*Please note: This FAQ is intended to be a helpful tool that students can use in addition to meeting with their academic advisors.


Do medical schools accept AP credit?

To satisfy the requirements for the widest number of schools, all science courses, with the exception of calculus, should be taken at Notre Dame.

What is the best major for Pre-Health students?

Medical schools DO NOT CARE which major you have selected.

Students must show competence in the sciences and enthusiasm for learning. Students need reflection and discernment to find their passion for academic development. If those paths lead to excellence in research, service, or leadership, all of these interest medical schools.

There is no one best major. Students are encouraged to study what they feel most passionate about.

Does adding a minor strengthen my chances of getting accepted to medical school?

Adding a minor does not increase your acceptance into medical school. Medical school admissions committees look at many factors and take a holistic approach to evaluating applications. Minors can complement your major in many ways. Look for those that allow you to explore the liberal arts more fully and that you are passionate about. A great way to begin this process is to visit the web pages for the minors you are interested in and contact the director.

Humanities study will make you a more well-rounded person, making you a better healthcare professional.

Which classes in science are essential in the first year?

Chemistry and Calculus. Chemistry is a five-course sequence that must begin in the first semester. Calculus A and B are required or the equivalent AP credit. Calculus is necessary for Physics.

What is the lowest grade a medical school will accept?

The lowest accepted grade is a C.

Can I retake a class?

A “D” or lower grade would qualify a student to retake the course. A student in need of repeating a course should talk with their Dean.

A “C-” in a required course will mean you must retake it but cannot take it here.

What if I fail a class?

If a failed course is required for your major or medical school acceptance, it must be repeated. The timing of when to repeat the class should be discussed with your advisor or the Center for Health Sciences Advising.

Remember, there are many paths to medical school, and a low grade or failed class, if resolved, does not prevent you from applying.

Who should I talk to if I need to drop a science class?

Contact your primary advisor or Dean if you are considering a drop.

What if I need to drop chemistry?

Chemistry is a five-course sequence. Dropping chemistry, in general, will make completing the sequence, which is required for medical school, difficult. If Chemistry becomes a concern, don't hesitate to contact your primary advisor early in the semester.

What English classes do medical schools require?

Medical schools require two writing-specific English/Composition courses, one of which is considered to be writing intensive and a literature course. The literature course should be taught in English.

I’ve heard taking physics in my sophomore year is a good idea, is it?

Our office advises against this unless it is a planned part of your curriculum (BCHM) or if you are ahead. Three lab sciences are not advisable. Dr. Kathleen Kolberg signs the drop forms, and there are many sophomores trying to take three lab sciences in the same semester.



  • The primary advisor is the First-year advisor.
  • Group advising for health professions usually provides sufficient information at this level.
  • Individual advising for specialty questions not answered in the group advising.


  • Primary Advisor and Dean for graduation and major-related.
  • Group (usually once a semester) and individual advising with the pre-health advisors primarily aimed at experience questions.
  • Individual advising, usually short meetings for specific questions.

Junior and Senior:

  • Primary advisor and Dean for graduation.
  • There will be an application overview in the Fall and then weekly group advising in the spring (SCPP 40001).
  • After completing the application paperwork, students have a one-hour session with an advisor.
  • Peer advising is available for essays, interview tips, and school selection.

What should I be planning for the summer after my first year?

You can begin or continue to develop your research, clinical, and service hours. Look for formal and informal opportunities. Shadowing a doctor or healthcare provider where you are interested in gaining their point of view. Working in a clinical setting will allow you to see if a clinician's life is right for you. Opportunities that give you patient contact are good. Service opportunities are also helpful, as well as working a summer job. While our office does not provide a specific list of recommendations, you can visit our webpage for general resources from the premedical advising community and sign up for our listserv to receive notifications when opportunities are shared with our office.

What is a gap or enhancement year?

Gap years are becoming more common for students applying to medical school. Currently, over 60% of students applying will take a gap year. The terminology is shifting to enhancement year because students should understand that this is a very active year and not one without activity specific to medical school. Service opportunities, internships, research, and working in a clinical setting are just a few things students who have been accepted to medical school have done to enhance their application. Speak to your advisor about the best choice for you.

Holistic Preparation

What factors are the most critical for medical school acceptance?

Science GPA, overall GPA, and MCAT scores will generally be the first factors considered by medical schools. This does not mean you need a 3.9 GPA and a 520 MCAT to get into medical school. Following close behind are the holistic components such as cultural competence, leadership, teamwork, service orientation, and motivation for medicine (to name a few) are essential aspects of your preparation.

I am concerned that I will not be on track for medical school or miss opportunities.

It is not uncommon to feel this way when you are first starting. Remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint.

The Center for Health Sciences Advising works with students to ensure they are on track. We recommend participating in activities each semester and over the summer that show your dedication to pursuing a pre-health path. On average, students will have at least 200+ hours each of community service, clinical shadowing, patient contact, and research during their time at Notre Dame. Keep track of these experiences by noting the contact person, reflecting on what you learned, and the number of hours.

When should I start studying for the MCAT?

Generally, six months before sitting for the exam. This will give you time to take multiple practice tests and strengthen any areas of concern. Ideally, students will see an increase in their scores with each practice test. There are many resources, including Kaplan, Jack Weston, and Uworld, to name a few. Question banks will give the most significant return for time spent learning the material.

What is covered on the MCAT?

Behavioral science including psychology, as well as critical analysis, reasoning, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biology, and Physics. Prepare for the MCAT® Exam


When should I start research?

You can begin thinking about research opportunities as soon as you feel comfortable. A basic understanding of research and research methodology will help prepare you for advanced study and continuing education. Remember that a big part of discovering your research interest is getting to know your professors and the labs on campus. This can be done by talking with your TAs and attending office hours to learn more.

How do I find research opportunities?

We recommend reaching out directly to professors you are interested in working with. Reviewing their publications and websites and meeting with them to develop relationships and learn more about their work. While there is no specific timeline for this, many students will begin the process in their second semester. Ideally, you will have three full semesters working in a science lab or two full semesters completed working in a lab outside of the College of Science.

Attend the COS-SURF and FURF Research poster sessions in October and May to better understand undergraduate research opportunities.

Can I participate in research outside of the College of Science?

Many students find opportunities in other colleges, including Arts and Letters and Engineering.


How do I find service opportunities?

The Center for Social Concerns is a great place to start. Your hall may also offer opportunities. Talk to your Service Commissioner (or become the Service Commissioner). Beyond this, joining a club such as the Pre-professional or service club is an excellent way to learn about opportunities. Depending on your interests, you can explore many local opportunities.

Does the type of service matter?

Ideally, you will be working with vulnerable populations. Both clinical and non-clinical opportunities are something that you should explore. On average, the trend for medical school students (including those taking a gap or enhancement year) tends to be over 1,000 hours of service. Our recommendation is at least a couple of hundred hours.

What is the difference between service and leadership?

Service is the act of helping others in need without the expectation of gaining anything in return. Leadership can be accomplished through playing on an athletic team, being a commissioner in your hall, tutoring, becoming a teaching assistant, or running a food drive.


How do I find shadowing opportunities with clinicians?

Sign up for Irish Compass and join the Clinical Alumni Network. Utilize your network, including your childhood pediatrician. Contact local hospitals and clinics when at home. See our website for the volunteer page link to both major hospital systems in the South Bend area. Use your personal network back home and among your peers (and their parents).