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Pre-Health Advising

Vassar College

The basic requirements are four years of basic sciences which include laboratories (Vassar course number in parentheses): two years of chemistry, general and organic with lab (Chem 125, 244, 245 and biochem 272; Chem 121 does not have a lab and if elected needs to be followed by the full sequence); one year of physics (111,112 OR 113,114); one year of biology (Biol 107, Biol 108 and one 200 level biology course). For some medical schools an additional course or courses in biology and chemistry may be required. A year of mathematics, usually calculus and/or statistics, as well as a year of English is strongly recommended and sometimes required. 

Below are additional courses that pre-health students may find beneficial

ENGL 105.51: Literature X

This is a new, team-taught introductory course that provides a 100-level English option for both non-majors and majors that showcases the power of literary and cultural study. It demonstrates in practice why historical literary and cultural contexts are crucial elements for understanding contemporary texts and the questions they care about. Through a team-teaching model, it shows students how the expertise of faculty members across the department speaks to each others’ chosen canons and questions. Authors, genres, critical and theoretical approaches, historical coverage, and themes may vary from year to year. 

MUSI 252: Music as Pathology, Music as Therapy

Music has always played a central role in human civilization, and because of its incredible power to influence human thought, emotion, and action, music has been both feared and revered since the earliest days. Every age panics over the new music of their time, and the astonishing history (spanning thousands of years) of the pathologization of music includes 18th-century medical diagnoses of “musical hysteria,” systemic music-based sexism and homophobia in the 19th century, music’s role in 20th-century “scientific” racism, and 21st-century fears over correlations between music and violence. All around the world, music has been weaponized in service of brainwashing, political manipulation, warfare, and even torture. On the other side of the spectrum, for thousands of years, people have harnessed the immense power of music as a therapeutic tool for a wide range of physical, developmental, and psychological conditions–not to mention music’s prominent role in spirituality and religion in almost every world culture. In this class, we explore the long and complex histories of music as pathology and music as therapy, tracing the evolution of both threads from their historical origins through the present day.

The MCAT will require a background in biochemistry, as well as knowledge of concepts in psychology and sociology; therefore courses covering these topics are strongly recommended. Whether or not medical schools will accept “other” reading and writing courses in lieu of the English requirement depends on the medical school; this also applies to AP courses. AP courses should be followed up with a course at the college level and be listed on your Vassar transcript to be considered by medical schools.

For more information check out our Q & A about Potentional Math Requirements

It is very important to consult the Medical School Admissions Requirements Official Guide or the individual school websites to determine the exact requirements for admission to each medical school. 

If your potential major is in chemistry, physics, or biology, consult The First-Year Handbook and note a number of different sequences are possible for completing the basic requirements. At Vassar, it will also be simpler if you elect at least one semester of English in your first year.

For those not planning a natural science major, it is still helpful to complete the basic science requirements as early as possible in your college career. Completion of these is necessary before you take the special aptitude test (medical, dental, veterinary, etc.) that is another requirement for admission to these professional schools.

No matter what your potential major may be, if you do not feel confident about your science preparation, do not overload with science courses early in your college career. For those who are confident, there is nothing wrong with beginning more than one science course simultaneously.

At Vassar, we make an effort to de-emphasize competition for grades. Grading is not done “on a curve”; if you measure up to the standards for a high grade, you get it regardless of how other students in the same class are performing. You should also not regard each test or report or paper as a “do-or-die” crisis. Some freshmen may not do as well as others initially but there have been many instances in which students have become excellent despite a slow start.

Q & A about Potential Math Requirements

Updated March 2022