Frequent Questions About Advising
How can I see an advisor?
Advising services are for University of Maryland, College Park students only. Current undergraduates, alumni and Science in the Evening students are all eligible for one-on-one advising. Each advisor has specific drop-in times each week as well as appointments, which may be booked online through Appointment Plus. Please be sure to book with the appropriate advisor and check our advising page for the most up-to-date information about drop-ins and cancellations.
Frequent Questions About Academics
What should my GPA be?
The average GPA for students accepted to Allopathic medical school is 3.65 overall and 3.55 in biology, chemistry, physics and math courses. For Osteopathic medical school, the average overall GPA is 3.4 and for dental school 3.45. Students who are below these averages may still be accepted, especially if their GPA is very close to these averages. However, students whose GPA is more than a few tenths below these averages have a much more difficult time being accepted. Each applicant is unique and questions about GPA and other concerns should be discussed with the premedical advisor. For example, if you have a period of time when you did not perform well academically but there is an explanation for the poor performance and an established record of success, a poorer GPA may be less troublesome to admissions committees.
What if I receive a C in a class?
It is a better strategy to succeed in a more advanced course than to repeat a course for a higher grade. If you don't feel you have the necessary foundation to proceed in a discipline, then you should repeat the class. However, both your grades will be counted towards your GPA when you apply to professional school so retaking a class will not replace the original grade.
Individual schools set their own policies concerning whether or not a C- grade will satisfy their prerequisite requirement. If you have a C- in a required course, you should consult the websites of all the schools you plan to apply to regarding their policy.
What if I receive a D or F in a class?
You should repeat a class if you receive a D or F. Such a grade suggests you do not understand the material sufficiently or there was some other significant problem.
Should I consider taking a W for a class?
Professional schools are wary of applicants who must withdraw from classes, especially when there is no compelling explanation or if it occurs often. There are often many factors to consider before taking a W, such as the effect it will have on future courses, the grade you might receive should you stay in a course and the reason why you may need to withdraw. It is recommended you discuss this decision with your academic or premedical advisor if you have questions about the advisability of this decision.
Is there a required major?
There is no required of preferred major for professional school. You should select a major based on your interest and abilities, not whether you think it will help you gain entrance into professional school. You do need to complete the required premedical courses as well as the requirements for general education classes regardless of your chosen major. For students who do not major in a life science, it is recommended that you enroll in a few additional science courses beyond those minimally required as part of your elective choices. If you want to go to the most selective medical schools, this is a must.
How are Honors courses viewed?
Professional schools look favorably upon candidates who enroll in Honors courses. If you have the opportunity to enroll in these classes or take more classes beyond what is required for an honors citation, it demonstrates your intellectual curiosity and academic versatility.
Are summer school courses recommended?
If there is a compelling reason to enroll in summer school classes, it is fine to do so. In general, if alternatives exist, you should explore these first. Try not to take premedical science courses in the summer if possible and don't use summer school as a way to lighten your load during the regular academic year. Admissions committees want to know you can succeed during substantial academic activity.
How are community college courses viewed?
If your performance in community college courses mirrors your performance at a four year school, they are generally viewed favorably. However, if possible you should avoid taking too many community college courses, especially premedical science courses. There are a few medical schools that will not accept this credit at all. Check the MSAR and/or web sites for the schools to which you are applying.
Is it a good idea to graduate early?
All applicants should acquire sufficient life experience before applying to professional school. Some can do this in a shorter period of time than others, but it is generally advisable for students to remain in school and fully embrace all the unique experiences available to an undergraduate. However, there are always exceptions, such as financial concerns or interesting opportunities after graduation. These can be addressed best on a case by case basis.
How do schools view AP credit?
Most schools look favorably upon and accept AP credit. Generally, it is recommended that applicants take more advanced courses in the subject for which they received AP credit - whenever it is possible to do so. This is not 100% consistent across all medical schools and students should consult the MSAR or individual medical school web pages for specific policies.
Dental schools tend to have stricter policies in some cases regarding AP credits. It is important to check school websites for their specific policies early, in case additional coursework is needed.
Do I need to take junior English if Maryland does not require me to do so?
All applicants must have 6 credits of English on their transcript. You are not exempt from English even though the internal policy of the University of Maryland may exempt you. It is possible to satisfy the 6 credits of English requirement policy, however, by taking other ENGL, literature or intensive writing courses rather than ENGL 101 and junior English. Discuss these options with the pre-medical advisor.
How Do I Know If a Class I Took is Considered a Biology/Chemistry/Math/Physics Course?
For a complete list of how to classify courses, consult this page:
Frequent Questions About Experiences
What if my parents are physicians or dentists?
Professional schools want assurance that your motivation to be a medical professional is your own and you have not been pressured to do so. Consequently, you must demonstrate through your experiences that you have confirmed that this is the career path for you.
Is research required?
Research is not required for admission to professional school but is viewed favorably should you choose this as one of your experiential activities. Some medical schools will have concerns if you don't have research experience but most are more interested in your clinical and community service experiences. It is important to be active outside of the classroom and conducting research is one valuable way to use your time. Should this be an area you'd like to explore, you are encouraged to do so. If you want to go to any of the most competitive programs or certainly to an MD/PhD program you will need research experience.
Do I need clinical experience?
Having a solid foundation of knowledge about the career path you have chosen is essential to most professional schools. As such, it is imperative that you spend time in a clinical setting, observing practitioners and working with patients. This can be in a variety of settings but it is essential that you witness the delivery of health care by a trained professional.
It is also desirable to have experience interacting with patients in a healthcare setting, which can be accomplished in a variety of ways including pediatric wards, nursing homes, talking to patients in hospital setting, etc.
Why is community service essential?
Community service demonstrates that you have the personal attributes desired in a healthcare professional. By placing yourself in situations where you are serving people in need, it shows that you are caring, compassionate, responsive, etc. The kind of community service you pursue can vary widely; ideally, you should be intensely involved with people in need over a period of time long enough so that you may have an impact.
Is it favorable to be involved in campus organizations?
Significant and substantiated involvement in campus organizations signifies an investment in your community. Acquiring leadership roles in this way is seen favorably by admissions committees.
Frequent Questions About Standardized Tests
When is the best time to take my standardized test?
The MCAT is offered throughout much of the year now. It is recommended that you take the MCAT exam by June in the year that you plan to apply for optimal timing and consideration. There may be a disadvantage in taking the exam much later as schools will not carefully consider your application until they receive these scores. Other applicants will already have their file reviewed and possibly receive interview invitations before your file is reviewed. Perhaps more importantly, however, is if you have an unfavorable MCAT score, you will already have invested considerable time and money in the application process before you receive your scores. This costs you valuable time and money that you could have put towards more productive pursuits. There are instances when a later MCAT is a viable option and these should be discussed with the premedical advisor.
The DAT can be scheduled at any time although applicants should complete the exam during the summer of the year they plan to apply. Delaying the date of your exam will delay your application. Since interviews begin in the early fall, it is to your advantage to provide dental schools with all the necessary information as soon as possible. This includes your DAT scores. You receive the results of your DAT immediately after you complete the exam.
The OAT can be scheduled any time through a prometrics testing site. There is a 90 day waiting period between examinations should you desire to repeat the exam. Optimal time by which to complete the exam varies from school to school, but in order to utilize the HPAO Committee Process, you should complete the OAT by October 30 of your application year.
What should my MCAT score be?
Accepted applicants to Allopathic (MD) medical schools typically score 10 on each of the three subsections of the exam, for a cumulative score of 30. Generally, scoring 29 or above places you in a competitive category for admission. Scoring below 8 on any subsection can seriously jeopardize your application. While some applicants with VR scores of 6 or 7 can be admitted, this is more difficult.
For Osteopathic (DO) medical schools, accepted applicants typically score 9 on each of the three subsections of the exam, for a cumulative score of 27. Generally scoring 24 or above places you in a competitive category for admission. Scoring below 7 on any subsection can seriously jeopardize your application.
Should I retake the MCAT?
You should only retake the exam if you were not adequately prepared the first time or if you had a bad experience that day. Most applicants do not significantly change their score unless they significantly change their preparation. Since medical schools vary in how they view multiple MCAT results (some take the highest, others the most recent, others an average of all exams) applicants should plan to take the exam only once and NEVER TAKE THE EXAM UNLESS YOU HAVE FULLY PREPARED.
What should my DAT score be? Should I retake it?
Accepted applicants typically score 18+ on the subsections of the exam. You should only retake the exam if you were not adequately prepared the first time or if you had a bad experience that day. Most applicants do not significantly change their score unless they significantly change their preparation. Applicants should plan to take the exam only once and NEVER TAKE THE EXAM UNLESS YOU HAVE FULLY PREPARED. Remember, that you may only retake the DAT a total of three times and only once in a 90 day period.
What should my OAT score be? Should I retake it?
Typical scores range from 200-400 and a score of 300 signifies an average performance on the exam. Competitive applicants usually score 320 or above on the exam. You should only retake the exam if you were not adequately prepared the first time or if you had a bad experience that day. Most applicants do not significantly change their score unless they significantly change their preparation. Applicants should plan to take the exam only once and NEVER TAKE THE EXAM UNLESS YOU HAVE FULLY PREPARED. Retaking the exam is allowed, however.