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Health Careers Advisement Office (HCAO)

Location: Biological Sciences 170, 174
Phone: 323-343-6062


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I want to be a pediatrician, OB/GYN, surgeon, cardiologist, pathologist, dermatologist, neurologist, or psychiatrist. How do I get started?

A: These are specializations one can choose after graduating from medical school. The first major step towards these goals is admission to medical school. Thus, you are a pre-med student. Call or visit the HCAO to make an appointment with an advisor to help you prepare for this long and rewarding journey.

Q: What are the most common mistakes students make?

A: Poor time management and overcommitment. Give yourself adequate time to study and prepare for exams. Do not enroll in more classes than you can handle. If you are working part-time, you should be a part-time student, not a full-time student.

Q: What classes do I need to take?

A: Click here for a table listing the CSULA pre-med pre-requisite courses. The table also contains the pre-physician assistant, pre-pharmacy, pre-dentistry, pre-veterinary, pre-optometry, pre-podiatry and pre-chiropractic courses required by most health professions programs.

Q: What should I choose as my major? Is there a pre-med major?

A: The health professions schools do not prefer one major over another. Rather, they require that you complete certain pre-reqs. Approximately half of all applicants major in the biological sciences, likely reflecting the fact that most of the pre-reqs are also requirements of the major. Interestingly, a recent study found that humanities majors can do just as well in medical school as their science major peers.

Q: What grades do I need to get accepted to medical/pharmacy/dental school?

A: The average student accepted to medical school earned a science GPA and overall cumulative GPA of ~3.6. The average student accepted to pharmacy and dental schools similarly earned ~3.5 GPAs. Thus, strive towards A- grades or higher; B+ grades are slightly below your goal. If you are struggling, ask yourself why and come to the HCAO for advisement.

Q: What else should I be doing?

A: Seek extracurricular experiences that are appealing and meaningful to you. Be an active contributor on campus and/or in your community. Admissions committees are interested in the depth of your experiences and what you learned from them. Do not shy away from responsibility.

Q: Do I need to volunteer somewhere?

A: Participate in a clinical volunteering/shadowing internship to find out if the chosen career is really right for you (e.g. in a hospital, dental office, pharmacy, etc). An appropriate volunteering experience will give you substantial exposure to what the real working professional does.

Q: When should I apply to medical school?

A: Apply during the summer preceding your last undergraduate year. For example, if you plan to graduate at the end of Spring 2012, apply during Summer 2011.

Q: How many applicants from CSULA gain acceptance to a US medical school?

A: Since 2005, an average of 27 CSULA students applied to medical school each year using HCAO services. Of those students, 48% gained admission to medical school. In contrast, the national average rate of acceptance to US medical schools from 2008-2010 was only 45%.

Q: Where do CSULA students go to medical school?

A: The University of California Medical Schools are the most popular choices with 23% of CSULA students choosing to attend either UCLA, UC Irvine, UCSD, UC Davis or UCSF. Additional programs recently chosen include: Albany Medical College, Creighton University, Drexel University, Duke University, Georgetown University, Loma Linda University, Meharry Medical College, Michigan State University, New York Medical College, Northwestern University, Pennsylvania State, Rosalind Franklin, Temple University, The University of Miami, Tufts University, Tulane University, University of Cincinnati, University of Iowa, University of Kentucky, University of Nebraska, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, University of Southern California, Wake Forest University, Wayne State University, Western University of Health Sciences.

Q: How do the health professions schools handle repeated coursework when calculating my GPA?

A: AACOMAS: Only the most recent repeat is included in the GPA calculation.

A: AACPMAS: Both the original and the repeated course is included in your GPA.

A: AADSAS: All courses that appear on your official transcript(s) and for which a grade and credit were ever assigned will be included in the AADSAS GPA calculations, even if they are not included in the GPA calculations of the transcript-issuing school. This includes, but is not limited to courses that have been repeated. Both grades from repeated courses are used in calculating the ADEA AADSAS GPA, even if this is not the policy of your college/university.

A: AMCAS counts all attempts of a repeated course, even if your school does not.

A: CASPA does not recognize individual school or state academic “forgiveness” policies. Therefore, CASPA must factor both grades into your CASPA GPA. Once your application arrives at the schools you are applying to, they may or may not recalculate your GPA depending upon their individual policies.

A: OPTOMCAS: Repeated courses taken at the same school will be marked as repeated under special classification. The final attempt will have full credit value and will be included in the GPA calculations. All prior attempts will have a credit value of 0.0 and will not be included in the GPA, although the course and grade will be listed in the coursework. Repeated courses taken at a different school will be counted as a normal course and will be included in the GPA calculations.

A: PHARMCAS: All courses with credit hours and a PharmCAS Grade are calculated into the PharmCAS GPAs, regardless of whether the credit counts toward a degree or counted toward a college/university GPA. PharmCAS will include ALL initial AND repeated course work in its GPA calculations (including those repeated under freshman forgiveness, academic bankruptcy, and other related institutional policies).

A: PTCAS: You must include ALL attempted courses, including failed, repeated, and withdrawn college courses.

A: SOPHAS: If you have repeated any coursework with the intention of improving or replacing an earlier grade or attempt at the course, you must enter it using the following guidelines, regardless of the repeated-course policy of the school at which the coursework was taken. Courses such as Phys-Ed, Choir, or Art that you simply enrolled in multiple times are not considered repeated courses. For normal repeated courses (failed or low grade on first attempt): Mark the final attempt with a Special Classification of "Repeated," but keep all other attempts listed with a Special Classification of "Not Applicable". Mark the credit values for all initial attempts as 0.00, but list full credit for the final attempt. List all grades as stated on the transcript. For courses you withdrew from and then attempted again: Mark the final attempt with a Special Classification of "Repeated," but keep the initial, withdrawn course listed as "Not Applicable." Keep all credit values and grades as stated on the transcript. For courses where you first received an incomplete and then attempted again: Mark the final attempt with a Special Classification of "Repeated," mark the initial, incomplete attempt as "Incomplete," and keep all credit values and grades as stated on the transcript. Any course with a credit value of 0.00, a grade of W, or a special classification of "Incomplete" will not be calculated into your GPA, so entering your repeated coursework correctly will result in only your most recent grade being calculated into your GPA.

A: VMCAS: List each time you took the course as it appears on your transcript. You should choose "Repeat Course" for each attempt (including the first) until the final attempt, when you will choose "Completed".

Q: My family/friend told me I have to [blank] to get into medical schoool. Is this true?

A: While friends and family certainly mean well, their advice might be out-of-date or just plain wrong. What admissions committees look for today is not the same as it was 10 or more years ago. Make an appointment with the HCAO and get up-to-date information.

Q: How long are MCAT scores valid?

A: Quoted directly from the AAMC: "Medical schools usually accept scores dating back two or three years. If you have taken the exam previously, we recommend that you check the application policies of each school to which you intend to apply." Thus, an MCAT score from Summer 2011 is most likely good for use in a Summer 2013 application, but using it in a Summer 2014 application really depends on the individual medical school policies.

Q: Should I believe everything I read in on-line forums such as at SDN?

A: While helpful information can be obtained from many sources, a healthy dose of skepticism is recommended, particularly regarding anonymous posters. Likewise, be mindful of your own on-line conduct.

Q: Should I apply to offshore/Caribbean medical schools?

A: This is a very complicated question. The standards and reputations of offshore medical schools can vary quite widely. Some additional food for thought can be found here and here.

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Last Update: 04/09/2010