pre-Health Professors Club meetings to listen to health professionals and students who come to talk about their careers and to answer student questions.

  • Observe your progress in the sciences. Are you a good science student?
  • Observe through volunteer opportunities what it will be like to work with sick people.
  • Investigate other careers so you have a comparison.

That's a lot of work--but if you enter the profession, you will be a physician for forty years or more. Take some time now to investigate what your future profession may entail.

How can the health professions advisor help me?

Preparing for medical school requires careful long-range planning and accurate information. The pre-health advisor specializes in helping students prepare for medical and dental school.
 
Course selection, course sequencing, MCAT preparation, planning for recommendations, and the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) application are among the subjects discussed. The Advising Office (CL 232) contains useful medical and dental school reference materials, medical and related dental school bulletins, and information.

A group meeting will be held for premedical and predental students during the fall semester. Attend this meeting.

The Advising Office also works closely with the Pre-Health Professors Club. The club sponsors a number of speakers and activities related to dental, optometry, and medical professions as well as volunteer service activities.

You probably have more questions. Call to make an appointment to meet with the pre-health professions advisor Dr. Chatot, at (765) 285-8857.

For information about the Indiana University School of Medicine visit their Web site.

Department of Biology
Ball State University
Cooper Life Science Building, CL 121
Muncie, IN 47306

Phone: 765-285-8820
Fax: 765-285-8804