Pre-Medical at Behrend

Pre-Medical at Behrend

What do Medical School Admissions Committees look for in an applicant?

  • Medical SymbolCan the student handle the academic rigors of medical school?
  • Why does the student want to be a doctor? Do they want to be in the profession for the “right” reasons and know the dedication the career entails?
  • Do they have a diverse set of skills necessary to be a doctor?

How does Penn State Behrend help the student succeed?

There are two major types of practicing physicians. Both are fully licensed to practice medicine in all 50 states. However, they differ in philosophy:

  • Doctor of Medicine, M.D. – Traditional physicians and surgeons who practice medicine, and are concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments including invasive treatments.
  • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, D.O. – Fulfill all the roles of an M.D. within the philosophy of Andrew Taylor Still. Osteopathic physicians use all conventional methods of diagnosis and treatment, but are trained to place additional emphasis on the achievement of normal body mechanics as central to maintaining good health.

Both have nearly equivalent expectations for undergraduate preparation.


No medical school specifies an undergraduate major. “Pre-med” majors at other institutions are repackaged biology degrees. All medical school programs require a specified set of prerequisite coursework that we offer at Penn State Behrend. Due to the advanced biology requirement at many medical schools, a biology or biology-related major is often pursued. Prerequisite courses for most medical programs include:

  • General Biology: BIOL 110 and BIOL 240W
  • Microbiology: BIOL 230W
  • General Chemistry: CHEM 110/112
  • General Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 111/113
  • Organic Chemistry: CHEM 210/212
  • Organic Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 213
  • Biochemistry: CHEM 472 and B M B 402 (MCAT 2015 requirement)
  • Anatomy BIOL 421
  • Physiology BIOL 472
  • Physics: PHYS 250/251
  • Calculus: MATH 140/141
  • Statistics: STAT 250 (MCAT 2015 requirement)
  • Psychology: PSYCH 100
  • English (3 -6 credits): ENGL 15, 202C
  • Sociology (3-6 credits): SOC 001 (MCAT 2015 requirement)
  • Although not required, many in the health professions run their own practices. Business courses (3-6 credits) are strongly encouraged!

Our Health Professions Option of our Bachelor of Science degree in Biology covers all of these prerequisites. However, other biology, chemistry and physics degree programs can easily be customized to meet these requirements. At Penn State Behrend, you will have a dedicated, personal Pre-Health Adviser who will guide you through the process!


The more rigorous the academic preparation in the sciences, the more prepared students are for advanced coursework in a medical school program. The student must demonstrate a consistent and high GPA as well as perform well on the MCAT.

A strong candidate for medical school:

Applies to 4-7 schools with a mean GPA >3.4 and a minimum MCAT score above the 50th percentile. The candidate also has 100+ hours of shadowing or work experience in a medical setting. 

The minimum GPA considered on average is 3.0.

Shadowing and Volunteering

  • To answer the question of “Why do you want to be a doctor?” it is necessary to observe a doctor at work for as many hours as you can schedule. Most medical programs are taking a holistic “whole candidate” approach to admissions. Simply having a high GPA and MCAT score is no longer sufficient for acceptance.
  • You should also try to shadow different doctors that work in the various specializations in the medical profession. Most schools are looking for at least 50-100 hours of shadowing/clinical experience. Contact your local medical society for more information.
  • Volunteering is a great way to show your dedication to helping people! Opportunities at local hospitals, nursing homes, and schools for special needs children require some research on your part, but can really set your application apart.

Opportunities for Leadership and Scholarship

To determine if the candidate has a diverse set of skills necessary to be a doctor, they look for evidence of leadership, involvement in professional organizations and participation in scholarly activities like research.

  • Penn State Behrend is one of the few schools that combine the small class size of a liberal arts college with the research facilities of a larger university. You will have opportunities to conduct research with a faculty mentor who is an active researcher in his or her field of expertise. Many of our students who participate in undergraduate research present their work at local and national conferences.
  • Our campus has a vibrant and diverse set of student organizations that offer leadership opportunities. We have the AG Club and the Behrend Chapter of the American Medical Students Association for students interested in health degrees. These and our other clubs and organizations organize and participate in many philanthropic activities that you can become involved in.

Helpful Links

To start your journey to medical school, you should visit the American Association of Medical Colleges and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. Here you will find free guides to medical programs, statistics on application rates and acceptances, and information on the many medical career opportunities. AACOMAS is the application service for D.O. medical programs.

Resources for students interested in M.D.

Resources for students interested in D.O.


Pre-Health Adviser for Medical: Todd Cook, email: Behrend Prehealth​

Coordinator of Pre-Health Advising: Todd Cook, email: Behrend Prehealth