Carnegie Mellon University

FAQ

  1. What is the CMU HPP?
    • The CMU HPP is an advising resource center that assists CMU students and alumni with nearly every aspect of pursuing a career in health care, as well as biomedical research.
  2. How does the CMU HPP assist with applying to health professions schools?
    • The HPP advises students from the moment they arrive.
    • Assistance is provided with four-year planning, course selection, as well as obtaining clinical, research, and volunteering experiences.
    • The HPP provides information sessions to assist with the application process.
    • The HPP provides a committee interview and committee letter writing.
  3. Am I eligible for HPP advising and other resources?
  4. What major should I pursue to be competitive for medical / dental school?
    • Schools today are looking for competitive GPAs as well as entrance exam scores that convey competency. However, they also place large emphasis on life experience that tells a story about your commitment to service to others. Leadership, teamwork, athletics, research, volunteerism, employment…are all experiences that are considered when reviewing an application. These types of experiences enhance applicants’ intra- and interpersonal skills, communications kills, analytical and critical thinking skills, competence in the scientific method, and cultural awareness, as well as personal traits such as maturity, reliability, resilience, dependability, commitment, and integrity.
  5. Do I need a minor or additional major to be competitive for medical / dental school?
    • No. The goal is to study what you are intellectually curious or interested in; however, pursuing an additional major or minor can enhance one’s preparation for post-graduate training in health care.
  6. Do I need to take additional courses outside the natural sciences?
    • No; however, it is strongly recommended that you do.
    • Courses in philosophy, ethics, history, economics, psychology, social decision sciences, foreign languages, statistics, anthropology, public health…are ideal options for future health care providers.
    • Additional coursework in the Biological Sciences, such as Cell Biology, Genetics and Immunology will only enhance your preparation for medical, dental and Vet schools.
  7. What is the difference between osteopathic and allopathic medical school?
    • Allopathic medical school trains medical students to diagnosed and treat patients based on the cellular and molecular aspects of biology, chemistry, pharmacology and biochemistry.  Please see AAMC.
    • Osteopathic medical schools (AACOM) provide the same curricular experience as allopathic medical schools with the addition of OMM (osteopathic manipulative medicine). OMM consists of hands-on training in order to enhance medical student understanding of human anatomy and how the neuroskeletalmuscular systems coordinate with one another. This additional training speaks to the fundamental philosophical difference between DO and MD programs, such that DO programs have traditionally emphasized holistic approaches to patient interaction, diagnosis and treatment. DO programs often emphasize service to underserved or more rural areas; however, the lines between DO and MD continue to blur as the state of health care evolves and the demand for holistic care increases.
  8. What is the difference between a DMD and a DDS degree in dentistry?
    • In practice, they are the same. There are more DDS awarding schools than DMD.
    • Historically, dental practitioners earned a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery degree); however, Harvard University created the DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry or Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree due to issues translating DDS into Latin.
Required courses for:
  1. Medical school (MD, DO & MD/PhD)
  2. Dental school
  3. Veterinary school
  4. PA school
  5. Pharmacy school
  6. Physical therapy school
  7. Optometry school
  8. For programs not listed, please contact the HPP office.

Fall

At the start of each academic year, the HPP hosts a Fall information event for all incoming freshmen, as well as any returning students and alumni new to the HPP. Topics discussed include:

  • Introduction to the CMU Health Professions Program, the HPP Director and staff, as well as student leaders with DOCS, AED, Global Medcial Brigades, and Global Public Health Brigades.
  • How the HPP can help you explore your interests in a career in health care.
  • The pre-requisite course work for pre-Med, pre-Dental, pre-Vet, pre-PA, pre-Pharm, etc.
  • Key points to consider at various stages of your undergraduate career.
  • What is "holistic review" and how the HPP holistically evaluates CMU applicants.
  • How and when to apply?
  • What does it mean to take a "gap year?"
  • The CMU Committee Interview and Committee Letter process.
  • Access the most recent ppt slides and zoom recording (passcode for zoom: 9eJNiG=0).

Winter

At the end of the fall semester, the HPP hosts a two-part application information workshop to review the many facets of applying to graduate programs in the health sciences. The target audience includes any current student or alumni who plans on applying to graduate health professions programs in the following year. Topics discussed include:

  • Evaluating the strength of your application
  • MCAT / DAT
  • Letters of recommendation
  • CMU committee process
  • Personal Statements
  • School Selection
  • Application services
  • Secondary apps
  • Interviews
  • CMU MSAMP mentor program

Late Spring

Around mid-April, the HPP hosts an application panel discussion in which applicants in the current cycle participate in a Q&A session with applicants in the upcoming cycle. Each panel member offers a short summary of their experience in the application cycle, followed by an informal Q&A period that allows new applicants to learn about topics such as:

  • School selection - how to decide where to apply
  • Secondary applications - how to complete them and in what time frame
  • Traditional interview vs. Multiple Mini-Interview style formats
  • What is it like to interview
  • How to write effective and appropriate "Thank you" letters to schools following interviews
  • How/when to send letters of update or letters of intent
  • How/when to decide on one school if holding multiple acceptances
  • Advice on how to talk about one's academics, research, leadership experiences, volunteering, athletics, weaknesses vs. strengths, etc.

If you are a first-generation college student, an under-represented minority, or if you are under-resourced and unfamiliar with the health professions, there are many resources, with useful information and assistance, to help you learn more about careers in health care. Below are some resources that can assist with learning about being a pre-health student at CMU, financial planning, academic support, as well as emotional support. 

What does it mean to be a "prehealth" student in college?

Being a prehealth student, whether you are premed, predental, preVet, prePA, etc, is stressful for many reasons. For one, the academic pre-requisites, which often represent additional coursework beyond your degree requirements, are demanding. Second, there is a lot of pressure to get good grades while also building a resume of compelling lived experiences that demonstrate your readiness to attend medical school. Third, there often is a sense of competition among prehealth students, a sense that you are competing against your peers rather than collaborating with them.

At CMU, the HPP is here to help each prehealth student plan to complete the required courses in a manner that maximizes your success. While having good grades is important, there is more to a good GPA than the number. Course selection, exploring topics outside one's major, taking upper division courses, and challenging oneself is also important to consider. When it comes to competition, know that at CMU, the prehealth community is unique in that most students share the sentiment that while they feel the pressures of "competition," but is more of a feeling that they are competing against the rigor of the CMU academic experience. Often, students convey that they indeed collaborate with one another toward excelling in their courses, not working to excel beyond their peers. Recognizing this will help all prehealth students continue to build a strong prehealth community that seeks to support everyone.

Where can I find academic support?

As alluded to above, getting good grades is important for gaining acceptance to medical school - this is because to be successful in med school, one needs to be able to succeed on rigorous courses such as Biochemistry, Chemistry, Biology, O-Chem and Physics. If you need assistance, whether it be in developing a 4-year plan, finding a mentor, finding tutors, connecting with peers to create study groups, know that there are several resources at CMU to help:

  • The CMU Student Academic Success Center exists to provide individualized and group help with tutoring and academic assistance.
  • The CMU Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion exists to provides students with unique resources as well as a physical location that is a safe space for students to engage and learn.
  • Your professors can not only help with your studies, but they can also serve as mentors and sources of information about post-graduation careers. Don't be afraid or intimidated to approach professors to ask for help - they are here because they chose a career aimed at educating and inspiring the next generation of community leaders (i.e., YOU!)
  • Your peers, in particular more senior students, are extremely valuable sources of help, information, and inspiration. RAs, OCs, tutors, and SI Leaders are a few examples of students who have made a commitment to the campus community founded on a desire to help and serve those in need. Take advantage of the opportunity to engage these student leaders - they are excited to help you!

Why is it important to find a mentor in college?

Are you a first-gen student? Are you the first person in your family to pursue a career in health care? If yes, this means that you likely don't know what you don't know about being prehealth. Making the decision to attend medical school or dental school takes a lot of self-awareness and self-refection that stem from being exposed to the clinical setting. It takes time, experience, maturity, and confidence to know 1) that you can excel in med school, and 2) that you possess the requisite sense of compassion and dedication to serve one's community as a health care provider. To find this sense of purpose, you are encouraged to find a mentor (or mentors) who will motivate, inspire and help you maintain your focus and dedication. Mentors can challenge you to periodically examine and therefore refine your motivations and reasons for wanting a career in health care. Mentors can also be a source of personal and emotional support that helps you get through those tough times.

Being prehealth is stressful - where can I find emotional support?

College, let alone being prehealth, is stressful. Add to the mix you have to excel in really hard classes every semester can make for an overwhelming experience. If you need emotional support, look to these very helpful resources:

  • Your peers, your professors, your advisors, your mentors
  • The CMU Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion
  • COMPASS - COaching Minority Progress and Academic Success in Science
  • The HPP office - we are here to listen to you
  • Family
  • CaPS

Where can I learn more about being financially prepared as a prehealth student?

it is important to have a sense of how you are going to pay for medical or dental school. Attending these types of graduate training programs is expensive. Below are a few resources available to you where you can find answers to questions about paying for med school.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, "Graduates of MD-PhD programs often go on to become faculty members at medical schools, universities and research institutes. Regardless of where they eventually work, MD-PhD candidates are being prepared for careers in which they will spend most of their time doing research, in addition to caring for patients. The MD-PhD dual career is busy, challenging, rewarding, and offers opportunities to do good for many people by advancing knowledge, developing new treatments for diseases, and pushing back the boundaries of the unknown."

If you are intellectually drawn to research while also passionate about caring for patients, you should consider the dual physician-scientist training program (MD/PhD or DO/PhD).

  • A typical MD/PhD program lasts about 7-9 years.
  • Years 1-2 are spent completing the didactic part of medical school
  • Years 3-6 are spent in the research laboratory conducting doctoral research (time in lab will vary depending on nature of one's research, program type, and luck)
  • Years 7-8 are spent completing the clinical rotations and electives in the last two years of medical school

Some great resources to learn more about physician-scientist training programs:

  1. What labs are required?
    • Most health professions programs require applicants to complete laboratory courses in 4 major disciplines: Biology, Chemistry, Organic Chemisty, and Physics. Some programs, such as optometry, PA, and PT even require labs in Anatomy, Physiology, and Microbiology. 
    • For detailed requirements for speific health professions programs, please check the "Required Coursework" link above
  2. How many credits do I need to complete for each lab?
    • The minimum number of credits that schools require is typically 2 credits of each lab.

    • At CMU, 1 credit = 3 units

    • For each discipline, you must complete 2 credits or 6 units of lab

      • ex: 33-100 is a 6-unit physics lab - this single lab course satisfies the physics lab requirement

      • ex: 03-343 is a 12-unit bio lab - this single lab course more than satisfies the biology lab requirement. 03-124, 03-206 and 02-261 also more than satisfy the requirement.

      • ex: 09-207 & 09-208 are each 9-unit labs - these single lab courses more than satisfy the chem & o-chem lab requirement, respectively

  3. Do I need to take two labs in each discipline?
    • NO - at CMU, labs in bio, chem, o-chem and physics are single, stand-alone lab courses that each satisfy the minimum credit requirement for each discipline.
  4. What if I take a lab course at a different institution?
    • CMU pre-healths students need to be careful about taking pre-reqs outside CMU and thus should talk with the pre-health advisor about the implications before scheduling.
  1. What types of extracurricular activities should I pursue while in college?
    • Most anything and everything in which you are passionate, curious, interested.
    • Athletics, student organizations, teaching, Resident Assistant, Community Advisor, Orientation Counselor, Camp Counselor, EXCEL /SI Leader, school newspaper, abroad service experiences, emergency medical services, student government…
  2. Do schools factor in /evaluate artistic endeavors?
    • YES. Art, music, writing, singing…any creative outlet or passion you engage is something that tells about your life story.
    • These endeavors speak to your personality and your intellectual diversity, as well as your sense of cerativity and your ability to find balance in life.
  3. Why is life/work balance and health important in college?
    • College can be very stressful, and graduate school will be also.
    • Being able to find balance and maintain your health in college establishes healthy habits for adapting to the new stresses of medical and dental school, and helps prevent fatigue and burnout.
  1. How much clinical experience should I get while in college?
    • While there is no set minimum, students are strongly encouraged to obtain at least 200 hours for medical and dental school. These hours can consist of shadowing as well as volunteering.
    • For PA school, plan to acquire at least 1000 hours of experience before applying. While shadowing is acceptable, experiences should focus on patient contact.
    • Quality is more important than quantity so focus on a diverse set of experiences that broadly educate you about a career in health care.
  2. What type(s) of clinical experiences should I pursue?
    • Shadowing physicians, nurses, PAs, pharmacists, dentists, Veterinarians, clinical psychologists, PTs, OTs, speach therapists, clinical social workers...
    • Volunteering at a hospital, cancer center, hospice center, children’s center, out-patient center, urgent care center, free health care clinics.
    • Employment such as EMT, phlebotomist, nurses aid, clinical researcher.
    • Medical Scribe
    • Experiences that involve patient contact are ideal.
  3. When should I start getting experience in the clinical setting?
    • As early as the freshman year, perhaps over winter break is an ideal time to start shadowing.
    • The key is to pursue exposures consistently over your time in college.
  4. What other types of service experiences should/can I pursue?
    • Teaching assistant, EXCEL / SI Leader
    • Volunteering: Outreach, Donut Dash, Greek life, fund raising, 1000Plus…
    • Leadership in student organizations
    • Mentoring on campus or in the community
    • Volunteering at your local church, food bank, community center, charity.
  5. What is the difference between shadowing and volunteering in a clinical setting?
    • Shadowing is when a student follows a clinician to observe the daily interactions between patient and clinician. These can be in primary care, internal medicine, surgery, or any sub-specialty.
    • Volunteering places one in an active role, providing a service that contributes the mission of that organization. Volunteerism can consist of clinical and non-clinical experiences.
  1. Why should I pursue research in college?
    • Engaging in a research project under the mentorship of a faculty member offers you a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience performing experiments, the chance to apply your classroom knowledge in a real research setting, and the opportunity to network with scientists and graduate students.
    • Engaging in research will enhance your understanding of the scientific method, your problem-solving skills, as well as your communication skills. It will make you a better student of the sciences, more capable of engaging the research element of modern medical training and practice.
  2. If I want to pursue research, what type?
    • Research of all types is/can be valuable.
    • The type will/should depend on your interests – if you are not interested in the research of a particular lab, look elsewhere. Consider your academic interests as a starting point.
    • Wet lab, behavioral, engineering, public health…most any area is worth considering because the experience of doing research is often more important than the research itself.
  3. In what areas have students from CMU pursued research?
    • Biology
    • Biomedical Science
    • Biochemistry
    • Bioinformatics (CS)
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology & Behavioral Science
    • Social and Decision Science
    • Public Health
    • Biomedical Engineering
    • Chemical Engineering
    • Mechanical Engineering
    • Material Science Engineering
    • Physics / Biophysics
    • Clinical data analysis
  4. Where should I look for research opportunities?
    • CMU
    • Pitt
    • UPMC
    • National Institutes of Health
    • Major research centers across the US
    • Biotech and Pharma
    • The CDC
    • Research centers abroad
  5. I am new to research - is the CMU Summer Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship (SURA) a good option for me? 
    • Are you a Freshman or Sophomore?
    • Do you have little to no research experience, and have secured a faculty research advisor to do research with this summer?
    • SURA is an entry-level summer research experience where students work closely with faculty to learn how to do research

    • SURA is a great way to earn tuition-free credit in the summer for the research hours you complete (up to 9 units possible)
    • SURA is an opportunity to learn more about research design and proposal development, along with getting to know a faculty mentor

Are you interested in a possible research career in computational biology, genomics, epigenomics, genetic testing, biotech, pharmaceuticals, synthetic biology, diagnostics, drug discovery, automation, cancer research, or software development? 

Are there options that do not require a PhD or MD?

Check HERE (career tool at CMU's Computational Biology Department) to learn about possible avenues into these career fields.

  1. When can I take the MCAT?
  2. Where can I learn about the DAT?
  3. When can I take the PCAT?
  1. When do CMU students typically apply to medical / dental school?
    • Medical: Traditionally, students apply in June at the end of the junior year; however, there has been a noticeable shift in students delaying their application until June at the end of their senior year. This results in a gap (bridge) year between undergrad and medical school. Some have opted for more than one gap year.
    • Dental:  Students most often apply in June/July at the end of their junior year. Some have decided to apply at the end of the senior year, resulting in a gap year.
    • Veterinary: Students most often apply in June/July at the end of their junior year. Some have decided to apply at the end of the senior year, resulting in a gap year.
  2. To how many schools do students typically apply?
    • National average (medical) = 16 schools
    • CMU (medical) = about 24
    • CMU (dental) = about 15-20
    • CMU (Vet) = about 5-10
  3. When do CMU students start preparing for the application?
    • By the January before the upcoming application cycle, students start preparing their personal statements, meeting with professors/mentors/employers for letter of recommendation, and researching schools.
    • The CMU HPP conducts a two-part application seminar in late January / early February to provide potential applicants with a broad review of how to assess the strength of your application, how to request letters of recommendation, how to draft personal statements, to learn aboit the CMU Comittee Process, and what to expect when completing and submitting primary and secondary applications. We also talk about strategies for interviewing and post-interview communication.
    • The CMU HPP coordinates a panel discussion in April that engages future applicants with applicants who have been successful in the current cycle.
    • HPP Committee Interviews start in April and end in June (medical) or July (dental).
  4. Does the CMU HPP offer assistance with personal statements?
    • Yes, the HPP Director meets with each applicant to discuss content and design of the personal statement. Applicants are strongly encouraged to meet with a writing tutor at the Global Communications Center (GCC) if you need assistance with writing.
    • Once the personal statement is written, applicants can seek assistance from the HPP office as well the GCC for feedback and critique.
  5. Where can I find info about the various application services? 
    • Allopathic medical schools - AAMCAS
    • Osteopathic medical schools - AACOMAS
    • Texas medical & dental schools - TMDSAS
    • Dental schools - AADSAS
    • Veterinary medical schools - VMCAS
  6. Do medical, dental and vet schools require a committee letter?
    • Medical: No, but most strongly prefer it over individual letters. Nearly 100% of CMU pre-med applicants obtain a CMU committee letter.
    • Dental: No, but many prefer it over individual letters. Nearly all CMU pre-dental applicants obtain a CMU committee letter.
    • Veterinary: No. Vet schools prefer individual letters over committee letters.
  7. Does my committee letter need to be submitted in order to submit my primary application to AMCAS, AACOMAS, or AADSAS?
    • NO. Primary applications can be submitted without the rec letters and committee letters.
  8. When will the CMU HPP submit my committee letter?
    • The goal is to begin submitting committee letters starting in late June / early July because transmission of verified applications begins in late June. Secondary applications are sent to applicants starting around late June / early July, which should be completed and sent back to schools within 1-3 weeks. Only after receipt of secondaries will schools look to receive rec letters/committee letters.
  9. Do medical schools consider experiences in high school?
    • In general, No. Admissions committees tend to focus on experiences during college (and post-graduate if applicable) years. However, if the experience was substantial in nature or duration, or perhaps you continued with it into college, then it might be considered.

Allopathic Medicine

Albany Medical College
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine
California Northstate University College of Medicine
Carle Illinois College of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons
Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons-Bassett program
Drexel University College of Medicine
Duke University School of Medicine
Emory University School of Medicine
Florida Atlantic University Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
Georgetown University School of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine at Hofstra University
Howard University
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Keck Sch. of Med.University of Southern California
Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University
Loma Linda University School of Medicine
Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine
Medical University of South Carolina
New York Medical College
New York University
Northwestern University The Feinberg School of Medicine
Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Saint Louis University School of Medicine
Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University
Stony Brook University School of Medicine
SUNY Downstate Medical School (Brooklyn)
SUNY Upstate Medical School (Syracuse)
The Ohio State Univ. Coll. of Med.
Tufts University School of Medicine
University of Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
University of California, Irvine- College/Medicine
University of California Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine
University of California San Diego
University of California San Francisco
University of Central Florida College of Medicine
University of Chicago - Pritzker
University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
University of Colorado
University of Connecticut School of Medicine
University of Florida College of Medicine
University of Hawaii John A. Burns Sch. of Med.
University of Illinois School of Medicine
University of Maryland School of Medicine
University of Massachusetts Medical School
University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine
University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Medicine
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
University of Texas Medical School at Houston
University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio
University of Texas Southwestern Medical School
University of Vermont, Larner College of Medicine
University of Virginia School of Medicine
USF Health Morsani College of Medicine
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
Wake Forest School of Medicine of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Washington University School of Medicine
Weill Cornell Medicine
Yale School of Medicine

Osteopathic Medicine

Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences
Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine
Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine
New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine
Pacific Northwest University Of Health Sciences
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine
Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine–California
Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine–New York
Touro University Nevada College of Osteopathic Medicine
University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine
West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

Dental Medicine

BU Henry M Goldman School of Dental Medicine
Columbia University College of Dental Medicine
Harvard School of Dental Medicine 
New York University College of Dentistry
Rutgers School of Dental Medicine 
Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine 
Temple University - Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry
University of Maryland School of Dentistry
University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine
University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine
University of Southern California Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry 

Veterinary Medicine

College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University
University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine

Occupational Therapy

Optometry