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Pre-Professional Health Sciences FAQs

Photo of a female student examining a horse's eye

What Is the Advantage of Attending Otterbein for Pre-Health Professional Studies?

  • A liberal arts science degree is an excellent preparation for many careers, including but not limiting you to those in healthcare.
  • Expert faculty, including several MDs who teach full-time or part-time in the Department of Biology, two MDs who act as Pre Health Professional Advisors for all majors, two DVMs in the Department of Equine Sciences.
  • Small classes that allow your professors to know you and your career-goals well, and to write strong letters of support of your application. The student to faculty ratio at Otterbein is 11:1.
  • Opportunities for faculty/student science research projects beginning in your freshman year.
  • Structured internships that allow you to immerse yourself in your chosen field.
  • Otterbein’s Ohio Gamma chapter of Alpha Epsilon Delta, the national pre-health honorary society, allows students to demonstrate leadership and humanitarian qualities, as well as to support each other through the application process

What is the Otterbein Success Rate of Gaining Acceptance into Health Professional Schools?

A large proportion of high school students entering Otterbein aspire to a health career, but as they move through the different areas of biologymolecular biology and biochemistry, or chemistry they find that there are other careers that attract them more strongly. Of the students who are still serious applicants in their junior year over 80% gain entrance on graduation to the school of their choice, and this number rises even higher in the year following graduation.

Which is the Best Major for Pre-Med or Other Pre-Health studies?

Otterbein, like most colleges and universities, does not have a specific "pre-health profession" or "pre-med" major that is a training for a health career, but offers degrees that form a good educational foundation for graduate studies of many areas, and for the national entrance exams for many health schools.

Nationally, most students preparing for medical school, dental school, veterinary school, pharmacy school and optometry school major in biologybiochemistry/molecular biology, or chemistry. The advantage of these majors is that the coursework required is a preparation for the national entrance exams MCATDAT,VMCASPCATOAT  . These science majors also enable you to fulfill the admissions requirements listed by health professional school more easily.

Students who wish to become veterinarians may wish to major in Equine Pre-Veterinary/Pre-Graduate Studies.

Students wishing to go to physical therapy school or physician’s assistant school may wish to major in Allied Health, housed in the Department of Health and Sport Sciences.

Students wishing to become nurse practitioners can apply to graduate school on the basis of a science degree, or a degree in nursing BUT the best major for you is the one that attracts you most strongly. You should have enthusiasm and true intellectual interest in your major. Your undergraduate education is a chance to look around and develop your talents and interests, and then see where that leads you for an appropriate and rewarding career, whether in health care or not.

What are the requirements for getting into medical or other health professional schools?

You must be able to show the following:

  • A strong academic history, through a good GPA (around 3.5 or better for medical school, dental school, vet school and pharmacy, somewhat lower for other schools)
  • A strong interest in the welfare of others through a solid history of volunteer work
  • A good knowledge of the career you wish to follow through extensive work or shadowing experience
  • Strong letters of support (see below) that speak of your integrity, reliability, and communication skills
  • Research projects and internships are advantageous but not required
  • A competitive score on the national entrance exams (MCAT, DAT etc.) See below for links to the entrance exams.

What are required courses for health professional schools?

  • Medical schools all want a significant number of hours in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and English. These are all contained in the liberal arts Bachelor of Science degrees in biology, biochemistry and chemistry. Diversity of study is welcomed and a degree other than science is possible – but you still need these courses.
  • Dental schools often specify that anatomy and physiology, microbiology and biochemistry should be part of the science degree, as well as biology, chemistry and English.
  • Optometry schools also require calculus, anatomy and physiology, microbiology and biochemistry as part of the science degree, and sometimes specify psychology and statistics also.
  • Pharmacy schools require physical chemistry in addition to the standard courses in a biology degree.
  • Physical therapy schools require less biology than a biology degree, but add in anatomy and physiology, kinesiology and psychology. Requirements could be fulfilled by an Allied Health degree.
  • Physician’s assistant schools require less biology than a biology degree, but add in anatomy and physiology, and biochemistry. Requirements vary somewhat from school to school and could be fulfilled by an Allied Health degree.
  • Occupational therapy programs accept a variety of degrees, but science is very helpful
  • Nurse Practitioner programs accept a variety of undergraduate degrees, not only Bachelor of Nursing. Biology is a suitable basis for NP programs.

You should study carefully the websites of schools that offer training in your chosen profession early in your undergraduate years, so that you know exactly what course work is required by each school – some are more specific than others. Then you should discuss with your academic advisor or with the Pre-Health Professional Advisors how you can fit these courses into your Otterbein years.

What else is needed apart from coursework?

Personal qualities
To be a credible candidate for any career that impacts the health of others, you must be able to show that you are a person with humanitarian ideals; this can be done through your volunteer work. You will need to find an area of service that fits your personality and your aspirations, and establish a strong record of contribution to it. Medical and other admissions committees can see the difference between a commitment to service over years, and a few scattered service days undertaken for the sake of the application.

You must also be able to show that you are resilient, ethical, able to negotiate intercultural difficulties, and a team worker. Letters of recommendation from your professors and others are helpful for this.

If you ask to be considered for membership in a profession you must show that you are knowledgeable about what you are asking for, and how good a match your personal characteristics are.

Shadowing experiences are an excellent start. Volunteering and paid jobs in healthcare are also rewarding and useful.

Membership in student societies appropriate to your chosen field help you gain knowledge of how things are done.

Competitive scores
Your score on the national admissions test (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, OAT, GRE etc) is one of the most important parts of your application. Scores considered "competitive" can be found on individual professional school websites.

Most schools require that you earned good grades in your science courses. A perfect 4.0 is not necessary, but you should maintain a GPA of 3.4 or better; the higher your score, the more competitive you will be.

What are the facilities like at Otterbein?

Most science classes are taught in our new state-of-the-art Science Center opened in October 2009. It houses over 96,000 square feet of discipline-specific laboratories, research space, classrooms, and a greenhouse.

Pre-veterinary science students will be impressed with Otterbein's Austin E. Knowlton Center for Equine Science, which opened in Fall 2009. Among only a few academic equine centers nationally to be housed within an urban environment, the facility provides an important academic, economic, and recreational resource to the community, the region, the equine industry, and our outstanding students just 2 miles from campus. Learn more about the Knowlton Center for Equine Science here.

When should I start preparing for application to a health professional school?

You can start when you are still in high school. Gain a solid background in science, and find an area of community service that fits your personality and your aspirations. Establish a strong record of contribution to it. Medical and other admissions committees can see the difference between a commitment to service over years, and a few scattered service days undertaken for the sake of the application.

Also, make opportunities to shadow as many practitioners in your field of interest as you can. This will let you know whether you have an affinity with the profession, or whether you need to consider other career options. You will find clinicians are only too willing to help the next generation in their field – all you have to do is ask in a way that considers their time and convenience.

Why do I need letters of support?

The admissions committee can see what your academic record is from your GPA and exam scores, and determine your motivation based on your personal statement that is part of the application. However, they also need assurance that you are of appropriate personality to join a health professions. Patients' trust in their practitioner is paramount; therefore practitioners need to be honest, diligent, and compassionate. Admissions committees also need to know that you have the perseverance to complete the training and to manage a heavy workload. At Otterbein we get to know our students very well over the years as we are a small institution, and therefore faculty can write well-informed letters from personal experience.

What schools do Otterbein students apply to?

Because in-state tuition is much less expensive than out-of-state, many students apply to The Ohio State University Medical School, School of Dentistry, Optometry, or Veterinary Science. Additionally many pre-med students apply to Cincinnati University, Wright State University, or Ohio University (which offers a Doctor of Osteopathic medicine program). However, students have also been accepted at Yale, Berkeley, Johns Hopkins and other schools of national prominence, as well as universities on Long Island and Virginia Beach. There are several Physician’s Assistant programs in Ohio, all housed in smaller universities.

How do I contact an advisor at Otterbein?

Advisors for medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, optometry, podiatry, physician’s assistant:
Dr. Mary Gahbauer (MD), Biology, mgahbauer@otterbein.edu
Dr. Lisa Marr (MD), Biology, emarr@otterbein.edu

Advisors for physical therapy:
Dr. Joan Rocks (PhD), Health and Sport Sciences, jrocks@otterbein.edu
Dr .Shelly Payne (PhD), Health and Sport Sciences, spayne@otterbein.edu

Advisor for veterinary science:
Dr. Sheri Birmingham (DVM), Equine Science, sbirmingham@otterbein.edu

Where can I learn more about the national entrance exams to graduate schools?

The following professional schools require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE):

  • Veterinary schools
  • Physician’s Assistant

/Pre-Professional Health Sciences

Dr. Lisa Marr
Assistant Professor, Biology and Earth Sciences
p/ 614.823.1575
e/ emarr@otterbein.edu

/Pre-Osteopathic Medicine

Dr. Lisa Marr
Assistant Professor, Biology and Earth Sciences
p/ 614.823.1575
e/ emarr@otterbein.edu


Richard Yntema
Department of History & Political Science Chairperson & Professor
p/ 614.823.1884
e/ ryntema@otterbein.edu


/Also see...

/Course Catalog

See the requirements for all of Otterbein's programs in our online catalog.