College of Arts and Sciences, USF

Frequently Asked Questions

What major should I pursue if I want to have become a Doctor (or a Dentist, Pharmacist, Veterinarian, etc.)?

There is no required or preferred major for any health professional school. As long as you complete the required courses for admission into the health professional program of your choice, you can pursue any major. Select a major that you are passionate about, as this will motivate you to do all that is necessary to achieve your future goals. We have an entire page dedicated to Majors which you can check out here. For information on all of the majors offered at the University of South Florida, please go online to the Undergraduate Admissions majors webpage.

Will Health Professional Schools accept my AP/IB credit?

Whether your AP/IB credit will be accepted depends on the Health Professional school themselves. Some will accept exam credit, while some will not. It is best to check with the Health Professional Schools you are interested in applying to and what is stated on their website. If it is not listed on their school website, then contact their Admissions representatives to find out. If the credits are not accepted, then you will need to retake the courses if they are required for admission.

An example of a school that details their acceptance policy online is the USF Pharmacy School prospective student webpage. Under the prerequisite coursework section, it is clearly stated what scores are needed for acceptance of AP/IB credit.

What do I need to do in regards to extracurricular activities for a Health Professional School?

For all health professional schools, clincial volunteering is a must. Admission committees want to know that you are truly dedicated to the health professional field, and a way that you demonstrate that interest is through volunteering. Physician Assistant programs actually want hands-on patient contact hours, a more difficult to attain volunteer/employment option. This involves hours where you are in physical contact with a patient, such as taking vitals, drawling blood, etc. Some students might have to become a certified EMT/EMR, Certified Nursing Assistnat, etc. to get these hours before applying. Community volunteering is certainly a welcome addition to your application, just make sure that you also volunteer in a clincial setting, whether that be a hospital, clinic, hospice, etc. Shadowing is also an important extracurricular activitiy, and you can get involved in pre-health student socities as well. For more information on these activities, see our involvement page. Some additional activities to consider are research, enrichment programs, internships, and study abroad. You will need to set yourself apart from all the other applicants applying to a health professional school, so look for opportunities that you are passionate about.

How do I know if I am a competitive applicant for a Health Professional School?

There are many, many factors that Admissions Committees consider when making a decision on who to accept into their programs. First, do some research into the schools you are considering, and see what they detail on their webpages about the past applicant statistics, required courses for admission, test scores, etc. These will be some of the factors that you can use to determine if you are currently a competitive applicant. Admissions Committees do look at your overall Grade Point Average (GPA) as well as your BCPM (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math) GPA and your test scores. These are probably the typical data that you know is being considered. However Health Professional schools have also now moved to a holistic view of applicants, where more than just GPA and test scores are considered. Admissions Committees look at your essay, your letters of recommendation, the rigor of your course work (take 3-4 semesters where you are taking 10 credits or more of science/math), the slope of your GPA (upward!), your extracurricular activities (shadowing, volunteering, research, enrichment programs, internships, study abroad), your employment, etc. They want to know the intangible aspects about yourself that will make you a great health care professional- your personal competencies such as integrity, teamwork, communication, and much more. Are you a first generation college student? Are you raising a family? All these things are being considered when you are applying. Make the most of the opporunities you have while in college to make yourself as competitive as possible. You can also review our page on Competitiveness here.

When should I take the entrance exams for Health Professional Schools?

The easy answer to this question is not until you have completed the prerequisite courses needed to be successful on the entrance exams. This could differ from person to person based on when they were able to begin their prerequisite coursework. Generally speaking, however, most students should take the entrance exams the spring of their junior year, as students need to apply to most health professional schools the year prior to when they want to begin attending. That gives students enough time before applications are due, and even enough time to retake the exam if necessary. You can review information about pre-health timelines here.

What letters of recommendation do I need for Health Professional schools?

The answer to this question really depends on what Health Professional program you are seeking to enter. Some programs, like Medical Schools, want at least two letters of recommendation from science faculty members. Other programs, like Optometry and Veterinary schools, want letters of recommendation from professionals in the field. Research your program of interest to determine who needs to write your letters of recommendation.

Above all, make sure when you ask your potential recommenders for letters of recommendation that you question if they can write you STRONG letters of recommendation. Can they attest to your personal competencies (integrity, reliability, service orientation, teamwork, oral communication, etc?). The answer to this question is vital, as these are the kind of recommendation letters you need to be a competitive applicant. Letters from faculty, for example, stating that you are in the top 10% of their class and have a strong GPA is NOT going to help make you stand out. Also be sure to give your recommenders a copy of your resume, as well as a copy of your essay/personal statement to your health professional school so they have more information about you.

How do I decide what Health Professional school to attend?

There are many factors to consider when trying to decide what health professional school to attend. Research schools thoroughly, and consider factors such as location, reputation, financial aid, school and/or cohort size, and their mission. Mission is a factor that is important as the objectives and philosophy stated in their mission is how they will instruct you as a future physician. Do you want to focus on research as a physican, or serve underserved populations? Look for a school with that in their mission! Resources to help you can be found on our page about Applying.