Virginia Commonwealth University

Make it real.

Prospective Students

The answers to these questions are general responses that apply to most professional level programs. Individual programs can differ in admissions requirements, prerequisites, and other criteria for admission. Please see individual pre-health program websites and pages listed here for information about specific programs of interest.

Q:What is a pre-health program?

If you are enrolled in a pre-health program, it means you are taking the prerequisites courses to prepare for admission into a health care training program. Once you gain admission into a health care training program (such as nursing school, medical school, etc.), you become a professional school student, enrolled in a health care training program.

Q:Do I need to apply to a pre-program or can I apply directly to a professional training program on the MCV campus?

A: Before you are able to apply to a professional training program on our MCV campus, you need to make sure you can complete the prerequisite courses prior to the program’s start date. You can review with an admissions officer on the MCV campus whether or not you have all the courses you need without having to take any additional prerequisites.

Q:Can I major in a pre-health area of study that leads to a bachelors degree?

Nursing, Clinical Lab Sciences, Radiation Sciences, and Dental Hygiene are all bachelors degree granting programs that take 4 years minimum to complete. You can designate an interest in pre-nursing, pre-clinical lab science, pre-radiation sciences, or pre-dental hygiene. This means you are taking 1-2 years of prerequisite courses in hopes of being admitted into the bachelors degree programs on the MCV campus. However, none of the pre-programs are degree earning programs; they are simply 1-2 year prerequisite programs that might lead to admission into a program on our MCV campus. It is risky to focus exclusively on taking prerequisite courses for these programs. If you don’t get into one of our professional health care training programs on the MCV campus, the course work involved in these prerequisite programs will not easily translate to bachelor degree programs in other areas. Keep in mind that many students earn bachelors degrees in other fields like biology, psychology, or exercise science before going into professional health care training programs. It is in your best interest to work with your advisor to select versatile courses that can lead you in multiple directions.

Q:Can I major in a pre-health area of study that leads to a masters or doctoral degree?

Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, Optometry, and Veterinary Medicine are all doctoral degree granting programs and take a minimum of 8 years to complete including 4 years of undergraduate and 4 years of graduate level training. Pre-medicine, pre-dentistry, pre-physical therapy, pre-pharmacy, pre-veterinary medicine, and pre-optometry are undergraduate “advising tracks”. You can declare an advising track area when you apply for an undergraduate program in addition to a primary bachelors degree program of interest like biology, psychology, etc. To be admitted into the professional training programs in these areas you have to take about 3 semesters of science courses as part of your bachelor’s degree studies. All students interested in the doctoral study areas must designate and finish a bachelors degree program in addition to the advising track area.

Q:What about Occupational Therapy?

The entry-level education for occupational therapy is at the Masters degree level. The entry-level Masters degree in OT requires completion of a minimum of 90 credits of undergraduate coursework (3 years), but most accepted applicants have completed bachelors degrees.

Q:Will I be a more competitive applicant to a professional program if I major in a science versus a non science area?

No! It’s in your best interest to choose a major you enjoy and can perform well in. If you are not sure what to major in when you apply to our undergraduate programs, it is best to enter as undeclared and choose an appropriate advising track. This way, you can let your first year guide your decision making about a college major.

Q:How long will it take me to become a health care worker?

It varies. Nursing, clinical lab, dental hygiene, and radiation sciences take a minimum of 4 years because they are bachelors degree as opposed to graduate degree programs. Medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and physical therapy take a minimum of 8 years: 4 years of prerequisites and 4 years of doctoral level training. Competition can drive your preparation time frame to be longer than you were originally planning. Rarely are students admitted into professional programs after the minimum preparation time frame. This is why it is crucially important to work with advisors to establish a backup plan. In addition to choosing a pre-health program, it is highly recommended to choose a bachelors degree program in an area not related to health care.

Q:I am interested in an area like physician assistant studies, podiatry, or optometry that is not offered on the MCV campus. Can I still prepare for this at VCU?

Yes. Preparation courses for these fields are available at VCU. Pre-health advisors are trained to guide you in completing the prerequisites for all professional level programs regardless of whether or not the professional level training program is available on the MCV campus.

Q:How difficult is it to gain admission into a professional training program after my pre-health program?

Very difficult, and it is extremely competitive! You must have a very high undergraduate grade point average (3.5 or higher including all course attempts), a transcript devoid of any withdrawals or grades below B, high standardized test scores, a strong resume of health care experiences (including strong letters of recommendations from health care workers and others), and excellent academic letters of recommendation.

Q:I want to transfer from another college or university into VCU to pursue pre-health studies. What process do I need to follow?

Keep in contact with your advisor at the institution where you are currently taking courses. An application to enter our pre-health programs can be found on the VCU admissions website www.ugrad.vcu.edu. You can contact VCU admissions by calling 804-828-1222. If you are admitted into our pre-health programs, a formal transcript evaluation will be done by our transfer center. You will receive the results of your transfer evaluation at a New Student Orientation session you attend prior to taking courses with us. An advisor will meet with you, review your transfer evaluation, and advise you on the courses required to meet your goals.

Our transfer guide can be an invaluable resource for you. You will find this at the website www.transferguide.vcu.edu/recommended/healthsci.html

This page at the Transfer Center website has links for suggested courses at the community college system for specific areas of interest www.transfer.vcu.edu/HowCanWeHelp/TransferVCCS.html These would be great to share with your community college advisors.

Q:Will I get credit for AP, IB, and Dual Enrollment credits, and can I use these credits to fill prerequisite requirements?

Yes, you get credit, provided you have certain scores and get a C or better in dual enrollment coursework. More information on AP credit awards can be found at www.ugrad.vcu.edu/academics/baccalaureate.html. With the exception of our Doctor of Pharmacy program, all programs will take AP credits to fulfill prerequisites. While AP and dual enrollment credits can exempt you out of some science courses and potentially make your journey quicker, it is often in your best interest to retake some of these courses to build a solid foundation for future coursework. When you attend New Student Orientation, you can discuss this with your advisor.

Q:I have a bachelors degree already and I want to take courses to prepare for a health care training program. What should I do?

Our Post-Baccalaureate Health Sciences Certificate Program might be an appropriate route if you are considering applying for medical, dental, pharmacy, physical-therapy, or vet school. More information is at Post-Baccalaureate Health Sciences Certificate Program page. If you are interested in nursing, hygiene, occupational therapy, or clinical lab sciences; you can apply through undergraduate admissions to enter one of the pre-programs in these areas.

Q:I am a high school student interested in a health career; what are some things I can do?

While in high school, the best thing you can do to explore health careers is to gain exposure to different fields through hospital volunteer programs, shadowing opportunities, or involvement in local EMT training programs. It is recommended you read through the pre-health website and undergraduate bulletin about your area of interest

and do as much as possible to talk with health care workers and others about your goals to make sure they align with your interests, values, and skill sets. The Virginia Area Health Education Center’s health career guide at www.pubinfo.vcu.edu/ahec is a very valuable resource.

Q:Are there special summer program opportunities I can get involved with?

Yes! Our Division of Health Sciences Diversity offers Health Careers Pipeline programs geared to students from elementary school all the way though the post-baccalaureate level. Please go to www.dhsd.vcu.edu/programs/index.html for information.

Q:Am I eligible for guaranteed admissions into the professional level programs?

Please visit the honors college website at www.honors.vcu.edu for information on the Guaranteed Admission Programs.

Q:If I am a new student to the university, do I have to attend new student orientation?

Yes! See the New Student Orientation website for details

Q:Do I need to take placement tests prior to coming to orientation?

Yes, all new students must take the math placement test prior to attending new student orientation. New transfer and postbach students are strongly encouraged to also take the chemistry placement tests. Chemistry and math placement tests will be offered at orientation prior to advising.

Q:What will my orientation experience be like in terms of advising?

At orientation, you will meet individually with an advisor and get a class schedule for your first semester at VCU. Prior to attending orientation, its in your best interest to take the math placement test, bring copies of transcripts from prior academic work, and read closely the undergraduate bulletin and pre-health advising website about your primary area of interest.

Q:As a new student will I be able to get into all the courses I need?

A number of seats in classes are reserved for students who attend new student orientation.

That said, sometimes working out first semester schedules can be a challenge. It takes time and patience, but it’s possible! This is because all of our science courses are in very high demand and new students register after our returning students. If you are unable to find a space in a course, you are encouraged to diligently check VCU online registration for course availability, and to approach faculty during the add/drop period, the first 5 days of classes.

Q:What are the advantages to taking my prerequisite courses at VCU versus other schools?

There are many advantages to attending VCU for pre-health studies. Through the hospital volunteer programs and other opportunities available, you can establish a network with health care workers and others who will help you prepare the necessary resume of health care experiences. In addition, our advising staff is trained to recommend the right courses and right course of action at the appropriate time to make you a competitive applicant. Our pre-health advising program has a staff of 6 full-time counselors dedicated to advising students. Other aspects that make our programs unique include courses offered by MCV campus faculty to undergraduates, opportunities to take courses later in the day, and access to our Campus Learning Center which offers free tutoring and many other programs to support students taking science courses.

Q:What is the best thing I could be doing prior to entering VCU to prepare for health careers?

Take the most challenging science courses available. AP, dual enrollment, or honors level science courses will help. Take these courses seriously and develop well disciplined and effective study habits. Even if you come to college with credit for science subjects, talk with advisors about retaking them at VCU, as your success is going to be based largely on a solid foundation for performing well in science courses. Get plenty of health care experience prior to selecting any science courses, so you can make sure you are headed in a career path aligned with your interests and values. We recommend a minimum of 100 hours of exploratory health care experience and shadowing prior to taking any prerequisite courses.

Q:Is it okay if I am not sure about the health care area I am interested in?

Absolutely! We can help you with this. As a new student, it is wise to take a semester or two of core education courses to help with adjusting to college prior to jumping into very difficult science course work. These core courses can lead you to any pathway. For first year students, we offer a 1 credit health careers exploration seminar to expose you to a multitude of career possibilities available in health care. You can also make the best and most realistic choices after getting health care experiences under your belt. We can provide internships to help you gain exposure.

Q:Can international students gain admissions to health science programs?

Only U.S. citizens are admissible to our Doctor of Pharmacy and Medical School programs. Non U.S. citizens can come to VCU to prepare for entrance into Doctor of Pharmacy and Medical School programs at other universities. Our nursing, clinical lab, dental hygiene, dentistry, occupational and physical-therapy programs will all accept non U.S. citizens. It is important to check with the admissions offices in these particular programs to find out about requirements for TOEFL exams and the type of documentation necessary to get credit for international coursework taken abroad. All international students should get transcripts evaluated by the WES (World Evaluation Services) and work through undergraduate admissions at VCU to get evaluations of transcripts done by the Global Education Office, www.global.vcu.edu. Getting international transcripts evaluated can take some time, so it is best to start this process early. Advisors will need these evaluations before being able to recommend courses.

Q:How many hours of health care experience am I required to have to enter a professional training program?

PT requires a minimum of 100 hours and OT requires a minimum of 60 hours. The other professional programs do not have a specified amount of hours, but they are going to look for exposure involving patient contact and shadowing health care workers in different specialty areas. The Applying to a Professional Program web page has some good contacts for gaining health care experiences. Make sure to keep a journal chronicling the number of hours you serve, the responsibilities you have in your volunteer placement, and your thoughts and reactions to the exposure you are getting. Also ask your volunteer supervisor to write you a letter of recommendation after you complete the experience. Make sure the letter is delivered to you in a sealed envelope with the letter writer’s signature on the seal. Don’t open it, and submit it with your application to a professional program.

Q:Do the professional programs on the MCV campus give preference to students who are enrolled in the pre-programs on VCU’s Monroe Park Campus?

When applying to professional programs, you must have very strong credentials. Professional programs want to fill their classes with the most qualified students possible and they have a large applicant pool from which to pick students. Students coming from our pre-programs on the Monroe Park Campus are well prepared, and they are at an advantage because they have all the resources they need to get the necessary classes, guidance, and extra curricular experiences.

Q:As a prospective student, can I meet with a Pre-Health Sciences Advisor?

Yes, but on a very limited basis and only during certain months of the year (October, December, February are best). This is because demand to meet with our current student population is great during other times of the year. Transcript evaluations cannot be done prior to meeting with students who are not officially admitted to the university and therefore the information we can give to prospective transfer students is limited. We are happy to respond to e-mail requests for information at all times during the year. Our departmental e-mail is prehealthadv@vcu.edu. In addition, make sure to keep in touch with your advisor in your high school or college.

Q:Where can I get more information on pre-health programs at VCU?

The transfer guide website www.transferguide.vcu.edu can be an excellent resource. Prospective students can self subscribe to our pre-health email lists at lists.vcu.edu. Here are links to the lists.

Postbach Pre-Health Students

Pre-Clinical Lab Sciences

Pre-Dental

Pre-Medicine

Pre-Nursing

Pre-Occupational Therapy

Pre-Optometry

Pre-Pharmacy

Pre-Physical-Therapy

Pre-Radiation Sciences

Pre-Veterinary Medicine

You are welcome on campus for any of our pre-health activities. Our activity calendar is continually updated. We also encourage prospective students to attend the open house and block party programs offered on various Saturdays throughout the year. During high school spring break weeks in April special group sessions are also arranged. Contact undergraduate admissions (804-828-1222) for the dates, times, and locations of these.