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Professional School Perspectives for Parents

At Hopkins, we take our students’ futures seriously.  Expert advising, paired with Hopkins’ exceptional academics, means that graduates will be well prepared for application to professional schools and programs of their choice. 

The Office of Pre-Professional Programs and Advising offers a variety of resources to help students meet their goals. Our advisors are available for scheduled appointments, e-mailed questions, and informal interaction at scheduled programs and events.  Students are strongly encouraged to visit the Office of Pre-Professional Programs and Advising early and often during their undergraduate careers to develop relationships with the advisors who will be helping them gain the skills and credentials they will need for successful application to professional schools.  They should also join the Pre-Professional listserv, their electronic lifeline to important pre-professional information.

We work with students to select courses and a major, to develop their study skills and habits, and to think critically about what they hope to achieve during their years at Hopkins.  Students’ relationships with professors are very important, and we encourage interactions with faculty through office hour visits and informal contact.  We help students identify volunteer, internship, and research opportunities to enhance their classroom experiences, and we assist students in identifying opportunities that will allow them to develop their leadership skills.

Throughout students’ undergraduate career, they can come to us for help in gaining knowledge of the professions in which they are interested. We bring current medical and law students and professionals to campus to discuss their career paths with our students.  We also bring graduate school deans of admission to campus to present information on their schools and programs and to provide firsthand advice on how to be a strong applicant.  Our office also leads students through the process of identifying an application timeline for professional school, preparing to apply, and, in the case of pre-health students, utilizing the services of the Health Professions Committee to promote their candidacy.  We also offer workshops on such topics as self-assessment, essay writing, and interview preparation.

We aim to help students determine the professional school and career options that work best for them based on their individual assets, values, and life goals.  Because students are learning to make adult decisions, they do not always take the advice offered by our advisors.  We encourage students, however, to work closely with their advisors to develop relationships of trust and mutual respect.  Ultimately, we attempt to help them make conscious and thoughtful plans about their future paths. 

Preparing for a Career in the Health Professions

Advisors in the Office of Pre- Professional Programs and Advising help pre-health students prepare for a career in the health professions, including assisting students in identifying the courses they will need to take to satisfy requirements, determining an appropriate sequence for completing those courses, and finding tutorial assistance when needed. Our advisors are trained to help pre-health students plan their academic schedules around study abroad opportunities, extracurricular or employment commitments, and senior honors theses. We will also help students find volunteer, clinical, and research experiences to explore the careers in which they are interested and strengthen their applications to health professions schools. 

Majors for Pre-health students

It is important for pre-health students to develop academic interests in and outside of the sciences.  The majority of Hopkins pre-health students major in the sciences, including biology, biomedical engineering, chemistry, neuroscience, and biophysics. These students are strongly encouraged to explore an academic area outside of the sciences to demonstrate the breadth of their interests.  Other students build their pre-health requirements into a major outside of the sciences, pursuing disciplines such as history of science and technology, English, and psychology.  Public health studies is a unique major offered at Hopkins that allows undergraduate students to take graduate-level courses at the renowned Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Students who choose to major in public health studies gain exposure to such areas as population health, biostatistics, and epidemiology, critical foundations for a career in healthcare.  Some students interested in international health major in international relations.

How to Be a Successful Health Professions School Applicant

What qualities do health professions schools seek in applicants?  There is no doubt that they want excellent students with a demonstrated ability in science who made the most of the academic opportunities available at Hopkins, made efforts to learn about the healthcare field, and have demonstrated a commitment to helping others.  Furthermore, professional schools seek students who are mature, stable, honest, responsible, trustworthy, enthusiastic, intellectually curious, and capable of leadership. 

This is quite a list of qualifications. Successful applicants, however, must first demonstrate a mastery of the basic requirements in the biological sciences, chemistry, physics, and mathematics.  Recently, successful medical school applicants from Hopkins had an average science GPA of 3.47. The science expertise of most Hopkins students pursuing careers in healthcare typically exceeds that of most applicants nationwide.  Our students take advanced seminars, and most perform independent research with a faculty mentor.  

Applicants must also demonstrate intellectual breadth by either majoring outside of the sciences or by taking a sample of coursework in the humanities and social sciences.  From a pragmatic vantage point, the abilities to read rapidly and understand dense, sophisticated material in the humanities and social sciences are especially important for success on standardized tests.  The MCAT average at Hopkins is 30.9 (9.8 verbal, 10.5 physical sciences, 10.6 biological sciences, and a P writing sample), and the average non-science GPA is 3.65.  Successful applicants also need to establish relationships with at least four faculty members and a professional in their field of choice who know them well enough to write substantive letters of recommendation.

Perhaps most importantly, health professions schools look for students who have demonstrated that they are lifelong independent learners.  This quality is evident in the way they approach learning “for the sake of learning,” their intellectual curiosity, and their approach to learning in service roles outside of the classroom.   Additionally, students must provide strong evidence of a firm motivation to pursue a career in healthcare.  These students demonstrate through their actions that they care about the welfare of fellow human beings and that they can effectively deal with those of different cultural backgrounds. Through their experiences, students must also understand the obstacles and difficulties faced by today’s health professionals.  Furthermore, students must develop the skills that will allow them to contribute to the health professions school community and to their intended profession.

Not all students apply to health professions school during the summer prior to their senior year.  Many students committed to careers in healthcare delay their application to health professions schools to pursue other opportunities. Some enter the Peace Corps, and some enter Teach for America.  Some obtain master’s degrees in public health and pursue careers in that arena before later applying to health professions schools.  We believe that, above all, it is important for parents and advisors to allow each student to find his own path and support him along the route.  We emphasize with students that forty percent of our applicants are rising seniors, while the other sixty percent have allowed additional experiences to impact their application by applying as recent graduates or alumni of one or more years.  Both those who apply as rising seniors and those who apply as recent graduates or alumni enjoy high rates of acceptance.

Preparing for Other Careers in Healthcare

Not all pre-health students seek careers in allopathic medicine (M.D.). Every year, some students apply to schools of osteopathic medicine, veterinary medicine, dental medicine, and other fields like pharmacy, physician assistant, and nursing.

Hopkins undergraduates and alumni apply to schools of osteopathic medicine (D.O.). Osteopathic physicians embrace a holistic philosophy by considering the body as a unit of interrelated systems that work together to ensure good health.   D.O.s practice in all areas of medicine. About 60% of D.O.s are primary care physicians in family practice, internal medicine, and pediatrics.  However, more and more D.O.s are pursuing specialty training in areas including emergency medicine, anesthesiology, OB/GYN, psychiatry, and surgery.  Despite some minor differences in philosophy and training emphasis, there are relatively few differences between the career paths of allopathic and osteopathic physicians.  M.D.s and D.O.s have the same practice rights throughout the United States, and you can find D.O.s and M.D.s working together in the best hospitals and clinics throughout the nation, including at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.  Many Hopkins premedical students are exploring the option of becoming a D.O.

Although our applicants to veterinary school are relatively few, advisors in Pre-Professional Programs are knowledgeable about a wide range of opportunities for pre-veterinary student to gain valuable veterinary experience, including working with companion animals, livestock, and even exotic animals.  These experiences complement the outstanding academic and research opportunities that are inherent in a Johns Hopkins education.  Competition for acceptance to veterinary school is fierce, and a strong academic record, combined with excellent letters of recommendation from both faculty as well as mentors in the veterinary field who have observed animal interactions, are very important. The significant number of animal contact hours required for application to veterinary medical schools can require that a student apply to vet school a year or two post-graduation.

Several students apply to dental medicine programs every year. With a good academic record, a repertoire of extracurricular activities, strong letters of support, use of the Hopkins committee system, exposure to the field of dentistry, and endorsement of a dental professional, our students have enjoyed outstanding success as dental school applicants.

Preparing for a Career in Law

Students who believe law school is in their future should pursue an undergraduate career to fit their personal talents and interests as well as demonstrate academic rigor.  Law schools do not, as a rule, have specific academic requirements for admission, but they are usually impressed by applicants who can demonstrate that they have challenged themselves in a diverse course of study.  Since law school admission is extremely competitive, it is important for students to compile a strong undergraduate record.  They should plan to take courses of genuine interest, as their best performance should result.  With the complexity of legal issues today, both nationally and internationally, a broad liberal arts curriculum is the preferred preparation for law school.

Students enter law school from widely differing educational and experiential backgrounds.  As undergraduates, many major in subjects considered to be traditional paths to law school, such as history, English, political science, philosophy, economics, and international relations.  Other successful law students, however, have focused their undergraduate studies in areas as diverse as art, computer science, engineering, and music.  Student interested in law must understand that choice of an undergraduate major is far less important than the development of important skills and values that can be acquired prior to law school, including analytic and problem-solving skills, critical reading abilities, writing skills, and oral communication and listening abilities.  In addition, the aspiring law student will greatly benefit by developing skills in research, organization, and management, having mastery of a second language, and possessing the values of serving the interests of others while promoting justice.

Students entering law school benefit enormously by developing knowledge that can be useful in resolving disputes.  This is facilitated by a grounding in economics, a broad understanding of history, a fundamental understanding of political thought, a basic understanding of ethical theory and theories of justice, and fundamental mathematic and financial skills.  Pre-law students cannot ignore, however, how important it is to be a student of human behavior and appreciated diverse cultures within the United States and abroad.  It is a wonderful, enriching experience for a pre-law student to study abroad!   Our goal at Johns Hopkins is to help facilitate the development of these many skills and competencies in pre-law students.

When considering extracurricular activities, law school admissions committees look for significant leadership ability and comprehensive activity.  A long term commitment to one or two activities of importance is more impressive than a long list of affiliations. 

Law school admissions committees also wish to see success in a standardized test (LSAT), letters of support from faculty who know the student well, and a rich and challenging academic and extracurricular regimen. Regarding the LSAT, to be competitive for a top 10 law school typically requires a minimum GPA of 3.7, with a minimum LSAT score of 170.  Please see the “The Law School Option” for more information.

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