Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ: About HPA
- What is Health Professions Advising (HPA)?
- Health Professions Advising (HPA) is your go-to place if you are planning to pursue a health profession or allied health field. The HPA office serves all UC Davis undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni pursuing any health profession or allied health field. We offer one-on-one advising, as well as a variety of small group and large group sessions. Advisors use a holistic approach while providing support and feedback during academic and application preparation. We encourage students to be proactive and reflective during their career decision-making. Our goal is for students to become successful applicants who demonstrate compassion, teamwork, and a commitment to academic success throughout their journey toward a health professions career.
- What is the difference between an academic advisor and a health professions advisor?
- An academic advisor’s role is to aid you in concerns related to your major, general education courses, degree requirements, and registration. A health professions advisor’s role is to advise you on coursework and other requirements that will aid you in your pre-health endeavors as you pursue a health profession or allied health field. By working with both your academic advisor and a health professions advisor, you will become familiar with the requirements of both your general academic education and your chosen health professional program.
- What services are provided by the Health Professions Advising office?
- The Health Professions Advising (HPA) office offers one-on-one advising sessions with staff and/or peer advisors. For one-on-one advising, students can schedule an appointment and/or stop by during our Drop-In Advising hours. The HPA office also holds a variety of small group and large group workshops and events, including mock MMI’s, test prep and app prep workshops, dinners with doctors, club networking, etc. We also table at several campus-organized events and speak at other non-HPA organized events upon requests.
- Where is the Health Professions Advising office?
- We are located at the Health Professions Advising Center (HPAC) at 1090 Orchard Road, Davis, CA 95616. Please see the UC Davis campus map for further directions.
- How do I register as a pre-health student?
- It is important for Health Professions Advising to know if you are interested in pursuing a health profession. By identifying as Pre-Health, you are not committing to a career or major. By letting us know you are interested in a future health profession, we will have a better sense of how many students plan to go into each field and use that information to guide future programming. We appreciate you taking the time to fill out this short form.
- How do I get information about upcoming workshops and events?
- All HPA workshops and events can be found on our Calendar of Events. For regular updates, subscribe to our email list by emailing email@example.com and entering the following in the subject line: Subscribe hpainformation firstname lastname. By subscribing, you will receive weekly newsletters with the events occurring that week and other helpful tips. You will also receive regular emails, containing information about both upcoming HPA organized events and non-HPA organized pre-health events. Any updates concerning the dates and times of events can be found in those emails. We also post daily updates on AggieFeed and on our Facebook page, so be sure to follow us to stay up to date. For quick questions in regards to events, you can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- How do I make an appointment?
- Appointments can be scheduled online here. You will need your UC Davis Kerberos login ID and passphrase in order to schedule an appointment. Before scheduling an appointment, please see our Calendar of Events to see if a workshop is being offered that will answer your question. These workshops provide detailed information that cannot be replicated in a half hour advising session. Appointments should be scheduled when you have an individualized question that cannot be answered in one of the group workshops. Quick questions can be emailed to email@example.com.
- How should I prepare for my appointment?
- Advising session appointments are half an hour, so please prepare questions and bring any related materials you wish to go over to your appointment. Please bring physical copies of any material you wish to go over if possible. We hope that by doing this we can get through all of your questions and concerns, so that you can make the most out of your appointment. To further ensure this, before scheduling an appointment, please see our Calendar of Events to see if a workshop is being offered that will answer your question. These workshops provide detailed information that cannot be replicated in a half hour advising session. Appointments should be scheduled when you have an individualized question that cannot be answered in one of the group workshops. Quick questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, before your appointment, please look at a sample advising sheet, which can be found under Prerequisite Coursework, to find the required pre-requisites for your field.
- Do you have drop-in hours, and if so, when?
Yes; we offer drop-in advising Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 2-4 p.m. in 1090 Orchard Road. On the occasion where staff advisors become unavailable due to various reasons (e.g., illnesses, meetings, etc.), notifications will be sent out over our email listserv and/or posted on our Facebook page.
For quick questions, you can stop by during our Drop In Advising or email us at email@example.com. An advisor will respond as soon as possible.
- If I have already graduated, can I still get health professions advising?
- Yes; the Health Professions Advising office provides advising for all UC Davis undergraduate, graduate, alumni. Alumni should make their appointments online at hpadvising.ucdavis.edu
FAQ: Academic Preparation
- What are the prerequisite courses for my health profession?
- Each health professions program has its own unique set of prerequisites that every student must satisfy in order to be admitted to the school. Certain courses may be required by one school and recommended by another. Please check ourprerequisite coursework advising sheets as a guide for academic planning. Each sheet contains a list of prerequisites required by various schools to which past UC Davis students have applied. Please note that the prerequisite coursework is subject to changes that we are not notified of. If you find a discrepancy in an advising sheet and a school’s website, please bring it to our attention by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your desired school is not listed, you may have to go directly to their website. Please use your advising sheet with your academic advisor to determine which courses to take in preparation for graduate/professional school and in order to satisfy your degree requirements.
- How can I satisfy the English prerequisites?
Many programs require one year of English. The following are some of the ways you can satisfy this requirement:
1. English courses at a community college
2. Any UC Davis UWP (University Writing Program), ENL (English) or COM (Comparative Literature) course. Please note that some schools may not prefer a COM class.
Many pre-health students take UWP 104F to satisfy their English requirement. UPW 101 can also be a great option if you are not a strong writer.
Please follow your major and graduation requirements first, and then add additional classes to satisfy your health profession requirements.
- Do I have to complete all of the prerequisite coursework before applying?
- No, you are not required to complete all of the required coursework before applying. However, you should complete a majority of the science coursework before you apply. You must complete all of the coursework before you start at the health profession school. Many applicants complete some of the pre-reqs over their application year.
- Can I take prerequisites at a community college or online?
The answer to this question depends on the type of program you are pursuing. We recommend those applying to doctoral level programs take as many science courses at UC Davis as possible. If you transferred in with most of your prereqs completed, plan to take some upper division science coursework here.
Most masters level schools do accept credits from an accredited community college. Many students complete some of their required courses at a CC during summers or after graduating.
In terms of online courses, some schools will accept general education/prerequisite courses taken online, but others will not accept any online courses, especially science courses that require labs. The schools that do accept online courses generally do not accept courses with virtual labs either; a hybrid course with online lectures and in-person labs may be acceptable. Students should check the requirements for each school to which they are applying.
- Do health professional schools accept AP/IB credits for prerequisite courses?
Although there are some schools that will accept AP/IB credit as a substitute for certain introductory courses, most schools do not accept AP/IB credit. If they do, those substituted courses generally must be supplemented with other, usually upper division, courses. Students wishing to use AP/IB credit should check with the schools to which they are applying.
However, regardless of whether the schools accept AP/IB credit, we do not recommend using AP/IB credit to fulfill your prerequisite courses, especially your science courses. While it may seem convenient to save time, the rigor of many AP/IB courses is not equivalent to the rigor of the courses offered during college. Taking the prerequisite courses also provides you the opportunity to develop a solid foundation in the subject, which can greatly enhance, not only your GPA, but also your success on the standardized exams. The best course of action is to take the courses recommended, even if the university has given you AP/IB credit for those courses.
- Can I study abroad? Can I take prerequisites at an international institution?
Studying abroad is a wonderful experience that we encourage you to pursue. It is a valuable experience that provides the opportunity for growth in both maturity and cultural awareness.
You should not study abroad because you are pre-health in an effort to make your application stand out. You should study abroad because you want to gain the experience.
All coursework taken through a UC Study Abroad program will appear on your UC Davis transcript and will meet the requirements for health professions schools. Several programs offer science coursework. It is fine to take those courses abroad, as long as you complete them successfully.
- Can I take a course as pass/no pass (P/NP)?
All prerequisite courses must be completed for a letter grade – do not take any of them P/NP.
Non-required courses may be taken P/NP, but we do not encourage you to do this more than a couple times unless there are extenuating circumstances.
- What is counted in my science GPA?
Each centralized application will count different coursework toward your science GPA. For example, medical schools count all math, as well as every science course taken, into your BCPM (Bio, Chem, Physics, Math) GPA. Other programs count only science courses. Some provide clear guidelines as to what counts as science, while others allow you to use your discretion. Please check your centralized application to determine your health profession's guidelines.
To calculate your science GPA, go into OASIS and pull up your Academic Record. Along the left side of the course list, you will see boxes. Check off the boxes for the courses you wish to be included in the GPA calculation.
In HPA, we often refer to the "Safe Zone", which is a GPA above 3.0 (overall and science). However, you cannot have too high of a GPA. A GPA of 3.0 would be barely meeting the minimum requirements for many programs. If you are struggling to maintain a 3.0, please make an appointment with a Health Professions advisor. Everyone is capable of earning above a 3.0. In almost every case, the lower grades are the result of challenges outside the classroom, time management, study techniques, test anxiety, poor reading comprehension, or another skill that can be developed. There are many resources on campus to assist you in achieving your goals.
- If I have a lower GPA, should I have more experiences to offset that?
The short answer is no. The idea of a lot of meaningful experiences making up for a weak GPA is a common myth among students. If you do not have a minimum 3.0 GPA (overall and science), you should not be doing so many extracurricular activities. Having many meaningful activities will not make up for a GPA below 3.0. You need to focus on your grades, earn at least a 3.0, and then begin adding experiences. You can always take a year or two off after graduation to gain more experience. If you plan to work on your GPA after graduation through a postbac program, you will be spending a lot of money to do so.
While the cumulative GPA is important, schools will take into consideration if you have improved. This is known as an upward trend. Schools understand that students may find the transition to college life to be difficult. An upward trend demonstrates your ability to adapt and to persevere. You should strive to have no grade lower than a B- in your last 60 units.
- What should I do if I'm going to get a bad grade in a class?
Although no one wants a C, it is not the end of the world if you get one or two C’s. You can still get into a health professional school. It just means you will have to work a bit harder to improve your GPA. We recommend taking other courses in the same discipline and do well in those courses. For example, if you do poorly in chemistry, take another science course and do well on that in order to raise your science/BCPM GPA.
You may have been told that if you know you'll get a C-, take a D or F intentionally in order to repeat the course. We do not recommend failing a class on purpose in order to retake it for a better grade. Even though the lower grade will not be included in your UC Davis GPA, it will remain on your transcript and many centralized applications will count that first grade into your application GPA. Additionally, the health profession schools will still see it. It is better to have a C- in the course and improve through other courses in the same discipline than to take a D or F. Although you cannot repeat the C- at UCD, you will need to repeat it somewhere else either over a summer or after graduation. If it is impossible for you to take it somewhere else and the only way you can reach your goal is to take coursework at UCD, then you will have to fail the class to repeat it.
FAQ: Choosing Majors
- Do I have to be a science major to be pre-health?
- Absolutely not. There is no “ideal” major that will guarantee acceptance at a health professional school. Schools accept students of all majors. Many students do choose to major in the sciences, but it is not a requirement. The reason for pursuing a science major should be because you enjoy and excel at science courses. The major you choose is a reflection of who you are and what you are passionate about. Majoring in a social science or humanities field will not prevent you from getting in to a health professional school; however, you will still need to fulfill the prerequisite coursework.
- Is there a pre-med, pre-vet, pre-dental, etc. major?
No, there is no specific pre-health major offered at UC Davis. Being “pre-med” or “pre-vet” or “pre-PA” is simply a path. It is your acknowledgement that you wish to pursue a health profession, and in doing so, it is the decision to fulfill the prerequisites needed for admission to a health professional school.
Many pre-vet students believe they need to be an Animal Science or Animal Biology major. That is simply not the case. You can reach your goal in any major.
Many pre-med students may think Biological Sciences or NPB is the best major. Students who are English, Philosophy, Psychology, Music and many other majors are accepted to medical school each year.
- What major should I pursue as a pre-health student?
- The major you should pursue is any major that you have honest interest and passion for. There is no “ideal” major that will guarantee admission into a health professional school. The major you choose is a reflection of who you are and what your interests are, regardless of whether the major is in the life sciences, the social sciences, the humanities, or even engineering. When choosing a major, make an honest assessment of your skills and your interests. It may mean switching your major, and that is alright.
- I’m a non-science major. How do I fulfill the science prerequisites?
Regardless of your major, all pre-health students must take the prerequisites required for their field. For non-science majors, this may mean planning ahead and making room in your schedule in order to fulfill both your major requirements and the required prerequisites. Please take a look at our prerequisite coursework advising sheets as a guide for academic planning when you meet with your academic advisor, who will be able to assist you in constructing a four-year plan.
You may also elect to save the required coursework until after you graduate. Some students complete their requirements through post-bac work.
- Should I choose a minor? Or double major?
- Like choosing a major, the decision to pursue a minor or double major should be based upon your personal interests. Minors and double majors do not have a significant impact on professional school admission. If you wish to pursue a minor or double major, speak with your academic advisor in order to ensure you to stay on track to graduate.
- What's the difference between staying a fifth year or doing post-bac work/program?
There is little difference between the two. The decision to stay a fifth year should be made in conjunction with an advisor. You must be aware of your unit count. If you need to repeat a lot of C- coursework, you might consider doing post-bac instead.
Please consult an advisor if you are making this decision.
FAQ: Choosing Experiences
- How important are extracurricular activities?
- Extracurricular activities and any experiences that are meaningful play a large role in your application, making up the experiences piece of what we call the “holistic pie.” While metrics may demonstrate how well you do academically, meaningful experiences demonstrate who you are as an individual. When choosing activities, please keep one idea in mind: What you do with your time helps to define who you are in your application. Experiences are part of a personal brand. By reading about your experiences, schools get a chance to learn what you care about and who you are. Extracurricular activities can also contribute to your growth and help you develop important skills and qualities, such as interpersonal communication, leadership, teamwork, and organizational skills.
- When should I start extracurricular activities?
- While there is no right time to begin extracurricular activities, we do suggest that you ensure you have at least a 3.0 GPA before committing to many extracurricular activities. Having many meaningful activities will not make up for a GPA below 3.0. You need to focus on your grades, earn at least a 3.0, and then begin adding experiences. You can always take a year or two off after graduation to gain more experiences. However, this does not mean forgoing all activities for the sake of a 4.0 GPA; meaningful experiences are still very important, both as an applicant and as an individual.
- Is it better to have fewer extracurriculars that last longer or more extracurriculars that don’t last as long?
- This can be a tricky question as sometimes an experience that was short can have a lot of impact on a student. It is generally said that it is good to have a number of experiences that allow for exploration and growth. Regardless of the number though, it is ultimately the experiences that are the most meaningful and that have the most impact that are the best experiences. Your experiences define who you are, so always keep that in mind when looking for experiences. Also keep in mind that although short experiences can be impactful and meaningful, schools may view the duration of the experience as a demonstration of your commitment and how much the experience meant to you.
- What is clinical experience and how do I gain it?
Clinical experience can be any type of exposure to healthcare (e.g., interactions with health professionals, patients, etc.) in a hospital, clinical, community, or private practice setting. Clinical experience is valuable and very important as it allows you to explore health careers and get foundational knowledge about what it means to work in a particular setting. It is a way for admission committees to assess if you know what a career in the health field actually entails and to assess your desire to be involved in healthcare. Some health professions actually require at least 200 hours of clinical experience. PA schools in particular can require a couple hundred hours.
We encourage everyone to start with a Health Related Internship (HRI), which are offered by the Internship and Career Center (ICC). They require at least 4 hours per week with one or two quarter commitments. You receive transcript notation and shuttles are available for internships located at the UCDMC. HRI’s will help you learn more about any of the following fields:
- What is a shadowing experience and how do I gain it?
- Shadowing involves following a health professional as he or she carries out daily activities. Shadowing experiences will offer you a realistic view of what a health profession entails. However, it is often limited in interaction with patients, so it is best to supplement shadowing experiences with other clinical experiences. Shadowing experiences can be attained by directly contacting health professionals. It can be very helpful if you know someone who can help you contact a health professional indirectly as well. Ultimately though, you will have to speak with the health professional yourself as you must become familiar with that professional to determine if he or she would be willing to let you shadow. Please be aware that some privacy laws may prevent you from observing some situations and some patients.
- How do I gain research experience?
The first step is to brainstorm what areas of research interests you as that will make a research experience more meaningful. Once you have narrowed a field of interest, a great way to find faculty who is researching in your field of interest is checking out the UC Davis faculty websites, or even speaking to your own professors. Once you have identified faculties, you may contact them by writing them a nice letter or catch them during their office hours to ask if you can set up an appointment to see them in person. Many students seek faculty simply for the research experience, so be sure to show them that you truly are interested in their research and that you sincerely want to be a part of it. Other methods include looking through Aggie Job Link for opportunities and signing up for the Undergraduate Research Center (URC) listserv to be notified of events and opportunities. The URC also has many advisors that you can speak with to learn more about gaining research experiences.
A research requirement varies among health profession schools. Some schools do look for research experience, while others do not require it at all. We recommend giving research a try, but like with any other experience, if you do not enjoy it or find meaning in it, then you can decide to not continue any further with research.
FAQ: Standardized Exams
- What are standardized exams and which do I have to take?
- Like the SAT and ACT you took in high school, the standardized exams are admission tests health professional schools use to assess your academic performance and to compare your relative performance to that of other students. Standardized exams include the DAT, GRE, MCAT, OAT, PCAT, and TEAS. The Health Professions Advising office has created a guide to help students determine which test they need and what courses they should take.
- What courses am I required to take before taking the exam?
While no courses are required as students can choose to study subject materials independently, there are recommended courses. If you want to get the best score, your studying and mastery of tested concepts should begin in your pre-health courses. Using data and recommendations from UC Davis students, the Health Professions Advising office has created a guide to help students pick what classes to take before the exam.
HPA strongly recommends taking all of the coursework listed before taking the exam.
Some exams are content based and require specific coursework, while others, such as the GRE, do not have specific courses linked to it. Here are three things to consider about standardized exams:
• If they require specific content (Bio, Chem, OChem, Physics, Biochem, etc), you should have a strong foundation in this content. That means a B or higher average in the majority of that coursework.
• The tests are long, so it is as much about endurance as it is content mastery. You must practice sitting and reading for long periods of time.
• Multiple choice exams are different and require different strategies. By studying test taking strategies for your test, you may improve your ability to score higher.
• If your exam requires specific content, do not take the test until you have completed all of those courses.
Before you begin studying, consider taking a full diagnostic test to determine where you are starting. This may also assist in more directed studying.
- Should I use a test prep company or study on my own?
This is a very personal decision. The courses offered by test prep companies can be very costly, so please consider the following:
When buying a course, you
• receive several sample tests to practice
• learn test taking strategies
• have an “expert teacher to give direction and feedback regarding studying
• are in a structured study environment
Some students are naturally good test takers and can commit the time to study alone. If that applied to you, you may not need a test prep course. Based on feedback from some students, among those who have used test prep companies, success varies just as it does when students study alone. Thus, it greatly depends on how you study and what works for you.
- Is there any fee assistance?
- Some health professions associations offer fee assistance for applicants. This often entails applying and submitting additional documentation, but by qualifying, you could receive discounted test rates, lower application fees and even waived supplemental application fees. Take a look here to see if your program offers fee assistance.
FAQ: Application Timelines
- When do I apply?
Application seasons typically open one year before you are expected to start. For example, if you wish to start your health profession school in the fall 2018, you would apply in the summer of 2017.
Whether you should apply the year before you graduate, the summer you graduate or a year or two after you graduate depends on your situation.
Taking one or more years off after graduating is called taking a "gap year." There is nothing wrong with this plan.
The Health Professions Advising office has created two sample timelines found here that demonstrates the general difference between a gap year and a straight through plan. The sample timelines can apply to any health profession. PLEASE NOTE: They are not a prescription or a plan for you. They are examples of how you can plan the years leading up to the time you apply and start professional school, but they may not work for you.
- What is a gap year?
A gap year(s) is the time after your undergraduate education and prior to entering a health professional school during which some students spend working, volunteering, doing research, doing community service, pursing an MPH, etc. It is a chance to expand and develop in areas you were unable to develop during your undergraduate years, such as experiences or grades. It is also a chance for exploration and pursing things you have always wanted to do (e.g., study abroad, Teach for America, etc.). For some students, this is the time to earn money to finance their professional/graduate education and to further develop outside interests. What you decide to do if you take a gap year is up to you.
If you are taking just one gap year (applying the summer you graduate) that year off is also your application year.
There are many clear advantages to taking a gap year; though many students do choose to apply during the summer before their fourth year in order to start professional or graduate school right after graduation.
- When are the application cycles?
To view the centralized application cycles, click here.
For most doctoral level programs, applications open during the summer (May-July). We strongly encourage you to apply early if the program uses rolling admission.
If the schools do not use rolling admission, it is ok to apply near the deadline. We do not recommend waiting until the last minute to complete the application process though. Schools will not read your application if it is missing any component by the deadline.
- When should I begin writing my personal statement?
- The personal statement should be a reflective, well-polished document. You can create your first draft as soon as you want. We recommend beginning your draft by January of the year you plan to apply, but the more time you give yourself to get feedback and revise the better. The Office of Health Professions Advising can assist you with your essay, but please make your first appointment at least six months before your deadline and bring a physical copy to your appointment. Revisions take time.
- When should I ask for letters of recommendations?
- Schools will not read your application until the required LOR are in your application. Give your letter writers plenty of time to submit so that your application is complete within a competitive timeframe. The worst case is having an otherwise complete application but missing one letter. It is your responsibility to ask the letter writers far enough in advance so that you are not projecting your emergency onto them. Respect their time and commitments. Do not expect letters to be written within a month after asking. Ask 3-4 months before a deadline.
- What are supplemental applications (or secondaries)?
Supplemental applications (or secondaries) are sent after the primary application has been submitted/verified. Generally schools that use a centralized application system tend to use supplemental applications to collect information they desire. Some programs will send a supplemental application to every applicant, while others will pre-screen the applicant pool, sending secondaries to those who are most qualified. The second application costs an additional fee per school. If you are applying to a program that requires a secondary, you should plan to spend on average $100 per secondary. The amount you need saved by the month after submitting your primary application depends on the number of schools to which you apply. The amount is typically $1000-$3000. You will also need to set aside time. Some secondaries are quick answers from a selection of questions, while others may require additional essays. We advise the following:
• Tailor each essay to the program. ("Speak" to the school by highlighting how you would be a good fit based on how your attributes and experiences align with their mission and philosophy.)
• Know the schools to which you apply in order to tailor your application to them. Do not copy and paste the same essay into multiple schools' secondaries.
• Edit your secondaries carefully. Be sure not to include the wrong school name because you are in a rush and forget to edit. Never send first draft writing.
• Don't leave questions blank. If they ask an optional question, answer it.
- When should I expect to hear back about interviews?
Interview invitations are typically sent 1-2 months after an application is complete.
For the majority of health profession programs, this takes place between August and February. Some programs interview in late spring.
- What are common types of interviews that I should expect?
Common types of interviews include:
• traditional one-on-one interviews
• multiple mini interviews (MMI)
• situational judgment tests
• group interviews
• behavioral interviews
More details about each one can be found here.
- How should I prepare for interviews?
- Both Health Professions Advising and the Internships and Career Center hold interview practice workshops in which students will be given a set of questions and feedback on their responses. The HPA office also holds quarterly mock MMI’s that can be found on our Calendar of Events. For more tips on how to prepare for interviews, check out our list of tips here