Prospective Students & Parents
If you are a high school student or a parent of a high school student considering a career in medicine or another related health profession, a strong science background is necessary. The University of Notre Dame has a strong science curriculum with many options and opportunities that will prepare you for success in the professional school of your choice. The Center for Health Sciences Advising can help navigate the process of pursuing careers in medicine, dentistry, osteopathy, veterinary medicine, optometry, podiatry, physical therapy, occupational therapy, public health, pharmacy, post-baccalaureate nursing, and other health professions.
Health professions offer various career choices that provide opportunities for engaging challenges and rewarding service. Preparation for admission to a Health Profession school should start as soon as your undergraduate education begins. Professional schools will take a comprehensive view of your undergraduate experience, not only your grades and major but also your research, clinical experience, activities, behavior, and summer commitments.
While Notre Dame students have a much higher acceptance rate than the national average, the rate itself is not an informative number. We do not have a minimum GPA to apply through our office and receive a committee letter from us, so our numbers are based on the number of students who decide to apply. While at Notre Dame, students will receive excellent training in the sciences, in-depth advising for the application process, and a call for discernment in the professional calling of medicine. Notre Dame has no formal agreements with medical schools at this time. We have strong relationships with several medical schools that accept significant numbers of Notre Dame students. Our students apply and gain acceptance to schools nationwide. Notre Dame students receive an excellent education in science and humanities and have strong support in the application process to prepare them for health professions schools. They are admitted at rates much higher than the national average.
Notre Dame preprofessional students take a very grueling course of study. The biggest hurdle is often persistence in that course of study at a level above 3.0 GPA. The Center for Health Sciences Advising is available to help you through the process from beginning to end. We can help you understand what professional schools are looking for, how to navigate your undergraduate career, and how to compile a successful application to the school of your choice.
Medical schools do not have preferences for specific student majors, but students must show competence in the sciences. It is important for students to use reflection and discernment to find their passion for academic development. If those paths lead to excellence in research, service, or leadership, all of these are of interest to medical schools.
All of the health professions require significant experience in a health professions setting. Medical, dental, and optometry schools want the experience to be sufficient for the student to have a mature understanding of the profession and to be able to reflect upon it. All schools require clinical experience. Some schools have set at least 150-200 hours of clinical experience. Many osteopathic medical schools require experience with an osteopathic physician. Pharmacy, physician assistants, and physical therapy schools may have more defined minimums for hours of experience and types of settings (and whether those are paid or volunteer). This experience needs to be at least partly after you begin college. These experiences should involve both shadowing and direct patient interaction.
Students should keep a record of these experiences and reflect upon them while protecting the privacy of any patients they have observed. Student reflections should not contain details that allow a reader to identify a patient. The same respect for patient privacy is proper for conversations with fellow students.
All of the health professions are careers that serve others in need. A student called to a vocation of service should demonstrate that dedication to service during their undergraduate career. This call to service can take many forms (e.g., tutoring, helping a low-income clinic, building homes, working at a food bank, and peer service via service to your dorm or campus community). Ideally, students should begin with their service work, demonstrate leadership, and train the next set of volunteers so the project can remain viable. Students should not look upon these service opportunities as items to be checked off a list but as a way to test their call to service and reflect upon the life of service. Some schools require as much as 200 hours of non-clinical service involving direct contact with people in vulnerable or disadvantaged circumstances.
Service opportunities are available through the Center for Social Concerns, dorm service, clubs, and athletic team projects. Projects are available weekly, on breaks, and for longer programs over the summer.
You can also study abroad for a semester with careful planning. It is an opportunity for personal growth and gives students an understanding of a broader global community. If you wish to begin medical or dental school in the fall immediately after graduation, the best semester to study abroad is the fall semester of your junior year. Waiting until junior year allows students to complete the four-semester chemistry sequence without a gap in the sequence. Students should be on campus during the spring semester of their junior year to receive the training sessions for the medical/dental school application, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty, study for the MCAT, and have a transcript ready to send in May or June to potential professional schools. There is often a significant delay in receiving the transcript from a study abroad program, which delays translating the transcript into Notre Dame courses and grades. The centralized application services cannot process your application until all complete transcripts are received.
Several study abroad programs provide the opportunity to take science courses. London and Puebla offer Physics I in the fall. Dublin and Western Australia offer upper-level science courses. More programs are being added every year. Students in biology, SCPP, ALPP, and SCBU majors interested in going to another program that does not offer approved science courses may need to stay at Notre Dame for four weeks in the summer to take Physics I. A few medical schools will not allow requirements to be taken abroad, so please check potential schools to see if there are any restrictions.
If you decide to study abroad during the spring of your junior year, delaying your application for a year would be advisable, allowing for a year of research, service, etc., between Notre Dame and health professions school. This allows you to fully enjoy the experience of studying abroad, receive the full range of support from the advising office as you prepare to apply, and give full attention to your MCAT and application.
For those students considering careers as physician researchers (M.D./Ph.D.), the emphasis on research training in the traditional science majors (biological sciences, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and mathematics) may be more helpful.
During high school is a great time to start figuring out what you may do for your future. However, it is still very early, even as a senior in high school, to start the process. Enjoy high school, but start familiarizing yourself with tasks you enjoy. Once you become a freshman in College, start researching what is needed for a Pre Health Profession with your First Year Advisor.
Qualifications of Successful Health Professions Applicants:
- An academically rigorous program at a respected institution
- Solid, consistent GPA, especially a strong science GPA
- Good MCAT, DAT, or GRE scores
- Solid recommendations
- A clear and concise personal essay
- Volunteer or work experience in healthcare
- Psychological maturity
- Integrity, discipline, and compassion
- Intellectual enthusiasm
- Cultural competence
- Leadership skills
- Engaged in a dynamic application process
Our office will talk to parents who have a prospective child. However, once that child becomes a student at Notre Dame, our office only communicates to the student about their profile within the University. The University has designed a specific time every year for parents with questions. It is called Junior Parents Weekend, typically held in March. Please attend this tremendous informative session. We politely ask parents to step aside and allow their child to manage their profile within the University.