Pre-Medicine at Washington University
Washington University gives its pre-medical students a broad-based education and a solid academic foundation for medical school. Furthermore, our students have the chance to major in any subject they wish, find ample time to participate in extracurricular activities and volunteer opportunities, and take advantage of research opportunities through our departments and top-ranked medical school.
In short, as a medium-sized university, we offer the resources of a large university combined with the strong pre-medical advising program offered by smaller colleges.
Pre-medical advising starts from the moment our students step on campus, with an invitation to connect with the pre-health advising team. Advising continues through the student’s four years, including extensive assistance with applications to professional programs in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, public health, and other allied heath programs. We also offer our own semester-long Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) preparation course for our students.
While our pre-medical curriculum is demanding, Washington University provides support services to help all students succeed in their coursework. The Center for Advanced Learning, our student educational services center, offers students tutorial sessions, test-taking and note-taking workshops, and other academic advising and counseling services. The University also has a Writing Center that can help students with academic papers and admission application essays, plus a Junior Workshop Weekend that focuses on all aspects of the application process, including mock interviews, an introduction to the ins and outs of the Common Medical School Application, and review of the personal essay.
High School Preparation
The University recommends that students come prepared, having taken these basic high school courses:
English (four years are strongly suggested)
Mathematics (four years, including calculus, are strongly suggested)
AP, IB, and Honors courses are recommended, if they are available.
The basic course requirements for students applying to medical school are as follows:
General Chemistry (with lab): 1 year
Organic Chemistry (with lab): 1 year
Biology (with lab): 1 year
Physics (with lab): 1 year
Mathematics (including calculus): 1 year
English (at least one course in composition): 1 year
Many medical schools recommend additional courses in biology and chemistry. All students are advised to consult individual schools for their requirements.
Preparation for medical school does not end with these basic course requirements. Medical schools want well-rounded individuals. This means pursuing a broad range of intellectual interests from the sciences to the arts, history, and foreign languages, among other subjects. Students are also encouraged to participate in research, community service, extracurricular activities, and to acquaint themselves with a hospital setting.
Every science and engineering department at Washington University, including those in the School of Medicine, welcomes student researchers. Research opportunities also exist in fields other than science, such as economics, architecture, psychology, art, anthropology, archaeology, and business.
Washington University’s Undergraduate Research Office facilitates undergraduate research by maintaining a knowledge base of available opportunities, by uniting students and mentors, and by assisting with funding. The Undergraduate Research Office website (http://undergradresearch.wustl.edu) is a great place to start. The following science-related programs and courses are available:
The Summer Scholars Program in Biology and Biomedical Research, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is an intensive, seven-week program for incoming freshmen. You learn basic research skills, then work with mentors on research projects.
Biology 181, Freshman Seminar in Biology, has different faculty members discussing current work in their labs. Other freshman seminars also examine specific biological problems.
Sophomores may enroll in Biology 200, Introduction to Research, while juniors and seniors enroll in Biology 500, Independent Work. In the first semester, you master research techniques and define a project. In subsequent terms, you do independent research under a mentor’s guidance.
Biology 265, Experiences in Life Sciences, coordinated by a clinician from the School of Medicine, offers you a chance to earn credit for non-classroom learning in the life sciences. You may participate in an ecological study and report the findings. Or you can accompany a physician on rounds at the Medical School, then prepare a paper on a disease or organ system.
Summer research programs are also available. Many students receive a Washington University Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) award. The SURF program introduces undergraduate students to research under the guidance of seasoned mentors. Students experience the process of research as a creative intellectual activity and gain a more realistic view of the opportunities and demands of a professional research career.
In addition to SURF funding, other summer programs recently have included the following:
Cognitive, Computational and Systems Neuroscience Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (C-SURE) fellows conduct ten weeks of summer research that draws upon psychology, neurobiology, and biomedical engineering.
The Energy Research with Global Reach program provides an opportunity for ten outstanding undergraduates to spend ten weeks at Washington University during the summer, where they will conduct independent research on energy-related projects such as next-generation light harvesting for solar cells, metabolic engineering of thermophillic bacteria, and carbon dioxide capture.
The Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology Summer Research Program offers undergraduate and medical students an opportunity to conduct research in radiological sciences.
The Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center provides opportunities for undergraduate, pre-med, and medical students to work on cancer research projects that range from basic laboratory research to clinical research to prevention/control and population research.
Community Service and Extracurricular Activities
About 75 percent of Washington University’s undergraduate students participate in some type of community service. Our pre-medical students have the unique opportunity to perform meaningful service at the Washington University Medical Center, including its two affiliated hospitals, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
There are other opportunities through Campus Y, as well as through individual schools, departments, and student groups. Community service programs include Habitat for Humanity, which offers the opportunity to assist with building a house for a family in need, or STONE Soup, a program started by undergraduate students to serve meals to the hungry. Students interested in tutoring area children who need remedial help can volunteer to teach science in elementary and secondary schools through their participation in The Demo Team, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
In addition to community service programs, students can participate in any of the 300 student groups, including fraternities and sororities, arts and cultural organizations, and music ensembles. We also have many sports teams at the varsity, intramural, and club level. About 75 percent of our students participate in at least one intramural sport per year.
Studying abroad, with careful planning, is certainly a possibility for pre-medical students and can make you a more well-rounded individual. Furthermore, it can also enhance your pre-professional preparation. Learning a second language—especially Spanish—can be extremely helpful in today’s global society. The University also offers several programs that are particularly designed for pre-medical students. These programs include a study abroad program designed by the biology department in cooperation with Trinity College, University of Dublin, in Ireland, that offers outstanding genetics courses taught by world-renowned scientists. The Office of International Studies has also designed a summer program especially for pre-medicine students in Nice, France. There are also dozens of other programs offered through the Office of International Studies through which students can explore a wide variety of languages and cultures.
Looking Forward to Your Career in Medicine
As you look ahead to your college and career plans, we hope you will consider Washington University. With its excellent course offerings, strong research possibilities, and community service and extra-curricular options, our pre-medicine programs are among the best.
Pre-medicine studies are challenging and rewarding. We will be pleased to help you as you take these first steps—and prepare you for your future in the medical professions.
Preparing for a Career in Medicine
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