The Catholic University of America

Preparing for Medical School at The Catholic University of America

This guide contains information regarding how a student at The Catholic University of America can best prepare for an education and career in medicine and its associated professions (dentistry, veterinary science, optometry). Specifically, it will cover the following areas:

1. Who should prepare for a medical career

2. Courses needed for medical school

3. The four-year calendar of events that guides Catholic University students' preparation for medical school

4. Advising for pre-medical students

5. The roles of the Catholic University Pre-Medical Advisory Committee and the Pre-Medical Coordinator

6. Resources for getting information about medical education.

In addition, special information sheets on the following topics are available from the Pre-Medical Coordinator:

- the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

- how to apply to medical school

- writing essays for medical school applications

- acquiring the Catholic University letter of recommendation for medical school from the Pre-Medical Advisory Committee

- interviewing for medical school

Should I Pursue Medical School?

The medical profession has in its ranks people of every conceivable background and interest. What, then, has separated them from the general population and led them to this career?

While it is safe to say that an interest in people and ability in science are common to physicians, there are several questions you should ask yourself before making the commitment to pre-medical studies.

  • Do my interests in school work lead me toward a career in the health professions? Do I enjoy science courses enough to pursue them in depth? for 4 years? for 4 more years in professional school?
  • Do my hobbies and extracurricular activities lead me toward a career in the health professions? Do I enjoy working with people? Am I willing to take the initiative and responsibility to help them?
  • Am I willing to make a firm commitment now to my undergraduate education? Am I willing to strive for excellence?
  • Do I have the academic skills, or can I develop the skills, necessary to do well in a rigorous undergraduate curriculum?
  • Do I know what is required to prepare myself for application to professional school?
  • What is important to the life style I want? for the next 4 years? for the next 8 years? Can I tolerate the delayed gratification which is inherent in professional education?
  • Why do I think I want to go to medical (etc.) school? Where did the idea come from? from me? from my parents? from relatives? from TV shows?! What do I actually know about the career and life of a physician?
  • Would it be more appropriate for me to enter an allied health field?

As the contents and tone of these questions suggest, the decision to pursue a medical career is quite serious and should be carefully considered. There are a great many sacrifices required all along the way, and admissions standards demand dedication throughout your four years of college. In considering medicine as a career, each student should attempt to gain information about the profession and to have experiences that will help assess the appropriateness of this career. There are many books available to students and opportunities for jobs and volunteer experiences abound. Additionally, students should talk to physicians, perhaps even their family doctor, to try to gain a fuller understanding of the profession.

Throughout the academic year there will be a variety of meetings for pre-meds and presentations by invited speakers on topics related to medicine and other careers. Announcements for these programs will appear on bulletin boards (particularly in the Department of Biology) and also in the Tower. Students who take advantage of these programs are sure to benefit from them.

There are two bulletin boards in McCort-Ward where the Pre-Medical Coordinator posts notices of interest to students, such as announcements for speakers and meetings, summer programs, jobs, etc. One board is located near the Biology Department office and one is near room 159 in the Nursing-Biology corridor. Notices are also posted near Ms. Ficke's office, Rooms 212 McCort-Ward.

If you are uncertain about your potential for pre-medical studies and a career in medicine, we urge you to make an appointment with the Pre-Medical Coordinator, Ms. Marion Ficke (ext. 5870 or 5267, G-1 McCort-Ward). She can discuss your concerns and provide information that will aid your decision-making on these matters.

What Do I Study in "Pre-Med?"

There is no such thing as majoring in "pre-med." That is, there is no separate curriculum set up specifically for pre-medical instruction, nor is such a specific curriculum even desirable. Thus, students preparing for entrance into medical school enjoy a great deal of freedom in choosing a curriculum at Catholic University.

Many students planning to go to medical school do major in science, although medical schools encourage non-science majors as well. Traditionally, pre-medical students have majored in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, medical technology, biomedical engineering or psychology; however, others have studied English, nursing, philosophy or even music. Some of the courses required for applying to medical school may fit into these programs as electives. However, in certain majors some courses may have to be taken in the summer.

The rate of acceptance for students in non-science areas has been approximately the same as for those from science areas. Perhaps this is because they have chosen a major that they are interested in and enjoy, which enables them to perform well. In the end, that is most important for every student.

Regardless of the major chosen, there is a core curriculum of courses that is recommended for admission to medical school. While there is some variation, most medical schools require a minimum of:

  • 1 year of general biology (with lab)
  • 1 year of inorganic chemistry (with lab)
  • 1 year of organic chemistry (with lab)
  • 1 year of physics (with lab)
  • 1 year of mathematics (generally calculus) {required by a few professional schools}

Students should take all of these courses before taking the Medical College Admission Test (explained on a separate handout), as the first four are covered on that test. The remaining courses should have a distribution between natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. Medical schools want students who are intellectually and emotionally well-rounded and able to handle a full and demanding curriculum.

Moving Forward

Medical schools place great value on candidates who are prepared and motivated to contribute to society and the medical profession. This state of readiness is not achieved in one's final year of college. Rather, the best medical school candidates have used all four years to prepare for admission.

Catholic University's pre-medical program is designed accordingly. A sequence of programs and advising is arranged so that students who take full advantage, and who perform well in the classroom and on the MCAT, will stand a good chance of being admitted to medical school.

What can I do to prepare?

  • learn about medical careers
  • get experience to test out your interests and commitment
  • be involved with others
  • develop effective communication skills

How does Catholic University's program help me do that?

As you will discover on the following pages, there are programs, services, individual appointments and educational materials made available to pre-med students over a four-year period. By actively utilizing these opportunities you should be as prepared as possible for the steps you must take to be admitted to medical school.

However, not everything rests with the University. Opportunities are there, but you must make the effort. Being active in campus groups and doing volunteer work is your responsibility. The Office of Student Activities provides information about the broad range of opportunities that are available at Catholic University and in the DC area.

Students may wish to consult a number of books written for those contemplating careers in medicine, such as "The Pre-Med Handbook" and "Plan for Success: Time Management for the Pre-Med Student." These are available from Ms. Ficke. In addition, "Careers in Medicine" can be reviewed in the Career Services Office.

Working with the Pre-Med Advisor

Academic advising is at the core of your pre-medical studies program. All students will receive their regular course selection advising from a faculty member in their respective departments. However, it is very important to schedule sessions with the Pre-Medical Coordinator, Ms. Marion B. Ficke, Room 212 McCort-Ward, at the times suggested in the timetable. She will review your progress and determine if you are taking the courses needed for admission to medical school.

Part of the advising will be a frank review of the quality of your class work. Students who are not performing at levels that suggest the potential for admission to medical school will be advised of ways of improving; those with continued inadequate performance will need to face those realities and make corresponding decisions about their futures.

Ms. Ficke will also discuss your future plans and ways of supplementing your academic experience (e.g. part-time work experience, internships, activities) so as to be as competitive as possible for medical school admissions.

The Pre-Medical Advisory Committee

The Pre-Medical Advisory Committee is a small group of Catholic University faculty and staff who assist the Premedical Coordinator in preparing students for applying to medical school. The group consists of faculty from departments in which all premedical students take important courses, i.e. Biology, Chemistry, as well as the Director of the Career Services Office.

The Pre-Medical Coordinator is Ms. Marion B. Ficke, Assistant to the Chair of the Department of Biology. Her office is located in Room 212 McCort-Ward (ext. 5870 or 5267).

As noted in the timetable, students appear before the Pre-Medical Advisory Committee usually in May or June of the year in which they apply to medical school. At that time each student is interviewed for 30-45 minutes. The purpose of that interview is to determine the student's preparedness for medical school and subsequently to provide a letter of recommendation to be used with all medical school applications. The Committee and the student review and discuss a broad range of items, including academic performance, MCAT test scores, reasons for applying to medical school, career goals, personal strengths and the ability to handle the stresses of medical school. These questions are quite similar to those a student will face during an actual medical school interview, and thus the Committee interview helps prepare the student for that encounter.

While this is the only formal program in which the Committee engages, its members are available to students to discuss any concerns they may have pertaining to their academic and career plans. Students are encouraged to meet the committee members during their junior year, particularly if they have not been in class with them.

Campus Resources

Not all information about medical school, the profession, and preparation for admissions will be available with the Coordinator. Catholic University has other offices which support you in many ways. The following is a summary:

Your Needs/Questions

Where Help Is Found

What They Have

For More Information

How to study better

Counseling Center - ATLAS Program

126 O'Boyle Hall

Counseling and self-help on study skills, time management, student tutors in almost all academic areas (fee charged)

Call 319-5765


Information about careers in medicine and health fields


Lists of medical schools



Part-time and summer jobs and internships

Office of Career Services

202 Pryzbyla Center

Books with Information about careers medicine and other science areas, along with web links to medical career information

Special guides to medical schools and science graduate programs, along with web links to medical schools

Cardinal Connection - listings of positions for science majors as well as all other areas

Call 319-5623